New Zealand's net migration hits new record

  • 14/03/2024

Annual net migration to New Zealand hit a record 133,800 in the past year, new data shows.

For the year ending January, Statistics NZ said migrant arrivals were up 91 percent. It also said migrant departures were up 30 percent.

Stats NZ said the majority of immigration was by citizens of India, with a 51,000 arrival increase in the year to January.

Citizens of the Philippines make up the second-biggest proportion of arrivals with 36,500, Stats NZ added.

The next three highest nationalities for immigration in the year to January were citizens of New Zealand, Fiji and South Africa, it said.

Finance Minister Nicola Willis has hinted the Government wants to make changes to immigration settings.

"When you break... down and look at what skill level the people on work visas are at, a lot of them are very, very low-skilled," she told last month's Economic Forum.

The high levels of net migration - a more than 114 percent increase on the 62,469 figure recorded at the same time in 2017 - illustrates the challenge Prime Minister Christopher Luxon faces to strike the right balance with immigration settings.

"I think the difficulty and the challenge I'm... seeing for migration is politicians often make pretty big decisions over the likes of migration policy that often aren't going to affect migration right here and now," Infometrics principal economist Brad Olsen told AM last month. "It might not even affect it for the next 12 months.

New Zealand's net migration hits new record

"It's still not particularly clear exactly what we want from migration... we don't have a particularly well-defined level of at what skills we're wanting because we seem to be debating high-skilled, low-skilled and otherwise."

Late last year, Opposition immigration spokesperson Phil Twyford said his Government, ousted from power in October, loosened immigration settings due to labour shortages. He noted National was "incessantly calling on Labour to loosen the rules" before the party entered office.

However, Twyford acknowledged in December the tightening of settings may now be required.

At the same time, Luxon said current levels of migration weren't sustainable. That's despite 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".