Taranaki's economic agency is trying to lure skilled workers back through a new campaign, but is up against an Australian marketing push to get workers to cross the Tasman.
In the oil and gas sector alone, it is estimated more than 200 engineers, operators and technical staff are needed in the next 12 months.
Petroleum Skills Association manager Sheree Long says there has been a skills shortage for some time and a recent survey among major companies shows it is going to get worse in the next five years.
"Most of those are needed in the Taranaki region. The survey was conducted nationwide, but obviously you can make an assumption that oil and gas hub is here in Taranaki so that's where the main need will be in the near future."
Venture Taranaki chief executive Stuart Trundle says at least 14,000 more workers are needed by 2035to keep up with economic growth.
Although many are relocating from overseas, more still are leaving for Australia.
Venture Taranaki's campaign aimed at reversing that flow, called Swapping Sides, is meeting competition.
Australian gas explorer and producer QGC has taken out several full-page adverts in the Taranaki Daily News for jobs at its coal seam gas project in Queensland.
QGC spokesperson Paul Larter says there is global competition for highly qualified workers.
Mr Trundle says if local companies cannot recruit and retain staff, it will eventually effect the region's capacity to get population-based funding for services such as health, roading and education.