More people are leaving New Zealand for a long term life in Australia and the trend is keeping the country’s population lower than it was last year, data reveals.

The population gain from migration continued has bounced back from a low point in June, but was down on a year earlier as more people left for Australia, figures from Statistics New Zealand (SNZ) show.

Seasonally adjusted net permanent and long-term migration was 1,100 in September, higher than the 900 in July and August but well below the 1,800 in January. The lowest point in 2010 was 200 in June.

The rebound from July to September was due to a recovery in the number of people arriving on a permanent and long term basis, while the number of seasonally adjusted departures had remained around 6,100 since May, SNZ said.

Unadjusted migration arrivals outnumbered departures by 2,500 in September, down from 3,100 a year earlier. That change was due to 900 more departures, including an increase of 800 to Australia, while arrivals lifted by 300, including 200 more from India.

SNZ recorded net migration of 13,900 in the year to September, down from 17,000 a year earlier. The 82,400 permanent and long term arrivals in the latest year were down 6% from the September 2009 year, while the 68,500 departures were down 2%, the figures also show.

One reason for the flight to Australia is thought to be the fact that Australia’s economy is showing more resilience than New Zealand’s. Of the 5,547 departures last month, 2,873 went to Australia.

‘Slowing net migration is factor contributing to weak demand for new housing and weak retail spending growth. We expect that net migration will remain subdued for the time being and a key factor in household sector being less of a driver of growth in the current economic recovery,’ said Jane Turner, economist at ASB.

European arrivals continued to taper off last month, with Asian migrants, especially Indians, taking their place.

The figures also show that tourist numbers increased 3% to 226,500 last month from a year earlier, led by an increasing volume of Chinese and Korean visitors. Chinese visitors hit a new record of 14,900.

Australian tourists, who have been driving the industry over the past two years due to New Zealand’s relatively cheap holidays on offer, held at 96,225 in November, and some 1.21 million people have come from Australia in the 12 months ending in November. British visitors continued to decline, falling 7.8% to an annual 237,900, as did American tourists that dropped 1.6% to 191,900 in the year.