Kiwi employers desperate for tradies are poaching and ''headhunting'' other businesses' staff - offering promotions and more money.
Competition for skilled workers is running high as demand for them around the globe intensifies.
A large Bay of Plenty plumbing firm said despite advertising nationwide, it did not get any suitable applicants and was now looking to South Africa.
An electrical company boss agreed and ''it is impossible to get Kiwis''.
Classic Group director Peter Cooney said the industry's best were either ''locked in tight with their current company, or are being headhunted by others with offers of promotion and increased pay''.
He was also aware of people going overseas or thinking about it because of higher pay and less-restrictive Covid conditions in both work and home life.
There was a limited supply of qualified, reliable tradies available to meet demand right now.
''A large portion of the construction industry is supported by overseas workers and with the borders being shut for two years now, the sector is under immense strain as we try to keep up with increasing growth.''
''Right now the market swings in favour of those looking to step up in more-senior roles, or get off the tools to explore opportunities in consulting or project management.''
Tauranga Hardware and Plumbing managing director Craig McCord said it was proving impossible to get qualified plumbers in New Zealand.
McCord said although everyone would love to pay people more money, massive wage increases had a flow-on effect and pushed up inflation and prices to the customer.
In his view, the only way to combat the skilled labour crisis was to recruit from overseas.
He had signed contracts with two plumbers in South Africa and hoped they would arrive later in the year.
The company had about eight apprentices, but ''you can only train so many apprentices because you have to have qualified people to train the unqualified people''.
''We can't take on any more apprentices, we are saturated.''
The situation was starting to damage businesses and that ''is manifesting itself''.
''So it's gone from bad to really bad and it's pretty dire.''
McCord was aware of businesses that had lost ''on-the-tools'' tradies and consequently had to let office staff go because their cashflows were hit.
Aotea Electric Rotorua managing director Adam Harlick said it was ''impossible to get Kiwis''.
He had been advertising for weeks and no one had applied. This was an ongoing dilemma, Harlick said.
''Everyone in the whole country is screaming out for workers and trying to find people. If you have good tradies you want to keep them by offering more money or perks.''
''That is why it's so hard to find anyone as no one is leaving their jobs.''
Steve Wright, owner of Steve Wright Builders in Rotorua, said building projects were getting held up due to material delays and he feared the future consequences of Covid.
Wright, who had been in the industry for decades, said the biggest issue was all the uncertainty and was ''over it''.
He was worried if his staff got Covid they could be laid off for 10 days without a subsidy and ''they can't afford not to work''.
Wright said it was impossible to get some products like Gib board, trusses and flooring, and that was the problem.
''Eventually, it will lead to no work for builders. If people can't get work they will go to Australia and who can blame them?
''Or they will leave the industry. This is a whole new ball game''.
Louis Davis, of Tauranga Builders, said word of mouth or asking a mate of a mate was becoming more common when it came to getting tradies.
He said it was a struggle to find qualified tradies who had experience.
A staff member at an electrical firm in Tauranga, who asked not to be named, said they were flat stick and struggling to keep up with their workload.
''As you will be aware it's hard to get electricians at the moment. There is a major shortage.''
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins this month said that from March 13, the Government was simplifying the application process for the critical worker border exemption.
Skilled workers with job offers, paying at least 1.5 times, instead of double, the median wage would be able to enter the country if they could demonstrate their skills weren't readily obtainable in New Zealand.