New Zealand residents have been leaving the country at a greater pace than they have been arriving back

New Zealand residents have been leaving the country at a greater pace than they have been arriving back

People hoping that returning New Zealanders would lift demand for housing and boost the property market are likely to be disappointed, at least for the time being.

That's because more people are leaving the country than are arriving.

The latest Statistics NZ figures show that 5662 people arrived in this country in May, down slightly from 6256 in April and hugely down from the 461,656 that arrived in May last year.

But that gain was more than cancelled out by the 10,231 people who left the country in May, giving a net loss of 4609 people.

That comes on top of net losses of 25,719 in April and 58,802 in March.

Of course most of those people leaving would have been tourists or other short term visitors, however even when they are discounted, more New Zealand residents are leaving the country than are arriving.

In May 2626 New Zealand residents arrived in the country while 3057 departed, giving a net loss of 431 New Zealand residents.

That followed a net loss of 578 in April.

And of course some of the NZ residents returning to this country may not be intending to stay permanently, so their longer term need for housing and impact on the economy may be less than expected.

At the same time, immigration has practically dried up, with COVID-19 regulations restricting entry to the country to returning New Zealand residents, with a few exceptions.

Statistics NZ estimates that there was a net population gain from long term migration of 357 people in May and only three in April.

That compares with a net gain of 2754 in May last year.

Of course the numbers are volatile and could change quite quickly.

Statistics NZ said their provisional data for June showed that total arrivals were likely to have increased to more than 9000, but we don't know yet how many of those were NZ residents or how many NZ residents departed during the month.

With border restrictions unlikely to be lifted any time soon, not just in this country but in Australia as well, normal migration patterns are likely to remain disrupted for some time.

The comment stream on this story is now closed.

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?

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.

67 Comments

46
up

Ooof! I wish we could see the demographic breakdown of these groups!

But also, the narrative of tidal waves of Kiwis returning and needing to buy houses is so strong in the MSM and from some comments on this website too. But the data just doesn't support that. Cognitive dissonance abounds for the property market.

12
up

Wishful thinking gingerninja. I think the current government does not want you to know. Because you might think "wrong thoughts"

It would be interesting to know how many of the returning passport holders were not originally citizens. Also the age profiles of all returnees. Which nations were the last residence. Also how long people were away. Etcetc

They have the data. It's just not revealed. An immediate family member migrated to Australia in the 1980's returning 2010's after 30 years absence. Buying a property and requiring an IRD number , the Inland Revenue was all over it wanting to know if the family member was the same person as one at a particular 1980's address. Yep they have it alright

A quick search here http://archive.stats.govt.nz/infoshare/ reveals that all of that data is publicly available

You'll find all the data stats makes available if you click on Tourism and then International Travel and Migration

Thankyou buyandhold

11
up

Now who would you believe? A relatively unknown, small website with lots of difficult words and all sorts of numbers, or the Facebook comments under stuff's FOMO articles?

But also, the narrative of tidal waves of Kiwis returning and needing to buy houses is so strong in the MSM and from some comments on this website too.

Saw the narrative on Linkedin too.

Exactly, the housing lobby always comes up with new and more imaginative narratives to support the housing bubble, once immigration and under supply have been obviously exposed they brought this ridiculous idea of Kiwis returning by the millions with pockets full of fresh cash, when in reality it's been an irrelevant number of returns to influence anything and most will already have some type of accommodation sorted in one way or another.

37
up

The narrative of loads of cashed up kiwis returning home is BS, cooked up by the usual suspects.

The usual suspects being Labour and their lackeys trying to sell NZ as a post-apocalypse utopia for those seeking refuge from the "deadly" virus.

Grant Robertson has said on countless occasions that we are likely to get a larger chunk of the global talent and international student markets once we reopen our borders. We clearly have the industries and infrastructure to support the ambitions of high-skilled workers within our borders.

One highly skilled workers tax covers 4 Kiwi pensions. And NZ didn't spend a dime raising that person as a child. I'm not advocating a flood of immigrants, but it's a bit rich going for the high-skilled workers. Would National prefer the marriage/student route, direct to working in a petrol station or supermarket?

