Healthcare in New Zealand

Both public and private healthcare in New Zealand are excellent. Public care is funded through general taxation, which means that residents receive free or subsidised medical care. Alternatively, the private sector more costly, but speedier treatment. 

Emergency medical care in New Zealand is offered by three organisations, each of which is run by both volunteers and permanent staff.

Public healthcare in New Zealand

The public healthcare system in New Zealand gives residents access to free or heavily-subsidised hospital care, as well as emergency treatment. In order to access public healthcare, expats need to have New Zealand residency status. Other free medical services include standard medical tests, children’s immunisations, and prescription medication for children under six years old. Visits to a General Practitioner (GP), the purchase of prescription drugs and ambulance services are subsidised.

In order to access healthcare in New Zealand, expats will have to register with a GP. There is no restriction on which doctor an expat has to register with; however, some doctors may specialise in certain areas of medicine and it might be best for new arrivals to research the practices in their area to find the GP who best suits their individual needs. The biggest downside to state healthcare is the long waiting periods for non-emergency procedures; however, waiting times vary between hospitals, so it helps to find the most time-efficient option.

In addition to the national healthcare scheme, there are district-funded healthcare initiatives known as Primary Health Organisations (PHO) which provide further subsidies to medical costs. There are, however, some non-subsidised items, which expats and residents have to pay for in full. Most New Zealanders and expats are members of a PHO in their residential district. Expats are advised to join a PHO as soon as they arrive in New Zealand, as the application process generally takes up to three months to be processed.

Private healthcare in New Zealand

The majority of New Zealanders who choose to use private healthcare do so in order to jump the queues for non-emergency procedures. Private healthcare users are, however, still able to use free public health services as well. 

There is a wide range of clinics and private hospitals which provide healthcare services such as general surgery, recuperative care and specialist procedures, as well as private testing laboratories and radiology clinics.

Health insurance in New Zealand

In New Zealand, private health insurance costs are not overly expensive in comparison with other expat destinations. Some employers offer medical cover, and it is recommended that expats check with their company or negotiate medical insurance as part of their employment contract.

Expats will be able to choose between international health cover and local health insurance providers.

Pharmacies in New Zealand

Pharmacies in New Zealand are plentiful in urban areas, and include large pharmacy franchises as well as independent and online services. Most Western medicines are available in New Zealand, but 24-hour pharmacies are rare. 

As with specialist hospital procedures, expats should remember that New Zealand is a small island country and advanced or specialist care is better sourced abroad. It might be best for expats with a medical condition to stock up on their medication before arriving in the country.

Health hazards in New Zealand

Unlike its neighbour Australia, New Zealand has few deadly animals – it only has two rare species of poisonous spiders and there are no snakes. New Zealand does have sharks, although shark attacks are rare because of the cold water which keeps both tourists and sharks at bay. 

As New Zealand is situated along the Pacific Ring of Fire, which is a seismically active area, natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic activity are prevalent. The country is particularly prone to earthquakes which can be of a very dangerous magnitude. 

While not as bad as cities such as Mexico City, Los Angeles and Beijing, smog in Christchurch has been a problem for quite some time, so expats with chronic lung problems who intend to live in the area should consult their doctor about ways to compensate for this.

Emergency services in New Zealand

Pre-hospital emergency medical care is largely conducted by trained paramedics. Emergency medical services in New Zealand are operated mostly by St Johns Ambulance and Wellington Free Ambulance. Both have air ambulance services that operate out of Auckland and Wellington.

  • Emergency number (fire, ambulance, police): 111