What is life like for GPs in New Zealand?

What is it like to work as a Doctor in New Zealand

Before you start your GP job search in New Zealand, you may want to find out more about day to day life in New Zealand.

There are just 4.5 million New Zealanders, scattered across 270,534 sq km: bigger than the UK with one-fourteenth the population. New Zealand is the land of extremes with sublime forests, mountains, lakes, beaches and glaziers. It is relatively easy to travel around with distances between different towns and cities not being too great. Transport networks are well developed with airports throughout the country and well maintained highways.

It is made up of two main islands and numerous smaller ones: the North Island (known as Te Ika-a-Maui in Maori) is the more populous of the two, and is separated by the Cook Strait from the somewhat larger but much less populated South Island (or Te Waipounamu).

New Zealand is consistently rated as a country with one of the highest qualities of life in the world. It offers a safe environment for the whole family offering a great outdoor lifestyle.  New Zealand is an increasing multicultural society that appeals due to its diversity, laid back way of life and temperate climate.

New Zealand People

This former British colony has a population mainly of European descent but with an important indigenous Māori minority of mixed blood, a rapidly growing Asian minority, and smaller minorities of Polynesians, people from the Americas, South Africans and African.

The people of New Zealand are famed for their relaxed and friendly approach. More than one million New Zealanders were born overseas.

New Zealand Climate

New Zealand has mild temperatures, moderate rainfall and many hours of sunshine.
While the far north has subtropical weather during summer, and inland alpine areas of the South Island can get as cold as -10°C in winter, most of the country lies close to the coast with milder temperatures.

The average New Zealand temperature decreases as you travel south.  With their summer over January and February, these are the warmest months, and July is the coldest month of the year. In summer, the average maximum temperature ranges between 20-30ºC (70-90°F) and in winter between 10-15ºC (50-60°F).
Most places in New Zealand receive over 2,000 hours of sunshine a year, with the sunniest areas – Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay and Nelson/Marlborough – receiving over 2,350 hours. As New Zealand observes daylight saving, during summer months daylight can last up until 9.30pm.

Cost of Living as a GP in New Zealand

Cost of living in New Zealand will very much depend on which part of the country you relocate.
One independent international survey ranked Auckland 58th in the world in terms of its cost of living, and Wellington 75th, far better than other major cities. Such cities included Hong Kong (3), Singapore (4), New York (16), London (25), Sydney (26), Melbourne (33) and Guangzhou (31) – showing that comparatively, New Zealand’s major metropolitan areas are more affordable. See our recent blog piece on cost of living for a GP in New Zealand

For an up to date costs of different items please see here 

New Zealand GP Registration Process

The registration process for New Zealand is relatively straightforward and usually takes a month to complete the application with the Medical Council of New Zealand.  To complete the full immigration and registration process you should allow 3 months after we have secured you a position. You will be eligible for registration if you hold a specialist GP certificate (i.e. MRCGP / MICGP / JCPTGP / PMETB).

If you hold your GP qualification from another country then you may be eligible for ‘comparable healthcare.’ registration.  You will be required to hold 3 years of comparable healthcare experience. Please see the MCNZ website for a full list of comparable countries.

All new registrants, regardless of seniority, must work under supervision for the first 6-12 months in New Zealand to become familiar with the culture.  During this time you will be registered within a provisional general scope of practice and performance will be assessed by senior colleagues.

They will be required to complete certain requirements to be registered within a general scope. This will cause minimal impact on your day to day job and you will still be able to see patients independently.

NZ Visa for GPs 

To assist you through the complex immigration process we work with a Licensed Immigration Advisor who is registered with the Immigration Advisers Authority New Zealand. We are in partnership with one of the largest Immigration Advisors in the UK, The Emigration Group where one their specialist advisors will be able to guide you smoothly through the process.

What does a GP earn in New Zealand?

The minimum hours you are required to work to comply with your visa are 30. Most GPs will work around 35 – 40 hours per week over 8 – 10 sessions.

Unlike Australia, there are no restrictions on where you can practice as a GP in New Zealand allowing you the option to choose where to live and work; be it in the city centre, by the beach or somewhere more rural.

As a GP moving to New Zealand you will be offered an employed, salary position ($150 – $200k NZD approx). You may perhaps have the option to buy into the practice or take over the practice at a later date.  Work / life balance is excellent in New Zealand, most GPs only see 4 patients per hour allowing more time with patients and less bureaucracy and paperwork.

NZ Tax Rate 

Income tax rates for tax year 2017 – 2018

Taxable income                    Tax Rate
up to $14,000                        10.5 %
from $14,001 to $48,000       17.5 %
from $48,001 to $70,000       30 %
$70,001 and over                 33 %

For more detailed up to date tax information please see the tax office website
Income tax calculator

New Zealand Schools and Education

There’s a choice of three types of school in New Zealand – state schools (funded by the government), ‘state integrated’ schools and private schools.

State schools are the choice for the vast majority of New Zealand children (85%). Schooling is free at these schools, although parents are asked for a contribution to help cover costs of activities that are outside of the core curriculum. Typically this will be around NZ$250- $500. There will also be other charges for sports, school trips, special tuition, exam fees, and other course related costs.

‘State integrated’ schools are schools with a special character – they may be run by a particular religious faith e.g. Catholic or use specialist education methods like Steiner or Montessori. Just over 10% of students are enrolled at these schools. Education in state integrated schools is also funded by the government but the schools may charge fees for various facilities which are usually around NZ$1,500 a year.

Just under 5% of children go to private schools which charge around NZ$20,000 in fees a year.
School usually starts at 9am and runs to 3pm or 3:30pm. There are four school terms running from late January to mid-December with two-week breaks between them and a six-week summer break at the end of the year.

New Zealand Accommodation

Most GPs choose to rent a property in New Zealand first and buy later when settled. Housing varies greatly across the country.  Prices tend to be higher in the cities with Auckland being the most expensive and slightly lower on the south island.  For more information on property please see Realestate.co.nz and TradeMe

New Zealand Healthcare System

Primary healthcare, including general practice, out-patient services, and prescriptions, is funded by a combination of public subsidy and private contributions. General Practitioners provide primary, community based, comprehensive and continuing patient-centred care to individuals, families and the community. Many general practices run as private businesses and set their own fees which are paid by the patient.

The cost of a visit will be lower if you’re enrolled with the GP, because the government subsidises the fee. Some general practices join a ‘low cost access’ programme run by their primary health organisation (PHO) which is overseen by the local District Health Board. This means they get extra government funding to keep their fees at low levels.  GPs, Practice Nurses, Māori health providers and other primary healthcare providers work together to meet the health requirements of the local people, with PHOs funded according to the demographics and needs of their population.

Secondary healthcare services, including acute hospital treatment, are free to those who meet the eligibility criteria. New Zealand has a reciprocal agreement with the UK to provide free treatment. There is strong uptake of private health insurance (as in Australia), partially triggered by long waits for state hospital treatment.

Speak to Our Medical Recruitment Specialists 

Thinking about relocating to New Zealand? Our experienced medical recruitment specialists are here to help. We can advise on everything from visa queries to questions about the cost of living in New Zealand. Speak to us today to get started on your move down under or browse some of our excellent GP jobs New Zealand.

Further Reading
8 Benefits of Moving to New Zealand
Is there an age limit for GPs
The Cost of Living as a Doctor in New Zealand

Useful Links
Medical Council of New Zealand
Immigration New Zealand 
Emigration Group
Education