A Hawke's Bay principal says his Auckland counterpart started crying when he called for a reference about one of her teachers.
"Please don't take my staff member because I won't be able to replace her," Te Mata School principal Mike Bain was told through tears.
Bain still employed the teacher, but he understands the frustration.
He says Auckland is in a "dire predicament" when it comes to attracting teachers, but Hawke's Bay is still feeling the pinch.
"The range and selection of applicants is much smaller than it used to be," Bain says.
"The days of 50-60 applicants are gone."
He estimated there were currently about 35 to 40 vacancies in the region, but expected all of them to be filled by the start of the new school year - a different story from Auckland where some schools were after up to 10 teachers each and had to buy full page newspaper ads for coverage.
The debate has reached boiling point.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced on Sunday an extra $10.5 million to recruit more teachers - just days prior to primary school teachers voting on whether to strike again next month in support of a 16 per cent pay claim aimed at reducing the teacher shortage.
Hipkins said the Ministry of Education estimated that 650 extra primary teachers and 200 extra secondary teachers would be needed in 2019.
The package provides for more relocation grants of up to $5000 for immigrants and $7000 for returning Kiwis, aimed at more than doubling the target for recruiting teachers from overseas in 2019 from 400 to 900.
Bain said it is an "admirable aspiration" but often overseas teachers weren't the right fit as the difference in curriculum meant they had to be upskilled.
"As a first pick I would always be looking for a New Zealand-trained teacher."
"If they've come from the UK their system is similar, but certainly not the same and if they have come from South Africa or elsewhere in Europe, their systems are simply 100 per cent different; the age of children starting school is different, the curriculum coverage is different, the way they teach mathematics is particularly different, the expectation around acceleration for student learning is different, the expectation around class sizes is different.
"We have got to get high school students to see it as a valuable and valued job to enter and a starting salary of $48,000 just doesn't do it."
The package also includes a new $10,000 grant "to assist with mentoring and on-the-job training for graduate teachers", with funding for 230 grants.
Ministry of Education deputy secretary Ellen MacGregor-Reid said the new grants "will be targeted where there are shortages of teachers in some subjects and locations".
Hawke's Bay Primary Principals Association president and Irongate School principal Maurice Rehu agreed with Bain.
Rehu said where he once got 40-80 applicants for new teacher jobs, recently he'd had as few as five.
"There is also a shortage of relievers to cover, not only sick days, we also have professional development and classroom release time. We need more teachers."
He said it was about "restoring the mana of the profession".
"Teachers are life-changers; pay teachers their worth and resource our schools."
"Teaching is a lifestyle you choose because you love working with kids. You spend your own money, you work late nights, early starts, weekend sports, taxi driving, social working, nursing are all a standard part of teaching in our schools."