Net migration falling as non-NZers head home

People who have arrived in New Zealand in recent years appear to be heading home, possibly after completing studies or at the end of their youth working holiday visa.

Statistics New Zealand figures released yesterday reported net migration was down 4800 from a high point a year ago, largely because more non-New Zealand citizens were leaving the country.

There was a net migration gain of 67,000 migrants for the April 2018 year.

That was lower than the net migration gain of 71,900 in the April 2017 year, and returned to a level last seen two years ago, Statistics NZ population insights senior manager Brooke Theyers said.

The gain for the April 2018 year was made up of 130,500 migrant arrivals and 63,400 migrant departures.

``Interestingly, the number of arrivals increased in the April 2018 year so it is the larger increase in departures that drove the lower net migration level.''

More than 98,000 non-New Zealand citizens arrived in the April 2018 year, Mrs Theyers said.

However, more than 30,000 non-New Zealand citizens left in the same period, up 23% on a year earlier, resulting in a net migration gain of 68,100.

The net migration of New Zealand citizens was a loss of 1100 - made up of 32,100 arriving and 33,200 departing.

The monthly net inflow was 4930, which ASB senior economist Jane Turner said continued a cooling trend of net migration.

Monthly permanent and long-term arrivals remained elevated but were no longer growing on a trend basis and were down 4.5% on levels of a year ago.

The proportion of those arriving on a work visa continued to rise and was now at 36%, highlighting that New Zealand's relatively strong labour market remains a draw for international migrants, she said.

Departures to Australia remained ``low and steady'' while departures to Asia, Europe and the Americas were climbing.

Westpac senior economist Anne Boniface said a lift in the number of New Zealanders heading offshore in April was also notable.

``We also expect departures of New Zealand citizens to gradually trend higher in the coming months, and the lift in departures in April was consistent with this.''

Taking a step back and looking at the longer-term trends, the growing departures of non-New Zealanders had been a key driver of the easing in annual net migration, she said.

Westpac expected the trend to continue as many of the people who arrived in New Zealand on temporary work and student visas in recent years returned home when they had completed their course or contract.

``We expect annual net migration to continue to fall in the coming years, down to a low of around 20,000 in about five years' time.''

Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dougal McGowan hoped the latest figures were not the start of a trend, as it could affect student numbers in Otago and make finding skilled workers for the Government's KiwiBuild programme difficult.


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