Regulation and registration of Acupuncture under New Zealand law (HPCA Act)

The present state of requirements to become an acupuncturist in NZ

Currently, acupuncture is not a registered health profession under HPCAA. Instead, the acupuncture industry is self-regulated. Currently one does not need any formal qualification to practice in NZ. If you have seen acupuncture on TV, you can probably start practising. Except if you are a registered healthcare provider of a profession that is registered under HPCAA. If this is the case, you’re bound by the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act. And your actions may be in breach of the patients’ rights. Here is an example of an osteopath who got in trouble for practising acupuncture without being qualified.

There are a few organisations offering voluntary membership for acupuncturists including Acupuncture NZ (formerly New Zealand Register of Acupuncture Incorporated) and New Zealand Acupuncture Standards Authority Incorporated. Membership in either of these organisations is voluntary and allows its members to become ACC acupuncture providers. Currently, neither of the organisations has an authority to register an acupuncture practitioner as a health care provider under the HPCA Act, even though their names may imply the opposite.

Your local council may have some regulation regarding practising acupuncture, but they will not check your qualification.

* I’m not a lawyer. Laws and rules can change. Please seek legal advice before practising acupuncture in NZ. 

What will happen when acupuncture is registered?

Once acupuncturists are regulated and required to be registered, the required standard for acupuncturists in New Zealand should significantly improve.

My patients tell me, that in New Zealand, there is a multitude of acupuncturists who are less than fluent in English. My view is unless there is adequate interpreter provided, these practitioners violate the patients’ Right to Effective Communication. It may become illegal for these acupuncturists to practice acupuncture under the new law.

The new registration and regulation of acupuncture under the HPCA Act to ensure that:

  • acupuncturists have the right qualifications to provide their services
  • maintain and develop acupuncture skills and competence
  • acupuncturist are physically and mentally able to work

When will acupuncture be regulated?

Unfortunately, we don’t know how long it will take for acupuncture to get a status of registered health profession under HPCAA. Currently, registration looks close, but we have been here before. It may take anywhere between a few months and decades before it is regulated.

Regulation Update (10 June 2010):

From NZ Register of Acupuncture newsletter: ”

we  have  been  asked  to  reapply  for  regulation  under  the Health  Practitioners  Competence Assurance Act. Although Acupuncture was approved in 2007, the subsequent review and the recommendations which came out of the review have meant that we need to resubmit our application to show that we meet the new criteria… “

Unfortunately, acupuncture regulation is delayed again!

Registration update (4 November 2011)

From NZ Acupuncture Standards Authority newsletter: *no decision about regulation will be made this year*, and further information has been called for regarding blended authorities. The Minister has clearly stated that no new Boards/Councils will be established, and therefore Chinese Medicine must be blended into an existing HPCA registration Board or Council.

This means that a current HPCA Board/Council will have to agree to host Chinese Medicine. This agreement will form part of the advice given to the Minister of Health.

Once the Ministry has completed its processes, the final decision regarding regulation is in the hands of the Minister of Health, regardless of the advice and recommendation from the Ministry of Health team.

Update (9th of May 2017):

Chinese Medicine professional bodies in NZ, including NZASA and AcNZ, have been meeting with Health Workforce New Zealand (HWNZ) to discuss regulation of Chinese Medicine under the HPCA Act 2003.

These contacts culminated in a meeting on 14th March 2017 with Professor Des Gorman (Chair) and Janis Freegard (Principal Advisor) from Health Workforce New Zealand. The outcome of this meeting was a clear pathway for the profession, outlining the next steps to be covered in this journey. The Minister of Health has agreed in principle that CM should be regulated and that a Chinese Medicine Council of New Zealand (CMCNZ) should be established under the host Responsible Authority of the Medical Council of NZ (MCNZ).

