With 32 graduate vets set to begin their careers in rural New Zealand, the profession continues to experience a dire shortage.
Under the government’s Voluntary Bonding Scheme (VBS) for veterinarians, the graduate vets each receive funding of $55,000 over five years to kick-start their careers.
The scheme is aimed at helping to ease the shortage of veterinarians working with production animals in the more remote regions of NZ.
NZ Veterinary Association (NZVA) chief executive Kevin Bryant said the scheme, while helpful, is not enough.
“Right now we have 50 large animal vet vacancies and a further 70 companion vet vacancies on our website and that’s right across the country.
“Schemes like this are really valuable and we are a great supporter of the scheme that opens opportunities for people to bed themselves into supporting our primary industries.
“But with a shortage of vets, vet nurses and vet techs, we need a multitude of these type of initiatives to fill the gap,” Bryant said.
New immigration rules introduced in April this year have vets on the green list of essential jobs which has opened access to vets from overseas.
“They must be coming in under the umbrella of an accredited employer, which [speeds up] the process and we are hearing from employers on the green list that this is working well so long as you follow instructions and fill out the forms correctly.”
The NZVA is running advertising campaigns through its social media platforms to encourage vets from overseas to come to NZ.
“But this is not just a NZ problem, the vet shortage is a global issue, every country is navigating the same challenges.
“There is no silver bullet and that’s why we need a series of multiple small initiatives to contribute to the situation.”
Massey University secured increased funding and took an additional 30 students in this year’s intake.
Businesses are shuffling staff to streamline the nature of work they need to cover. There are opportunities for technology to make things easier and a drive to attract people who have been vets to come back to the profession.
“We need to look at all these things as an industry because the brutal reality is doing what we have done for the past 50 years is not going to get us there.
“It’s not like we are bereft of ideas, it’s challenging and it will be for some time. We have to collaborate as a profession and problem solve together.”
Bryant said vets “are coming in, just not fast enough”.
“We will be advocating to the Ministry for Primary Industries [MPI] to take greater numbers into these schemes,” Bryant said.
Acting Agriculture and Rural Communities Minister Meka Whaitiri said the bonding scheme incentivises vets to take up positions in more remote regions.
“We need these vets to provide the best care for production animals, such as cows, sheep and pigs and working dogs that are so essential in our food and fibre sector.
“Since its inception in 2009, the VBS has supported 416 graduate vets from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South, providing certainty for students and vital skills for our rural communities,” Whaitiri said.
The programme is delivered by MPI.
Eight of this year’s recipients will be placed in Waikato, while Canterbury and Manawatū-Whanganui will each get five; Southland and Taranaki, four; Otago, 3; and Auckland, Bay of Plenty and Hawke’s Bay one each.
“Vets are vital members of our rural communities, and many graduates who have taken up the scheme enjoy the lifestyle these locations offer.
“From Waimauku north of Auckland to Winton in the deep south, this year’s graduates will play a crucial role in helping our farmers with production and animal welfare.
“The VBS is just one of the programmes the government is investing in to ensure our farmers have access to high quality, professional veterinary services and help rural communities to continue to thrive,” Whaitiri said.