The Ultimate Guide to Working in New Zealand as a Doctor

The Medic Footprints guide to working in New Zealand as a doctor: from an overview of the healthcare system to when to prepare and go! We've got you covered

working in New Zealand as a doctor

We present to you our ultimate guide to working in New Zealand as a doctor! Here we cover everything you need to know where making the move. But first, lets start with an overview of why New Zealand is such a popular choice for those medics thinking about working abroad.

Working in New Zealand as a Doctor

An Introduction to NZ

New Zealand (NZ) is a fertile and mountainous island of the southwestern Pacific archipelago, with snow-capped mountains, coastlines cut by fjords and stunning landscapes dominating this larger than life country. NZ is heavily influenced by the rich and vibrant culture of its Indigenous Maori people. Boasting a strong healthcare system and good working conditions for doctors, NZ is highly coveted by international doctors seeking a change of scenery.

To put it in perspective, the Medical Council of New Zealand (MCNZ) registers more than 1,500 doctors each year, with already over 17,000 international doctors registered coming from more than 100 countries – that’s 40% of all of NZ’s doctors!

In this summary, we’ll take you through the key processes for applying for working in New Zealand as a doctor.


5,002,100 (1 April 2020)


New Zealand (NZD)


New Zealand has a high life expectancy, comparable to other developed nations. The leading cause of death in NZ is ischaemic heart disease. For a detailed breakdown, see the Government website for major causes of death & life expectancy.


NZ is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government which is similar to that of the UK, because it is a commonwealth country. Its head of state is, of course, a sovereign, who is currently Queen Elizabeth II, and she is represented in NZ by the Governor-General.

NZ has a Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) voting system. The party with most votes form a coalition parliament with another party or parties. Unlike the UK, Parliament  only has one House of Representatives that consists of Members of Parliaments. There is no House of Senates/ House of Lords equivalent.


NZ is a very safe country by international standards.


NZ has a network of safe public transport in all major cities and many towns easy to use, reliable and comfortable. Due to its geothermal activities, there is no underground system in NZ. However, big cities such as Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch have reliable public transport for daily commutes.


For Auckland, it is recommended that you buy an AT HOP card, which costs $10. You will need to register it online, top-up like a prepaid card, and use it to get on buses, trains and ferries in Auckland. Visit the Auckland Transport website to plan your journey.


For Wellington, a similar Snapper card can be used as bus, train, or ferry tickets to get around Wellington. Check out their Metlink website here to plan your journey.


For Christchurch, a prepaid Metrocard should be purchased and used for busses. The bus routes should be checked regularly as they often change due to constant earthquake recovery projects.

For longer journeys, road, ferry or flights are the usual forms of travel. However, many tourists like to get around NZ in a coach in order to explore NZ’s most spectacular scenery and landscape.

There are many companies which offer these services such as Intercity and Skip. For the South Island, the one particular scenic train route is the Transalpine which goes from Christchurch (East Coast) to Greymouth (West Coast).


NZ has both public and private healthcare sectors. The public system is free for New Zealanders and non-residents with a work permit valid for 2 years or longer. It is composed of three key sectors: 

  1. District Health Boards (DHBs): Funded by the Government and responsible for providing and funding healthcare in that district. See here for a map that outlines the respective DHBs.
  2. Primary Health Care: Care beyond the hospital such as general medicine, mobile nursing and community health services.
  3. Primary Health Organizations (PHOs): Local structures of primary care. 
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Pleayo Tovaranonte

Dr Pleayo Tovaranonte is a GP and doctorpreneur in New Zealand. He graduated from the University of Otago and completed his internship at King's College, London with further postgraduate qualifications in Sports & Aviation Medicine, Health Services Management, Entrepreneurship, Medical Law & Bioethics. He has published widely in the fields of Disaster Medicine and Medical Technology. He is Medical Director of Precision Medicine International Ltd. Outside work, he helped establish a not-for-profit organisation, Beyond the Stethoscope, to encourage junior doctors to volunteer their time and skills in developing countries.