Subsequently, the profession submitted a comprehensive cost analysis to show the Minister of Health that the profession is able to afford this undertaking. This document is a conceptual estimate of the cost to convene a Council and an indication of the costing of the first year of operation. The costing showed that regulation will not be an expensive exercise and that it is well within the means of the profession. These setup costs will be shared as a one off set up levy per practitioner of approximately $110-$120, separate to APC costs. This levy is based on a total profession number of around 970- 1000 CM practitioners. These estimates are subject to change; however, they do provide useful guidelines about set up costs to be paid by each member of the profession.
The CM representatives group has also provided a proposed list of protected titles to HWNZ. These titles – once approved – will ONLY be able to legally used by practitioners registered under the proposed regulatory CM Council.

The parliamentary process to be followed is stringent and will largely be handled by HWNZ. HWNZ will now prepare a formal recommendation for the Minister that CM be included under the HPCA Act. HWNZ will consult with different ministries such as Treasury and Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment to ensure all is in order before the recommendation is presented to Cabinet. Provided Cabinet agrees, an Order in Council will be written up, signed off by the Governor General and tabled in parliament.

The Minister will then call for nominations to the CM Council. Five practitioners and two lay persons will be appointed by the Minister. A Registrar (or Registrars) will be appointed and the new CM Council will then start the process of establishing standards, competencies, code of ethics, APC fees, scopes of practice etc.

This process is likely to take up to twelve months to complete. If all goes well the new CM Council should be able to be accepting registrations for the following financial year.

Acupuncture Regulation update 21 February 2018:

Professor Des Gorman (Executive Chair, HWNZ) sent a letter to Chinese Medicine representatives with an update:

I recently had a positive meeting with the new Minister of Health Hon David Clark.

He has confirmed that the process of regulating Chinese medicine under the HPCA Act 2003 will continue. This is good news for the profession.

Health Workforce New Zealand is continuing with the legislative and organisational requirements for regulation. This consultative process takes time and formal government agreement will still be required before arrangements can be finalised.

See the letter here: 21 February 2018 Chinese Medicine Profession

53 replies
  1. John Servilio says:

    My partner and I are seriously considering relocating from the U.S. to New Zealand. I am currently licensed in California, which has the most stringent requirements for licesure in the U.S. (along with a handful of other states). We do have some concerns and I was wondering if you might be able to address them. I am most grateful for any insights you might offer.
    * What is the level of acceptance of acupuncture as a profession in New Zealand? Do you see the profession gaining more legitimacy in NZ?
    * Do many insurance plans cover it? How about any government-sponsored (universal) health care? I’m not actually sure if practitioners in NZ have to bill insurance companies in the same way we do in the U.S.
    * Do you have an opinion about the best way to bring my skills into the country, i.e. start my own practice under a work visa, or try to gain employment through a school or existing practice?

  2. says:

    Hi John,
    thanks for your comment.
    I will try to answer the questions in separate comments.
    BTW, why are you considering New Zealand?

  3. says:

    What is the level of acceptance of acupuncture as a profession in New Zealand? Do you see the profession gaining more legitimacy in NZ?

    95% of general practitioners refer patients to complementary medicines, 20% of them practice complimentary medicines themselves. Acupuncture is commonly performed complimentary therapy by GPs.

    Currently acupuncture is unregulated. This means anyone can practice. I find this quite scary. This also does not reflect well on the industry. But hopefully it will be regulated within a year or two.

    If you are planing to come, it is good idea to do this now. You can start practicing straight away, and you’ll have time to “cross-credit” your qualification to NZ diploma of acupuncture.

  4. says:

    Do many insurance plans cover it?

    ACC (accident compensation corporation) covers acupuncture for accidents only. There are a couple of insurance companies who will cover acupuncture, but I didn’t have many patients profiting from this.

  5. says:

    Do you have an opinion about the best way to bring my skills into the country, i.e. start my own practice under a work visa, or try to gain employment through a school or existing practice?

