Critical and skilled workers will soon be able to bypass managed isolation in New Zealand but it could be too late for the upcoming horticulture season.
Representatives from other sectors fear they could lose workers overseas and say they are not "releasing the balloons yet".
Step two of the Government's five-step border reopening plan announced yesterday includes an expanded border exception for critical workers, and skilled workers earning at least 1.5 times the median wage. Working Holiday Schemes will also reopen in stages from step 2.
MIQ would be removed for most travellers and be replaced by self-isolation and Covid-19 tests on arrival.
Occupations on Immigration New Zealand's long-term skill shortage list include jobs in construction, engineering, health and social services, information and communications technology (ICT), electronics and telecommunications, science, trades and recreation, hospitality and tourism.
The shortage list for the Bay of Plenty also includes agriculture and forestry and education.
New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc chief executive Colin Bond said any impact from working-holiday and skilled migrants entering the country in the coming months would be too late for the wider horticulture industry's exports this season.
"Working holiday visa-holders entering New Zealand could go some way to help the kiwifruit harvest, however the extent is unknown and the expectation that a large number of working holiday visa-holders would quickly enter the country is highly speculative.
"The horticulture industry has been signalling the chronic labour shortage for harvest and pruning – exacerbated by Covid and closed borders – to the Government for several months."
Bond said the upcoming kiwifruit harvest needed 24,000 seasonal workers nationally and the majority of roles available were in the Bay of Plenty.
"While we welcome any policy that helps New Zealand's food and fibre sector to recover, this policy change is too late to make a significant difference to this season's fruit harvest."
Midwifery Employee Representation and Advisory Service co-leader Caroline Conroy did not think the move would make "much of a dent" in the number of midwife vacancies.
But she said the news would "give assurance" to district health boards that had recruited overseas midwives who were unable to secure MIQ spots.
"Anything that makes it easier for midwives to get back to New Zealand or for overseas midwives to come into New Zealand is a good thing."
Conroy said some midwives may choose to move overseas with the border open which could further affect supply.
New Zealand Nurses Organisation delegate Rebekah Opie said the reopening was "good news" for healthcare staff.
"This move has the potential to help relieve the chronic staffing shortages that have created huge stress on existing staff and led some to leaving their careers."
However, Opie, who works in the Bay of Plenty, said it would not be "a magic bullet" for all healthcare staffing issues.
"It will still be several months before we see relief to healthcare from this move, due to the timeframes involved with the recruitment and orientation processes."
New Zealand Post Primary Teachers' Association president Melanie Webber said an increase of overseas teachers entering New Zealand would be a "huge relief" for some principals - particularly those needing maths and science teachers.
"I am aware of principals who have got staff members overseas and they just can't get them into the country through MIQ."
However, she said "a lot of young people" would soon be leaving the country which would affect teacher supply.
"I am not releasing the balloons yet.
"We are going to have a lot of young people who have deferred their OEs leaving. We will also be losing teachers to overseas."
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley said the announcement would provide hope for the tourism and hospitality sectors but many were saying "the damage is already done".
It was great to have Kiwis come home and allow highly skilled migrants to fill desperately needed jobs, Cowley said.
"NZ's net migration has been negative since June 2021 and we need to replace these skilled workers with equally skilled migrants at a time when every sector needs more staff.
"It's also important for business leaders, and other Kiwis, to travel overseas for work and return without MIQ lotteries."
Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Bryce Heard said the announcement was timely but a lot of tourism, hospitality, travel and event businesses had "been decimated" since early 2020.
"They are looking down the barrel of their third year."
He was not sure how positive the uptake would be considering there was still some fear and people were voluntarily limiting their travel and outings.
"The spending spree we had is over ... I think we are going to have some negative economic flow-over from Covid and we are seeing inflation rising and wages are not keeping pace."
Heard acknowledged the opening of the borders would help.
In yesterday's announcement, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the developments meant health workers, farm managers, horticultural workers, tech-sector professionals and those working for accounting services and in education and construction would all be eligible to enter New Zealand, adding to the more than 17,000 critical workers who had entered the country since the borders closed.
Meanwhile, from step three on April 12, the border will open to a cohort of up to 5000 international students before semester two and temporary visa holders who still meet relevant visa requirements.
Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology head of international Peter Richardson said the Government's border announcement offered optimism to the tertiary sector.
"We support the phased opening of the New Zealand borders and in particular the inclusion of a cohort of 5000 international students.
"However, as a sector, we would be expecting to be heavily involved in who those students are."
Richardson said international students were important to New Zealand communities culturally, socially and economically.
"They add value to the learning environment and the community, enabling cultural diversity and competency as well as bringing much-needed skills and ideas. Economically, the revenue from international students supports the offering we are able to give to our student journey through quality teaching and facilities.
"We look forward to being able to welcome more international students back to our shores as the border restrictions ease."