By Paul McBeth
The number of New Zealanders packing their bags and heading to Australia accelerated in April, with a new record number of annual departures at 53,462.
Some 4,500 people left New Zealand for Australia in April for a net loss of 3,500 in the month, according to Statistics New Zealand. That took the annual net loss to 39,800, almost 13,000 more than the same annual exodus a year earlier.
"Annual outflows to Australia have been at record levels since the November 2011 year," Statistics NZ said.
The overall loss of migrants in April was 2,300 for an annual outflow of 4,000. That annual figure was made up of 83,800 new migrants arriving, and 87,800 leaving.
People have been quitting New Zealand for Australia for years as they seek higher wages and a better standard of living across the Tasman. That diaspora has been captured in a controversial NZ On Air-funded reality TV programme, The GC, which follows a group of young Maori who emigrated to Queensland's Gold Coast, and has been likened to popular MTV programme 'Jersey Shore'.
The number of short-term visitor arrivals fell 1.1 percent to 196,700 in April, led by a 23 percent slump in European tourists, especially Germans, Irish, and Spaniards. Asian visitor numbers climbed 35 percent in April from a year earlier to 11,600, with a rebound in the number of Japanese tourists after last year's earthquake and tsunami.
On an annual basis, short-term visitor numbers rose 3.9 percent to 2.6 million.
Foreign tourist spending was flat in the year ended March 31 at $5.64 billion, according to government figures. That was put down to a rise in the number of cheap Australian visitors and falling numbers of big-spending Japanese and Korean tourists.
ASB Economist Daniel Smith said the net migration outflow was the largest in seasonally adjusted terms since February 2001.
"That was a little disappointing after a positive inflow of 230 was recorded over March and means that the annual loss ticks upwards to 4,006, slightly lower than the annual loss of 4,068 recorded back in February," Smith said.
He said the relatively large net outflow of migrants over April was driven by a 14.7% fall in arrivals, while the number of people departing remaining very stable.
Smith said the number of permanent and long-term departures to Australia had stabilised in recent months.
"The current level is historically a high one, and this is the primary driver of the record total net outflow of migrants. The relative state of the labour markets on either side of the Tasman is, of course, a vital factor in the number of NZ’ers making the move. We expect that a gradual recovery in employment at home, matched with an Australian labour market that has been treading water for the past year, will reduce the rate of outflow over the next year or so," Smith said.
"Looking past the monthly volatility, we expect the strong outflow to continue for the time being, but to slow as the domestic recovery continues, the Australian labour market continues to flatline and other regions of the World continue to struggle economically," he said.
"Weak migration levels are unlikely to exert upwards pressure on housing or other prices."
(Updates with ASB economists' comments)