New Zealand annual net migration rose in August, with increasing numbers of foreign immigrants outpacing the number of New Zealanders leaving the country.

Annual net migration reached 72,100 in the year to August, up 3,000 on the same period a year earlier, Statistics New Zealand said. Three-quarters of the record 132,200 migrant arrivals were non-New Zealand citizens, while 1,500 more New Zealanders left the country than returned in the latest year. There has been a net migration gain of 73,500 non-New Zealand citizens in the year to August.

New Zealand has been experiencing record levels of net migration in recent years, with rising immigration a key election issue as it strains the country's infrastructure and is blamed for inflating property markets.

Chinese migration continued to be the largest on a net basis, with 9,900 of the 72,100 net arrivals from China, though that was down 1.7 per cent on a year earlier. India was the second-largest source at 7,300 net, though Indian net migration was down 32 per cent from a year earlier, with a 27 per cent drop in annual student visas granted to Indian citizens.

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Migration from the UK had the biggest increase on a net basis, up 47 per cent to 6,700, with net South African migration up 44 per cent to 4,900. The number of net migrants from Australia dropped to 226, from 1,800 a year earlier.

China continued to be the biggest source of migrants on residence visas, rising 6.1 per cent to 3,300 in the year to the end of August, ahead of the total residence visa gain of 4.9 per cent to 16,500. There was a 16 per cent increase in work visas granted in the year, to 45,800, while student visas dropped 7.7 per cent to 24,000 and NZ and Australian citizen arrivals rose 4.7 per cent to 38,000.

Short-term visitor arrivals, which include tourists, people visiting family and friends and people travelling for work, reached 3.7 million in the August year, up 9.3 per cent from a year earlier and a new annual record, Stats NZ said. The number of people coming to New Zealand on holiday rose 11 per cent on an annual basis to 1.9 million people.

New Zealand residents took a record 2.8 million overseas trips in the August 2017 year, up 11 per cent from the August 2016 year, with the biggest increases from people going to Vietnam, Cambodia, and French Polynesia. There was a 13 per cent drop in the number of people going to Vanuatu, and a 4 per cent fall in people going to Tonga, compared to a year earlier. The most popular destination was still Australia, with 1.2 million New Zealand residents travelling there in the year, up 5.8 per cent annually.