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Upbeat RWC tourist numbers mask first annual net outflow of kiwis in a decade

Tuesday 22nd November 2011

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A bigger than expected flow of tourists arriving for the Rugby World Cup in October helped mask the first annual net outflow of New Zealanders leaving the country for good in a decade.

There were 103 more permanent departures in the year ended Oct. 31, according to Statistics New Zealand, the first annual net outflow since September 2001. Still, on a monthly basis, there was a net inflow of 824 people coming to reside permanently in New Zealand.

The bulk of the outflow came from an exodus of almost 49,500 people ditching New Zealand for Australia, with just 14,500 coming the other way. New migrants from other nations failed to make up the 35,000 shortfall, with new UK expatriate arrivals extending its annual decline.

That comes as the National-led government’s 2008 promise to stem the brain drain to Australia comes under scrutiny, with the number of kiwis jumping the ditch accelerating under Prime Minister John Key’s watch, at an average of 25,000 people a year, compared to an average 21,500 under the previous administration.

Australia managed to dodge a recession in the shadow of the global financial crisis, relying on its minerals boom to keep the economy ticking over and underpin better wages than New Zealand. In recent months that has led to a two-speed economy across the Tasman as service-centric states struggle to keep pace with commodity-rich Western Australia.

That takes some of the sheen of the stronger-than-expected short-term arrivals on the back of the Rugby World Cup, with some 53,200 people arriving in October for the tournament. That takes the total number of visitors to 133,200 for the event between July and October, trumping the expected 95,000 arrivals flagged by government officials.

Short-term arrivals rose to 215,900 in October from 184,900 a year earlier.

Government data for spending on electronic cards showed a pick-up from the sporting tournament, and third-quarter retail spending volumes grew faster than expected amid the inflow of tourists arriving in New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup. The Reserve Bank forecast the event would inject $700 million, though it was unsure as to the net benefit of the tournament.

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