Best Places in NZ for Rural Doctors

Published on 11/06/2020 Rural Generalism, Living & Working in New Zealand, General Practice,

Whether you are a locum GP or a trained rural doctor, you have a plethora of stunning work locations to choose from across rural New Zealand.

Rural clinics and practices are always on the lookout for locum GPs to keep their services running. And if you are a Fellow of the Australian College Rural and Remote Medicine (FACRRM) or have become a fellow of Rural Hospital Medicine with the RNZCGP (FDRHMNZ), there are numerous rural hospitals from North Island to South Island on the hunt for generalists in an effort to shore up workforce shortages. With the specialist model in NZ rural hospitals becoming unsustainable, the demand for generalist doctors is only going to increase. 

As with rural medicine in somewhere like Australia, caseload presentations will be diverse and no two days will be the same. But practicing medicine in rural NZ offers an amazing work-life balance in comparison to rural medicine in other countries. This is down to the stunning natural diversity in such a compressed space. You could be working as a rural generalist or a locum GP in a remote clinic or rural hospital, and be fifteen minutes' drive from ski fields, a wine region or ideal surfing hotspot.  

Practicing medicine outside the hustle and bustle of city life will place some of New Zealand’s most beautiful environments right on your doorstep.

Here is an overview of just some of the locations that combine an idyllic lifestyle,  career opportunity and stunning natural environments.

North Island

Hawke’s Bay - Wairoa

Why it’s great:

The most populated town in the Hawke’s Bay region, Wairoa boasts an easygoing lifestyle and a relatively warm climate. Being the launchpad for so many must-do activities in Hawke’s Bay, Wairoa offers superb potential for work-life balance. AND, if you love wine (full-bodied reds in particular), then you have 91 wineries to experience in the Hawke’s Bay region. 

Work-life appeal: 

Take the Hawke’s Bay Wine Trail—it’s even possible to do this by bicycle. Additionally, Wairoa’s clement weather opens it up to a truly impressive variety of outdoor activities. Around the Mahi Peninsula you’re assured of one beach that’s good for swimming, diving, fishing or kayaking, and the other for surfing. The Wairoa River is great for whitebaiting, waka ama, wakeboarding and water skiing. Being the nearest town to the absolutely stunning Lake Waikaremoana, there are plenty of opportunities for tramping and camping.


Angelique Rahme can assist with locum and permanent opportunities for GPs and rural hospital specialists in Wairoa and the greater Hawke’s Bay region.

Northland - Bay of Islands

Why it’s great:

Northland combines rugged beauty (west coast), urbane hamlets (east coast), and resonant history in one region. Due to its subtropical climate—the temperature peaks at an ideal 26 degrees in Summer—Northland provides a flavour of work-life balance markedly different to other rural NZ locations. Additionally, the region is steeped in Maori heritage, housing the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, one of NZ’s most important historical locations.

Work-life appeal:

In terms of work-life balance, Northland’s Bay of Islands is where it’s at. It’s an idyllic spot, comprising 144 islands between Cape Brett and Purerua, and including the quaint towns of  Opua, Paihia, Russell and Kerikeri. If you have more than a passing interest in boating, swimming, diving, or fishing, Bay of Islands is not to be passed up.

Keen surfers can head to Ahipara at the southern end of Ninety Mile Beach, which provides one of the best left hand surf breaks in New Zealand. 


We have a range of opportunities for locum GPs and rural hospital specialists in Whangarei, Kerikeri, Tikipunga, Te Tai Tokerau, and Hauora Hokianga.


Why it’s great

While the region is a known pastoral and agribusiness hub, it is in close proximity to some incredible natural surrounds and boasts one of NZ’s most liveable cities. Hamilton’s cultural precinct continues to grow, as well as an increasing variety of cafés, bars and restaurants.

Work-life appeal:

Waikato has plenty of work-life appeal for rural doctors. In addition to the abundant rapids, falls, glowworm caves and mineral springs to experience, you’ll find amazing beaches on both coastlines and ski fields to the south. GP locums who are keen surfers will appreciate Hamilton’s close proximity to Raglan, NZ’s surfing mecca. 


Don't miss out on the variety of jobs available for locum GPs and rural hospital specialists in Waikato, particularly in Thames, Taumarunui and Hamilton.


Why it’s great:

The Manawatu/Wanganui regions are richly diverse in stunning landscapes and breath-taking natural beauty, comprising ski fields, river rapids and rich pastoral farmlands—expansive lifestyle opportunities for rural doctors.

