More than 860 foreigners have had work visas approved in Wanganui since July 2010.

On average 172 people a year have visas approved for employment in Wanganui while between four and 15 visas were declined annually, according to Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment data.

Immigration policy allows overseas workers to fill jobs when no New Zealanders are available; when there are skill shortages; under temporary conditions such as for a working holiday; or if they're Chinese nationals, religious workers or a part of other select groups.

Certain occupations in areas such as engineering, health and social services, ICT, electronics and telecommunications, trades and transport are on long term skill shortage lists.

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Whanganui Chamber of Commerce president Raewyn Overton-Stuart said the employment of foreigners was positive for the region. "It brings us a much-needed injection of population to manage job vacancies," she said. "I know overseas workers that I've employed for my business have brought a richness culture; a flavour to the work environment."

She was unsure which industries overseas workers could benefit the most but said jobs should always go to the best applicant.