Migrant numbers keep breaking records

1:27 pm on 27 February 2017

The number of people coming to New Zealand to live or visit is at a record high.

Immigration

Photo: Supplied

Official figures show more than 71,300 people settled here in the year to January, beating the previous annual record set a month earlier by 700.

The January month also set a new high of 6460 - the fifth successive month net migration has exceeded 6000.

"The strength of our labour market and general economic outlook are key influences," Westpac Bank senior economist Satish Ranchhod said.

Migrant arrivals hit an all-time high of 128,300 in the January 2017 year, with about a third of the total being on work visas, while returning New Zealanders also figured prominently.

"About a fifth of all migrant arrivals were from Australia," Statistics New Zealand population statistics senior manager Peter Dolan said.

"Almost two-thirds of the migrant arrivals from Australia were New Zealand citizens."

That more than offset a decrease in students arrivals.

More stringent student visa requirements in the wake of abuse of English language requirements and fraudulent applications have made a dent in numbers, falling 13 percent to 24,300 for the year.

Last year, the government moved to reduce the number of new migrants, including raising the points needed in the skilled migrant category to 160 from 140, and more than halving the number of people allowed entry under the family category to 2000.

Analysts expect migration to remain a key driver for the economy.

"Perhaps given this elevated level it will be hard for net inflows to accelerate much more from here. But at the same time, it is hard to envisage a sharp fall - barring a firmer political response - with economic outperformance meaning NZ remains an attractive place for migrants," ANZ senior economist, Phil Borkin said.

Tourism continues to surge

The number of visitor arrivals rose to 381,100 in January and 3.54 million for the year, both record highs.

"The strong increase in visitor arrivals in January 2017 coincided with the Chinese New Year," Mr Dolan said.

"Over 54,000 visitors from China arrived in New Zealand in January 2017."

Half of the annual increase in tourist arrivals came from Australia, China and the United States.

New Zealanders took an all-time high of 2.64 million trips overseas during the year, helped by a high New Zealand.

The most favoured destination was Australia, followed by China and the US.