Record numbers moving to live and work in New Zealand, with big rise in British expats

by Ray Clancy on February 9, 2017

More people are making a new life in New Zealand than ever before with official figures showing that more than 70,600 people settled in the year to December 2016.

The data from Statistics New Zealand shows that this beat the previous annual record set a month earlier with the increase coming from people moving to the country to work but fewer students are arriving.

‘The increase in migrant arrivals was driven by an increase in people arriving with work visas. This more than offset a decrease in student arrivals in 2016,’ said Statistics New Zealand population statistics manager Jo-Anne Skinner.

The number of visitor arrivals rose by 12 percent to new heights of almost 3.5 million, while New Zealanders took an all-time high of 2.62 million trips overseas during the year.

People taking holidays made up more than half of the visits in 2016, but monthly totals have declined gradually for four successive months, indicating migration rates may have plateaued.

A net number of 6,010 people settled in the country in December, a slight decline from November, but economists expect numbers to remain robust. ‘Total arrivals were only just below 11,000 and held around the six month average, indicating there is no sign yet of a slowdown in those wanting to come to New Zealand,’ said ASB economist Daniel Snowden.

Visa rules have become tougher in New Zealand, particularly for students and skilled workers and while this may have impacted on the number of international students, it has not prevented people wanting to work in the country.

The New Zealand Government has a policy of welcoming professional workers and its policy states that immigration benefits the economy although there have been some concerns voiced about the impact of a growing population on housing, education and social care.

The highest number of new immigrants during 2016 were from Australia with 26,000 making the journey to live and work in New Zealand. Some 10,310 arrived from China, a rise of 16% compared to 2015 and there were 8,900 from India, a fall of 33% and 5,600 from the UK, a year on year rise of 54%.

‘The past year has seen a marked lift in arrivals from the UK, up nearly 2,000 people on last year’s levels, and China. The increase in arrivals is mainly due to more people coming on work or residency visa, which has offset a decline in the number of international students,’ said Satish Ranchhod, senior economist at Westpac.

She also pointed out that the level of departures of New Zealand citizens is currently at very low levels, while the number of New Zealanders returning from offshore has risen steadily and these trends are expected to continue for some time.

‘New Zealand’s positive economic story, including its labour market, is making it a very attractive destination. We expect net migration inflows to remain strong for some time,’ she added.

Of the new migrants who arrived in the year, some 33,900, or 48%, settled in Auckland, followed by 9.6% in Canterbury, 5.2% in Wellington and 3.9% in Waikato.

Overall 41,600 work visas were granted in 2016, a rise of 10% with accountants the biggest category while student visas fell by 12% to 24,600. Residence visas increased by 18% to 16,500.

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