21 Oct 2016

Record annual net gain of 70,000 migrants

1:25 pm on 21 October 2016

The debate about immigration levels is likely to intensify as figures show New Zealand continues to attract people in record numbers.

A woman with a backpack pulls a suitcase through an airport.

Photo: 123RF

Official figures show a seasonally adjusted 6300 settled here in September, surpassing the previous peak of 6200 reached in November 2015.

A record 70,000 more migrants arrived than departed in the year to September.

Statistics New Zealand population statistics manager Jo-Anne Skinner said the annual net gain reflected record high migrant arrivals and fewer migrant departures.

"Most of the arrivals are people coming in with work visas, which also includes working holidaymakers," she said.

Arrivals set a new September-year high of 125,600, with those on work visas accounting for about a third of that.

Under pressure about the effect of immigration on surging house prices and low wage growth, the government recently tightened visa rules.

ANZ senior economist Sharon Zollner doubted the changes will have much effect.

"The changes were pretty small in terms of the scope of the actual scale of migration. We would expect the impact to be pretty limited. And given the lags between people applying and people arriving it's far to soon to see an impact yet."

But more stringent student visa requirements in the wake of extensive abuse of English language requirements and fraudulent applications have made a dent in numbers, falling 5 percent for the year.

Those from India tumbled by 30 percent.

Nevertheless, Ms Zollner said suggestions immigration had plateaued and was on the way down had probably been a bit premature.

"It's pretty strong across the board. It certainly does underline that net migration is going to stay strong for a while yet."

Holidaymakers drive record visitor numbers

The number of visitor arrivals hit a record for September of 245,100, with Australian holidaymakers making up 50 percent of that, followed by those from China. Travellers from Malaysia, and Korea also rose strongly.

"The other most popular sources of arrivals are also still growing, diversifying the risk that a recession in one country could damage the industry in New Zealand," ASB economist Daniel Snowden said.

For the year, a record 3.39 million travelled to New Zealand, up 11 percent from the September 2015 year. This was driven by increases in visitor arrivals from Australia, China, and the United States.

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