High levels of Christchurch residents leaving New Zealand to live permanently in Australia made net migration to New Zealand negative for the second month in a row, figures released by Statistics New Zealand show.
ASB economist Jane Turner said she expected the trend of migration outflows to continue through the year, before reversing once reconstruction activity in Christchurch, which is expected next year, got underway. The outflows would reduce pressures on housing shortages that had arisen as a result of the February 22 earthquake, Turner said.
A net 100 people left the country in April permanently or long-term (PLT), following a net 500 departures in March as the numbers of those leaving Christcurch doubled in April from a year ago, seasonally adjusted figures show.
"Departures of Christchurch residents remained high in April 2011, numbering 800 – double the 400 departures from the city in April 2010. Since the earthquake on 22 February, the city has experienced 1,000 more departures and 300 fewer arrivals than in the same period of 2010," Government Statistician Geoff Bascand said.
"New Zealand had a net migration gain of 5,500 in the year ended April 2011, down from 20,000 the previous year, and below the average annual net migration gain of 12,000 over the last 20 years. The decrease in net migration compared with 2010 was mainly due to an increase in departures to Australia," Bascand said.
'Frustration building in Christchurch'
Prior to the earthquake, the trend of leaving to Australia due to the stronger labour market was already in place, Turner said.
"The February earthquake has added to this momentum. We expect that departures to Australia will remain elevated this year. Departures will continue as Christchurch residents become increasingly frustrated with delays in the rebuilding process. Also many may be waiting for insurance payouts before opting to relocate," Turner said.
"The outflow will help ease some of the pressures on housing shortages that have arisen as a result of the earthquake. Over time, once reconstruction activity gets underway there is likely to be a reversal, particularly as the rebuilding activity attracts additional labour from offshore. In addition, some Cantabrians may opt to return after a couple of years," she said.
Students from India
In the April 2011 year, the highest net inflow of migrants was from India (6,000). This was followed by the United Kingdom (4,900), and China (4,000).
The net PLT outflow to Australia was 27,000 in the April 2011 year – between the outflows in 2009 (32,000) and 2010 (14,800). The latest net outflow resulted from 42,400 departures to Australia being partly offset by 15,400 arrivals from Australia. In both directions, most migrants were New Zealand citizens.
Annual PLT migration by citizenship
There was a net outflow of 27,200 New Zealand citizens in the April 2011 year, up from 12,500 in the April 2010 year. The net inflow of 32,700 non-New Zealand citizens was just above the previous year's figure of 32,400.
PLT arrivals of New Zealand citizens numbered 24,200 in the April 2011 year, above the average of 23,500 recorded for the 1979–2010 December years, but below the peaks of the March 1991 year (29,600) and the October 2003 year (27,800). Arrivals of New Zealand citizens tend to show relatively little variation year-to-year, and the variation that does occur often follows trends in departures of New Zealand citizens a few years earlier.
PLT departures of New Zealand citizens show much more annual variation than arrivals of New Zealand citizens. The highest number of departures of New Zealand citizens was 64,300 in the October 1979 year, but by the January 1984 year, this had decreased to a low of 24,400. PLT departures of New Zealand citizens numbered 51,400 in the year ended April 2011.
PLT arrivals of non-New Zealand citizens were less than 30,000 a year between 1979 and 1992, then doubled to reach a peak of 58,800 in the July 1996 year. Another peak of 72,800 was reached in the February 2003 year. The changes in arrivals of non-New Zealand citizens reflect changes in arrivals of temporary workers (including working holidaymakers) and overseas students staying for 12 months or more; as well as arrivals for residence. The 59,300 non-New Zealand citizen arrivals in the April 2011 year were up from 57,200 arrivals in the previous year.
PLT departures of non-New Zealand citizens have generally been increasing since 1984, corresponding with the general increase in arrivals of non-New Zealand citizens. In the April 2011 year, there were 26,500 PLT departures of non-New Zealand citizens, up from 24,800 in the April 2010 year.
In the April 2011 year, 28,300 PLT arrivals were Australian or New Zealand citizens. Of the remaining 55,200 migrants, most arrived on:
- work visas (20,700)
- student visas (16,800)
- residence visas (12,800)
- visitor visas (4,200).
Compared with 2010, more migrants arrived on student (up 1,700), work (up 400), and visitor (up 200) visas. Fewer migrants arrived on residence visas (down 600).
(Updates with ASB comments, more from Stats NZ)