A senior economist at ANZ Bank expects more New Zealanders to return home in the next few months as the Canterbury rebuild gets under way.
New migration figures show a seasonally adjusted net loss of 660 people in July, a turnaround from increases in June and May.
In the year to the end of July, 54,000 New Zealanders left for Australia, while 14,000 migrants came the other way.
But the loss to Australia has been offset by arrivals from other countries, bringing the net total loss to just 3800.
ANZ's Mark Smith says the July fall is a temporary blip, caused by the shifting of school holidays to June, and the overall migration trend is still positive.
However, the number of tourists coming to this country dropped 1% in July, compared with the same month a year ago, and Mr Smith says that's a concern for the tourism sector.
The 176,100visitors in July is the lowest figure for the month since 2007.
"Arrival numbers are pretty much down across the board," Mr Smith says. "The New Zealand dollar's very high and it's likely to deter tourists coming to New Zealand, and it's also likely to weigh on tourist spending here as well."