Work-life appeal:

Stretching from east coast to west coast across the island, the regions take in beaches and large towns, volcanic plateaus and ski fields. There are two major towns: Palmerston North, which is a farming hub and university town; and the smaller, picturesque Wanganui sited near the mouth of the Whanganui River. The Whanganui River is the largest of three rivers in the area; the other two being the Manawatu and Rangitikei Rivers. Criss-crossing the region they offer plenty of recreational adventures such as swimming, white water rafting, jet boating, fly fishing, kayak safaris, and commercial bungee jumping. 


Many smaller districts in the Manawatu/Wanganui regions are in need of locum GPs, rural generalists, and rural hospital specialists. Contact Anna for more information.


Aerial view of Masterton Hospital

Wairarapa - Masterton

Why it’s great:

Another region that meets the rural definition, is in need of rural medical professionals and locum GPs, and is very liveable—quality schools, strong community spirit, great beaches, world-class vineyards, mountain ranges. Yes, Wairarapa is a wine region. 

Work-life appeal:

The boutique towns dotting the Wairarapa are a quaint mix of food, historical charm, antiques, gourmet produce offerings and wine. You can spend your off-hours touring vineyards and sampling the many pinot noirs on offer, or tramping in Tararua Forest Park; South Wairarapa has its own tramping society.


Contact Anna for more details on both locum and permanent roles for rural medical specialists in Masterton. 

South Island

Southland - Gore

Why it’s great:

You may have noticed a recurring theme: close-knit communities, jaw-dropping natural environments and enviable liveability. Well, again, Gore is no different. Gore presents a great opportunity to make a difference to district healthcare while attaining an ideal work-life balance.   

Work-life appeal:

Nestled on the banks of the Mataura River, the Gore district comprises a vibrant multicultural rural community in immediate proximity to the Southern Lakes, mountains, forests, rivers and beaches. You have more than ample opportunities for fishing, tramping, white-water rafting, and kayaking. Skiing is also possible, with Queenstown a short drive away. The district is well situated for raising children, with numerous schooling options and reasonable housing prices. The University of Dunedin and Southern Institute of Technology are less than 90 minutes drive from the town of Gore. 


Contact Anna to find out where Gore needs rural medical professionals the most.


The West Coasts Greymouth

West Coast

Why it's great:

Of all the locations listed in this article, the West Coast puts the ‘rural’ in ‘rural medicine’. Encompassing some of the most remote districts in NZ, there’s a real need on the West Coast for passionate rural generalists and rural hospital specialists. The payoff is a no-brainer: the chance to practice medicine in one of the most stunning and challenging natural environments on the planet; the endlessly picturesque West Coast provides an endless rolodex of opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. It’s also an endless source of whitebait fritters

Worklife appeal:

West Coast is packed with ‘bucket list’ visual appeal and world-renowned road trip routes—living and working in the region puts the UNESCO World Heritage area of Haast right on your doorstep. The largest towns are Greymouth in the central West Coast, Westport in the north and Hokitika in the south, with the entire region connected by highways that also run through the Southern Alps to Canterbury and beyond. In contrast to West Coast’s wild and remote image, there are some excellent primary and secondary schools in the region, as well as boarding school options in nearby Christchurch and Nelson.


There’s a big push in Greymouth at the moment to attract more rural hospital specialists and rural generalists. Talk to Anna about the opportunities.


South Canterbury - Timaru

Why it’s great:

From the Southern Alps to the gentle curve of the South Canterbury coastline, Timaru district has a family friendly reputation paired with some great lifestyle opportunities.   

Work-life appeal:

Many families and professionals who move to the Timaru district are impressed by the balance it strikes between rural lifestyle and immediate access to facilities. The relaxed pace and relatively affordable house prices in the Timaru make work-life balance easy for rural doctors to achieve. Timaru will place you on the doorstep of the sweeping plains, rolling hills, meandering rivers, native forest and unspoiled coastline that South Canterbury has to offer.  


Contact Anna about opportunities for locum GPs and rural medical specialists in Tinwald, Timaru and Rakaia.

If you're a GP or trained rural medical specialist and are ready for a sea change, a more relaxed environment, or looking to diversify your career in rural NZ, please contact Angelique Rahme.

Browse all of our jobs for rural doctors in New Zealand here.

Are you a junior doctor with an interest in the rural hospital scope? Read more here.

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