The Government has announced a package of immigration reforms designed to encourage new migrants not to settle in Auckland and move to the regions.
In his address to National's annual conference, Prime Minister John Key said major changes will kick in from November 1.
- Boosting the bonus points for skilled migrants applying for residence with a job offer outside Auckland from 10 to 30 points if they to commit to a region for at least 12 months.
- Doubling the points for entrepreneurs planning to set up businesses outside Auckland under the entrepreneur work visa from 20 to 40 points.
- Streamlining the labour market test to provide employers with more certainty earlier on in the visa application process.
- From mid-2016 a pathway to residence will be provided for a limited number of long-term migrants on temporary work visas in the South Island.
Mr Key said New Zealanders will always be first in line for jobs and Auckland will continue to grow.
But he acknowledged the Government can do a better job of matching the needs of regions with available migrants and investors.
Of the 10,000 skilled migrants who get residence each year, Mr Key says almost half come to Auckland and the Government wants to balance that out a bit by attracting more people into other parts of the country to help grow local economies.
Mr Key says around 600 overseas workers in lower-skilled occupations in the South Island have been rolling over short-term work visas for more than five years.
"These people and their families have been in New Zealand for a number of years," he says.
"Their children are at schools. Their families are valuable members of their communities. They are conscientious workers paying their taxes and their employers want to hold onto them because there aren't enough New Zealanders available."