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Hi There Paul
Thanks for your letter, in response to Nicola.  Great you are both thinking
about massage therapy within the big picture and I agree with your
perspectives. Here are some thoughts in response to your email.

The issue of government regulation was raised by government (I assume this
is what you are talking about when you talk about registration of massage
therapists) and government assessed massage therapy as not posing a risk to
public safety if it remained unregulated. Therefore it was not included as a
profession under the Health Practitioners Competency Act (HPCA) Act 2004.
The HPCA Act however does now provide a pathway should we want to be
government regulated.

In 2005, I investigated this option with the Ministry of Health and under
the Act, the first thing we needed to do was represent massage therapists
and the merger between TMANZ and MINZI means we can put forward to
government that MNZ represents massage therapists. There were also other
benefits in joining forces. This has been completed but no further time or
effort has been put into pursuing regulation by the MNZ Executive Board.

A questionnaire in 2006 asked MNZ membership what they wanted and after
reading the results we focused on publicity, regional support, conference
workshops etc that were top of the list. Provision for the four membership
levels in MNZ was important in order to attract all massage therapists to
join regardless of qualifications. MNZ recognizes massage therapists at
whatever level they are working, and to encourage professional development.

If we are to move towards regulation this must be decided by the members. A
remit has not been presented to AGM on this subject as far as I am aware. A
lot more investigation will need to be done if it does, so that members can
make an informed decision. THIS HAS NOT BEEN DISCUSSED BY EXECUTIVE THIS
YEAR.

I hope this helps. I have more information on this subject dating back to
2005 and if you are interested please contact me.

Kind regards

Prue Paterson Gomas
MNZ Executive

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I agree with you 100% about the need for a wee shift in focus for MNZ. I deliver a short practitioner course in relaxation massage that is NZQA approved – the standard of competency achieved by my students is
completely inadequate in terms of graduates being able to “register” as RMT’s or CMT’s with MNZ, yet many of them are working successfully with satisfied clients.
> The practitioner competencies we teach ensure that students understand safe limits of practise – but that doesn’t prevent them from legitimately being in business as therapists.
Let’s face it, massage therapy has been around in every culture for millenia, and I have always been concerned about the “cornering” of massage practise via regulation and/or legislation by any one organisation. I gave evidence to this effect at the Select Committe hearings prior to the passage of the governing law, the Health Practitioner Competency Assurance Act 2004.
This specifically cites massage therapy as an unrestricted activity. Any organisation seeking to change this and make it “restricted” would have to demonstrate to the Minister of Health that there was a serious likelihood of
harm to the public if it was left unrestricted. I struggle to see how serious harm could arise when people are practising derivations of mirimiri, lomilomi, Thai, Indian, you-name-it cultural traditions going back as far
> as Hippocrates, who advocated “rubbing” to alleviate a wide range of ills.
Sure, a professional body can set standards of practise, operate a Code of Ethics, and promote safe standards of practise for therapists across the spectrum, and this is great. But when the activity is unrestricted and is likely to remain so, what determines the activity is the market – caveat emptor. The broad-base focus for members of a professional body for an unrestricted activity should be on networking, generating upskilling opportunities, and raising the profile of the modality, rather than attempting to ram an underfunded organisational head against a political brick wall.
We’re fortunate in this country that the Health and Disability Code covers the practise of all therapists, registered or unregistred, paid or unpaid, and this guarantees the rights of consumer receiving massage services; we health providers are over-regulated, over-feed (as in too-many-fees:-) and over-managed as it is, and the HDC provides an excellent safety net. Why
> re-invent wheels? Let’s have an affordable, broad-based, inclusive professional network that gives us excellent education and networking opportunities – such as the Wellington conference last year – an informative regular publication, and a sense that we belong to a group of responsible self-managing health providers.
>
> Lynda Mabin, Director, HHT Ltd

Author

David McQuillan, RMT
Programme Coordinator, Massage Therapy, Otago Polytechnic
Lower South Island Representative, Massage New Zealand
Member, Massage Educator’s Group

This article represents the understanding of the author from his viewpoint, and while all efforts have been made to be objective, this article may not necessarily reflect the opinions of all parties involved.

The massage industry in New Zealand is at crisis point. Membership renewals for our professional organisation are at an all time low. In the recent annual report of Massage New Zealand 07/08, the president of the association, Christine Loweth stated “it is my recommendation that MNZ fold” (MNZ Annual report 2007/2008, 2008). How has this shocking state of affairs come about?

