New Immigration Minister Michael Wood is standing by a decision to leave nurses off a fast-track residency pathway even after the boss of the new health agency said changing that would be a "priority".
On Friday, Health NZ interim CEO Margie Apa told Today FM they were working with officials to support more nurses coming into the country.
It comes after nursing and midwives unions called immigration settings that leave their workforce off a green list guaranteeing residency for certain professions "sexist".
Nurses, of which the main nurses union estimates the country to be about 4000 short, have to work two years here in the profession before getting residency. Meanwhile, under the fast-track system, specific other professionals including doctors can receive it immediately.
National's Immigration spokeswoman Erica Stanford questioned Wood about the settings during an Education and Workforce Committee meeting today.
Stanford said there was no justification for making nurses wait the two years.
She asked for Wood for evidence, but he responded the policy was "based on logic and common sense rather than any particular evidence".
"This proves what National has been saying for months that the Government does not have a shred of evidence that migrant nurses leave their profession after gaining residence," Stanford said following the meeting.
"The Immigration Minister said this morning the difference between straight-to-residency and the two-year work to residence pathway is determined by the 'degree of specialisation'.
"If that's the case, how is it that civil or electrical engineering technicians who only require a level 6 diploma are fast-tracked, but nurses who specialise in paediatrics, surgical and critical care and require bachelor's degrees with significant experience have to wait two years to apply for residence?
"The only common sense and logic that the Minister should be applying is that nurses will continue to choose Australia which is rolling out the red carpet in comparison. It's that simple."
During the meeting, Wood said applying the degree of specialisation to a sector meant they were less likely to leave that profession once they arrive here.
"On the whole it seems less likely someone who works in a highly-specialised area will find employment in a different role."
The two-year requirement was also applied to sectors where there was a "real need" for them to remain, he said.
"It is not unreasonable to expect people to work in that area."
Stanford also pressed Wood on challenges facing the hospitality sector, which historically employed many people on working holiday visas.
As of June 15 just 1681 people had arrived here on those visas, compared to 50-70,000 annually, Stanford said.