Vetlink Employment Service

Larger than Life – a New Zealand Working Holiday

What comes to mind when you think of New Zealand? Bungee jumping, jet boating and other adventure sports, lush green pastures dotted with sheep, or spectacular snow-capped mountains straight out of The Lord of the Rings?

Tourist brochure cliché or not, they are all common experiences for visitors to New Zealand. Despite its relatively small size and population, New Zealand offers a spectacularly diverse landscape and culture to rival any other destination worldwide.

Given the importance of agriculture to its economy, it’s no surprise that true mixed veterinary practices continue to thrive in New Zealand. It’s not uncommon for vets to treat cattle, farm horses, sheep, deer and working dogs in the same week. So if mixed or dairy practice is your thing, and you have a sense of adventure, New Zealand is the ideal destination for a working holiday.

Registration and visas

Graduates from UK veterinary schools can register with the Veterinary Council of New Zealand without sitting any additional exams. For more information, see

You’ll need a suitable visa to work in New Zealand. A Working Holiday Visa exists for a range of countries throughout Asia, the Americas and Europe, which allows eligible citizens between the ages of 18 and 30 (up to 35 for some countries) to work and travel within New Zealand for up to 36 months. For more information on the Working Holiday Visa, and to apply online, go to

If you are not eligible for the Working Holiday Visa and would consider a permanent position, Vetlink can advise you of jobs where the employer is willing to assist with a work permit. Practice owners normally request a two-year stay. Vets are on the Long Term Skills Shortage List (LTSSL), so the process is typically quite straightforward; see for more information. (Conditions apply)

Type of work

The majority of New Zealand locum positions are in mixed or dairy practices, making it the ideal destination to consolidate and develop your large animal clinical skills.

The New Zealand dairy industry leads the world with its progressive approach to extensive milk production, and its modern farming and veterinary facilities. While locum vets need to be confident with pregnancy testing, calving and caesareans before they start work, the large herd sizes mean it’s not unusual for two or three vets to spend an entire day working together at one farm, so there is plenty of opportunity to learn from highly experienced dairy practitioners.

Mixed practice positions do still involve a reasonable amount of small animal work, so good communication skills, medical knowledge and competence with routine surgery are required. 100% small animal work is slightly more limited in New Zealand. If this is your preference, Australia offers better opportunities for locum work. You can always base yourself there and head over to New Zealand for holidays – after all, it’s only a 3-hour flight.

Provided they are confident with the basics and have around two years of mixed practice experience, most UK vets adapt to working in New Zealand without any concerns. What’s more, the skills and knowledge they gain makes them very attractive to prospective employers once they return home.

How Vetlink can help

Vetlink has helped UK veterinary graduates find locum work in New Zealand since 1997. The personalised, free service provided by our recruitment consultants aims to match you with jobs that suit your skills and experience, as well as providing additional information on the type of work available, pay rates, weather, bank accounts, insurance, registration and more.

There are two main ways that we can help you find locum work in New Zealand. The first is to let you know about locum jobs as they become available, so you follow the work around. This is the best way to secure a good supply of work. The alternative option is to provide Vetlink with your preferred itinerary, and we try to find work to match your location and availability – you might like to visit for inspiration. Either way, we aim to keep you supplied with a steady stream of work that suits your availability.

For example, fly into Christchurch in the South Island and spend a few days exploring the city while you recover from your jet lag before heading to South Canterbury for some dairy work. Then take a break to go whale watching in Kaikoura and taste a glass or two of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc before heading to the glaciers and beautiful Milford Sound on the west coast. Dust off your down jacket for a stint in mixed practice in the rugged beauty of Southland, where you might just develop a taste for its world-renowned bluff oysters. Make sure you save some money (and energy) for Queenstown, the nation’s adventure capital, where you can ski, bungee jump, mountain bike or tramp (hike) by day and bar hop all night. When your adrenals can’t take any more action, take the spectacular drive via impossibly turquoise lakes back to Christchurch.

Another mixed practice job should fund your flight to cosmopolitan Wellington in the North Island, where you can explore the café and bar scene, and even snare a ticket to an All Blacks rugby game if you’re lucky. Then head up the east coast towards the beautifully preserved Art Deco city of Napier and on to Rotorua’s boiling mud pools and geysers. You might pick up a final job in the Waikato before making for Auckland to begin your journey home (perhaps via Australia or Asia), or venture further north for a few days of relaxation on the beaches of the Bay of Islands.

Contact Vetlink for more information

If cutting-edge dairy practice or the challenge of true mixed practice against a backdrop of breathtaking scenery appeals to you, a working holiday in New Zealand is worthy of serious consideration. If you’d like more information or advice about locum work in New Zealand – or anywhere else – the experienced consultants at Vetlink are always happy to help. You are welcome to contact us for further information.

Last Updated: May 2024

DISCLAIMER: The above information is for guidance purposes only. Vetlink takes no responsibility for the accuracy of the information, which is not intended as immigration advice. We recommend you take immigration advice from a suitably qualified professional.