NZ records first non-citizen migrant loss since 1970s

Annual migrant departures have exceeded migrant arrivals among non-New Zealand citizens for the first time since the late 1970s, according to the latest figures from Stats NZ.

In the February 2021 year, a provisional net loss of 1400 non-New Zealand citizens and a net gain of 18,900 New Zealand citizens made up an overall annual net migration gain of just 17,400.

That’s down from a net migration peak of around 85,000 in the year to February 2020 – a figure which reflected a surge of returnees due to the emerging pandemic.

“Historically, New Zealand has had an annual net migration gain of non-New Zealand citizens and an annual net migration loss of New Zealand citizens,” population indicators manager Tehseen Islam said.

“Although the annual net loss of non-New Zealand citizens is small, it’s a significant reversal of the pattern over the last 40 years.”

February 2021 was the 11th consecutive month with a net migration loss of non-New Zealand citizens, due to Covid-19 travel and border restrictions.

In contrast, there has been a net migration gain of New Zealand citizens in each month from August 2019 to February 2021.

The monthly net gain for February was just 674 compared to more than 14,000 in February 2020.

Given the current border restrictions and the average monthly net gain, New Zealand is now looking at annualised net migrations gains of less than 10,000.

That’s far cry from the pre-Covid peaks of net migration gain above 50,000 which the country experienced in the decade prior to the pandemic.

The annual figures released today still reflect the surge in arrivals as Covid-19 struck a year ago.

Many travellers who arrived in late 2019 and early 2020 have been unable or reluctant to depart, Stats NZ said.

This included visitors on a range of visa types, including New Zealand citizens visiting from overseas.

Their prolonged stay in New Zealand contributed to high estimates of migrant arrivals and net migration between late 2019 and early 2020.

Meanwhile, overseas visitor arrivals were down by 367,400 to 5,300 in February 2021, compared with February 2020.

The biggest changes were in arrivals from Australia (down 131,400) and the United States (down 51,800).

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