The huge surge in net migration that has occurred over the last four years may finally have peaked.
The most recent Statistics NZ figures show that migration provided a net population gain of 5120 in August, down from 6547 in July.
However that on its own is not particularly significant because migration follows seasonal patterns, and August’s figures are usually lower than July’s.
What was significant was that August’s net gain of 5120 was below the August 2016 gain of 5450.
There is only one other month in the last 12 when the latest net gain figure has been below the corresponding figure for the same month a year earlier, and that was in April and the difference then was just -47 (-1.4%,) so its wasn’t hugely significant.
But the difference between August this year and August last year was a more significant -330 (-6.1%).
Coming off the back of a period when the rate of growth in net migration has been slowing, August’s figures suggest growth may finally have peaked.
However one month’s figures do not make a trend.
It is too early to say whether August’s figures mark a plateauing of net migration, the start of a decline, or were just a blip before the net gain continues to creep up again.
It will probably be around the end of the year before a clearer picture emerges.
But the figures do suggest some volatility in the mix of who is coming to this country on a permanent or long term basis and who is leaving.
Most of the change in the August figures was driven by fewer New Zealand citizens returning to this country on a permanent or long term basis (2431 in August 2017 v 2709 in August 2016) and an increase in the number of New Zealanders departing these shores permanently or long term (2761 in August 2017 v 2687 in August 2016).
The number of non-New Zealand citizens arriving here permanently or long term continued to increase in August compared to August last year, but the increase was more or less balanced out by a corresponding increase in the number of non-New Zealand citizens that departed long term.
So changes are afoot in the mix of who is moving to this country permanently and who is leaving.
While it’s still too early to say with any certainty where that might be heading, the fact remains that the annual gain is still huge, at more than 72,000 in the 12 months to the end of August, and the pressure that is putting on basic infrastructure such as housing, transport, health and education services, is unrelenting.