The number of new residents settling in New Zealand has reached the lowest level since the turn of the century.
At the same time a record number of temporary work visa holders have been approved, topping more than 240,000 in the last year.
Immigration New Zealand statistics show 13,000 fewer resident visas were accepted this financial year than when the coalition government came to power, standing at 34,000 new approvals.
They also show more than 10,000 of the fall in residents can be attributed to a corresponding rise in the number of unprocessed applications, prompting concerns from an industry body that there has been a slowdown in visa decision-making to reach immigration targets.
Figures show the last time new residents fell below the current number was 1999.
The government this year set a planning range of 50,000 to 60,000 new residents for the 18 months to the end of this calendar year.
The Association for Migration and Investment said there was concern that the government was driving visa decision numbers down for political reasons, and hurting industries that rely on immigrants.
"This is all part of the government plan that Winston Peters campaigned on and now it is starting to show results," said its chair June Ranson.
"It is the employers who are suffering and one of the reasons that business confidence is at a low.
"If NZ does not evolve we will die as a country. Why would people come to New Zealand moving their families if there is no hope of New Zealand residence, in light of current policies?
"There is no incentive when they have better options in Australia."