The number of New Zealanders quitting this country for a better life across the Tasman slowed to its smallest monthly pace in almost three years, as the local economic prospects start overshadowing Australia's.
Seasonally adjusted, almost 2,000 more people left New Zealand for Australia than arrived in April, according to Statistics New Zealand. That's the smallest monthly outflow across the Tasman since September 2010, with a net gain of non-New Zealanders arriving, and trimming the net 2,200 citizens going to the so-called 'lucky country'. About 45,700 New Zealanders left the country for Australia in the year ended April 30.
Australia has been a favourite destination for many kiwis seeking better wages and a higher standard of living with almost open access to the larger nation. In the past year the economic fortunes of the two nations has turned, with New Zealand's recovery gathering pace as the Canterbury rebuild unfolds, and Australia's mining boom seen peaking soon.
Statistics NZ said the country added a seasonally adjusted 1,600 new migrants in April. The actual annual gain was some 4,800 new migrants.
The gains came from across the board, with a 39 per cent jump in the number of Australian migrants to 1,737 in April from the same month a year earlier and a 15 per cent lift in the number of UK migrants to 848. On an annual basis, Australia led the pace, with an 18 per cent annual increase of new migrants to about 16,200.
Short-term visitor arrivals rose to a seasonally adjusted 232,350 in April from 227,380 in March, and up from 213,650 a year earlier. Chinese visitors underpinned the gains, up 36 per cent to 24,800 in April from a year earlier.
Felix Delbruck, a senior economist at Wesptac, said the immigration trend had now clearly turned positive, with net inflows recorded in seven of the last eight months.
"Departures to Australia have come down significantly, but arrivals of foreign migrants also appear to have picked up.
"We expect net immigration to increase further over the next couple of years as employment conditions in Australia continue to soften and labour shortages associated with the Canterbury rebuild become more acute."
Labour market prospects in Australia were becoming steadily less attractive relative to New Zealand, Delbruck said.
ASB economist Daniel Smith said the country was seeing a steady pickup in permanent and long-term arrivals from Europe excluding the UK.
"With the region's poor economic performance set to continue for some time, a stable (and growing) economy like NZ's will remain an attractive option for Europeans with the right skill set."
Net migration inflows would place further strains on supply-constrained housing markets in some areas of the country, he said.
- with nzherald.co.nz