An allowance for more than 1500 overseas workers in primary industries has been welcomed by Whanganui sector leaders.
The Government is changing immigration rules to get 1580 more experienced workers to come to New Zealand for jobs in the dairy, meat processing and forestry industries.
As part of the Government's plan for reopening the New Zealand border, people on an accredited employer work visa will be allowed back from July, but the recent announcement allows those extra 1580 workers in from Tuesday.
There will be 300 silviculture forestry workers and 280 wood processors and manufacturers, and Forest 360 Whanganui director Marcus Musson said it was a critical moment for tree planting.
"Anything to bring additional workforce into the silviculture industry is extremely welcome," he said.
Doing a back-of-the-envelope calculation on the basis that a worker could plant 1000 trees in a day, Musson said 300 extra silviculture workers in planting season could equate to about 24 million trees planted.
"There'll be a critical shortage around planting season. [It will] definitely be effective."
Musson expected forestry contractors would jump at the chance of boosting their workforce, with a huge demand around planting because harvested forests needed to be re-established while greenfields forests needed to be set up.
Eastown Timber managing director James Richardson said he didn't expect his business would go out for foreign workers.
"All of our guys are apprentices.
"It's just something we've got used to - doing in-house training."
He said for the industry the news of more workers coming in would definitely be a positive thing.
"There are certainly labour shortages out there and it's affecting growth and just day-to-day operations."
Five hundred more dairy workers will be able to come in now and Federated Farmers Whanganui president Mike Cranstone called the announcement a "great start".
"Labour is a real issue on farms and has been [the] last two seasons."
Those who would qualify would be assistant dairy farm managers, 2ICs, dairy herd managers and dairy farm assistants earning at least the median wage plus $1 per hour, which worked out to be $28 an hour.
Cranstone was concerned that would lead to unskilled workers' wages being inflated and cause other salaries on the farm to need to be adjusted as well.
"Often these guys coming in are very keen but inexperienced.
"The challenge is it will push, if they're being paid [$28] an hour, all the other salaries of senior staff get pushed up."
He encouraged farmers to try to utilise the extra workforce on offer but to expect a time lag as those new workers would need health checks and immigration paperwork completed.
Cranstone said he hoped the overseas workers, if they stayed and upskilled, would be allowed to bring their families.
"We've lost a lot [of workers] because families weren't allowed in."
The Manawatū-Whanganui area has several major meatworks and the industry body representing them has praised the allowance of 500 more overseas workers.
The Meat Industry Association said there was a chronic worker shortage of 2000 people
and it was getting worse because current staff were having to stay home due to Covid-19.
"Right now, there simply aren't enough people to process every part of the carcass to maximise its value so these additional workers will certainly help alleviate pressure in the industry," the association's chief executive Sirma Karapeeva said.
"Without sufficient labour, companies cannot run their processing plants at the desired capacity."
That would mean fewer opportunities for work and longer wait times for farmers getting stock processed.
"That can have a flow-on impact for animal welfare, farmer wellbeing and the regional economy," she said.
While typically foreign workers made up only five per cent of the industry workforce, the association hoped these visas would be done as soon as possible "so that our companies can get these migrants into New Zealand and into jobs", Karapeeva said.
The meat and forestry workers coming into the country will have to be paid at least $27 an hour to qualify for the exemption.