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NZ annual net migration continues to cool in September as more Kiwis eye exit

Friday 20th October 2017

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New Zealand's annual net inflow of new migrants continued to cool in September as the lure of Australia starts attracting local residents across the Tasman. 

Annual net migration was 71,000 in September, still up from the 70,000 net inflow a year earlier, but extending the slowdown from a peak in July, Statistics New Zealand said. Of that, annual permanent and long-term arrivals rose 5 percent to 131,600 from a year earlier, while departures climbed 9 percent to 60,600. 

"Our forecasts have incorporated a slowdown in net migration for some time, with earlier strength in arrivals expected to be followed by a lift in departures," Westpac Banking Corp senior economist Satish Ranchhod said in a note. "We’re now seeing this occurring." 

New Zealand's inflow of new migrants was latched on to by political parties in the September general election, with the final decision on which bloc would form government announced yesterday. NZ First leader Winston Peters is backing a Labour-led executive and told reporters yesterday he expected "fewer people coming here". 

Today's data continue a trend of slowing net migration, with the seasonally adjusted figures showing a monthly inflow of 5,190 in the month of September, the smallest intake since June 2015. 

"The annual net migration in September 2017 was lower than the record annual net migration of 72,400 reached in the July 2017 year," population statistics senior manager Peter Dolan said in a statement. "Compared to this peak, we had fewer arrivals and more departures in the September 2017 year."

Net migration figures had been bolstered by a reluctance of Kiwis to shift across the Tasman as Australia's economy went through a downturn and New Zealanders lost access to certain government supports. However, today's figures show an annual net outflow to Australia of 66 people in September, the first annual net outflow since September 2015. The number of people moving to New Zealand from Australia shrank 3 percent in the year to Sept. 30 from a year earlier, while departures rose 5.2 percent. 

ASB Bank senior economist Mark Smith said in a note that the "improving Australian labour market, if sustained, could further slow net immigration via triggering increased PLT (permanent long-term) departures across the ditch."

Today's figures also show tourism remains robust, with annual visitor arrivals up 9 percent to 3.68 million in the year ended Sept. 30. That was driven by a 5.9 percent gain in visitors from Australia to 1.47 million, while Chinese visitors increased an annual 0.6 percent to 407,700. US visitors were the third-biggest pool for visitors, up 18 percent in the year to 319,500, followed by the UK which increased an annual 14 percent to 246,000. 

ASB's Smith said visitor arrivals keeping posting "new annual record highs and reflect a booming market for inbound tourism."

(BusinessDesk)

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