31 Jan 2017

Migration, tourist numbers at peak

2:06 pm on 31 January 2017

The number of people travelling to New Zealand to live or visit is greater than ever before.

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Photo: 123rf

Official figures show more than 70,600 people settled in New Zealand in the year to December beating the previous annual record set a month earlier.

For the year, migrant arrivals set new highs at 127,300, with about a third of the total being on work visas.

"The increase in migrant arrivals was driven by an increase in people arriving with work visas," Statistics New Zealand population statistics manager Jo-Anne Skinner said.

"This more than offset a decrease in student arrivals in 2016."

The number of visitor arrivals rose by 12 percent to new heights of almost 3.5 million, while New Zealanders took an all-time high of 2.62 million trips overseas during the year.

"People coming over for holidays made up more than half of the visits in 2016," Mrs Skinner said.

However, monthly totals have declined gradually for four successive months, indicating migration rates have plateaued.

The government tightened visa rules last year under pressure about the effect of immigration on surging house prices and low-wage growth, but it was so far unclear how much difference that had made.

A net 6010 people settled in the country in December, a slightly decline from November, but economists expect numbers to remain robust.

"The monthly gain did see a very small decline, to 6,010 from 6,190, but that still marks 4 consecutive months above 6,000." ASB economist Daniel Snowden said.

"Total arrivals were only just below 11,000 and held around the 6-month average, indicating there is no sign yet of a slowdown in those wanting to come to New Zealand."

Meanwhile, tourist arrivals rose 11 percent to 494,200 in December, a new monthly record, led by travellers from Australia.

For the year, Australia made up 40 percent of the nearly 3.5 million visitors, followed by China on 12 percent and the United States on 8 percent.

"Arrivals from Australia increased by 9.2 percent per annum from the previous year, despite its labour market weakening and the economy contracting by 0.5 percent in the September quarter," Infometrics economist Hilary Parker said.

"A possible explanation is that people are choosing to travel to New Zealand for their holidays as it is a relatively cheap overseas holiday destination."

New Zealanders also took advantage of a robust economy and high dollar to travel overseas, with the number of trips rising 14 percent to 281,100 in December.

The most favoured destination was Australia, followed by China and India.

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