Kiwis will get priority for jobs in the Christchurch rebuild once new visa rules for immigrants are introduced.

Christchurch's population is set to swell with migrants involved in rebuilding the city, but new changes could make it more difficult for unskilled visitors to get jobs.

Immigration New Zealand's new policy requires employers to register migrant workers with the Government skills hub, where previously they only had to prove that a migrant was filling a vacancy.

Now, the skills hub will first search locally for workers to fill the position, including some from Work and Income.


Immigration NZ's website says the change will "make sure that suitable New Zealanders get first opportunity at the work".

If the employer does go on to hire a migrant worker, their visa application won't be held up by the "labour market checking" process, it says.

While Immigration New Zealand says the policy, which will come into effect on January 28, will "be faster and more certain for employers", other believe it will cause delays.

Chief executive of Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce, Peter Townsend, supported the employment of Kiwi workers first, but warned that the new system could be "too dogmatic".

"Certain people with certain requirements have certain expectations about being able to tap into labour that will best meet their requirements, and they should be able to do that without any artificial barriers in place," he told Fairfax.

He said connectivity between employers and prospective employees had always been difficult.

"That's exemplified by people saying, 'I can't get skilled workers and I can't get unskilled workers', and then we have workers saying, 'I can't find work'."