Migrants are pouring into the Bay of Plenty with new figures showing net migration is the highest in at least 26 years.

Statistics New Zealand figures show a net increase of 1307 people moved to the Western Bay of Plenty in the year to March - the highest figure since at least 1990.

The latest figures represent a stark turnaround from 2011 and 2012, when the Bay lost more than 1000 people a year overseas.

Nationwide, net migration was also the highest since at least 1990.

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Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby said he was not surprised by the growth in migrant numbers in the Bay, because it was something he was aware of while out and about in the community.

"For years we have held new citizenship ceremonies in Tauranga, and for about five years the cultural diversity of the city's new New Zealanders has been changing."

Mr Crosby said there were still thousands of migrants from Britain, and large numbers from South Africa, but there were also more from Chile, Brazil and South America, and increasing numbers from India.

The second-highest numbers of migrants behind South Africans were from the Indian community, he said.

Mr Crosby said migrants from Burma, China, the Philippines, Korea and Russia were also starting to arrive in greater numbers.

"Personally, I think it's fantastic as new migrants bring diversity to our city with their food, their arts, culture, and the experience and skills."

Mr Crosby said some of that was down to primary industries such as our kiwifruit, agriculture and hospitality sectors, and also small businesses.

Once one group of migrants settled here, other family members soon joined them so it was an "inter-generational" trend.

Western Bay Mayor Ross Paterson agreed and said it was important to have the right infrastructure in place to help new migrants settle into the community.

Bay of Plenty Chinese Business and Commerce Association president Candy Yan said growing numbers of Chinese were moving to the city because Tauranga was far more attractive in terms of lifestyle and the work-life balance opportunities it offered.

"Local Chinese tell me that people in Tauranga are so nice, and lot more friendly and helpful than other areas," she said. Ms Yan said a few years ago the language barrier may have been an inhibitor but that was no longer the case, with the plethora of English-language schools and more Chinese-speaking residents.

Ms Yan said there was also a growing number of Chinese-speaking migrants working as real estate agents, lawyers, accountants and in other professions, which encouraged other Chinese to want to come over and settle in the Bay.

Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stan Gregec said the city was seeing more migrants moving in to look for business opportunities.

"In recent months I've had a lot to do with South African migrants, who are a particularly active and visible group.

"Many have started new businesses, some have slotted into the regular workforce, and others are still trying to find that fit between the experience they bring and the opportunities that Tauranga offers."

Multicultural Tauranga centre co-ordinator Janet Smith said she expected that international migration to the area was increasing.

She said Tauranga was a lovely, growing city that was attractive to many new residents. However, she said, many migrants found getting work difficult, particularly in their area of expertise.

But for many it was a great place to live, particularly those with families, she said.

"It's a lovely place to live. It's an area that's expanding, the infrastructure's growing, the housing is affordable ...

"It's well set up for people to move here with children," she said.

More than 124,000 immigrants entered New Zealand in the year to March, while 56,450 emigrated, resulting in a net gain of 67,619 people - the highest net figure in at least 26 years.

These figures include New Zealanders returning after being away for more than a year.

Beautiful place to do business

Clair Liu and her younger child Shen Wang, 4, are loving their new life in Tauranga. Photo / George Novak
Clair Liu and her younger child Shen Wang, 4, are loving their new life in Tauranga. Photo / George Novak

Bay mother and business owner Clair Liu, her husband and two sons made Tauranga their home after emigrating from China in February last year, and she says they're loving their decision.

Ms Liu said in 2014 she came to Tauranga to visit her aunt who has lived here for 13 years and fell in love with the "beautiful" place.

She, husband Andy Wang, their 4-year-old son Shen and her elder son Ang Li, 26, who is studying marketing and international business at Massey University, "very much liked" Tauranga. "We have made some good friends since moving here," she said.

Ms Liu opened her Mount Maunganui-based bathroom products and spa pool business AGOGIO1 in July last year, and now employs five staff.

The family decided to move from Shenyang in northern China, a city of 8.25 million people, to Tauranga for lots of reasons, she said.

Ms Liu said Tauranga did not have some of the major problems big cities in other countries did including "too many people, pollution and congestion", and Auckland was "way too busy".

"We enjoy the quiet, the peaceful culture, the lovely nature spots and the clean air, and the food is fresh and safe. Tauranga is also a beautiful, friendly, and safe place to live and work. The playgrounds are safe places for children to play which is ideal for kids.

"Tauranga has grown up into a city which has lots of new houses which makes more people want to move to the area ... In the future I want to bring my mum, my brother and sister to come to live here. "

Migration in numbers:
Net migration, year ended March 2016

* Western BOP: 181

* Tauranga: 1126

Permanent and long-term arrivals to NZ - year ended March 2016

* Australia: 25,767

* India: 13,486

* Britain: 13,445

* China: 11,722

* Philippines: 5476

* United States: 4326

* Germany: 4033

- Statistics New Zealand