    This is a question I will not be able to answer, because best way is your way.
    I started by renting the rooms from an acupuncture clinic and teaching at the same time. Unfortunately when teaching much of my time was spent on marking the exams and other paperwork. I didn’t enjoy it a bit. I stopped teaching as soon as I could afford it.
    If you come to NZ, do email me your resume and do come to talk to me. I will be happy to help.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I read the email on your website from an acupuncturist in California, US. I believe the letter was dated Aug 2007 and at that time there weren’t any regulations regarding acupuncture.
    Has that changed?
    What are the requirements?
    Currently I am licensed in the states of New York and Virginia, and I am considering moving to NZ.
    What is the scope of practice?
    Thanks for your time and information.

  7. Kit says:

    I have done a Diploma in acpuncture in Hong Kong. If I want to practice in New Zealand, do I need to join New Zealand Register of Acupuncture Incorporated and New Zealand Acupuncture Standards Authority Incorporated first?
    I would love to go to NZ and I am not sure the immigration procedures. I hope the acupuncture would help.

  8. says:

    Hi K,
    if you comply with immigration requirements and can legally work in New Zealand, you do not need to join anything to practice acupuncture in NZ.
    However, acupuncture soon may become regulated, and your diploma may be insufficient. You may need to obtain a higher qualification and join a professional organisation such as New Zealand Register of Acupuncture or New Zealand Acupuncture Standards Authority.
    Hope this helps your decision.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I read your comments on cross crediting acupuncture qualifications. I am currently a member of the British Acupuncture Council and am a New Zealander returning to Auckland in August 2009.
    I have a Bachelor of Science (acupuncture) degree from the UK.
    What is the process of cross-crediting? to qualify for the register of acupuncturists in NZ?

  10. says:

    Hi R,

    currently NZRA's minimum qualification requirement is as follows:

    TCM -Trained Applicants:

    TCM -Trained Applicants must provide evidence of completion of four years study of
    acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine. (3600 total hours study which includes a
    minimum of 500 supervised clinical training but may include up to 720 hours of supervised
    clinical training).

    Other Health Disciplines:

    Persons from other health disciplines may become NZRA members after providing evidence
    of the completion of two years study of which the core modality comprises TCM diagnosis
    and Acupuncture theory. (1800 total hours study, which must include a minimum of 500
    hours of supervised clinical training).


  11. says:

    If you come from overseas, no matter how qualified you are, you will need to pass a theory and clinical assessment. I recon both are really easy, but may take up quite a lot of your time.

    Theory assessment includes Ethics, Precautions & Contraindications
    and Point Location.

    Practical assessment used to include a treatment of a patient or two with an assessor present.

  12. Andrew says:

    Hey there! I am currently studying TCM at ACTCM in San Francisco. My wife is from NZ and we may relocate at some point. You mentioned that a board certified practitioner from the US may have to take a test to be certified in NZ. How does one schedule to take the test? When I graduate, I will be taking the very difficult California Boards and the US National Boards and would love to test in NZ with everything fresh in my mind.


  13. says:

    Hi Andrew, to schedule a test you have to contact one of the acupuncture professional organisations such as New Zealand Register of Acupuncture. They will provide with the info you require.

  14. LT says:

    How do you find a decent acupuncturist who understands english currently seeing one who doesn’t quite understand me

    • Vitalis says:

      There are hundreds of acupuncturists in NZ. A personal recommendation is one way to find one. It’s a good idea to check their qualification and if they have current practicing certificate.

      If you are in Auckland could always come and see me! ;)

  15. Rajan Naik says:

    i am practising acupuncturist for last 17 years with appreciable clinical experience in classical, TCM, Scalp, Auriculo puncture from India. I am having different Valid Certifications, Diploma in Acupuncture. How can i start Practising Acupuncture in NewZealand

    • RW says:

      As far as I know, currently you don’t need any qualification to start practicing acupuncture in New Zealand. You need to be a member of one of the professional organisations to be able to claim for treatment of injuries which are covered by ACC. These organisations have their own criteria regarding qualifications, but we do know that there are quite a few acupuncturists who have received NZ National Diploma of Acupuncture from New Zealand School of Acupuncture, who haven’t actually studied there.

      You have to have a valid working permit or to be a permanent resident / citizen of New Zealand.

