More people are leaving New Zealand, with the latest official figures showing that annual net migration was down 8,800 to 63,300 in the 12 months to August 2018, the lowest for the month since 2015.

Net migration is continuing to ease from the record high of 72,400 in the year ended July 2017 and August’s figures were the lowest annual rate for the month since 2015, according to the figures from Statistics New Zealand.

‘The number of migrant arrivals in August was only slightly lower than in August 2017, so it was the increase in the number of departures that led to the fall in net migration,’ said population insights senior manager Brooke Theyers.

‘This is consistent with what we’ve seen in previous months, with the fall in net migration being driven more by increases in migrant departures than decreases in migrant arrivals,’ she added.

Migrant departures for New Zealand citizens were up 600 for the year ended August 2018, to 34,200. Of these, 20,900 were to Australia. This increase in departures was accompanied by a fall in the number of citizens returning to New Zealand from Australia, which led to a net outflow of 1,200 migrants.

‘New Zealand’s net migration with Australia is typically negative so dropping below zero is not unusual. Historically, New Zealand citizen departures have been much higher. For example, in 2012 there were 48,700 New Zealand citizens who departed to Australia, which led to a net migrant loss of 40,000,’ Theyers explained.

Both 2016 and 2017 had small positive net migration gains with Australia, due to low numbers of New Zealand citizen departures and record numbers of New Zealand citizens arriving, that is expats returning home.

From November 2018, travellers leaving New Zealand will no longer need to complete a passenger departure card. This change means the outcomes based measure of migration, first released in May 2017, will be fully adopted.

A separate set of data from Statistics New Zealand shows that visitor numbers for August 2018 were up 5.4% year on year. There were 246,700 visitor arrivals in August 2018, some 12,700 more than for August 2017.

The biggest changes were visitors from Australia up 3,100 to 114,400, visitors from China up 2,300 to 31,500 and visitors from Malaysia up 1,200 to 5,600 and overall arrivals from the Asia region increased the most, up 5,100 or 7.6% from August 2017.

The data also shows that changes in other regions. Visitors from Oceania were up 5,000 or 4.1%, numbers from the Americas were up 1,700 or 9.7%, from Europe up 600 or 2.8% and from Africa and the Middle East up 200 or 6.7%.

For the year ended August 2018, visitor arrivals were up 133,100 or 3.6% to 3.8 million. Visitors arrive in New Zealand from all over the globe, but more come from Australia than anywhere else. Australia accounted for 39% of all visitor arrivals in the August 2018 year.