There has been longstanding disagreement between massage therapists in New Zealand concerning the future direction of the industry. In general massage therapists may be considered in two groups. One believes that the future of massage lies with a move to integration with the mainstream healthcare profession. A move in this direction will require the development of and agreement on a standardised group of competencies consistent with registration in our professions scope(s) of practice. The profession would then be regulated on the basis of these competencies which would provide a quality control that is currently absent in the industry and separates us from other healthcare professions. Some therapists resist this move believing that the ability to provide massage comes naturally to some people (P. Kerr, personal communication August 19, 2008), and that regulation will “drive the spirit out of massage and bodywork” (Rosen, 2008). Interestingly, this schism is not unique to New Zealand. Rosen (2008, p. 13)_describes how a similar argument has been taking place in the United States since the 80s.

Prior to 2007 these two perspectives were embodied by the two professional associations in New Zealand – MINZI & TMA. At a historic meeting of the two associations, both MINZI and TMA voted to merge the two associations into one, and Massage New Zealand was born. At the time many of the people at the conference believed that this merger was symbolic of a move to coherence in the industry, and were optimistic that we would be able to overcome the disagreements that had split the industry for so many years.

Unfortunately this has not happened. Massage New Zealand has struggled with internal conflict over the last year which from the outside seems to be related to these historical issues. This may be the basis for the low level of membership renewals (P. Kerr, personal communication August 19, 2008), or other factors may be involved.

Massage New Zealand is in the process of developing a survey which will go out to as many massage therapists as possible in an attempt to get to the guts of peoples reasons for not renewing their membership, but people do need to realise that we are the association. MNZ desperately needs people who are prepared to commit their time to the future of massage in New Zealand.

The perspectives of others

References

MNZ Annual report 2007/2008, 2008 – waiting on a ref for this one

Rosen, R. (2008). On becoming a profession: the challenges and choices that will determine our future. Retrieved on August 25, 2008 from http://www.massagemag.com/Magazine/R.Rosen%20white%20paper.pdf

Thanks for the letter Nicola

It would be a shame if MNZ folded after all the hard work that has gone into
getting it this far, but the fact that this is a possibility must raise some
fundamental questions. It seems the desire for professional registration has
been the focus of the two founding organisations (MINZI, TMNZ) as well as
MNZ. While I can completely understand the motivation of those pursuing
this course, I do not think it necessarily represents the desires or needs
of the majority of practising therapists or their clients. I am a member of
MNZ despite rather than because of this focus on registration and personally
have no interest in this goal whatsoever. I realise I am only one opinion,
but maybe it is one shared by others who have not been tempted to join the
organisation.

Perhaps MNZ needs to decide whether it wants to be an organisation that
creates accreditation and registration of therapists and limit its member
accordingly or does it want to draw as many already practising therapists to
its ranks as possible? If the former goal is desired as indicated by your
letter then rather than attracting therapists to MNZ I would suggest it
alienates many.

If registration were in place, then I presume all therapists would have to
be RMT or CMT in order to legally practise? There are a huge number of
therapists (if not the majority) who fall between the “6 weeks night class
type” and a RMT or CMT. Those therapists, who may run successful practises
and have satisfied clients, have little incentive to join an organisation
that is creating yet another hurdle and cost for them that neither they nor
their clients need.

I don’t think it’s useful to get into a debate about the benefits of
registration by email, but I would say that for every argument you put
forward for it in your letter, there are equally valid arguments against.

Even among those doing the 6 weeks night classes there will be people with a
natural ability for massage who should be welcomed into the industry (and
MNZ) supported and encouraged to further their skills and learning. Some of
the initiatives that Christine mentions in her reply such creating local
groups to help each other and invite other therapists along to, seem to me
what the core business of MNZ should be. This is already happening here in
the top of the South Island thanks to the energy of a few key people.

It seems a huge amount of time and energy has been put in by MINZI, TMNZ and
MNZ pursuing the registration/ACC accreditation/qualification standard goals
and I can’t help but wonder if all that energy had been put into nurturing,
supporting networking and encouraging the people working in our industry,
whether we might not now have a more healthy and vibrant organisation.

I am not trying to be disparage the efforts that have been put in by so many
over the years, but I do think if MNZ is to continue as a representative
body for therapists and wishes to attract more therapists then a change of
focus might be in order.

