Managing labour markets in New Zealand cities and regions

The supply and skill-level of workers varies across New Zealand. Changes we are making will better recognise these regional differences.

What is changing

We are bringing in a system for categorising the labour needs of New Zealand cities and the regions outside our main cities.

Some of the changes include:

  • replacing the regional skill-shortage lists, but keeping them for Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin
  • helping employers attract high-skilled migrants to work in the rural areas, and smaller towns and cities
  • making agreements with industry sectors that employ a large number of migrant workers.

In the future policies for temporary work visas, will be informed by advice from new Regional Skills Leadership Groups that will provide information to us about the skills needed in their regions.

Keeping up to date with the changes

We are still working on how we implement some of the changes. As more details are finalised we will update our website information.

If you are an employer, or represent an industry body or regional organisation and want to keep up to date with immigration changes you can sign up for email updates.

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We have prepared factsheets that explain in more detail the changes that are planned and how they affect employers.

Changes to employer-assisted temporary work visas — what does this mean for employers? PDF 9MB

Changes to employer-assisted temporary work visas — what does this mean for foreign workers? PDF 1MB

How we categorise the labour needs of regions

We will use regional council boundaries to determine regions under the new temporary work visa policy.

We have categorised the regions into 3 types:

  • city
  • higher supply region — this is a region with a variable or high number of people available for work and low unemployment or underemployment, or
  • lower supply region — this is a region with low number of people available for work and high number of jobs available.

Cities

The cities are:

  • Auckland
  • Hamilton
  • Wellington
  • Christchurch, and
  • Dunedin.

Higher supply regions

The higher supply regions are:

  • Northland
  • Manawatu-Wanganui
  • Bay of Plenty
  • Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay,
  • Taranaki,
  • Tasman, Nelson, Marlborough and the West Coast
  • regional Wellington, including the Wairarapa.

Lower supply regions

The lower supply regions are:

  • Waikato
  • Canterbury
  • Otago, and
  • Southland.

Map of North Island regions | Local Government New Zealand

Map of South Island regions | Local Government New Zealand

Employing migrant workers in cities and regions

The job and worker checks an accredited employer must do before they hire a migrant worker are determined by:

  • the type of region they are working in
  • whether the job pays above or below the New Zealand median wage — currently NZD $25 an hour.

These factors also help us decide how long a temporary work visa will last and if it can be renewed or not.

An employer must pay the market rate for any job they plan to offer to a migrant worker.

Employing migrant workers in a city

Employers offering a job in a city that pays at or above the New Zealand median wage must:

  • check that the job that is on a skill-shortage list, or
  • show they meet a labour market test by providing evidence that the job has been advertised and the advertising included the rate of pay, or
  • show that the pay for the job is 200% or more of the median wage.

The migrant worker they employ can get a visa for up to 3 years.

Employing a low-paid worker

Employers offering a job in a city that pays below the New Zealand median wage must show they meet the new strengthened labour market test.

The migrant worker they employ can get a visa for up to 12 months. The worker can renew their visa but can only work in New Zealand for up to 3 years. At the end of that time they must leave New Zealand. If they want to return, they must spend at least 12 months outside New Zealand first before they apply for another work visa. We call this a stand-down period.

Employing migrant workers in a higher-supply region

Employers offering a job that pays at or above the New Zealand median wage do not have to show they meet a labour market test. The migrant worker they employ can get a visa for up to 3 years and then renew their visa.

Employing a low-paid worker

Employers offering a job that pays below the New Zealand median wage must show they meet the new strengthened labour market test.

The migrant worker they employ can get a visa for up to 12 months. The worker can renew their visa but can only work in New Zealand for up to 3 years. At the end of that time they must leave New Zealand. If they want to return, they must spend at least 12 months out of New Zealand first before they apply for another work visa. We call this a stand-down period.

Employing migrant workers in a lower-supply region

Employers offering a job that pays at or above the New Zealand median wage do not have to show they meet a labour market test. The migrant worker they employ can get a visa for up to 3 years and then renew their visa.

Employing a low-paid worker

If they are offering a job that pays below the New Zealand median wage, they must show they meet the new strengthened labour market test.

The migrant worker they employ can get a visa for up to 3 years. At the end of that time they must leave New Zealand. If they want to return, they must spend at least 12 months out of New Zealand first before they apply for another work visa. We call this a stand-down period.

Employing migrant workers — what is changing

How Regional Skills Leadership Groups will support labour needs

Regional Skills Leadership Groups, which were recently announced by the Government, will help to ensure that local voices are heard. They will play a key role in providing advice on the skills needed in different regions and how these are being met by New Zealand’s immigration, education and welfare systems.

Sector agreements

Before 2021 we will be negotiating agreements with industry sectors that employ large numbers of migrant workers, starting with the residential care (including aged care) and meat worker sectors. A sector agreement will include a workforce plan and conditions employers need to meet for recruiting temporary migrants for specific occupations in the sector.

Employing migrant workers under a sector agreement