Building companies in Tauranga are looking overseas to recruit skilled staff because the labour market is saturated.
"The industry needs more skilled labour and needs it now," Tauranga Master Builders president Johnny Calley said.
The significance of immigrants to the Bay's economy has come under renewed focus in the lead-up to the election next Saturday.
But no one spoken to by Bay of Plenty Times Weekend said immigration should be cut, even though it had become a political football which included the impact on housing.
Mr Calley said the market for skilled labour was saturated which meant some of the Bay's bigger building companies were looking overseas to top up the shortfall.
He said new house builds in the Western Bay of Plenty were nearly all for permanent residents. For whatever reason only a small per centage of new houses were being built for immigrants.
Nigel Tutt, the chief executive of economic development agency Priority One, said the feedback from local businesses was that they were struggling to find good staff.
The Bay's working population was not enough to fill jobs growth of about 4 per cent last year, he said.
Because the economy was in good shape, there was a mismatch between jobs being created and job seekers from traditional sources, he said.
A Priority One survey earlier this year revealed 40 per cent of Western Bay businesses were recruiting skilled workers from overseas.
A significant number of the 335 respondents said the difficulty of trying to attract staff with the necessary skills had become a major barrier to growth. These were primarily businesses that employed more than 20 people and had been trading for more than 20 years.
"They are generally looking to get talent from wherever they can," Mr Tutt said.
Certified Builders' Tauranga president Paul James said the shortage of skilled trades across the board had led to a surge of apprenticeships in the last 12 months.
"Consents are still ticking along nicely and there is plenty of work."
He had not noticed a lot of tradesmen arriving from overseas to work in Tauranga, except for returning Kiwis. Immigrant tradesmen tended to head to the big cities.
Vanessa Kururangi, of the newly formed Baywide Housing Advocacy Service, said the people they acted for found it hard to pay rents, and were probably a different kettle of fish to skilled immigrants.
She said immigrants were one of a whole lot of reasons for the pressure on housing.
"We feel it eventually and we feel it the longest," Ms Kururangi said.
She stressed she was not commenting on any political party, saying that all she wanted was more action.
"The solution is simple. We need to cut through the red tape so locals can fix local problems. The issue is not going to go away any time soon."
Her only contact with overseas labour was through the Government's seasonal employment scheme which in the Western Bay mainly involved people from Pacific nations working in kiwifruit orchards. They increased pressure on the bottom end of the rental market.
Tauranga personnel recruitment specialist Ian Chitty said they were seeing a movement of people who originally arrived in Auckland from overseas. Auckland's transport difficulties and cost of living had made the regions an attractive option.
The Government was also making it easier if someone who applied for a work visa intended to live in the regions.
"We are seeing a wide spread of nationalities arriving in Tauranga."
He estimated about 20 per cent of job seekers were immigrants. Tauranga was a particularly attractive destination for South Africans because of the seaside location, climate and affluence.
Mr Chitty was also getting more inquiries from people on visitor visas who were looking for jobs in order to apply for a work visa. The most sought after skills were in the trades.
"If you were a builder, electrician or plumber you would be quite sought after ... reasonable migration is required."
Simon Anderson, the chief executive of the Realty Group that operated Bayleys and Eves, said its website showed regular inquiries from offshore, but they were not a big part of the business.
The majority of house buyers continued to be people from within the Western Bay followed by Kiwis shifting from Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington. By far the biggest groups arriving from overseas were people from the UK and South Africa. Young families liked Papamoa for the beach, good schools and newer homes.
Mr Anderson said there was no trend to suggest they were selling more or less homes to immigrants.
Successful resident visa applications for jobs in the Bay of Plenty
2012-13: 288 approved
2013-14: 423 approved
2014-15: 486 approved
2015-16: 602 approved
2016-17: 545 approved
Bay's ranking: Fifth in New Zealand
Source Immigration New Zealand
What the candidates had to say:
What are your views on the issue of immigration and the skills shortage, taking account of housing?
Emma-Leigh Hodge, Greens: