Fireworks over Fees at Yachting NZ Annual Conference

Yachting NZ’s shared premises in Westhaven, Auckland

Guy Fawkes came a week early at the Yachting NZ's Annual Conference which concluded on Saturday afternoon with heated argument over the issue of affiliation fees, both in the amount and equity of the fee, which was proposed to be set at $40 per Senior Equivalent Member.

Two remits were tabled at the meeting by the Waikawa Boating Club, the first to hold the fee at the level for the previous year of $36 per SEM. The second proposed that any affiliation increase should not be applied retrospectively, but would apply only in the upcoming financial year (ie from 1 July in the year following the AGM), rather than the present situation where they are applied in the year of the AGM.

High level chart view of the Marlborough Sounds showing areas designated for aquaculture
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A third remit was lodged by the Whangarei Cruising Club requested that social members of yacht clubs be exempted from the calculation of the SEM and affiliation fee paid to the national body.

Behind the rather innocuous remits lies a high level of dissatisfaction with Yachting New Zealand from some clubs, and the amount of the affiliation fee required to be paid which is calculated on the basis of the total club membership, except in certain circumstances such as trailer powerboat members.

Those firing the shots are generally boating clubs (rather than sailing clubs), who have a diverse membership, some of whom are active sailors. The impact of the fee varies from club to club depending on its membership structure.

Nicky Jenkins, Commodore of Waikawa Boating Club, based in the Marlborough Sounds led the attack against the current system, and was supported by a second speaker from Waikawa, Phil Brooker of Sandspit Yacht Club and others from clubs such as Weiti Boating Club - both clubs being located just north of Auckland.

The boating clubs are unsurprisingly outnumbered in the Yachting New Zealand membership of 118 clubs.

Several sailing clubs spoke in favour of both the increase and the formula used to calculate the fee, which has been in place since then New Zealand Yachting Federation's inception in 1954. Other options have been floated which would recognise the diverse nature of some club memberships, but have lacked the necessary support to be passed.

The strident stance of Waikawa and others eventually provoked a reaction from one sailing club speaker, accusing them of being mean-spirited over the amount of the increase and the clubs' ability to pay. The size of the affiliation fee payment was frequently commented on by those opposed to the system and fee, however as those in support commented that they would love to have to pay an affiliation fee of the amount quoted, as by definition they would have a larger membership and therefore a larger total subscription income.

Some seemed to be operating under the misunderstanding that each sailing club member paid Yachting New Zealand $40 out of each and every subscription, and that of say an $80 social or associate membership fee, $40, or half the subscription, went to Yachting New Zealand.

Beatrix Bay in the Marlborough Sounds - most of it has been allocated to aquaculture in its various forms
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That premise was incorrect as pointed out to the speaker from Whangarei Cruising Club, on the floor of the meeting.

The simple formula, set in 1954, takes the club's subscription income, divides it by the senior member subscription for that club, which produces a number known as the senior equivalent members, which is then multiplied by the SEM levy set by the Annual Meeting and that becomes a club's affiliation fee payment to the national body.

Typically most clubs pay an average of about half the $40 levy, or $20 per member due to the impact of family and junior members.

In the case of a social member, paying a $80 subscription the portion of that levy payable to Yachting NZ is $16 (assuming a $200 senior membership subscription), not the $40 erroneously claimed.

The bulk of the $4 levy increase this year was attributed to the effect of inflation and GST rise, plus the decision of the Board to grant affiliation fee suspensions for some Christchurch yacht clubs, who either ceased or suspended sailing activities following the recent earthquakes. The effect of this move was that the same amount of overhead had to be recovered from a smaller membership base, meaning that the fee would rise proportionately.

Even so it was noted that the national body was only recovering about a third of the $1.2million spent on member services through the affiliation fee (which raises about $460,000), and that some of the deficit would be coming from the organisation's reserves created to sustain the Yachting NZ in adverse financial times.

After voting was counted, the new affiliation fee was approved, and the three other remits lost.

The meeting was also briefed on a new website project and CRM system to be implemented to both improve improve the sport's communication with members and potential sailors, as well as being able to make YNZ's internal systems more efficient. The selected CRM is an Oracle based application. The new website is expected to be a similar flavour to the new!Emirates_Team_New_Zealand site with its emphasis on social media.

There was some discussion on the creep of aquaculture into prime cruising grounds, notably the Marlborough Sounds, but also the Hauraki Gulf and further north.

Interestingly the region that has lost most cruising areas to aquaculture are in the Marlborough Sounds area, where the dissent against Yachting New Zealand is at its strongest with several cruising and boating clubs not being members of the national authority, or threatening to disaffiliate over the SEM issue. While Yachting New Zealand does substantial lobbying and making of submission on aquaculture and related issues, some of the clubs in this area claim they can do this work themselves.

The election for two Director positions on the Board, vacated by rotation, were retained by the previous incumbents, Richard Gladwell (Takapuna) and Graeme Robinson (Napier) after a five way election.