Net migration to NZ hits another record high, and could hit 70,000

Record high net migration of 67,000 means New Zealand's population is growing at the fastest rate since the early 1970s.
SIMON MAUDE/FAIRFAX NZ

Record high net migration of 67,000 means New Zealand's population is growing at the fastest rate since the early 1970s.

Migration has hit a fresh record high, with the number wanting to live in New Zealand continuing to defy forecasts.

Figures from Statistics New Zealand showed that in the 12 months to February 29, long term arrivals exceeded departures by 67,391, the highest level of net inward migration on record.

It continues a streak of more than a year when migration has been running at record highs, with New Zealand seeing net gains from Australia for the first time since 1991.

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The gains are much stronger than expected, with economists, including those at the Treasury, continually upgrading where the number will peak.

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Westpac chief economist Dominick Stephens said net migration was "consistently defying the most bullish of forecasts" and would continue to climb for several months.

"It now looks highly likely that annual net migration will surpass 70,000 by June, taking the population growth rate to a post-1974 high of 2.1 per cent," Stephens said.

However, ASB said the migration numbers appeared to be peaking.

February's net gain of 6070 was down marginally from January, and while gains from Australia continued to rise, ASB economist Kim Mundy said there were reasons Kiwis now living across the Tasman may choose to stay.

"A key source of arrivals over the past two years has been from Australia, reflecting the relative strength of the NZ labour market compared to Australia's. Recently however, the Australian labour market has been improving while NZ's is slowing," Mundy said.

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"Furthermore, recent Australian policy announcements may, at the margin, convince some New Zealanders residing in Australia to stay put in order to gain citizenship."

Net migration was strongest from India, with a gain of 12,600 in 12 months, driven by changes to student visa rules which now allow part time work.

China was the next strongest source of net migration, with a gain of 9700, followed by the Philippines (5200) and the United Kingdom (3700).

The main driver between the change in migration patterns remains Australia. Only a few years ago New Zealand was losing 40,000 people a year, as Kiwis looked for well paid jobs, in particular in the mining ssector. Now net migration from Australia is positive, with a gain of 1600 in the year to August, the highest in 25 years.

Statistics New Zealand said this was a mix of New Zealanders coming home, and an increasing number of Australians looking to live here.

 - Stuff

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