      Get proper legal advice from a lawyer in NZ before making any decisions regarding practicing acupuncture in NZ.

  16. Dr Vitalis Acupuncture says:

    *Update* from NZASA:

    Submissions were called for by the Ministry of Health in July 2011 regarding the application for regulation of Chinese Medicine.
    Thirty five (35) submissions were received by the Ministry, and these are currently being analysed by the MOH which will then make a recommendation to the Minister regarding the regulation of Chinese Medicine.
    NZASA has been advised that *no decision about regulation will be made this year*, and further information has been called for regarding blended authorities.  The Minister has clearly stated that no new Boards/Councils will be established, and therefore Chinese Medicine must be blended into an existing HPCA registration Board or Council.
    This means that a current HPCA Board/Council will have to agree to host Chinese Medicine.  This agreement will form part of the advice given to the Minister of Health.
    Once the Ministry has completed its processes, the final decision regarding regulation is in the hands of the Minister of Health, regardless of the advice and recommendation from the Ministry of Health team.

    • nalin wasantha says:

      hi there
      i am acupuncture and homoeopathic practitioner from srilanka . i got qualified in homoepathy from london.. please advice me how to migrate new zealand ?
      i am nalin wasantha

  17. Engenheiro_fei says:

    Hi there,

    I am a physiotherapist and finished my pos-graduation in acupuncture. I am brazilian, 29 years old.
    I did those two courses in Brazil. I would like to know how can I work as an acupuncturist in New Zealand.

    Do I need to do an extra course in NZ to able to work over there? What are the steps?

    thanks so muck!!

    • Vitalis says:

       Hi there. I believe the law hasn’t changed yet. And you don’t need any qualification at all to work as an acupuncturist unless you want to join a professional body such as NZASA or NZRA. Thanks, Vitalis

  18. Katja Unger says:

    Hi, I´m a german psychiatrist and plan to work in New zealand for one year. I´m a Nada trainer – a special acupuncture protocol developed in USA first for treating addiction, now widely spread used in psychiatric treatment. May I practise acupuncture in New Zealand? Is it enough to be a medical doctor with acupuncture training?
    Best regards
    Katja Unger

  19. Elanita Korian says:

    I am a licensed Acupuncturist in the U.S. I will be moving to NZ in May 2013. I understand that there is no regulation at this time. As an overseas acupuncturist, do I need to register with local governments, business or health associations?
    I would like to join NZASA, is this a process that I should start will living in the US?
    Thanks for your help

      • Elanita Korian says:

        Thanks for your help – I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to open my own practice so I had planned to work or volunteer for some one else first and then slowly open my own practice. I’m getting started on my application!
        Thanks again

  20. Soo says:

    Hi there My flatmate is doing acupuncture practice without work visa approved yet. Will this be a problem? Also she is practicing in residential area I am not happy with the fact that I should share the toilet with her patients. is this okay with council? She sometimes washes the patient bed sheet in the kitchen sink I am not happy about that either.

    • Anonymous says:

      Hi, this is not really a question for this forum. It doesn’t sound good. Your flatmate may potentially have problems with NZ immigration, your local council and IRD.

  21. Rostislav says:

    My friend wants to move to NZ from Mongolia to open an acupuncture clinic. He is a doctor in this field. He is from Korea and doesnt speak English but he has a translater who will follow him.
    1. Is it difficult to register in this field in NZ and how much time does it usually take?
    2. How high are taxes in NZ for doing acupuncture business?

    Maybe it may influence, just in case he is also a Buddhist monk.
    Thank you.

  22. merita says:

    Aloha, I have been practicing traditional oriental medicine for over 25 years in New York California. I am retiring in NZ with my daughter and would like to continue lecturing and working. With my current Visa what other requirements would you suggest. thank u

  23. Amanda says:

    Hi there. I am currently an acupuncture student in my last year in the United States and I want to move to New Zealand after graduation. What is the most common model of business there – how likely is it to work for someone else, or would I have to set up my own practice? Does setting up your own practice problematic for getting a visa? Thanks for your time and help!

