New vets get support for going rural

Kate at work in the dairy shed.

Eastern Bay of Plenty livestock farmers are benefitting from a government scheme that supports graduate vets.

Opotiki veterinarian Kate Mackersey is one of 33 recipients of the government’s Voluntary Bonding Scheme for veterinarians.

Each gets $55,000 of funding across five years, in return for working across rural New Zealand.

“There’s a shortage of vets in rural areas,” she says.

“The programme is designed to attract and support graduates going into rural practice by providing funding to people who take it up.”

For Kate, though, it wasn’t a tough decision.

“My family runs a sheep and beef station in the Bay of Plenty and I remember watching the vet when he was called to help at calving time, so I always knew I wanted to work in this area. The scheme helped to cement my decision,” she says.

“Graduates go into the workforce with tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of debt. We’ve studied at vet school for five years to qualify and that’s expensive. The worst case I’ve heard of is a graduate with a $50,000 student loan to pay back.”

The 28-year-old says the scheme effectively removes some of that stress so she can focus on her job. Kate graduated in the class of 2023 and has been part of the Opotiki Veterinary Health Centre team for a year.

“It’s full on but I’m pretty lucky go to some neat parts of Bay of Plenty,” she says.

“We cover right up the coast up to East Cape and inland through to Matawai. It’s beautiful scenery as we’re driving around.

“We work with a huge variety. I might be called out to see dairy cows in the morning and then back to the clinic to treat someone’s chook. You get the big and the small.”

Since its inception in 2009, the Voluntary Bonding Scheme has supported 449 graduate vets.

“The scheme was set up to help ease the shortage of veterinarians working with production animals and working dogs in our regions,” says Agriculture Minister Todd McClay.

“Vets are a vital part of the community, and this scheme helps attract some of the brightest and best new graduates to our regions.”

For Kate, the financial support along with her on-the-job training is proving an invaluable foundation for her career.

“I really do love working with farmers, in particular, because they’re passionate about their roles as guardians of animals and land. I have learnt so much from them.

“They are full of knowledge and experience and more than willing to share this with a young vet.

“Being a new graduate veterinarian is hard, so being part of small rural community has been great. You really get to know people and feel well supported.”


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