The net number of people arriving in New Zealand on a permanent or long-term basis dropped by almost two-thirds in the year to February, stymied by high numbers of people moving to Australia.
There were 3,908 New Zealand citizens who left permanently in February to live in Australia, equivalent to 139 each day in February. This is up from 2,941 in February 2010. Net departures (after a fall in the number of NZ citizens returning) was 3,136, up from 1,970 a year ago.
Statistics New Zealand said net permanent and long-term migration was 8,200 (although Stats NZ's data suggests 8,300) in the year to February this year, compared with 21,600 in the February 2010 year.
The 82,800 arrivals was a 2% fall and the 74,500 departures was an 18% rise, Statistics New Zealand said. The highest net inflow of migrants was 6,000 from India, followed by 5,100 from Britain and 4,000 from China.
The net outflow to Australia was 23,500 in the February year, compared with 15,400 in the February 2010 year and 34,400 in the February 2009 year.
There was a net outflow of 23,900 New Zealand citizens in the February year, almost double the 12,800 in the previous February year but well down on 35,200 in the February 2009 year.
Meanwhile, a net inflow of 32,100 non-New Zealand citizens was lowest for a February year since 31,000 in 2005.
Permanent and long-term arrivals include people who arrive in New Zealand intending to stay for 12 months or more, plus New Zealand residents returning after an absence of 12 months or more. Permanent and long-term departures include New Zealand residents leaving for 12 months or more and overseas visitors leaving after a stay of at least 12 months.
Australia's strong economy and labour market entice New Zealanders
ASB economist Jane Turner said permanent and long-term arrivals and departures data saw net 460 new migrants over the month of February, bringing the annual inflow to 8,249.
"Departures remain elevated, up 13% on year-ago levels, underpinned by high number of departures to Australia," Turner said. "We expect this trend to continue, given the strength of Australia’s economy and labour market relative to New Zealand."
Short-term visitor arrivals, meanwhile, were down 4% month-on-month on a seasonally adjusted basis and up just 0.15% year-on-year. Turner said much of the decline stemmed from fewer overseas visitors coming to on holiday, with numbers in this group down 7,900 compared with February 2010. Statistics NZ noted declines in this category were registered both before and after the February 22 Christchurch earthquake.
She said ASB expected short-term visitor arrivals for holidays to remain weak for a number of months following the earthquake.
"However, one key uncertainty going forward is how many will cancel or postpone trips to NZ altogether, versus how many visitors will still come to NZ but avoid Christchurch. It may take a couple of years for visitor arrivals in Christchurch to return to pre-earthquake levels. However, disruption to overall visitor numbers on nationwide basis is likely to be temporary. Furthermore, the Rugby World Cup is likely to provide a boost to tourism activity over the second half of 2011," said Turner.
Read Statistics New Zealand's statement below and see its commentary here.
Despite little change in overall visitor numbers, arrivals for a holiday were down 7,900 in February – with decreases both before and after the Christchurch earthquake on the 22nd,"
Population Statistics manager Bridget Hamilton-Seymour said.
"However, the earthquake resulted in more arrivals to visit friends and relatives. Between 22 and 28 February, an additional 2,300 people arrived to visit friends and relatives compared with the same days in 2010."
Annual visitor arrivals numbered 2.534 million in the February 2011 year, up 2 percent from the previous year. New Zealand residents took 103,500 overseas trips in February 2011, just below the 104,000 trips in February 2010.
Short-term trips by Christchurch residents were up 700 between 22 and 28 February 2011, compared with the same days in February 2010.
Before the earthquake, Christchurch residents took slightly fewer trips than during the same period in 2010. In the February 2011 year, New Zealand residents took 2.037 million overseas trips, up 6 percent from the February 2010 year.
Net migration stable
Seasonally adjusted net permanent and long-term migration (arrivals minus departures) was 500 in February 2011. In the last 12 months, this series varied between a low of 200 (in June 2010) and a high of 1,000 (in September 2010).
There was an increase in permanent and long-term departures from Christchurch after the earthquake on 22 February.
Departures from Christchurch in the last five days of February numbered 148 (unrounded figure), up from 81 in the last five days of February 2010. Net migration in the year ended February 2011 was 8,200, down from 21,600 the previous year, and below the average annual net migration gain of 12,000 over the last 20 years.