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Practising in New Zealand

If you are thinking about practising medicine in New Zealand, you are likely to have a lot of questions like.

To help answer these questions as well as other questions you may have, we have compiled the following information and links around medical registration, what it is like to live in New Zealand, the different cultures you will interact with here, where to go for assistance both before and after you arrive in New Zealand, and some things you need to know about medical practice in New Zealand.

Will I be able to practise medicine in New Zealand?

While our primary function is to protect the health and safety of the New Zealand public, we do have a very flexible registration system allowing doctors to qualify for registration in a number of different ways. 

We recommend as a first step, using our self-assessment checklist to see which pathways to registration you may qualify for.  This checklist will also direct you to further information about the registration process.

Self-assessment checklist

The purchase of medicines for the entire public health system is administered by PHARMAC which is different to some countries where individual hospitals purchase their own medicines.  PHARMAC’s role is to manage the pharmaceutical budget on behalf of District Health Boards, and to decide which medicines are funded by the Government. By working out which medicines provide the best health results and the best value, and then work with pharmaceutical companies to make these medicines available to New Zealanders, the Government is able to fully or partially pays the cost of most prescription medicines for New Zealanders.


Medicines system

In New Zealand, the Ministry of Health through its Medicines Control team oversees the local distribution chain of medicines and controlled drugs.  The team issues licences and authorities, undertakes drug abuse containment activities and monitors complicance.

Medicines control: 
MIMS information on medicines used in New Zealand:

Access to healthcare

Essential health care is provided free for those who qualify through the public health system. Publicly funded or subsidised health care includes hospital treatment, 24 hour accident and emergency clinics, prescriptions, most immunisations, out-patient hospital care, and health care for the chronically ill and elderly.

People can also choose to pay for private health insurance.  Private health insurance can pay for private health care, cover the additional cost of health care that is only partly publicly funded, and in some cases will allow people to get treatment sooner where there is a waiting list for publicly funded treatment.

No-fault personal injury cover
New Zealand does not allow people to sue others for personal injury.  Instead we have a system  which provides no-fault personal injury cover for all New Zealand residents and visitors to New Zealand.  This system is administered by an organisation called ACC.

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What do I need to know about medical practice in New Zealand?

Health policy

The Minister of Health (with Cabinet and the government) develops policy for the health and disability sector and provides leadership. The Minister is supported by the Ministry of Health and its business units, and advised by the Ministry, the National Health Board, Health Workforce New Zealand, the National Health Committee, and other ministerial advisory committees.

Funding structure

Most of the day-to-day business of the system, and around three quarters of the funding, is administered by district health boards (DHBs). DHBs plan, manage, provide and purchase health services for the population of their district to ensure services are arranged effectively and efficiently for all of New Zealand. This includes funding for primary care, hospital services, public health services, aged care services, and services provided by other non-government health providers including Māori and Pacific providers.

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What do I need to think about for me and my family once we have arrived in New Zealand?

It can take some time to adjust to day-to-day life in New Zealand. Things like renting a house, opening a bank account, getting a drivers licence or even understanding local sayings can all be a struggle and a barrier to you and your family settling quickly into the New Zealand way of life. This is perfectly normal.

The websites below provide information and advice to help ease your transition to New Zealand.

We understand that you may not only be looking for work for yourself – your partner or older children may also want to find a job. The following links may be useful.

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What is the best way to find a job? 

There are many opportunities for short-term (locum) or permanent vacancies. You will discover you have a choice of working in big cities or New Zealand’s rural heartland. Wherever you decide to work, we’re sure you won’t regret your choice.

So where do you start looking for work?  New Zealand’s District Health Boards will often advertise vacancies directly on their websites. You can also choose to go through a recruitment agency. Our website lists links to all of the District Health Boards.

List of District Health Boards

You will also need to consider other systems that you are likely to interact with in New Zealand. 

Settlement Services New Zealand is a part of Immigration New Zealand and aims to help make the transition to New Zealand as easy as possible for new migrants by providing information about banks, employment agencies, the legal system, real estate and home rental agents, schools, and other services.

Immigration requirements are also an important consideration as if you are thinking about working in New Zealand, or already have a job arranged, you will need a work permit.  If you are intending to settle here permanently, you will also need to find about what you need to do to gain residency.

The Immigration New Zealand website has detailed information on work permits, residency requirements, and the qualifications you will need to work in New Zealand. This page is also another good source of information on what it is like to live in New Zealand.

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What do I need to know before I make the move?

It’s a big move leaving friends and family behind to move to a new country, where things are often very different. To make your move easier and help you transition into New Zealand society, there are several government agencies which have websites with information specifically for new migrants like yourself.

Other information you may find useful:

New Zealanders, our environment, history, culture, economy and society -


If you prefer a slower pace of life from the cities, New Zealand’s rural areas or regions offer a great way of discover remote and beautiful parts of New Zealand.


Our three biggest cities are Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch.

Auckland is our largest and most heavily populated urban area in the country with 1.5 million residents and 32 percent of the country’s population. The city lies across an 11km (8 mile) wide volcanic isthmus separating two harbours.  Auckland is a centre for yachting in New Zealand, having hosted the America’s Cup regatta, and has more yachts per capita than any other city in the world.  Culturally, Auckland is a melting pot with the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world as well as being home to communities to a number of other cultures.

Wellington is the North Island’s southern most city and is the nation’s capital. The city is nestled between its harbour and surrounding hills.  Described by the Lonely Planet Guide in 2011 as the “coolest little capital in the world”, Wellington has a thriving arts scene and is home to many museums, theatres, galleries and arts festivals. Internationally it is known for filmmaking, with a growing number of creative professionals including Sir Peter Jackson based here.

Christchurch is New Zealand's second-largest city and the gateway to the South Island. Internationally famed as ‘The Garden City’, Christchurch is promoted for its close proximity to a wide range of outdoor activities including skiing golf, surfing and mountain biking.  While Christchurch did experience a devastating earthquake in February 2011, recovery work is underway, and the city as a whole continues to operate with more and more of the city being re-opened as work is completed.

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Our cultural diversity

New Zealand is an island nation, made up of two main islands called the North Island and South Island as well as a number of smaller islands.  With just over 4.4 million people living in New Zealand, we are a sparsely populated compared to many other countries. 

We are a nation with great ethnic diversity. European or pākehā make up 77 percent of the population followed by Māori 14 percent of the population and our Pacific population now makes up 7 percent of the total New Zealand population.

The official languages of New Zealand are English, Māori, and New Zealand Sign Language.  Although you will find almost everyone speaks English, it is useful to learn some Māori. A large number of place names in New Zealand are in Māori. You will also find we have a number of peculiar sayings unique to New Zealand. 

Statistics New Zealand:

100 Māori words every New Zealander should know:

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