More than 4000 people from overseas have taken jobs in the Bay over the past 34 months - because employers were unable to find suitable Kiwis to do the work.
New figures show another 4897 workers were approved under the Recognised Seasonal Employers Scheme over the same timeframes and the top three occupations listed in the 10 months to April 30, 2016 were chef, dairy cattle farmer and retail manager.
Data from Immigration New Zealand revealed 4346 people came to the region on labour-market tested work visas from July 2013 to April 30, 2016.
Area manager Michael Carley said citizens and residents were always given first priority when vacancies were advertised and immigration had to be satisfied "that there are no suitable New Zealanders available to take up a job".
The main sectors that required skilled workers included health, ICT, engineering and new and emerging roles such as innovation managers, he said.
"These are all growing sectors for the region and are also areas where there is competition for skills with other parts of New Zealand - and indeed with Australia and other offshore markets. The Bay of Plenty also brings in a number of temporary seasonal workers each year for the horticulture industry through the RSE scheme."
There was an expectation placed that employers did not become reliant on migrant workers as a long-term solution to their employment needs, Mr Carley said.
Work and Income Bay of Plenty regional commissioner Mike Bryant said the biggest challenge the government organisation faced was "finding employers in industry that are willing to give people [clients] a chance".
Getting the balance right between overseas workers and New Zealanders "is I think the most important thing".
"So we are giving as many New Zealanders as possible the opportunity but also ensuring industry and employers can grow and be successful ... some employers think it's easier to get people from overseas but often find it's not the case anyway."
More than 2000 Winz clients would do kiwifruit work and it had started a New Zealand RSE scheme this year with 98 people based at Te Puke and Katikati for up to four months.
Compared to the same time last year "we have 1385 less clients on the benefit and while we are making good progress we still have a long way to go".
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He acknowledged "a few clients might have a criminal record ... that they are not necessarily proud of", and some might fail drug tests "but we work with them to do something about that".
Priority One strategic projects manager Greg Simmonds said it put a significant effort into retraining and developing local people for local jobs with numerous initiatives including Western Bay at Work and the Instep Programme.
Last year it also partnered with the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment to develop the Western Bay of Plenty International Strategy which included the development of a regional partnership with Immigration NZ to source workers from offshore where local workers were unavailable.
"To date we have worked with several potential investor migrants (predominantly from the UK) to invest in New Zealand to gain residency under Immigration NZ's investor migrant category."
Overseas workers "bring a mix of skills, capital and networks that are either not available domestically, or New Zealanders are not willing to provide, for example the kiwifruit and aged care sectors".
New Zealand First Tauranga list MP Clayton Mitchell said the country was being flooded with unskilled overseas labour workers.
Kiwis needed to step up and start taking jobs and he questioned if a work-shy workforce had been created "that needs motivated back into the workforce".
"I think we have the same systematic, generational employment issues ... this needs addressed at Government level."
However, he supported skilled immigrants as "we have got some huge opportunities as a city and region of growth".
National Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller said he was a huge supporter of the RSE scheme as the kiwifruit industry "is a critical component to this area and region it underpins a lot of our collective success and we should do all we can do to support this industry".
"But equally we need to work with the industry to make sure every avenue is pursued to make sure they provide opportunities for New Zealanders. There are a number of stories from employers that are working hard in this space but still have to work with people not turning up with the right attitude to stay committed to the task".
Mr Muller noted there would always be sectors that needed more skilled workers and he welcomed them to the region.
Hospitality New Zealand Bay of Plenty president Dean Teddy said there was a skills shortage nationwide and in the Bay for experienced, qualified chefs. It took Mr Teddy "well over 12 months", to find a head chef for one of his restaurants.
Federated Farmers Bay of Plenty dairy chairman Steve Bailey said in his view there had not been enough government intervention.
"Now the rubber is starting to hit the road and many farmers have to recruit from overseas ... which often means you get the cream of the crop as they are looking to employ the best people for the job."
A flippin' good way to hire a team
When Peter Grimshaw needed to hire staff for Flip Out, which opens today, he was determined to give young unemployed people a chance.
The 48-year-old father of four said after spending eight years as a stay-at-home dad he found it difficult to re-enter the workforce.
His daughter Allie, who did a tourism diploma and air hostess diploma, also found it tough to secure a job in Tauranga and moved to Australia in 2014 for work at the Cairns Zoom and Wildlife Dome.
When the opportunity came to open Flip Out - an indoor trampoline and adventure playground - Mr Grimshaw jumped at it and brought Allie home to help manage the franchise.
Mr Grimshaw needed to hire 21 staff and said he was inundated with hundreds of replies after putting a post on Facebook. Nine of the people he chose to take up new roles were unemployed teenagers.
"Why have I done it? Because we have first-hand experience and have been down that path, and understand how important it is for people to get a crack and have a shot."
The Grimshaws came up with a process of elimination and created some criteria for the positions.
"They had to have good personalities, be able to talk to teenagers, adults or kids, and be willing to work."
And Mr Grimshaw was the first to admit some of his staff might not cut it.
"It might not work out but some of them might be superstars, you know.
"At least they will have a go and get a bit of an understanding of what is required."