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Statistics New Zealand figures released yesterday showed total migrant arrivals numbered 126,700 in the November year, an annual record.
Population statistics manager Jo-Anne Skinner said the annual net gain in migration came from an increase in migrant arrivals combined with a fall in departures. People arriving on work visas made up a third of all arrivals.
Westpac senior economist Satish Ranchhod said monthly net migration again exceeded expectations in November.
Arrivals of migrants on student visas had slowed significantly during the year.
''That said, on a monthly seasonally-adjusted basis, student arrivals have ticked higher over the last couple of months, although November arrivals were almost 25% below their late 2011 peak.''
Arrivals of migrants on work visas continued to track higher in the month. Work visa arrivals, which had accounted for about a third of permanent and long-term arrivals during the last year, had risen nearly 20% since March. Arrivals from the United Kingdom accelerated in recent months, he said.
''Our view that net migration will gradually slow from its current levels continues to be challenged by the monthly data.''
Student arrivals remained well off their peaks but the decline had been swamped by a lift in arrivals of people on work visas. Ultimately, the key catalyst for weaker net migration inflows was likely to be softer labour market conditions in New Zealand relative to the rest of the world, in particular, Australia.
However, with New Zealand's growth prospects for 2017 remaining firm, a significant slowdown in the pace of net migration appeared to be some way off yet, Mr Ranchhod said.
Statistics NZ also reported visitor arrivals numbered 333,600 in November, a November record. The latest month's figure was up 11% from November last year.
ASB chief economist Nick Tuffley said without official seasonally-adjusted data, it was difficult to ascertain any impact from the Kaikoura earthquake.
The ASB still expected the Reserve Bank to keep the official cash rate on hold for the foreseeable future.
In the November 2016 year, visitor arrivals hit a record 3.45million, up 12% on the same period last year.
New Zealand residents took a record 2.58million overseas trip in the November year, up 8% from the same period last year. In November, Kiwis made a record 208,400 trips overseas, up 14% from November 2015.
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters called the Government's immigration policy sinister. Seven thousand nurses had been given working visas in the past seven years under the Government, while Kiwi-trained nurses could not get jobs.
''The number of New Zealand-educated, trained and qualified nurses not getting jobs shows how sinister this Government's immigration policy is.
''This appalling state of affairs and today's announcement of a new record for annual migrant arrivals of 126,700 confirms open door immigration is a disaster for young New Zealanders wanting to get into the workforce.''