Veterinary shortage in New Zealand

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Why is there a veterinary shortage? 

There are many factors influencing retention in clinical practice.  The NZVA office team is acutely aware and acknowledges the realities behind issues such as remuneration, workplace culture, bullying, harassment, after hours, lack of collegial support and inflexible work environments — that all contribute to veterinarians leaving clinical practice.  

The NZVA strategic plan has workforce and business sustainability as a key priority with a focus on improving retention and recruitment, mentoring and coaching. 

Each year, New Zealand usually brings in a large percentage of veterinarians from overseas to fill the veterinary jobs available. This year, we are limited by our COVID-19 border restrictions, which make it harder for overseas citizens to enter the country. 

What have we done so far?

  • In September, 30 border exemptions for veterinarians were announced by Hon Kris Faafoi, Minister of Immigration. We have done a considerable amount of work behind the scenes with the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) to help to process these applications. As of 1st January, 20 individuals have had their visa’s accepted and are in New Zealand (or in the process of travelling to New Zealand).  The remaining 10 are currently in progress with employers and Immigration New Zealand. 
  • Along with MPI and the Veterinary Council of New Zealand (VCNZ), we have provided Immigration New Zealand with a letter of support for those individuals applying for the long term ‘Other Critical Worker’ visas (criteria below).  We are hoping this supporting documentation will help with the success rate of these visa applications. 
    Long term “other critical worker” visas
    A worker coming to New Zealand for the long term (six months or longer) is considered an ‘other critical worker’ if they meet one of the criteria for short term workers and: 
  • they earn at least twice the median salary (currently NZD $106,080 a year), or 
  • they have a role essential for the completion or continuation of a science programme under a government funded or partially government-funded contract, including research and development exchanges and partnerships, and has the support of the Science, Innovation and International Branch at MBIE to travel to New Zealand to carry out their work, or 
  • they are undertaking a role essential for the delivery or execution of:  
  • a government-approved event, or 
  • major government-approved programme, or 
  • approved major infrastructure project. 

To apply for a long-term critical work visa, employers should complete the EOI form on behalf of the veterinarian. 

  • In December, significant progress was made when MBIE confirmed that all veterinarians, not just specialist veterinarians, meet the bar of having 'unique experience and technical or specialist skills that are not readily obtainable in New Zealand.’  Immigration confirmed that they will start applying this approach to long term other critical work visas.  They also confirmed that applications under this category declined after 11th September will be reconsidered with no additional charges. 
  • The NZVA undertook an additional survey to determine the remaining shortfall of veterinarians within NZ. This showed a need for 120 veterinarians in addition to the 30 exemptions granted (a total of 150). 
  • An international advertising campaign was launched to generate expressions of interest from suitably qualified overseas veterinarians. This advertising campaign generated a huge amount of response.  A refined list of the interested veterinarians has been sent to those employers that have indicated vacancies. 

To effectively advocate for veterinarians, we are keen to understand how many individuals are successfully getting visas through the long term ‘other critical worker’ category. 

If you have had success with this category, please email our vet shortage contact (details below).  

The contact at NZVA for vet shortage queries is Megan Miller.  If you have any questions regarding any of the above please contact Megan on the following details;  
DDI 04 831 1605 

Other useful information

Current Vacancies  - Please see here to get an idea of the current veterinary jobs available in New Zealand. 

Vet Council Registration - To practise as or use the title 'veterinarian' in New Zealand, you must be registered with the Veterinary Council of New Zealand (VCNZ) and have a current annual practising certificate (APC). Learn more here

Immigration NZ – To explore the different Visa options see here 

Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) – To familiarise yourself with the MIQ system including the allocation system and pre departure testing requirements. Please click here