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


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