Story: Health practitioners

Page 5. Alternative health practitioners

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Gaining legitimacy

Some alternative health practices have become part of the conventional health system despite facing challenges from other health practitioners and some members of the general public about their legitimacy. Acupuncture, chiropractic and osteopathy practitioners can register with the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC). Chiropractic and osteopathy are regulated under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003, and in 2016 traditional Chinese medicine (including acupuncture) was in the process of being regulated. 


Acupuncturists, chiropractors and osteopaths train at educational institutions approved by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA). The New Zealand Chiropractic Board and the Osteopathic Council of New Zealand oversee the registration of practitioners, and fund continuing education courses. NZQA-approved courses are also available for a number of unregulated alternative practices, such as homeopathy and naturopathy.

Can’t have too much

The New Zealand Skeptics society has run an ongoing campaign against homeopathy. In 2010 they staged a protest during which members attempted to overdose on homeopathic remedies to prove they were ineffective. Homeopathy supporters argued that overdoses are not possible because of the way remedies are made, but that this did not mean they did not work.

Conventional practitioners’ use of alternatives

Some conventional health practitioners such as doctors and physiotherapists incorporate alternative therapies such as acupuncture and homeopathy into their own practices. This is often referred to as complementary medicine. Registered midwives can train in midwifery acupuncture at the New Zealand School of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Because the boundaries between conventional and alternative practice are sometimes blurred, some people seek advice from several different practitioners at once, and also seek information on the internet. They may be reluctant to let their general practitioner know that they have sought advice from alternative practitioners because of fears doctors would not approve.

How to cite this page:

Allison Kirkman, 'Health practitioners - Alternative health practitioners', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 15 July 2024)

Story by Allison Kirkman, published 5 May 2011, reviewed & revised 23 Apr 2018