The government is hoping to fill regional labour shortages with a significant shift to the immigration scheme.
The Immigration Minister has proposed changes to migrant visas to make it easier for regions and industries with labour shortages to hire from overseas.
Iain Lees-Galloway announced proposals in Ashburton this morning where there are currently 500 job vacancies.
He said employers who can prove they are unable to hire from New Zealand, and meet strict requirements, would be able to hire migrants more easily.
"For towns like Ashburton the introduction of more regionally focused skills shortage lists will mean employers have greater certainty to be able to hire skilled migrants where there are no New Zealanders available to do the job, this approach will foster stronger partnership between central government and regional New Zealand."
Mr Lees-Galloway said the changes would help stop migrant exploitation, while helping the regions to flourish.
He said making training opportunities available, so young New Zealanders can take up skilled employment, is essential in the long-term.
But it's hoped the immigration changes will help meet immediate needs.
Ashburton's mayor, Donna Favel, said she has already heard positive feedback from employers in her district, including those in agriculture and transport.
Consultation is open until midway through March next year.