The Government has quietly extended Covid-19 visa exemptions for critical health workers.
Health and disability workers are among the limited group of foreigners who can be granted visas to currently enter New Zealand.
But up until Wednesday, their job had to start before December 30 to get a visa.
Without an announcement, the Government's dragged that out through to March 31, 2021 - with a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi confirming the change happened yesterday, November 19.
It is unclear why a formal announcement had not yet been made - but the details were on the
Faafoi's spokesperson said the Government "understands the recruitment needs within the sector, particularly for appointing new overseas doctors and medical professionals".
The move came as a surprise to the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners and New Zealand Rural General Practitioners Network, who had on Thursday put out a plea to the Government for an extension to ease pressures on rural medical practices.
They said rural communities were "facing a healthcare crisis with more than a quarter of all rural practices being short-staffed".
Neither organisation was aware of the move until contacted by Newstalk ZB.
New Zealand Rural General Practitioners Network chief executive Grant Davidson said it was puzzling because they had talked about it with Faafoi just a few weeks ago.
"Obviously, we're really happy with the decision."
But Davidson said he was also "really disappointed that there's been no official communications".
"We've been in discussions with the [Immigration] Ministry and the minister's office for some time."
"We're trying to work together on this and for the betterment of rural communities – just let us know," he said.
Davidson said there were "about 50" GP jobs going with start dates from January onwards, but there were not enough local doctors to fill the gaps.
Speaking before he was aware of the extension to the visa exemption, Davidson emphasised these were specialist roles needing to be filled and there were not enough trained GPs in New Zealand.
He said they already had doctors lined up overseas – some who had quit their jobs – and then had to cancel because they could not get a contract that started before December 30.