13
up

Wasn't going off on high-skilled workers - if that's what you got from my comment.

Successive governments have lacked practicality on the topic of skilled migration, believing NZ has enough to attract high-skilled workers. Our politicians and media talk big on "export" education when most of us are aware that its just a doorway to permanent migration for those who can't make it in better markets.

Now, policymaker and employers are relying on the virus to magically improve the skill mix of incoming migrants. Our immigration system prefers volume over value, and so do our industries; we need to change that first and foremost.
Do we really have high-skilled workers in mind when we set the income threshold for permanency at 53k a year? Does someone at 55k a year with a wife and 2 kids pay enough taxes to cover those costs and still pay for 4 Kiwi pensioners?

11
up

Yeah - I can see where you're coming from and can't argue with that. Wife and I are skilled migrants, and a financial modeller friend calculated my quote about pension (hence my defensiveness). But $53k/year is fairly outrageous to be classed as highly skilled, at least from an international arrivals perspective.

I've high school friends who got into NZ through the backdoor, offering no skills to NZ. He now works in a supermarket. It seemed they had a much easier and faster time of it too, in regards to immigration. It's not a great message to send out.

15
up

You mean that one worker pays taxes for his wife, his two kids, his mother, and his sister, all of whom are now residing in NZ off the back of one work visa. That's just my next door neighbour.

10
up

Another anecdote to add to the above examples. An indian acquaintance came to NZ on student visa to study a near useless horticulture course; continuously extended his visa over 6 or more years working in kiwifruit orchards; worked enough hours to meet his residency target earning threshold, then working for cash for dodgy indian horticultural contractors on top; attempted to fake one relationship with a Kiwi citizen which immigration saw through; subsequently granted residency on the basis of working as a part time hospital orderly while still doing under the table cash work in kiwifruit; and very soon after gaining residency imports new arranged marriage wife and child and one set of parents all from India (under the later stages of the previous National government). So NZ inherited one unskilled worker, one unskilled non-english speaking housewife, one child not born in NZ and 2 future pensioners who will not pay any tax (or be employable) and very unlikely to ever learn or speak english.

Immigration policy in this example is a key reason I cannot vote again for the National Party in the forseeable future. What is the National Party policy position on immigration, NZ population growth, and the international student (import) industry? Is National's Party's policy position on these issues materially different from when in power pre-2017? Does the National Party acknowledge its previous mistakes? If National Party is wins election in 2017, will it continue its failed policies of unfettered immigration of low/non skilled 3rd world labour (and associated family hangers-on) into NZ?

Unfortunately I have plenty of similar anecdotes. Let’s not forget during National‘s tenure they decided it was a good idea to stop due diligence on submitted documentation “to boost the numbers” causing loads of unsavoury characters to fraudulently obtain their visas.

There should be no conversion of student visa to residence visa on any grounds ever. Our immigration laws should be changed immediately. They may get work visa, that too for maximum 3 to 5 years only. NZ should have a Green Card system like the USA for conversion of work visa to residency with strict conditions, documents, proof, etc. Also with quota for different countries. Wish Winston would look at something like this.

Well said. I won't be voting for them either. As soon as National allowed foreign students to work (2013 or 2014 I think), it changed everything. Sure it propped the economy up but it screwed the housing market for young people, along with our infrastructure, our hospitals and our schools. That's the first policy that should be changed. You want to study here, you fund yourself and then you leave. If you're worth of staying as a highly skilled applicant, i.e. Degree Level then that could be assessed on it's merits.

If they are returning, they are probably more likely to be fair-weather kiwis that have been wiped out by the job losses. The ones staying away to weather the storm overseas will be the ones with high-paying jobs that can work from home, or the ones from substantial savings (from the said high paying jobs)

51
up

Reading this brings me true joy.

The population ponzi scheme has been brought to an abrupt halt.

Let's hope it stays this way.

Me too!! Hope it continues long enough for supply to catch up with demand. Families everywhere are desparate for affordable rentals.

There's been oversupply for a while, but it is just a matter of perception created by the media with vested interest.

Let's hope it stays this way

It's going to bite everyone in the ass. Not just those who've been feeding directly off it.

Mmmmmm ass feeders.

