In the beginning

New Zealand Masters Swimming (NZMS) started developing in earnest in the early 1970’s when a number of former competitive swimmers heard about this new form of adult recreation becoming very popular in the US. As a result of this activity various enthusiastic members, with the right contacts, seized on an opportunity and organised an international swim meet in Matamata, a small country town in the North Island, in April 1974 . It is possible that this was the first organised international masters swim meet in the world, because through the contacts made by a prominent NZ coach while visiting America a team of 25 US and Canadian masters swimmers competed along with about 42 New Zealand swimmers. The experience and enthusiasm of the visiting swimmers convinced many New Zealand swimmers at the meet that this pursuit could be fun and health giving at any age. A general meeting was held to discuss future activities and this eventually led to the official formation of New Zealand Masters Swimming. Various masters swim groups formed over the following years in pools around NZ and many past age group champions and non competitive swimmers learnt to enjoy this healthy and fun activity.


Eventually an official constitution for NZMS was registered in May 1981. This set out objectives, membership requirements with an age of 25yrs or over, meeting requirements and all the normal administrative details for the organisation. It required one group of members to be nominated to hold the Masters Nationals each year and this has led to 25 years of long course championships being held. Any member had the right to attend the annual meeting with full speaking and voting rights and the constitution also allowed voting by proxy. By 1986 the organisation, which had grown remarkably, had to face minor dissent to some decisions made by the annual meetings. The proxy voting system was used by a number of clubs to push through their view and this was seen as not constitutional or in the best interests of all masters. As a result the Constitution was reviewed in 1988 to allow for a regional structure and to allow input from all masters through their clubs and regional committees. Gradually a full range of open water events, long and short course national championships, fun swim meets, and postal events were organised by clubs and these are run each year. Further constitutional changes have occurred from time to time with several amendments passed in 2004.


The Constitution was registered in 1988 and they it provides for a small executive to carry out the day to day activities. The current secretarial position is almost full time and the present secretary, Mike Bodger, attends to day to day administration with assistance and guidance from president and vice president. Jan  O’Donnell also carries out the functions of the National Recorder. In addition three standing committees for open water swimming, competition, and editorial, provide guidance to the organisation. A national editor prepares and publishes a two-monthly magazine sent (by email) to all members. A national council meets once a year and sets policy for the executive to implement. The country is divided into 5 geographical regions and the clubs in each region form regional committees. These committees nominate two delegates for the council. Any member is allowed to attend the council meeting but voting is limited to councillors. Elections for the offices of president and vice president are held two yearly with the secretary/ treasurer being an appointed position. This system has worked very well and the administration of NZMS is well controlled and seems to allow for about the right amount of input by members. Members pay a subscription to the national organisation of NZ Masters Swimming. (Inc) for which they receive a quarterly magazine containing details of swim meets, records, contacts, reports from within NZ and overseas, and interesting information about masters swimming.

Significant milestones

After the formalisation of the NZ organisation in 1981 the membership grew at a great rate and by 1983 about 700 members had joined. When it was confirmed that NZ was to host the first international masters swim meet in 1984 interest was even greater. This meet held in Christchurch was attended by 1100 swimmers from 19 countries and was a significant sporting event both nationally and internationally at that time. It was considered a great success and the worthy for-runner of subsequent world masters swimming championships. Membership in NZMS grew over the years to an all time high of about 2000 in the early 90’s. This may not seem a lot by world standards but when compared with the national population of 4 million it is significant This represented by far the highest number of masters per head of population than any other country. Membership currently runs at around 1,100 members. Masters has competition from rival fitness and leisure activities, every effort being made to increase the membership.  As is normal for many countries only about 20% of the membership regularly compete in competition with the rest preferring to swim for fun and fitness. NZMS has taken an active role in the international scene and has participated on committees and discussions on masters swimming activities leading to the present. In 1993 a successful 5th Pan Pacific Masters Championships was held in Hamilton with 721 swimmers attending from 14 countries. The 1998 NZMS long course championships held in Wellington recognised the 25th anniversary of the event which represents a quarter of a century of fun, fitness, and friendship to a large number of adult swimmers. The health and social benefits gained by this large number of swimmers participating over this period is immeasurable. NZMS is proud to have been involved in such a significant achievement.
More recently the organisation was involved in the organisation of the 1st Oceania Masters Swimming Championships, held in Fiji in June 2005.

The Organisation Today

The organisation remains true to it’s main goal of encouraging swimming amongst adults in New Zealand. In this respect the organisation caters well for a wide range of swimmers with varying abilities:
(a) Swimmers who wish to return to the sport for fitness, or competitive reasons
(b) Swimmers who wish to develop their own swimming skills after completing Learn to Swim courses
There are regular events for those who wish to take part in competitively, or just for fun, to improve their own personal times. Swimmers of all abilities are welcomed.