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Meet our Vet Ambassador: Dr Gareth Dunkerley (BVSc)

Lead Vet at Ponsonby and Herne Bay Vets, successful show-jumper and Smith and Burton’s vet, Dr Gareth Dunkerley is our dream ambassador.

Bringing his experience and compassion to everything he does, we’re honoured Dr Gareth has come onboard as smith&burton’s Vet Ambassador. Here he shares his story.


Where did your love for animals begin?

I grew up in Hawke’s Bay, in rural New Zealand. We lived on the land and had dogs and cats. I’ve always had a great interest in horses, too – I competed since I was about five or six in show jumping and eventing. After school, I went to Europe to compete in riding.


How did you become a vet?  

My father directed me towards the profession – it was a natural thing for me to get into. After finishing vet school, my first job was an equine internship at Sydney’s Randwick Equine Centre. Then I moved to England where I carried on with equine work, before moving to London to be closer to some friends.


When did you start looking after smaller pets?

When I was in London I worked in several great practices and got all my experience there. This also gave me the opportunity to travel a lot and access further education.

It was really rewarding to work at Goddard’s – they were a practice doing things differently and were providing really high levels of specialist and emergency care.


What brought you back to New Zealand?

I would come back every year to visit family and I had a decision to make – would I buy a practice in England or move back home?

Ponsonby Vets was always the practice I had my eye on. I was fortunate that, when I was ready to move back in 2007, it came on the market. It was a struggling practice at the beginning – we would only have about three patients a day. Then I bought Herne Bay down the road and grew those two businesses together.

Now we see 30 or 40 animals a day between the two practices.

It was in the early days that I met Smith and Burton.



How did you turn the practices around?

I brought some of the skills I learnt in London and worked really hard on providing the very high levels of care which our clientele were craving.


You’re also the proud owner of Wallingford, one of New Zealand’s oldest homesteads.

That’s another cute story – I love Wallingford. As a young kid growing up in Hawke’s Bay, I was learning to ride my ponies and my mother would take me to these gymkhanas and sports events – one of them was at Wallingford. It was a beautiful piece of land to ride on and the homestead was built in the 1850’s, making it a very important part of New Zealand history.

I used to drive past and think this is my dream property. When I sold my vet practices in Auckland, I was looking for my next project. I wanted a farm in Hawke’s Bay and my agent told me that Wallingford’s owner was looking to sell soon.

I couldn’t believe it! I bought my childhood dream – a 2,500-acre sheep and beef station, with a beautiful 15-bedroom, 1,000m² homestead. We’re running it as a luxury wedding venue, and a corporate or couples retreat. In the ten acres of French oaks, we also grow truffles to host truffle weekends!


How did you manage the change?

I’m very much involved in the care of the animals on the farm, but I never thought I’d go into hospitality.

I manage the farm, the homestead and the two vet practices in Auckland. I usually work three days a week in the vet clinic, and once every two to three weeks I go down to Wallingford where I meet with staff or attend events. Sometimes I go down there to relax with friends.  


Why did you say ‘yes’ to becoming smith&burton’s Vet Ambassador?

As I progress through my veterinary career, I’m getting more and more interested in the natural approach.

When I saw the list of smith&burton ingredients, I knew I could wholeheartedly support this collection. I love how they are careful and thoughtful, and there’s nothing that should cause irritation or skin issues.

I was also Smith and Burton’s vet for a long time. Burton’s skin is particularly sensitive and would flare up with the usual shampoos that were designed to make it better. That’s why smith&burton’s products make a lot of sense.

Pets are part of the family and their wellbeing is so important – they provide company and support for people who would otherwise be lonely. I think they also improve our mental health.


Why’s looking after our dog’s skin so important?

As vets, we are diagnosing skin issues more, and we’re much more aware of them.  

We used to give dogs an injection and send them home. These days we’re much more curious and we invest time and energy into getting a diagnosis.

We’re seeing a lot more skin allergies which could be caused by a parasite, something they’ve eaten, or something they are coming into contact with on their walks – there are a lot more chemicals in our parks and cities.

I see lots of dogs with rashes on their paws and between their toes.


What are some of the star ingredients in smith&burton’s natural collection?

Mānuka Honey is at the heart of the range and is in every smith&burton product. It has got some incredible healing and antibacterial properties – we’ve known this for a long time. There’s lots of research to back this up.

As vets, we use mānuka honey to treat and suture wounds that are not healing. I would rather use mānuka honey than any other creams. In fact, I would use it when our showjumpers had injuries.


Which smith&burton products do you love?

I’ve been using the hydrating shampoo on my dogs at home with great success. My dog rolls around on the farm daily and will waltz into the kitchen smelling horrendous!

I also use the Soothing Cologne, with Signature Scent No.3 – I really like this fragrance.


What will you be doing as our Vet Ambassador?

I’ll provide some expert advice on how to best care for our dogs in a natural and evidence-based way. I will contribute to articles – such as the Covid-19 blog.  

I’m also here to give support on future product ranges.


Thanks Dr Gareth!

I’m thrilled to be working with a New Zealand company who are inspired by their love of dogs to only use the finest quality, cruelty-free and naturally-effective products to help promote and improve the skin, coat and general wellbeing of our pets.


Want to find out more about smith&burton or Wallingford?

Browse the smith&burton Canine Collection here.  Visit Wallingford luxe stay and restaurant here.