Number of Kiwis leaving for Australia halves in eight years

The number of Kiwis leaving to make a new life in Australia has halved in the past eight years.

New figures from Statistics NZ show about 31,300 people migrated across the Tasman in the year to June 2019 - down from 62,800 in the year to June 2012. 

And 27,600 made the reverse journey - for a net outflow of 3600 people, a near-record low. 

"Although New Zealand traditionally loses more people to Australia than it gains, the latest net flows to Australia are small by historical standards," said population insights senior analyst Kim Dunstan.

In contrast, 2012 saw a net outflow of 43,500.

Eighty percent of those moving to Australia in the year to June 2019 were New Zealand citizens, but only two-thirds of those moving from Australia to New Zealand. 

New Zealand lost an increasing number of people to Australia each year through the 2000s, with the National Party at the time running billboards saying "wave goodbye to higher taxes, not your loved ones". But after a brief dip, departures continued to grow - peaking in 2012 before rapidly tumbling.

The new figures on population loss to Australia are the first released since New Zealand got rid of departure cards. Australia also got rid of theirs in 2017. 

"There is no existing New Zealand data source that tells us the destination of migrant departures," said Dunstan. "However, we've collaborated with our Australian colleagues to publish a new series of migrant departures to Australia."

He said the old system - which measured people's intentions, not what they actually ended up doing - underestimated both departures and arrivals.

This didn't affect the estimated net migration statistics however, as they balanced out, the newer data shows.

Migration to and from Australia since 2004.
Migration to and from Australia since 2004. Photo credit: Statistics NZ

Net migration from the rest of the world in the year to June 2019 was 50,900 - down from the record 66,600 set in 2016. Statistics NZ says recent drops have been driven by expiring temporary work and student visas issued since 2014.

Overall, taking into account our loss to Australia, net migration was at 47,300.