Paul Kerr

Relaxstation
CMB 56
Punakaiki
R D 1 Runanga
Westland 7873
Ph: (03) 7311 846
email: relaxstation AT ts DOT co DOT nz

Hi All
A few thoughts for you to:
  • I have been a member of MNZ / TMA / NZATMP for over 12 years
  • I have served on committees and Executives within these organisations for at least 10 of these years
  • Every single year, including 2008, many therapists ask the question why should i belong to MNZ, it doesn’t do anything for me..
Please consider :
  • $200.00 for membership is for most of you equal in $ to 3-5 massage sessions
  • Ethically can you honestly say that it is acceptable for therapists to NOT work under a Code of Ethics and Scope of Practice
  • Benefits shouldn’t always have to be financial
  • Do you really think there is any hope of other health professionals considering massage therapy as a viable option when the profession can’t get its act together and maintain an active professional organisation to represent itself
  • Why are some massage therapists so arrogant and think they are so special and should work in isolation from one another and not have any need to belong to or be represented in the community by a professional organisation
I am assuming that the above mailing list is to those who are already members so this email may be directed at the wrong people but for heaven’s sake:
get behind MNZ, become a member, get involved and spread the word
Like many of you i have a very busy life outside of my work but sometimes we just have to make time for things that are important and surely the survival of your own profession is damn important
Pip Charlton
RMT MNZ
Tauranga

Hello to all Massage Therapists.

I am writing this personal letter in support of Professional Standards for all Massage Therapists in this country, MNZ members or not. As you may or may not be aware, Massage New Zealand is on the brink of extinction.

The primary reason for this, is the lack of support from it’s members and lack of membership by Massage Therapists, who don’t understand the monumental and vital benefit MNZ has for the future Massage Profession in this country.

Like myself most of the MNZ Therapists I have talked to didn’t really realise the desperate situation and lack of support MNZ has been experiencing and others do not realise the potential serious risk to our profession if the work of MNZ does not continue.

It is the tireless hard work of the few, involved now and historically and a great many years spanning the evolution of 2 different organizations that have gained massage therapists some headway into having some professional recognition.

In this country we un-like other professionals (Physio’s, Lawyers, Doctors, Nurses), are not required legally to join a professional regulatory organisation so that we can practice.

The benefit to those other Professions and the general public is that people with no training or effort are not able to just set up and start delivering damaging services, to people who are paying them good money, not realizing there is a difference between who is qualified and who is not.

These other professionals do not have to compete with people who are charging equal amounts for there lesser services but do not have to service large student loans, membership fee’s and on going training costs (because they did there training at night in 6 weeks, in a local high school). Also they do not have to fight against the lesser standards and experiences that are being delivered by un-qualified people who are tainting the effectiveness of their profession.

For this, these professions pay a practicing fee and get nothing more out of it other than the ability to do there job and have their professional standard protected.

I hear many non members use the excuse “we don’t see any benefit we pay the money and don’t get anything out of it’. I can understand that members want to see some sort of tangible benefit but the reality is MNZ is still in it’s infancy and needs more than just dollars chucked at it, what it needs is energy. What I ask in return is “what have you put into it’, like me for what ever reason, the answer of many is not much.

In recent times there has been much talk of regulating alternative practices in this country. With no legal legislation this puts the Massage Profession at risk of being closed down all together. This seems such a shame after all these years finally we are making some head way into being professionally recognised.

Southern Cross has just introduced Massage as part of their Wellness plans, as long as the therapist is MNZ registered and I know that ACC is now using MNZ Massage Therapists on a case-by-case basis. These may seem very small achievements but is has taken years to get to this point and if we lose MNZ we stand to lose years of groundwork and potentially risk our profession.

MNZ has many great intentions to provide it’s members with much more than what other professional organisations provide there members but as yet MNZ does not even have the strength to provide the basic professional recognition that we deserve and it is not until that grass root goal has been achieved can we move on to thriving and deliver the tangible benefits that everyone wants to see. Membership is voluntary, one day we may not have the option of joining at all.

I urge all Massage Therapists who are passionate about their profession to start talking to each other about this issue, ring or e-mail our executive and find out what you can do to help, encourage non-members to join (the reduced cost of insurance that has been secured by MNZ for it’s members, plus the MNZ membership fee together is less than what most therapist pay for insurance only), join the committee, attend the AGM and or conference, send this e-mail to every massage therapist you know. We currently only have 1 nominee for positions on the executive for the up coming year. Unless we get involve this will mean the end of a great deal of hard work. Maybe some of the old executive can be persuaded to stay for another year, if we can give them the support they need, maybe you have the ability to lead us to the next level. This needs our attention now!!!!

Please do not hesitate to contact me.

nikki DOT sean AT slingshot DOT co DOT nz

Ph; 07 873 8482

Kind Regards

Nicola Lewis Dip.Th.Mass.RMT MNZ

Otorohanga.