More than 500 migrants have taken advantage of a Government policy to entice new arrivals to the regions in the three months since it took effect.

But cultural leaders in the regions say jobs for new migrants in their communities are limited.

The policy announced last July boosted the bonus points for skilled migrants applying for residence with a job offer outside Auckland from 10 to 30 points.

It doubled the points for entrepreneurs planning to set up businesses in the regions under the Entrepreneur Work Visa from 20 to 40 points.


The new measures took effect from November 1.

Immigration New Zealand figures show 273 Skilled Migrant applications representing 553 people had been approved nationwide with 30 points for employment outside Auckland at the beginning of last month.

The principal applicant could include direct family members such as a partner and dependent children as secondary applicants in the application.

Canterbury attracted the most migrants with 72 applications, representing 156 people.

Next was Wellington attracting 47 applications and 95 people.

Just one entrepreneur work visa, representing one person, had been approved with 40 points for a business outside of Auckland -- in the Waikato region.

President of the Filipino society in Hawke's Bay, Brenda Cacho-Bevin, said the offer of bonus residency points for migrants would attract more to the regions if there were jobs for them.

Some migrants came to Hawke's Bay on student visas but were unable to find a job in the region when they finished studies and left for areas such as Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

She suggested the Government should support employers to take on and train migrants.

Multicultural Tauranga centre coordinator Janet Smith said workers in the cafe, kiwifruit and taxi industries were being recruited from the migrant communities.

She said it would be nice if there were more jobs which met the skill sets people brought from their own countries.

It could be hard to retain highly skilled people from Western European countries. Some ended up returning to Europe, relocating to Australia or moving to Auckland for jobs, she said.

Coordinator of the Women's International Newcomers Group Social (Wings) in Whangarei, Liane Blair, said she hoped the new Government measures would help attract more migrants to Northland, but it depended on whether they could find work.

"I know that some people have had to go to Auckland because they'd prefer to be up here but they go where the work is."

Rotorua Multicultural Council vice president Margriet Theron provides a course called Professional Speaking for Migrants which helps skilled migrants with job applications and interviews.

She said it taught migrants to speak about their career, skills and community involvement.

Many were successful in getting jobs after going through the course.

A GP from South Africa was working as a doctor at a private practice as a result of a presentation to the Medical Council she worked on at the course.

Another migrant had been practicing her campaign speech for the upcoming local body elections.

A banking manager from Nepal practiced speaking to other migrants about how to set up a business in New Zealand during the course. A prosthetist from India now worked at an artificial limb centre in Wellington, having previously pumped petrol in Rotorua, said Dr Theron.

"It just breaks my heart when I see these people who were only allowed to come to New Zealand by Immigration New Zealand because they have such excellent skills and then they are cleaning motels and they are packing supermarket shelves and they are driving back and forth to Te Puke, pruning and packing kiwifruit or they are pumping petrol."

Literacy Wairarapa assistant manager Carol Wald said barriers to migrants settling in the regions included validating their overseas qualifications. They could find they had to retrain in their field of expertise to gain New Zealand certification and also pass English language courses as part of entry to university or polytechnics.

Literacy Wairarapa held classes for people learning the English language and encouraged learners to gain other skills that would help them with their job searches including driving and computer skills. It also offered a CV preparation service.

Immigration minister Michael Woodhouse said the migration policy was always expected to have a slower uptake in the short term but a material effect over a long period of time on migrants moving to the regions. He remained optimistic that it would.

Cultural leaders and recruiters in the regions were initially positive about the new Government measures.

However, economist Shamubeel Eaqub said it was shortsighted to use immigration to fill a massive skills mismatch in the provinces.

Treasury also warned the policy changes were unlikely to have a consequential impact for regional development.