NZ immigration returns to record level

2:11 pm on 21 September 2016

The number of people coming to New Zealand to live, study and work has returned to a record high, but student numbers have fallen.

International arrivals

Photo: RNZ / Todd Niall

Official figures show 69,100 people settled here in the year to August, equalling the previous record set in June.

Arrivals set a new high for that period, of 125,000, of which returning New Zealanders accounted for a quarter and people on work visas about a third.

But the number of those on student visas - one of the key drivers of the migration boom - declined by 2.2 percent, with those from India tumbling by 23 percent.

Late last year, government agencies tightened visa rules after they discovered English-language requirements were being exploited, and this year Immigration New Zealand has been cracking down on the use of fake financial information in study visa applications.

ANZ Bank senior economist Phil Borkin said the figures showed net migrant inflows remained strong.

"The performance of the New Zealand economy - GDP growing around 3.5 to 4 percent, the unemployment rate trending lower - while New Zealand's not exposed to some of these issues that the globe is facing around political angst, Brexit and what not.

"So we still believe that New Zealand will continue to remain an attractive destination for migrants and also an attractive place for New Zealanders, so we'll see less people wanting to leave as well.

"I don't think New Zealand will set new highs from here, but certainly don't see it heading back to its historically average of around 15,000 any time soon." Mr Borkin said.

Tourism reaches new heights.

The number of visitor arrivals hit a record for the year to August of 221,200, with more holiday-makers from the United States, Malaysia, and Japan.

"An increase in holiday-makers from the US related to the introduction of new routes and additional airlines flying between the US and New Zealand. This month, visitors arriving from the US most commonly came from California, Texas, and New York state," said Statistics NZ population statistics manager Jo-Anne Skinner.

For the year, the number of visitor arrivals hit a record 3.36 million, with more travellers from China and Australia.

Mr Borkin said the high New Zealand dollar was not deterring international travellers.

"Our research is showing the currency doesn't really affect people's decision to visit New Zealand."

"What it does do is have an impact on their budget and how much they spend when they get here. The high level of the dollar may have an impact on average spend per visitor, but when you've got the sheer growth in the number of people turning up themselves, then the overall tourist spend story should remain a very good one," Mr Borkin said.

The higher dollar also prompted New Zealanders to take a record annual 2.51 million trips overseas, with Australia, Fiji, and Britain being the most favoured holiday spots.