    • Dr Vitalis Acupuncture says:

      Hi Amanda, there are two acupuncture schools in New Zealand and Auckland University of Technology has a course. All together they are teaching more acupuncturists than New Zealand needs. There are numerous practices. It would be easy to start a business, but many acupuncturists I know are struggling to get sufficient patients even after a few years in practice. If you are looking for a relaxed lifestyle, you’ll find it here :) As far as a visa is concerned, the rules are quite complex, but you can find all the info on NZ immigration website, alternatively, you can try searching for a forum where they discuss immigration or talk to a lawyer here or an immigration consultant. Regards, Vitalis

  24. Maria says:

    I’m in my final year of studying traditional Chinese acupuncture in london, it is a course validated by the British acupuncture council. After reading the comments below so it it correct to say that there’s no point coming to NZ as an acupuncture practitioner if it is difficult to get a job/patients?

    • Dr Vitalis Acupuncture says:

      Hi Maria,

      There is always a point if you are coming to NZ for the right reason (like lifestyle ;) ).

      Don’t let the NZ conditions put you down. Your clinical skills, your attitude, your creativity all will contribute to success. But it may be difficult to achieve it overnight. Feel free to email or give me a ring if you come to NZ.


  25. Malini says:

    hi… im a medical student.. may i know what is the regulatory, safety and legal aspects for acupuncture generally ??

  26. Jens says:

    Is there any new on regulation of acupuncture in NZ? Is there now an official registration needed.
    Tx Jens

    • V says:

      Hi Jens, no, if you don’t want to see ACC/insurance patients, you don’t need to become a member of NZASA or NZRA. If you qualify, I’d recommend looking into becoming a member of one of these organisations. Cheers, V.

  27. Elsebeth bak says:

    Hi. I am qualified acupuncture in Denmark. I am in New Zealand 3 month. Can I give acupuncture or is There any regulations

    • Dr Vitalis Acupuncture says:

      Hi Elise, if it is not too late… Yes, you should be able to give acupuncture to private patients, but can’t receive payments from ACC. This all may change within a year, but as far as I’m informed this is the current situation. When are you coming to NZ?

  28. Vivian Li says:

    Hi, there!
    I ‘m a licensed TCM doctor in China. I would like to get a job as an acupuncturist there in NZ. is there any way for me to get registration offshore? or I must find job first then register later?

    • Dr Vitalis Acupuncture says:

      Hi, I believe, you need to do some exams with either Acupuncture NZ or NZASA. Currently it may be easier to join Acupuncture NZ. You can practice without registration, but you can’t receive payments from ACC and getting indemnity insurance may be close to impossible.

      • Vivian Li says:

        Dr Vitalis, thank you very much.
        May I get those exams with visitor Visa when I travel in NZ?

        • Dr Vitalis Acupuncture says:

          Hi Vivian, sorry, I only saw your comment now. I can’t see why you would not be able to do the exams on a visitor visa, but then I’m not an immigration consultant. Make sure you schedule the exams well in advance though.

      • Elena Pulido says:

        haha no I didn’t see acupuncture on TV cause i don’t watch TV! I have studied a postgraduate course of “Acupuncture for Physiotherapist” in Spain. It was a 360 hours course which is not recognise here in NZ so I think I’d need to complete some studies here in NZ to get registered… What would be the easiest/fastest way to get registration in my case? I’m NZ resident now, living in Waikato, do you know if there is any study program distance based? Any help much appreciated :)

        • Dr Vitalis Acupuncture says:

          If you want to become a member of one of the professional organisation and become an ACC provider, you do need to have a certain standard. From what I see there is no real consistency what qualification will be accepted (but check the wording of both organisations). Also, should the regulation eventuate while you’re studying, you’re running a risk that they will change the criteria. If you choose to study, I would get in touch with both professional organisations and get a firm confirmation that your studies and gained qualification will be accepted once completed. There are two acupuncture schools in NZ. You’re likely to get accepted if you complete one their qualifications. Unitec used to run a course also.

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