21 Sep 2011

More arrive than leave NZ for first time since quake

7:47 pm on 21 September 2011

For the first time since the February earthquake, more people have moved to New Zealand than those leaving it.

Figures just released by Statistics New Zealand show a net gain of 200 migrants in August.

The number of long-term or permanent arrivals rose for the first time since March, when there was a jump in departures following the 22 February Christchurch quake.

For the year to August, 2300 more people arrived than left the country. This was still well down from the 14,500 who arrived the previous year - in fact, it's the lowest net gain since 2001.

The drop in net migration is largely due to an increase in departures to Australia, with more than 47,000 people heading across the Tasman.

The largest numbers of arrivals have been from the United Kingdom, India and China.

'More needs to be done' to attract people

NZIER senior economist Shamubeel Eaqub says net migration figures have been quite weak in recent months because of factors such as the flow out of Canterbury and more people leaving for Australia.

"What we've seen in the last six months," he says, "is very much a case of an economy in New Zealand that's still going kind of soft, kind of flat - whereas in contrast Australia has been still very strong and still very attractive."

David Cooper of the immigration consultancy Malcolm Pacific says the most worrying aspect of the latest statistics is that they show the lowest annual net gain of migrants since October 2001.

He says more work needs to be done to attract skilled people to New Zealand: "There's a lot of people wanting to move to New Zealand - their concern at the moment is, can they get a job here?"

Record number taking overseas trips

In other figures, the number of New Zealanders holidaying overseas hit a record high last month, while the number of visitors to New Zealand was also at record levels.

Statistics New Zealand says the number of overseas trips rose by 6% to 191,000 in August, the highest number in any August since records began.

The number of visitors from overseas went up by 5% from July to 176,000 - 4400 of whom said they were here for the Rugby World Cup.

The chief executive of Tourism New Zealand, Kevin Bowler, believes the rugby will provide the basis for strong tourism numbers going into the Summer.

"Certainly September and October will be very strong because of the Rugby World Cup, but our expectation is that come November normal visitor flows will continue, and that will be a really good on-ramp for us for our peak season."

Mr Bowler says Tourism New Zealand's recent marketing activity in Europe has used the Rugby World Cup as a chance to promote this country as a tourist destination.