NZ migration, tourism soar to new annual records

New Zealand hit a new annual migration record last month as the country's appeal lures more foreigners and better prospects here mean fewer Kiwis are tempted to move overseas.

The country had net migration of 72,305 in the 12 months through June, as migrant arrivals rose 5.1 percent to a record 131,355 and departures advanced 5.6 percent to 59,050, Statistics New Zealand said. The increase in the latest year was mainly driven by non-New Zealand citizens, who provided the country with a net gain of 73,600 migrants while there was a net loss of 1,300 New Zealand citizens, Stats NZ said.

New Zealand has been experiencing record levels of net migration over the past three years as the country lures more foreigners to our shores, with the numbers far surpassing the last migration boom the country experienced back in the mid-2000's. Rising immigration is shaping up to be a key election issue as it strains the country's housing and infrastructure which haven't kept pace with population growth, especially in the country's largest city of Auckland, which attracts about half of the new arrivals.

"New Zealand has seen a net gain of 72,000 people due to migration over the past year and current trends suggest that these elevated numbers are unlikely to turn around anytime soon," Kiwibank chief economist Zoe Wallis and senior economist Jeremy Couchman said in a note on migration published ahead of today's data.

"The rapid rise in net migration in recent years has meant that New Zealand is currently experiencing the fastest pace of population growth seen since the mid-1970s. A rapidly growing population has an impact on the NZ economy through increased demand for goods and services, higher demand for housing and also a larger supply of available workers," the economists said.

While migration is a hot topic headed into this year's general election, the economists noted that on a per capita basis, New Zealand remains "very sparsely populated", with an average of 17 people per square kilometre, compared with the OECD average of around 33 people per square kilometre.

In the latest data, the biggest increase in net migration for the June year were from the United Kingdom (up 2,600) and South Africa (up 1,800). India saw the largest fall in net migration gain, down to 7,400 in the June 2017 year from 12,100 in the June 2016 year, which Stats NZ said reflected fewer student visa arrivals from India. Australia is the largest source of arrivals, followed by the UK and China.

Of the 33,500 departures of New Zealand citizens in the June 2017 year, 61 percent went to Australia, according to the data.

"The number of New Zealanders moving offshore remains very low, and we continue to see large numbers of New Zealand citizens returning from Australia," Westpac Bank senior economist Satish Ranchhod said in a note. "The net outflow of New Zealand citizens is at its lowest level since 1984."

Separately, tourism data released today showed visitor arrivals for the June 2017 year rose 10 percent to a new record high of 3.6 million, compared with year earlier levels.

For the month of June, visitor arrivals jumped 17 percent to 230,100, with visitor arrivals from the UK and Ireland accounting for 49 percent of the rise. UK and Irish visitor arrivals numbered 23,400, which is the second-highest number for a June month since 2005 which also coincided with the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand, Stats NZ said.

Meanwhile, overseas trips by New Zealand residents rose 11 percent to reach a new annual record of 2.7 million, with 44 percent of those headed to Australia, the agency said.


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