A tweak in New Zealand's immigration rules to lure migrants to the regions rather than Auckland has taken effect.
The new rules that began yesterday give extra points to migrants who start jobs in the regions to go towards the 100-point threshold they require to apply for residence.
Almost half of the 10,000 skilled migrants and their families who get residence each year move to Auckland.
Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said while New Zealanders will always get first priority for jobs, the government recognised there are roles in the regions that are difficult to fill.
"While there will be more incentives for skilled migrants to move to the regions, they will now need to stay there for a minimum of 12 months," he said.
The 12-month requirement has been increased from the three months that was in place under the old rules.
"These changes will contribute to a better balance in our immigration settings and will allow regions to access more of the people, skills and investment they need to build the local growth needed to support jobs and higher incomes," Mr Woodhouse said.
New Zealand is welcoming more skilled migrants, students and visitors to its shores, as the immigration department's application process goes digital.
A new report shows the number of migrants gaining residency based on their skills rose four percent in the last financial year to 21,165, making up almost half of all residency approvals.
The Government's annual migration trends report also showed an eight percent jump in the number of foreigners coming to New Zealand as essential skills workers, positions that can't filled by residents.
This was the third consecutive increase since the start of the global financial crisis, a trend which reflects the strong demand for labour in New Zealand, acting head of Immigration New Zealand Steve McGill said.
More than 170,000 people were granted a work visa all up - a rise of 10 percent - with the United Kingdom the largest source country, followed by India, China and Germany.
The report also showed approvals for international students jumped by 16 percent, while the number of visitors, excluding Australian citizens, was around 1.49 million, up 11 percent from the previous year.
Mr McGill said the recent roll-out of online applications for student, work and visitor visas was contributing to the growth.
The report also shows that Canterbury is returning to normal after the devastating earthquakes earlier this decade.
The region got a net migration population boost of 6,400 in the 2014/2015 year, and has seen a steady increase in the number of arrivals since 2011.
University students are returning to the region, with the number of new students up 20 percent on last year, Mr McGill says.