30
up

For a moment I read it as 'There are still more MPs leaving National than arriving'.

29
up

Our housing market is starting to show parallels to Ireland in '08.

Migration + Supply Shortage = Extreme Prices

Migration ends + construction continues at pace = undersupply quickly becomes oversupply

11
up

Especially when you consider the potential for supply of existing houses to come onto the market i.e. ex-AirBnB, rentals if 60k foreign students aren't returning etc.

I believe Joe Wilkes was calling the Ireland comparison 2018/9 and has a DFA post comparing the economies.

Interesting! Will listen to that on my commute later. You are correct, dated November 17, 2018

18
up

I dont see this as any surprise. NZ is a damned expensive placed to live now. If a family have lost a job and have a choice on where to be NZ isnt going to be top of the list. With the sheer volume of folks on wage support or taking pay cuts it seems entirely logical that net outflow should occur.

Japanese people stayed together to rebuild their homes in case of difficulties. We need to know which groups of people are loyal to this country for future immigration policies.

11
up

Great news....but just watch our politicians succumb too business send the sos out to very impoverished country with an invitation for pile on over.

With subsidies ending and thus unemployment rising later this year, that will be a tough sell.

I think some of those numbers need a quick correction

"hugely down from the 461,656 that arrived in May last year."

I'm not sure what you mean Carlos67. The 461,656 figure is correct.

16
up

Dear Jacinda,
It would appear we have enough unemployed people to fill all the job vacancies in NZ Inc for quite some time. If these unfortunates are not the right sort of skilled people, can I suggest you raise the standards of our education system so we can get these folk into full time work.
Failing that, you could stop the taxpayer funded breeding programmes of these unfortunates in the first place, which I'm sure my fellow taxpayers would be thrilled about.
Yours sincerely,
LJM

...... and stop raising the min wage thereby overpricing these under skilled labour units.

A lower minimum wage would mean even less incentive to work. Plus people on minimum wage are already struggling.

14
up

We wouldn't need to raise minimum wage if living costs weren't so ridiculous

No to the contrary, the higher minimum wages doesn't provide the job for him/her to even apply for, the machine gets the job instead

You get it, the lefties don’t. A unit of labour only has a value based on what it can produce, not on what govt decrees.

Taxes don't pay for anything they only delete currency. The government creates new currency when it spends, spending comes first and taxing and borrowing occur afterwards. The private sector will never provide jobs for everybody no matter how qualified or educated they are so the government should step in with a job guarantee for those that cannot find work.

Dear editor, is reference to "breeding" programmes seen as civilised discourse on here?
Seems like troll speak Right wing eugenics to me

10
up

Nah, it’s a fair call. It’s like dog breeding. We get careful responsible owners who breed for love of the dog. Then we get puppy farms who breed for cash. If you think that’s right wing whatever, I suggest you spend a day or two with a front line cyf’s case worker. Shocking as it might seem to middle case nz, it’s true.

"People hoping that returning New Zealanders would lift demand for housing and boost the property market are likely to be disappointed, at least for the time being."

Then why has the housing market been so robust? Prices have been pretty eye-watering for decent stock in Auckland's leafy central suburbs.

10
up

Hello? Where have you been for the last 4 months?
Radical cuts to interest rates, wage subsidies, mortgage holidays - everything to kick the can further down the road and hide the true impact of Covid for as long as possible.

Low interest rates are a deadly trap. Whenever interest rates rise it will wipe a local FHB out who buys now

Which is why if we buy soon (we are looking), we would get 5 year interest rates for most of the loan. The difference between rates on 1-5 years isn't enough considering the risk factor of huge interest rate rises (which probably won't eventuate, but there is a chance).

10
up

How long do I have to keep repeating that a "market" does not refer solely to "price rise??"
It refers (go to one) people buying and selling.
When NZ as a whole sees 41% fewer sales in 4m than in 2019, one can fairly reflect that the market is not in a good way.
Rich folk buying above $1.5m is one market.
People needing debt to fund purchase is another.
Can people please start segmentally analysing the market instead of mindless generalisation

I think its far more likely that returning Kiwi's are those made unemployed overseas and who can't get welfare so they are forced to return home. They will simply be added to the pile of unemployed here. And the queue for emergency housing. If you are under 65 and still have a job in Australia or the UK why would you leave? The virus doesnt affect the young, and once here you are trapped in the country unable to leave. At least in the UK you can still travel everywhere as borders are no longer closed and there are no quarantine requirements.

