Mieke Welvaert finds that a quarter of all 'migrant arrivals' are returning Kiwis. But from Australia, the growth in permanent arrivals aren't actually Aussies (or even Kiwis)

Mieke Welvaert finds that a quarter of all 'migrant arrivals' are returning Kiwis. But from Australia, the growth in permanent arrivals aren't actually Aussies (or even Kiwis)

By Mieke Welvaert*

A wee while back, Winston Peters complained that arrival data used by Herald reporters mistook arrivals from Australia as Australians (spoiler – it didn’t). 

But he did raise an interesting question: who does come over from Australia when they move here long-term?

Turns out, almost two thirds of people moving from Australia to New Zealand are in fact Kiwis. 

Interestingly, however, the pool of people crossing “the Ditch” has become more diverse over time.  At the previous net migration peak in May 2003, New Zealanders and Australians made up 94% of arrivals from Australia (compared to the current 84%).

Although the proportion of Kiwi’s coming over has been more or less the same, the number of Australians moving to New Zealand over the past decade has not increased quite as quickly as the number of people that don’t hold New Zealand or Australian citizenship.

Up until 2007/08, arrivals of “other” citizens, were otherwise stable as a proportion of total arrivals from Australia.  But since then, the proportion of Australian’s coming to New Zealand has dropped and the proportion of citizens from other countries has risen to fill the gap.

Why are we so interested in arrivals from Australia?

Arrivals from Australia are not something to thumb your nose at.  Over the year to May 2017, arrivals from Australia made up a good 20% of all long-term migrants to New Zealand (as measured at the arrivals gate).

But what this suggests is that arrivals that are actually New Zealand citizens are very significant in the grand scheme of net migration numbers.

How does Australia rank if New Zealanders are taken out of the equation?

If we take Kiwi’s out of the equation, Australia is actually only our third biggest source country for migrants, following China and the UK.  But, the gap between the ranks is narrow for the top four countries, with each contribution in the ballpark of 8% of total arrivals.

However, if New Zealand citizens coming through our arrival gates all came from the same place – let’s call it “Kiwiland”– that place would overwhelmingly be the largest source country of arrivals.  Just over 32,000 New Zealand citizens moved back to New Zealand over the year to May 2017, meaning that arrivals from “Kiwiland” made up a quarter of New Zealand’s in-bound "migrants" in the past year.

Contribution to migrant arrivals by country
% of arrivals (excluding New Zealand citizens) over the year to May 2017
Rank Country Share of arrivals
1 “Kiwiland" 25.0%
2 China 9.0%
3 United Kingdom 7.7%
4 Australia 7.3%
5 India 6.9%
6 South Africa 3.7%

What does this all mean?

The above highlights a key point that hasn’t really been raised in recent debates about migration: what New Zealander’s decide to do has a huge effect on overall migration statistics.  

Although arrivals from most of the top source countries are higher than a few years ago – arrivals of New Zealand citizens are at their highest since at least 1980 !  And we haven’t even begun to look at departure levels, which for Kiwi’s have been at their lowest levels in decades.

This means that, although New Zealanders only make up part of the equation when it comes to net migration, they are a significant group that needs to be considered in order to develop balanced immigration policies.

Mieke Welvaert is an economist at Infometrics, Wellington. This ariticle was first posted here. It is re-posted with permission.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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Seems as if we have a 3% change in our population every year. From the graph about half that number leave otherwise out cities and roads would be really congested.

Diversity is what is needed. So lets have a simple cap - the dept of immigration already has quotas for working-holiday visas - just put in a limit of say 4,000 (about 5% of the graphed figures) for all countries of origin. It couldn't stop the Kiwis returning but it would just hit four countries: China, UK, Australia and India.

Tricky article - or as Interest.co.nz calls it an ariticle

The grammar oscillates from Australians to Australian Citizens and Kiwis to NZ Citizens and Kiwiland

There can be a distinct difference to the grammatical meaning of an Australian and an Australian Citizen

An arrivée from Australia could be a new Australian with dual citizenship

A "kiwi" from Australia could be a "new New Zealander" who had obtained NZ citizenship, then moved to Australia, doing the back-door trick, tried settling there, and deciding it was not to their liking, returns to NZ as a returning kiwi

News out this week revealed that 50% of arrivees from UK are not born UK or are not caucasian anglos but sub-continentals

At the moment, not a few of them are people who in all practical terms are Australian, have lived most of their lives there, but for some reason never got citizenship, and are now being deported due to criminal convictions of varying degrees of severity.

Just dealing with those deportees from Australia is about as much as Immigration can cope with at the moment, because many have no family or support here, and haven't been able to prepare. The lucky ones are those in international motorcycle gangs who are looked after by the NZ chapters.

Read this article from NZ Herald yesterday
It is this type of behaviour that spoils it for the genuine kiwi and ruins our reputation
He didn't care. But, does he cares now? Doesn't look like it.

This guy meets your criteria of someone who was born in NZ but has lived most of his life in Australia. As a born in NZ he meets the criteria to be called a Kiwi but he is obviously not Maori and not Pakeha. His family is a back-door entry into NZ then back-door into Australia. This is why Australia closed its doors when NZ gave amnesty to 1000's of pacifika overstayers in 2001. He has made over $100,000 from his various crimes but will arrive back in NZ broke. NZ has to accept him and cannot deport him back to his roots

I'd go by my own Auckland street
Only two families remain that are born NZers
9 born & bred kiwi families now living in other countries since 2015
We even have an ex residents FB page

Who cares. We're all citizens of the world.


