A seasonal shortage has been officially declared in the Bay of Plenty for the first time in more than a decade.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking this morning the declaration would make it easier for overseas people on visitors visas to work in the area.

"We need to make sure we don't allow fruit to rot on the vines or on the ground.

Jacinda Ardern said the declaration would make it easier for overseas people on visitors visas to come and work in area. Photo / Marty Melville
Jacinda Ardern said the declaration would make it easier for overseas people on visitors visas to come and work in area. Photo / Marty Melville

"This is why we try to get ahead of things by increasing the number of recognised seasonal employers who are able to access that [visa] scheme because of course that helps our fruit industries."

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The Ministry of Social Development said the region needed an extra 1200 workers to pick and pack a bumper kiwifruit crop over the next month.

Industry groups and businesses said the labour shortage was the worst in years and a lack of available workers - especially backpackers and international students - was to blame, not pay rates.

Hosking asked whether making allowances for the workers to come to New Zealand contradicted Labour's plan to cut immigration.

Ardern said The Government would ensure the skill shortages existed and that its policies worked in regions that needed staff.

"So what we want to do is be more responsive to our regions and [take into account] for instance what might be the needs of the Bay of Plenty relative to Auckland.

Ardern said forecast immigration cuts of 20,000–30,000 were still expected. Hawke's Bay and Tasman also declared they had labour shortages this year.

The last labour shortage declaration in the Bay of Plenty was in 2004.