The returnees are coming from everywhere, for diffferent reasons, and really are a very small number compared to previous years. Without any clear information, it's impossible to generalise. A more interesting statistic is at the Croaking Cassandra blog where Michael Reddell calculated that there was something around 100,000 more people here now than this time last year. That is likely to be accounted for by snowbirds staying put. These are people who are likely to be occupying their own homes, so no real increase in demand there. The idea that these returnees are some sort of "brain gain" who are bringing back money to buy houses is just silly. Anyone prescient enough to have sold up in anticipation of this shambles occurring is likely to be rare. As you point out, many will be people who have lost their jobs and have been left high and dry. They won't be house buyers.

10
up

Quite so.

When the data is made available on returnees, we'll no doubt see that the vast majority are coming back from Australia - where they've lost jobs and have no access to the social security net.

So why wouldn't you hop onto a short flight back home to NZ - have a free two week hotel stay, then claim everything you can until Australia rights itself and you then go back to sunning on the gold coast?

I don't know what annoys me more, these freeloading fly-by-nighters or the Australian government that's happy to take their taxes, but then refuses to provide any welfare support... and on top of that just exports them back at the drop of a hat.

In my view NZ should just mirror those policies I reckon - no welfare payments for non-citizens (especially Australians) and deport any non-citizens who commit crime.

11
up

So, net loss in March, April and May is 83,000.
Can those who persistently cite population increase as a driver of house prices please refer to what LOGICALLY, the opposite phenomenon should produce ??
Also, perhaps the news media would like to stop quoting BS about "returning kiwis" flood when it is plainly no such thing.

Returning work visa holders. Returning to what work baffles me

Some of them will be partners. You tend to start on a work visa before you can get a residence visa (after proof of relationship).

I agree the media have probably ran away with this story but I have to say the whole itching to know the demographics on returning New Zealanders feels a bit Tall Poppy-ish if you ask me. Citizenship is a right and even if you have been overseas you have the right to come home if you wish - regardless of you were born as a New Zealander or became one after immigrating and ones socio-economic situation or reasons for returning are irrelevant.

Oh gosh no. I don't suffer any tall poppy syndrome, i love to see intelligent, hard working people thrive. I believe it's good for our entire society. I would like to know the demographic of the returning citizens to counter the MSM narrative on "cashed up expats" returning to fire up the property market, which I am highly sceptical about. Not because I am butt hurt who citizens might be. If anything I suspect that many of the returning citizens are probably Kiwis in their teens and 20s and would worry that they will be faced with poor employment opportunities over the next few years.

From people I know none of the well established (high earning) people overseas have even considered coming home. But do know a few people in their 20's (in service/hospitality industries) who got laid off as soon as covid hit and had no resources to stay overseas. Now living with friends/parents... not likely to be buying homes anytime soon.

That's my experience too.

With lockdown occurring in March there may be a large number of NZers arriving in Dec/Jan.

Gosh. Kiwis leaving at a steady pace. I wonder if they are going to the West Island Mines to earn four times what they can in these New Stone Age lands. I know, let's plant some more pine trees....

Better still, let's plant some more pine trees, sell them to furriners and then pay the furriners a tax each year so that they don't cut them down, so as we get to breath the fresh air they produce. Can't have to much air, after all. Our kids will love us and will happily pay the tax for us, forever. How's that for a cunning plan, eh?

I am confused. I thought in May our border was shut? Who were the 3036 non-residents who came to NZ and what was their business?

Buying houses is my guess.

"WE" will never know - "WE" will never be told

Resident being the key word. I’d be worried if it was citizen. My partner is a resident but classes herself as a Fijian. Calling a resident a kiwi is like calling kiwi an Aussie

Your access to our unique content is free - always has been. But ad revenues are under pressure so we need your direct support.

Become a supporter

Thanks, I'm already a supporter.