New Zealand's annual net migration has fallen further into the negatives, new data from Statistics New Zealand show.
The figures, which were released on Thursday, show a net migration loss of 7300 people in the year ended March 2022 - the lowest net migration since 2012.
It follows a loss of 1700 people in 2021, and a record net gain of 91,700 in 2020.
Statistics NZ population indicators manager Tehseen Islam said COVID-19 related travel and border restrictions are to blame for disrupted migration patterns.
"Migrant arrivals have dropped to levels seen in the mid-1980s and migrant departures have dropped to levels seen in the mid-1990s," Islam said.
New Zealand's net migration has had ups and downs in the past, with the last period of annual losses taking place from late-2010 to mid-2013.
Statistics NZ said migration gains or losses are typically due to a combination of factors, including the economy, labour conditions and immigration policies.
Non-citizens driving loss
Non-citizens are driving the loss with 33,300 leaving while just 23,900 arrived - a net loss of 9400.
For citizens, 22,200 arrived and 20,100 left - a net gain of 2100. But overall the country is down more than 7000.
"We continue to see a reversal of historical patterns, with the net loss of non-New Zealand citizens, and net gains of New Zealand citizens," Islam said.
"However, the net gain of 2100 New Zealand citizens in the March 2022 year was down from a net gain of 16,000 in the March 2021 year, due to an increase in those departing overseas long term, and fewer arriving long term."
The migration loss of non-citizens was smaller than the March 2021 year, mostly due to an increase in those arriving long term.
Young adults driving the loss
While there was an overall net migration gain of citizens, young people are the exception.
The data shows a net migration loss of 1800 citizens aged between 18 to 27 years old. This is compared with small net gains in the March 2020 and 2021 years.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual net loss of New Zealand citizens was driven by those in their late teens and twenties.
Most of the net loss of non-citizens was also younger people aged between 18 to 33.
This is similar to the March 2021 year. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, this age group was a strong contributor to net migration gains of non-citizens.
'Kiwis continue to fly the coop"
The ACT Party responded to the statistics saying Labour's "lock em down, lock em out, borrow, print and spend approach to COVID-19" was to blame.
"Labour's chickens have come home to roost. By locking the economy down and borrowing $50 billion they have left us with a mountain of debt and rising prices. Kiwis are finding it difficult to make ends meet and are heading offshore for a better chance of getting ahead in life," leader David Seymour said.
"Now we're seeing changes at the border but it's too little too late. We've already gained the reputation of a hermit kingdom overseas and are becoming less and less attractive as a destination.
"Our productivity has grown by just 2.6 per cent since 2017, leaving us behind parts of the former Soviet Union, and 31 per cent lower than the UK. Our GDP per person is now closer to former communist countries like the Czech Republic than Australia."
Seymour hit out at the Government accusing it of "sleepwalking to a point where hard work is not rewarded and getting ahead is a fantasy".
"What is Labour's plan to increase wages, except for increasing welfare and raising the minimum wage?
"We need real change to turn the decline around and make our country the preferred destination for ideas, talent and investment," he said.