A hospitality industry group has derided Immigration Minister Michael Wood's response to staff shortage warnings as arrogant, out of touch and offensive.
The final stage of a new accredited employer work visa is expected to launch today, allowing people overseas to apply for work with an accredited Kiwi employer.
Hotel and restaurant operators have said a major foreign worker shortage could jeopardise New Zealand's reputation as a quality tourist haven.
Wood said he accepted a lack of access to skilled labour was a big constraint for firms.
But on hospitality employer concerns, he also suggested bosses in "sectors that continue to pay low wages with insecure working conditions" consider how to make jobs more attractive.
"It's insulting and just shows a complete lack of understanding of our sector and is arrogance," Hospitality NZ president Jeremy Smith said today.
He said anti-business attitudes ignored the flexibility many restaurants offered staff, including students who juggled work with study, exams, and classes.
"The Labour Party's been spouting this for some time now but no effort's been made to understand our sector."
Smith said a recent pay survey showed the sector's average hourly wage was $24.43 to about $26, in contrast to the $23.65 living wage.
He said critics of the industry rarely bothered to try understand the sector and businesses needed more foreign workers promptly.
National Party immigration spokeswoman Erica Stanford today said Wood's comments were unhelpful and insulting to business owners.
She said employers had battled through two years of closed borders, taken on debt, and in Auckland endured a prolonged lockdown.
Now, companies nationwide were confronting critical labour shortages, Stanford said.
"Hotels are having to ask customers to clean their own sheets, restaurants are closing their kitchens early, and cafes are shutting down for a couple of days a week because they just don't have the staff."
Stanford last month discovered that at least 74,000 phase two residence visa applications were received since March - but barely 5 per cent processed by June 17.
And she said an online processing system called Advanced Digital Employer-led Processing and Targeting (ADEPT) kept crashing.
The Hotel Council Aotearoa has said the accredited employer scheme attached unrealistic expectations to some businesses.
The scheme had required staff be paid not the minimum hourly wage of $21.20 but the median wage, $27.76.
That was amended to $25 an hour for specific construction, infrastructure, tourism and hospitality jobs.
The council said the pay requirement was not always viable for businesses seeking entry-level staff.
Accreditation applications in the new scheme opened on May 23 and the Government today said the vast majority of the 5,666 applications received had been approved.
Employers must be accredited and complete a job check before they can hire a migrant from overseas.