Hawke's Bay residents have been caught unawares after a change to the way the traditional phone book is produced, with many wondering where hundreds of residential numbers are.

Hawke's Bay Today - listed on page 238 of the new Yellow Pages business directory that was distributed in the region last Friday - received hosts of calls from people confused as to why they and their friends were not listed.

Terry Kapene was one of many left wondering why so few numbers were listed in the white section of the new Yellow Pages book.

"I looked up all my family and saw they were not in there and wondered why. My neighbour thought the same thing."

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However, directory publisher Yellow said as part of a company re-brand business and residential numbers are now listed in separate books.

Hawke's Bay residents will this year have to "opt in" if they want to receive a traditional residential phone book, because it is now delivered separately from the Yellow business directory.

Yellow chief executive Darren Linton said in a bid to make it faster and easier for consumers to find business information in the White Pages section of the Hawke's Bay Yellow book, residential listings will this year be published in a separate White Pages Residential book and have a 10 per cent increase in standard font size.

Everyone would continue to receive the Yellow business directory (which now lists only businesses in alphabetical order in a White Pages section).

"With the majority of print-based search seeking out business information, we've decided to separate the residential listings into their own book, which consumers can order online or by calling Yellow."

Deliveries of the Hawke's Bay Yellow business directory book, which also featured a new-look front cover, featuring successful local businesses on the front cover.

For Hawke's Bay, Lynley Boyce of Boyce Podiatry foot care clinics is on the cover.

Age Concern Hawke's Bay manager Deborah Gibbs said she had been contacted by "lots of people".

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"We are finding a lot of people just don't understand what's going on and when we explain it they are horrified."

The concept of having to request a phone book to be delivered was "completely foreign" to older residents, she said.

Dawn Pearson, 91, from Hastings said the Yellow Pages was useless for older people who did not have computers.

"I just feel we have been deprived of something else that the elderly need."

The new opt-in approach would be introduced gradually in Christchurch, Waikato, Wellington, Otago, Hawke's Bay, Northland and Bay of Plenty.

A spokeswoman for Yellow said there were more than 700 calls to its customer support team on Monday, with 80 per cent of the calls serviced within 20 seconds.

"In the Hawke's Bay alone, over 100 community groups received posters and flyers, including Grey Power, Citizen's Advice Bureau and Age Concern Hawke's Bay as well as libraries, RSAs, Rotary and Lions Clubs, electoral offices, SeniorNet and community centres alerting people to the new opt-in option."

Yellow head of digital and print directories Rob Jane said this year elderly residents, or anyone else not wanting to receive the Yellow business directory could also opt out of receiving it, if they wanted just to received the residential book.

"When they opt in, and they only need to do it one time, every year thereafter they automatically receive the Hawke's Bay residential white pages delivered directly to them and they will not receive the yellow book.

"This is all about choice. It's for that very reason that our elderly users are saying we don't use the book to look up business information, we use it to look up residential information, and that's why we have made this change."

So far, the changes had been well received, the spokesman said.

"The other thing that people receiving will notice, is that the font size is bigger this year. One of the big complaints we had from the elderly was the readability of our phone books. This year we've actually increased the font size in the white pages by 10 per cent. So, when they opt in and receive their book they will see the text is much more legible than it was last year, which I think is another fantastic enhancement for them."

To opt in to receive a residential phone book, Hawke's Bay residents can visit www.ypgbooks.co.nz and provide address details, or telephone Yellow on 0800 803 803.

People opting in to receive a residential directory would receive books after January 4, 2019.