A Northland swimming coach has been recognised by the sport he has given more than half of his life to.

Richard Dunkerton, 75, was one of two to receive an Honours Award from Swimming New Zealand yesterday for his ongoing service to the sport.

Dunkerton said he had gotten a few words of congratulations for his award.

"I'm feeling pretty good, quite chuffed actually. I've had a lot of feedback from friends, so that's pretty neat," he said.


Starting in 1976, Dunkerton took on a role with swimming in Northland and never looked back.

"Tiana [Birchell, his daughter] came home from school one day and I got involved," he said.

"I was going to stop, but Tania and her husband bought the Bream Bay swim club so I stayed."

One of his proudest moments was having four swimmers shine at the nationals in his first year, bringing home silver and bronze medals.

"Not sure if the gold medal is the reason I stay in it, maybe it is," he said.

Dunkerton started his coaching life in interesting circumstances.

The club had a young American who coached for just over a season back when there was just a summer-only pool. However, he was not able to return.

"At the time I was president of the club," he said. "I volunteered to coach and then read everything I could to initially catch up to the kids and then stay ahead."

Over his 40 years serving the swimming community, Dunkerton has seen a lot of changes, but not all have been good.

"There are less members now than there were 30 years ago. A couple of reasons are the costs and lack of volunteers," he said.

"It would help if Swimming NZ became more understanding and reduce the demand on coaches."

"Swimming NZ requires a board for each region with specific requirements for people to have certain qualifications. Northland doesn't have that many people that can step in."

But it hasn't all been bad, Dunkerton has found his experiences have been incredibly rewarding.

"The kids have kept me interested. It only takes a little bit of success or for the penny to drop to make it all worthwhile," he said.

"One of my favourite experiences was teaching at Kawakawa. We had lined up the kids and had them doing drills. We stood them up and said ''Butterfly, go!'"

"Eighty per cent of them swam the width perfectly. What we did really worked, which really stood out as a highlight."

Dunkerton has been involved in swimming for more than 40 years, holding a number of roles on club and regional committees, including as president of the Bay of Islands and Bream Bay swimming clubs.

He has also been a regional team manager, officiated at many Northland meets and has coached at Bream Bay since 2004.

Two other Northlanders received Service Awards; Celia Honiss and Ross Gillespie

Dunkerton is a life member of Bay of Islands Swimming Club and Swimming Northland.