That's the difference DGZ - we who are born and bred do care

That's what I mean, we don't care if you care.

Comment of the year.


It's the bred part that is important. Breeding basically means training since birth. If you read the BBC article I linked to below you will see that Western Civilization developed a reasoning and caring population. This was largely achieved through training in the home, interaction with peers and schooling - a natural result of total immersion in a benign Western milieu. This is why immigration to the West is popular, because foreign parents want their own children to benefit from this too.

Not all.

Saw a Kiwi of Chinese descent complaining online the other week that many of her ilk are finding themselves scorned and criticised by Chinese new to the country for not being "real Chinese" or "Chinese enough" and for caring about silly things (like those you speak of). Are people criticising her like that definitely here to integrate?

Perhaps not so much to integrate as to take advantage of the benign social environment. Of course one would choose benign over malign. One complaint I have heard is that NZ is too benign, especially to those that refuse to work or make poor lifestyle choices. The feeling I get is that the vast majority are National supporters.. Would be interesting to do a poll.

I agree it's too benign in some ways. Met a young couple who were immigrating here and they had every intent of one of them going out of work and onto welfare after getting their permanent residency. Like...what the heck? It makes no sense for NZ to be a patsy to such folk.


You never disappoint. Nobody can utter more meaningless platitudes quite like you. Your one-eyed view of Western Civilization is magnificently Panglossian. Would this be the same civilization that brought us the inquisition,or took it to the not entirely grateful natives of S. America? How about the treatment of Ireland before and after the potato famine? Of course there is much to celebrate,but your entirely unbalanced view is just ridiculous. But then, I should expect no better,given your embrace of the Alt-Right.


Yes all citizens of the world. But Kiwis own a giant public infrastructure consisting of road, hospitals, schools, etc and we share ownership of fantastic national parks and we all contribute to our welfare state. In other words every Kiwi even the smallest baby or the eldest pensioner or the severely handicapped have a shared ownership of something significant.

Each immigrant is abandoning his own nations endowment and getting ours. Even if you are not proud to be a Kiwi and are embarrassed about our many mistakes and weaknesses you still have to admit you have a great inheritance. You are welcome to reject it and go and live abroad but why do you insist on giving it to foreigners unless they really deserve it?

Well put Bob!. Kiwi children have the infrastructure and landmass as their birthright. They also have opportunity as their birthright, The larger the population the more watered down the opportunity. The larger the population the more people to share the landmass and infrastructure with. Why do we give our childrens birthright away.

Interesting BBC article this morning:

How Western Civilization could collapse

Some quotes:

Unfortunately, some experts believe such tough decisions exceed our political and psychological capabilities.

True that.

“Western nations are not going to collapse, but the smooth operation and friendly nature of Western society will disappear, because inequity is going to explode,” Randers argues. “Democratic, liberal society will fail, while stronger governments like China will be the winners.”

Fascism will win?

Using reason and science to guide decisions, paired with extraordinary leadership and exceptional goodwill, human society can progress to higher and higher levels of well-being and development.

This seems at odds with the earlier note that we are incapable. I guess this means we all have to become Christ-like figures to make it work. Where are we going to find extraordinary leadership?
A problem I have is that human nature doesn't seem to work this way. After all look what happened to Jesus. Over the last century Western men have given up an extraordinary amount of power and privilege willingly and with good humour. Yet what do we get called for our efforts? Pale male and stale. Everyone should study King Lear or barnyard chickens.

Anyway something to think about when pondering New Zealand's future population. Perhaps we should only allow in people who believe in reason and science and possess exceptional goodwill? Not so silly but how do we test for it?

I think you're onto something, Zach. Not everyone is so benign and wishes to participate in a contributing manner in society. I do agree we're likely heading into a structurally quite different time in history to the past fifty years - likely including more dictatorial government in different shades, and perhaps a decline in democratic societies as they're taken advantage of and fail to defend their ideals early enough.

"Not so silly but how do we test for it"......therein lies the biggest problem of them all. Science does not lead it follows and most people cannot interpret peer-reviewed studies....how many people think a placebo in a drug trial is a sugar pill for instance? What if the placebo was not a sugar pill but e.g. another drug?...

Currently we have people from all walks of life making the claim that the science is settled on e.g. climate change and some even quote that 97% of scientists agree but everyone making these claims point blank refuses to look at the studies or the science so "reason" becomes a variable construct depending on beliefs.

Rome failed from Socialism.......the real stupidiy is following a failed system thinking we can get a different result. There is no doubt in my mind that the West is going to be different from now......the strongest power will win........it is up to the people to decide whether they will choose some group political agenda or protect individual rights......


Well said Bob A; the 'Global Citizen' is a nonsense construct of woolly intellectuals subsequently adopted and propagated to support global corporate power. We are one of the few countries with a chance of sorting the problems of our times. Our current immigration policies add no immediate benefit anyone except the immigrants and those employers who benefit from cheaper labour.
NZ First- they've been consistent about this forever; it's making a lot more sense to people now.

By now, people should have realised that Winston is and has been 10 years ahead of everyone else

"Citizens of the world" (Load of BS)
Beware of socialism, hang on to your guns!

Well said Ando. An example would be Winston Peters speech to the (Auckland) Chinese Communities and Associates back in July 2002 warning about unfettered immigration. The speech can be found on Scoop and is as relevant today as his current policies. Certainly has my vote.

Here it is - Good Article - Good Speech
Winston has been smeered and pilloried all along yet when looking back he has been correct but those who have done the smeering hold their position and never give a centimetre, never concede, never acknowledge