New Zealand's net migration hits record high again

  • 12/12/2023
Arrivals lounge.
The country's levels of legal migration have been back in the political news cycle this week. Photo credit: Getty Images

Annual net migration to New Zealand has hit a record high of more than 128,000, new data shows.

The country's levels of legal migration have been back in the political news cycle this week, with new Prime Minister Christopher Luxon saying the current levels weren't sustainable.

That's despite Luxon pledging before October's election to boost migration - saying his National Party wanted "the world's best talent to be able to come here to New Zealand".  

In the year to October, Statistics NZ's net migration figure of 128,900 was up from 125,222 in September.

Stats NZ said the majority of immigration was from India, the Philippines, China, Fiji and South Africa.

Luxon said on Monday the Government was walking into an immigration system "that's been a complete hash".

"It's gone from being way too restrictive to being way too loose and we've got to find that balance," he told RNZ's Morning Report.

The high levels of migration - more than double October 2017 levels - illustrated the challenge Luxon faced given the labour shortages New Zealand suffered post-COVID.

"We've never seen these sort of level of arrivals and net migration gain ever in our history, and it is contributing significantly to our population growth," Massey University sociologist Paul Spoonley told RNZ last week. "My calculation is that we will grow by around 2.5 percent this year, which is really high... the problem is, how do we provide the services and infrastructure when our population continues to grow?"

Stats NZ said the number of non-New Zealand citizens who arrived in the past year was 173,400.

Opposition Immigration spokesperson Phil Twyford said the former Government loosened settings due to labour shortages and noted National was "incessantly calling on Labour to loosen the rules" before the party entered office.

However, Twyford acknowledged on Monday the tightening of settings may now be required.

New Zealand's net migration hits record high again

International visitors near 80 percent of pre-COVID levels

New Zealand welcomed more than 200,000 visitors for a fourth consecutive month in October, according to data released on Tuesday alongside the net migration figures.

The number of foreign visitors in October was at 225,979, the Stats NZ data showed, up slightly from 224,909 in September.

Visitor numbers were at 79.6 percent of pre-COVID levels.

New Zealand relaxed its strict COVID-19 border restrictions last May when it resumed travel for vaccinated tourists before scrapping remaining controls in July 2022.

Tourism has since bounced back, with arrivals peaking at 364,716 last December.

On a yearly basis, more than 2.8 million visitors arrived in New Zealand in the 12 months to October - up 1.98 million from the previous year.