17 February 2009 by Anna Staford
You will need full health insurance, unless you come from the United Kingdom or Australia, who have cover for emergency medical treatment under reciprocal health agreements (this does not include non-urgent medical attention). If you usually live in the Cook Islands, Niue or Tokelau and are temporarily residing in New Zealand, you also qualify for emergency medical treatment. Visitors who have student, visitor or work permit visas issued by the Department of Immigration for two years or more are eligible to access publicly funded health services. All other visitors are liable for the full cost of medical treatment.
If you have an accident, you may be eligible for assistance under ACC (the Accident Compensation Corporation), New Zealand's insurance scheme for people who are injured outside the workplace (it does not cover illnesses). It only covers injuries that happen in New Zealand, and treatment you get here. Your claim will be initiated through a treatment provider (dentist, doctor, etc).
If you become sick within three weeks of arrival, advise a doctor of the countries you have visited recently. Doctors are listed under 'Registered Medical Practitioners' at the front of the phone directory. Chemists (pharmacists) are open normal shopping hours. Most cities have 'urgent dispensaries' which are open outside those hours, listed under 'Hospitals' at the front of the phone directory. Smaller towns have chemists rostered for after-hours.
New Zealand's water supply is generally excellent. Water from the tap (faucet) is always safe to drink. Most supplies are chlorinated. Water from streams and lakes should be boiled, filtered or chemically treated before drinking. New Zealand's thermal pools may contain minuscule quantities of a type of amoeba that causes amoebic meningitis. However, it can only enter through the ears and nose, so keep your head above the water and don't jump or dive into thermal pools. You don't have to watch television weather-report burn times to know that 15 minutes in the New Zealand summer sun can cook you. Temperatures can be low but the ultra-violet rays are vicious. Wear a hat, sunblock, sunglasses and, if you're feeling burned, wear thick clothes (light cotton is not adequate) and sit in the shade.