New Zealand migration gains hit new record, but appears to be close to peaking

Record net migration gains mean New Zealand's population is growing at the fastest pace in 40 years,
SIMON MAUDE/FAIRFAX NZ

Record net migration gains mean New Zealand's population is growing at the fastest pace in 40 years,

Net migration hit a record level for the 20th month in a row, but there are signs the trend may finally be peaking.

Figures from Statistics New Zealand showed New Zealand saw a net gain of 67,619 permanent and long term arrivals in the 12 months to March 31, driven by strong gains from Australia, China and the Philippines.

But the March gain of 5330 was down significantly on the 6070 increase in February, the clearest sign yet that the gains may be flattening off.

While the number of New Zealanders heading overseas has been below average, principally because fewer Kiwis are moving to Australia, another key driver of record net gains has been a surge in the number of international students coming to study here.

READ MORE: Record migration boosts growth short term, but will it make NZ richer?

Economists have said the growth in international students - which followed changes allowing them to work part time while studying - was likely to flatten off eventually.

Fewer New Zealanders are moving overseas than in recent years, with net migration from Australia positive for the first ...
JOHN ANTHONY/FAIRFAX NZ

Fewer New Zealanders are moving overseas than in recent years, with net migration from Australia positive for the first time since 1991.

Westpac said on Thursday that the trend appeared to have turned.

"There's has been a sharp decline in arrivals of international students in recent months, and this looks to have continued this month," Westpac senior economist Satish Ranchhod said.

"Migration can be volatile on a month-to month basis, so we're careful not to place too much weight on one month's data. However, we will still be keeping a close eye on next month's figures to see if this is more than just normal monthly volatility."

ASB economist Kim Mundy said the net gains in March were the lowest since May 2015, suggesting that migration gains may be peaking, however the impact of Easter falling in March may mean the drop off may be exaggerated. 

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 - Stuff

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