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NZ citizens drive historic net migration gain

Annual net migration of New Zealand citizens has exceeded that of non-New Zealand citizens for the first time since citizenship data started in the late 1970s, Stats NZ said today.

In the year ended January 2021, provisional net gains of 20,800 New Zealand citizens and 12,300 non-New Zealand citizens made up an overall estimated net migration gain of 33,200.

New Zealand citizens have driven monthly net migration gains since April 2020, and now they are driving annual net migration, Stats NZ said today.

Historically, New Zealand has had an annual net loss of New Zealand citizens and an annual net gain of non-New Zealand citizens

It said border restrictions, disruptions to international travel, and capacity limits in managed isolation and quarantine facilities had monthly net migration estimates well below levels seen in previous years.

“As a result of COVID-19, the number of New Zealand citizens leaving this country to live overseas slowed to a trickle in the past year, and far fewer non-New Zealand citizens migrated to New Zealand,” Stats NZ population indicators manager, Tehseen Islam said.

“There has not been a flood of returning ex-pats. In fact, fewer New Zealand citizens came back home in the year ended January 2021 than in the previous year.”

Of the estimated migrant arrivals of New Zealand citizens in the year ended January 2021, about one in three arrived in February and March 2020, before the first full month of border restrictions in April 2020.

Annual net migration continues to fall

Annual net migration in the year ended January 2021 is provisionally estimated at 33,200, based on 68,800 migrant arrivals and 35,700 migrant departures.

In the 10 months from April 2020 to January 2021, net migration was provisionally estimated at 6,500. This was made up of a net gain of 14,100 New Zealand citizens and a net loss of 7,500 non-New Zealand citizens.

Latest estimates show annual net migration falling from a provisional peak of 94,100 in the year ended March 2020. As the COVID-19 pandemic developed, many people who arrived in New Zealand in late 2019 and early 2020 stayed longer than usual, making them more likely to be estimated as a migrant arrival.

Travel volumes remain low

From April 2020 to January 2021 there were 103,500 arrivals and 164,200 departures across the New Zealand border, compared with 5.9 million arrivals and 5.9 million departures in the same period for 2019/2020.

This includes all arrivals and departures, either for short-term trips or longer term, and by people living overseas or in New Zealand.

On average, there were 10,400 arrivals and 16,400 departures in each month from April 2020 to January 2021. Levels this low were last seen in the 1960s.

Most overseas resident arrivals are New Zealand citizens

Using information from the passenger arrival card, travellers arriving into New Zealand can be grouped into:

  • overseas residents or those who have been living overseas (for 12 months or more);
  • New Zealand residents returning to New Zealand after being overseas for less than 12 months.

In the 10 months, April 2020 to January 2021, the number of arrivals was made up of 71,600 overseas residents and 31,900 New Zealand residents.

Both groups include New Zealand and non-New Zealand citizens. Of the total overseas resident arrivals, 65% were New Zealand citizens and 35% were non-New Zealand citizens.

The main source countries of the overseas resident arrivals were Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, China, India, and Canada.

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