Annual migration slows as departures increase; tourism hits record
By Tina Morrison
Sept. 21 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand's annual net migration continues to weaken from its peak last year as more people leave our shores.
Net migration slowed to 63,288 in the year to the end of August, from 72,072 a year earlier. it was the lowest level for the period since 2015 when the country had net migration of 60,290, Stats NZ said. In the latest year, migrant arrivals fell 2.4 percent to 129,088, while departures jumped 9.6 percent to 65,800.
New Zealand has been experiencing record levels of net migration in recent years, reaching a record high of 72,400 in the year to the end of July 2017. The slowdown in the latest figures was driven by increased departures.
“The number of migrant arrivals in August was only slightly lower than in August 2017, so it was the increase in the number of departures that led to the fall in net migration,” Stats NZ population insights senior manager Brooke Theyers said. “This is consistent with what we’ve seen in previous months, with the fall in net migration being driven more by increases in migrant departures than decreases in migrant arrivals.”
Westpac senior economist Satish Ranchhod said the latest figures show the declining trend in net migration remains firmly in place.
"Looking forward, we expect that migration will continue to ease back over the next few years, pulling population growth down in the process," Ranchhod said. "This reinforces our expectations for a period of soft demand growth over the coming years."
New Zealand's inbound migration figures have been flattered in recent years by a lacklustre Australian economy. Kiwis have typically sought a better life across the Tasman, but have tended to stay home during the past five years as New Zealand's economy offered better prospects.
In the latest year, however, New Zealand experienced a net outflow of 1,216 people to Australia, compared with a net inflow of 226 in the same period in 2017 and a gain of 1,759 the year before.
“New Zealand’s net migration with Australia is typically negative so dropping below zero is not unusual,” Theyers said. “Historically, New Zealand citizen departures have been much higher. For example, in 2012 there were 48,700 New Zealand citizens who departed to Australia, which led to a net migrant loss of 40,000.”
Theyers said both 2016 and 2017 had small positive net migration gains with Australia, due to low numbers of New Zealand citizens departing and record numbers of New Zealand citizens returning home.
Meanwhile, annual tourism arrivals increased 2.6 percent to a record 3.8 million.
"The trend in visitor arrivals over recent months suggests that arrival numbers have plateaued at historically high levels," said ASB senior economist Mark Smith. "A lower New Zealand dollar will boost incomes, but more tourism infrastructure and better utilisation of the New Zealand tourist offering in the shoulder and low seasons will also help support incomes in the sector going forward."