Hanmer Springs businesses desperately searching for staff ahead of busy summer season

One of the country's alpine hotspots is desperately looking for staff ahead of the busy summer season to keep the town open and operating. 

Before borders shut, Hanmer Springs recruited half of their workforce from those on working holidays, but almost two years on they're scrambling to keep their doors open. 

Alan McNabb, the general manager of Hanmer Hospitality, says one restaurant lost 13 staff two weeks ago, and two chefs are leaving next week.

"We've always been chasing another chef. We've loaded ads again through Trade Me [looking for] kitchen hands, anything. We need everyone."

Over the road at the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools, it's just as desperate.

"In terms of some years it's good, some years it's tough. This one is the hardest year I can remember in over 20 years of being here," says general manager Graeme Abbott.

With its largely domestic market, Hanmer Springs has remained largely unaffected by the drop in international tourism, but having closed borders has revealed how reliant they are on international workers prepared to do the work Kiwis aren't.

"Historically, 25 percent of our staff at this time of the year are internationals and they're just not in the country," Abbott says.

Those left in New Zealand are now highly sought after, allowing them to cherry-pick jobs and locations. 

"We generally have staff for three to six months at a time with a backpacker market. The Kiwis we've managed to keep a bit longer but even some of them have been here six, seven months but it was just time for them to roll off - Queenstown was calling," McNabb says.

Recruiting staff is one thing, accommodating them another. with a lack of housing available for long-term renting. 

"I have actually booked four rooms in a hotel through the peak at top-dollar just so I can house through the peak," McNabb says.

A peak season Hanmer Springs may struggle to service.