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If you can't beat 'em, join 'em - Kiwis heading for Aussie again

Friday 23rd April 2010

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Long term migration from New Zealand to Australia is on the rise again as the West Island's stronger economy becomes increasingly attractive to the weak local recovery.

Seasonally adjusted figures prepared by ASB chief economist Jane Turner suggest that while the total number of Kiwis crossing the Ditch is still lower than it was in early 2009, it has jumped 36% from a low-point last October.

"The number of (long term) departures halved during the recession," said Turner. Having averaged around 4200 long term departures to Australia before the global financial crisis, and falling to an average 2100 during last year's recession, the monthly seasonally adjusted average was now around 3000 a month - the highest for 12 months.

The analysis follows release of the March International Travel and Migration statistics by Statistics New Zealand, which also showed continued strong growth in short and tourism visitors from Australia, and an encouraging pick-up in arrivals from Korea and China.

Total visitor arrivals were up 7% to 226,500, seasonally unadjusted, in the month of March, while the number of New Zealanders leaving on overseas trips last month was up 13% to 142,700, compared with March 2009.

However, total long term migration for the year to March showed a net gain of 21,000 people for New Zealand, driven largely by 18,000 fewer departures during the March 2010 year than a year earlier, while the 84,300 permanent and long term arrivals in the year to March represented a 5% decline on the year to March 2009.

"The net PLT migration gain of 21,000 in the March 2010 year was higher than the annual average of 11,900 for the December years 1990-2009," Statistics New Zealand said.

Goldman Sachs JBWere economist Philip Borkin said net migration continued to support the recovery in the New Zealand economy, but that it would moderate to around a net gain of 10,000 a year by early 2011 "based on a larger number of departures to Australia".

Year on year growth of 20% in short term visitors from Australia was strong, as was a 43% jump in Korean arrivals.

"As the impact of swine flu (in 2009) drops out, the annual growth comparisons for some asian countries are expected to look quite healthy," said Borkin. The weakness of the New Zealand dollar against its Australian counterpart would continue to encourage Australians to holiday here, although the strength of the Kiwi against British pounds, US dollars and the euro could damp arrivals from those important tourism markets.

Trips to Samoa were up 9%, or 3700, over the year to March, possibly reflecting heavy promotion of Samoa as a holiday destination. Visits from New Zealand to India and South Africa were up 10% and 19% respectively, reflecting family visits rather than increased tourism.

New Zealanders travelling to Australia recovered only slightly, up 1% over the year, representing an increase of 5,700, and only partially making up for a drop of 33,400 in the March 2009 year, compared with a year earlier.

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