New Zealand migration from Australia highest since 1991

NEW Zealand has continued to post record net migration arrivals, with a 67,400 gain in the 12 months ended February 29, led by arrivals from Australia, China and the Philippines.

Migrant arrivals rose 10% to 124,200 in the latest 12 month period, from a year earlier, while departures fell 1 percent to 56,900, Statistics New Zealand said. Net migration from Australia was a gain of 1600, the highest since September 1991 and the fifth straight month of annual gains.

The latest numbers come a week after Labour Party leader Andrew Little said that large inflows of semi-skilled migrants were putting pressure on jobs - especially in Auckland.

He later said that Labour's approach to immigration was that as the economy slowed there was a case to "turn the tap down".

Those on work visas jumped by 4,700 to 38,600, while student visas climbed 3,100 to 28,100 and arrivals of New Zealand and Australian citizens gained 2,200 to 36,400. India was the biggest source of student arrivals, rising 1 percent to 10,100 from a year earlier, followed by those from China at 5,800 and the Philippines on 2,300.

Work visa arrivals were led by those from the UK, France, Germany and Australia. The biggest influx was to Auckland, where migrant arrivals rose 12 percent to 52,400 in the February year, of which work visas made up 16,500, student visas 13,000, Kiwi and Australian citizen arrivals 11,600 and resident visas 8,500.

Strong inbound migration has helped underpin economic growth, which was 0.9 percent in the fourth quarter, for an annual pace of 2.3 percent, on increases in everything from business services to retailing, accommodation and home building. Migration has continued at a stronger pace than the Reserve Bank had expected, keeping wage inflation low even as demand rises.

"Net migration has gone from strength to strength over the past few years, consistently defying the most bullish of forecasts," said Westpac Bank chief economist Dominick Stephens. "It now looks highly likely that annual net migration will surpass 70,000 by June, taking the population growth rate to a post-1974 high of 2.1 percent.

Strong population growth is generating strong demand for residential construction activity and is supporting economic growth. Population growth is also boosting the supply side of the economy, limiting wage and inflation pressures."

Short-term visitor arrivals rose 9 percent to 373,400 last month, a record for a February month, including a leap-year boost of 9,200 that arrived on Feb. 29. Australia led the monthly influx, with a gain of 14,800 to 122,100, while those from China fell 2,800 to 53,200 and those from the UK gaining 3,600 to 37,100.

Annual visitor arrivals rose 10 percent to a record 3.2 million, of which 1.34 million were from Australia, 268,300 from China and 247,900 from the US. Some 2.42 million New Zealanders departed on overseas trips in the February year, up 6 percent from a year earlier, with Australia the most popular destination at 1.14 million.

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