Hawke's Bay is about to get a much-needed labour boost, with Government announcing a new temporary work visa process to help businesses "get the workers they need".
The changes in response to the country's skill shortages include reinstating the ability for lower-paid workers to bring their families to New Zealand.
Minister of Immigration Iain Lees-Galloway announced the plans during a visit to Cantabria Rest Home in Rotorua on Tuesday.
"Together, these changes represent a significant shift in the way our temporary work visa system operates," Lees-Galloway said.
He said that the plan was to help streamline the process and would be used in regions like Hawke's Bay where there is a genuine labour shortage which affects thousands of businesses.
"The new employer-assisted temporary work visa process is more streamlined and less complex, replacing six visa categories with one temporary work visa, and it ensures there is an employer check, a job check and a worker check," Lees-Galloway said.
"The process allows us to ensure foreign workers are only recruited for genuine shortages, helps us reduce exploitation, and creates better connections between immigration, education and welfare systems."
Business Hawke's Bay CEO Carolyn Neville said she welcomed the changes to the work visa system because it would help local businesses to get the workers they need.
"In Hawke's Bay, we have a growing economy and low unemployment. Not being able to access the skill sets and the number of people that our businesses need is a constraint to growth," Neville said.
But she does warn that although the change will be a huge benefit to the region we have to make sure it doesn't overlook the current local labour force on offer.
"To be able to recruit more easily from overseas will come as good news for industries where there are real pain points and shortages.
"At the same time we have to make sure that our local labour force, and jobseekers are able to up skill and adapt to the demands of a changing workplace."
The Meat Industry Association also announced that the meat processing sector had been invited to negotiate with the Government for one of the first sector agreements for immigration.
"Labour shortages have been an ongoing issue for the meat processing sector, which affect our ability to run our plants to the desired capacity and fully process all products," MIA chief executive Tim Ritchie said.
It comes after Affco Talley, a meat works company based in Wairoa, put forward an application to bring in migrant workers to its Wairoa and Rangiuru plants.
Meatworkers NZ national secretary Graham Cooke said that the union is concerned about an increasing number of applications for accredited employer status from within the meat industry.
"It's absurd to try to import workers into a community where there are 600 job seekers," he said.
"Given the high level of under-employed or unemployed in the Wairoa district, and the limited ability of a small and relatively poor community like Wairoa to absorb and support new migrants we think Affco is taking the mickey."
Ritchie said that the sector is committed to training and employing New Zealanders first and foremost having worked closely with the Ministry of Social Development and regional agencies to recruit people from local communities to work in plants.
"However, we still struggle to fill roles from New Zealand's rural communities and the meat processing sector is approximately 2000 employees short at present, that's about 8 per cent of our workforce," he said.
"To fill this immediate gap, we must recruit people from overseas."