The number of people arriving in New Zealand intending to stay continues to surge, sending net migration to a new record high.
Statistics New Zealand said the net gain from immigration rose to 71,932 in the year to March 31, up from 71,333 in the year ended February 28. In the month of March alone, the gain was 6100.
While the number of people leaving New Zealand to live overseas is now slowly rising, annual arrivals continue to climb.
Statistics New Zealand said 129,500 people arrived in New Zealand intending to stay for at least 12 months in the year to March 31, up from 128,800 in the year ended February 28.
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The largest number of arrivals came from Australia, accounting for 25,557 arrivals.
However, the figures, based on arrivals cards individually filled out, do not give details of citizenship, so many of those could be Kiwis returning home or those from other countries who had been living in Australia.
Just under 15,000 people arrived from Britain, 12,358 from China and 9547 arrived from India.
More than 5500 arrivals did not state which country they had arrived from.
KIWIS ARE SAYING HOME
Westpac economist Satish Ranchhod said while those coming from overseas to live in New Zealand, much of the gain in net migration was actually down to fewer Kiwis moving to live overseas, because of the strong job market here.
“Arrivals only account for half of the strong pick-up in net migration that we have seen since 2012,” Ranchhod said.
“The other half relates to flows of New Zealanders in and out of the country. On an annual basis, this is at the lowest level since 1984. New Zealanders are being encouraged to stay onshore or come back from overseas by our positive economic conditions.”
Westpac forecasts that net migration will stay around the current levels for the next two-three month, before gradually dropping to around a 60,000 annual gain by the end of the year and around 45,000 by the end of 2018.
The drop would come as departures pick up, with Kiwis beginning to move overseas in numbers they usually would as the global economy picks up, and the recent gains in student visas began to see increasing numbers leave as visas expired.
But Ranchhod said total arrivals numbers – currently around 130,000 a year – was likely to stay strong.
“At least for the next year or so we think arrivals are going to continue at pretty firm levels. That’s reflecting a very positive economic story here in New Zealand, relative to what are some uncertain conditions offshore.”
Labour, the Green Party and NZ First have all signalled changes aimed at reducing the levels of net migration, which has been blamed for suppressing wages and pushing up house prices.
Earlier this month, Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse announced plans for changes to visa rules in the skilled migrant category, including adding new bands on pay.
But it was unclear what difference the changes would make, especially in the next few years.
ASB, which had forecast that net annual migration gains will stay above 70,000 well into 2018, decided to make no changes to its forecasts as a result of the government proposals.
The day after the proposals were announced, Labour leader Andrew Little said the level of net migration needed to be cut by “tens of thousands”, indicating the party would target gains of 20,000 to 25,000 a year, without releasing policy.
On Wednesday, Little said the party would “reduce immigration numbers, [and] better match migrants with the skills our industries need” without giving details.
Act leader David Seymour questioned where the Opposition would make the cuts, with close to 9000 of the arrivals coming for construction related roles, at a time of housing shortage.
“[I]f they won’t cut construction workers, how will they keep their promises to cut immigration by 45,000 or more?,” Seymour said.
“Cracking down on chefs and sales managers will only get them so far. Are they going to pull New Zealand out of our free travel arrangement with Australia? Or stop expat Kiwis from coming home?”