No end in sight for Aussie exodus

By Amelia Wade, Claire Trevett

Statistics New Zealand migration figures showed that 87,500 people left New Zealand to move overseas in the year to July. Photo / NZ Herald
Statistics New Zealand migration figures showed that 87,500 people left New Zealand to move overseas in the year to July. Photo / NZ Herald

About 30,000 more people moved to live overseas in the past year than a decade ago and most of the increase was driven by record-high numbers of New Zealanders heading to Australia at a rate of almost 5000 a month.

Statistics New Zealand migration figures showed that 87,500 people left New Zealand to move overseas in the year to July - up from 59,350 in 2002.

Of those, 53,873 moved to Australia - more than double the 26,448 who shifted to Australia in the year to July 2002. In the past year, only 14,024 people came back the other way, resulting in a transtasman migration loss of 39,849, matching the record highs reached in the past few months.

The unprecedented appeal of Australia has prompted fresh recruitment drives as companies try to lure New Zealanders across the Ditch.

A two-day Oz Jobs Expo in Auckland attracted 7000 people in February and clogged the motorway near Greenlane. Mining companies have promised workers $150,000 pay packets and regular trips home.

Expo organisers have plans for another in November. Edward Rihari, one of the directors of a company that finds "fly in, fly out" mining jobs in Western Australia, said they were still receiving about 20 CVs a week.

Thousands attended one Oz Jobs Expo in Auckland and demand has been so high that organisers have planned another one in November.

Spokesman Jason Clayton said the next event would be held at the ASB Showgrounds to cater to the huge interest. It will be the fourth expo in two years.

Finance Minister Bill English denied the exodus was embarrassing, saying it was because of a major mining boom and high wages attracting New Zealanders.

"That boom will pass. In the meantime, instead of being paralysed by that we are getting on with making our own economy more competitive so that in time people will see more jobs and opportunities here."

However, Opposition MPs and trade unions have blamed the Government for the record high numbers, claiming it was because of a lack of jobs in New Zealand. Labour's deputy leader, Grant Robertson, said Prime Minister John Key's election campaign in 2008 included a promise that New Zealanders would no longer have to wave goodbye to their children - but the number of people who went to Australia last year was equivalent to the population of New Plymouth.

He said 40 per cent of those were aged 18 to 30 years old, depriving New Zealand of skills it needed.

By comparison, there were net migration gains from other countries, including the United Kingdom (5500), China (5100) and India (5100).

Overall, about 83,700 people arrived in New Zealand to live in the year to July, about one quarter of whom were New Zealanders returning home. The overall net migration loss was 3800 people in the year to July. There has been an annual net loss of migrants since the October 2011 year, peaking at 4100 in the year to February 2012.

There was some good news in the figures for tourism - the number of people visiting from China increased by 2400 to 178,000 over the past year and the number of visitors from Japan had rallied to normal levels (about 6000 a year) after a drop-off after the Christchurch and Japan earthquakes.

- NZ Herald