Annual net migration continues to ease off record highs, falling to its lowest level in three years in the year ended October.
Net migration was 61,751 in the year to Oct. 31, down from 70,694 a year earlier, Statistics New Zealand said. Migrant arrivals slipped 2.7 per cent to 128,123, while departures lifted 8.9 per cent to 66,372.
"Although migrant departures continue to be the driving force behind falling annual net migration, October also had a noticeable fall in the number of migrant arrivals," Stats NZ population insights senior manager Brooke Theyers said.
"Both trends helped bring annual net migration to its lowest level since the year ended September 2015."
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Annual non-New Zealand citizen departures climbed 16 per cent to 31,800, while local departures were up 3 per cent to 34,600.
New Zealand's strong inbound migration was a key plank for aggregate economic growth in recent years, and the Treasury still sees it as a tailwind for the rest of 2018. However, it also added stress to infrastructure and has been seen as stifling wage growth as more people compete for work.
Migration has fallen from record highs in recent months and Westpac Bank senior economist Satish Ranchhod said the October result was not a surprise. "This result was very close to our forecast. We expect a further fall in net migration over the coming year," he said.
While migration eases, tourism remains a key support for the economy. Stats NZ said short-term arrivals were up 4.8 per cent to 283,568 in October from a year earlier. There were 3.8 million annual visitors, up 3.6 per cent from a year earlier.
Australia continues to provide the highest number of visitors, up 1.4 per cent in the 12 months to October at 1.48 million. Visitors from China numbered 451,344 in the 12-month period, up 9.7 per cent.