Voluntary Bonding Scheme

Payments to reward medical, midwifery and nursing graduates who agree to work in hard-to-staff communities and/or specialties, and medical physicist, sonography and radiation therapy graduates who remain in New Zealand.

The Voluntary Bonding Scheme is a practical initiative run by Health Workforce New Zealand to move graduates into the communities and specialties that need them most, and to retain essential allied health professionals in New Zealand. Those on the scheme receive annual payments to help repay their student loan or as top-up income.

It was launched in 2009 to encourage graduate doctors, midwives and nurses to work in hard-to-staff communities and specialties in New Zealand. Radiation therapists and medical physicists were added from 2012 – and sonographers from 2015 – to encourage graduates in these vulnerable and high-demand professions to remain in New Zealand. Payments are also available to GP trainees. Other ministries run similar schemes for teachers and veterinarians.

2015 applications closed at 5pm Friday 13 March 2015. 

Eligibility criteria and payment forms for each intake year and profession can be found on the Terms and conditions page.

What does bonding mean?

There is no up-front bonding agreement to sign. After being accepted, you begin working – or continue to work – in an eligible hard-to-staff community, specialty or profession. If you abide by the terms and conditions of your intake year, you can apply for payments after three, four and five years.

How much will I get paid?

In addition to your salary, those accepted on the scheme will receive the following annual after-tax payments for up to five years:

Doctor $10,000
Midwife $3,500
Nurse $2,833
Medical physicist $3,932
Radiation therapist $3,375
Sonographer $3,932

The money will either be paid into your student loan account, or your bank account if you have no student loan. You can apply for your first payment after three years, and again at the end of your fourth and fifth years. Payment forms will be available for download on your intake’s terms and conditions page on this website towards the end of your third, fourth and fifth years.

The Inland Revenue Department’s website has more information about tax rates and voluntary bonding schemes.

Guide to applying for payments (docx, 24 KB)

Am I eligible?

There are limited places available each year. To be considered, apply during the Registration of Interest period each year if you:

  • study at a New Zealand accredited tertiary institute (check the terms and conditions for full list)
  • graduate the year before the annual Registration of Interest period closes – for example, those who complete their studies in 2014 can apply for the 2015 intake
  • are working – or intend to work – in an approved hard-to-staff community, specialty or profession
  • are a postgraduate doctor intending to train as a GP
  • are a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident by the time you are accepted on the scheme.

In order to receive payments you must meet the terms and conditions of your intake year for at least three years. Graduation is considered to be the date on your statement of completion of studies – not the date of your graduation ceremony. Your education provider will be able to supply this statement.

Guide to the Registration of Interest process (docx, 94 KB)

What are the hard-to-staff specialties and communities?

Please refer to the terms and conditions for your profession and intake year.

The community I work in has been removed from the hard-to-staff list – am I still eligible for payments?

Yes. Once on the scheme, you must continue to work in a hard-to-staff category for your intake year for the duration of your bonded period – even if it has been removed for future intakes.

What if I work part-time, take leave or change jobs?

A minimum of 0.6 FTE is required during your bonding period, except for lead maternity carer midwives, whose requirement is based on the number of births attended.

If you change jobs and/or relocate, you remain eligible for payments if you continue to work in a hard-to-staff community, specialty or profession, and you meet the terms and conditions of your intake year.

Annual leave counts towards your bonding period but extended time away from work – more than 14 weeks in a 12-month period –does not. Up to 14 weeks absence is classed as a break, and up to 10 weeks beyond that is classed as a pause.

You can take up to 52 weeks parental leave and remain eligible for the scheme. Parental leave will not count towards your bonding period.

You need to submit proof of any breaks, pauses or parental leave taken when you submit your application for payment.

Email bonding@moh.govt.nz to let us know if your circumstances change.

Can I leave the scheme before five years are up?

Yes. Your involvement is up to you. If you leave after three years, for example, you will only be eligible for the payment due at the end of your third year. Should you decide to leave, inform the Ministry of Health using the opt-out form included with the application for payment form or email bonding@moh.govt.nz.

Useful guides and contact information

If you have any questions, email bonding@moh.govt.nz.

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