New Zealand's net migration rose in the year through August, returning to the record set in the June year on immigrants from Australia, the UK and China.

Annual net migration reached 69,100 in the year to August, equalling the previous annual record set in June this year and driven primarily by more arrivals, Statistics New Zealand said. Migrant numbers dipped slightly in July, snapping what had been a 23-month run of record-breaking annual net gains.

Arrivals rose 6 per cent to 125,000 in the August year, one quarter of whom were returning New Zealand citizens. Departures fell 3 per cent to 55,900, of which some 60 per cent were New Zealand citizens leaving, with the decrease driven by fewer Kiwis migrating to Australia, the government statistician said.

A swelling population stoking economic activity and record inflows of tourists have helped offset the impact of a rural sector that had been reeling from weak dairy prices. At the same time, a rising population has posed problems for policymakers by fuelling demand for an already-stretched housing market in Auckland, while restraining wage growth. The nation's per-capita growth has been anaemic.


The Treasury said in the Budget that it expected annual net migration would peak in June at 70,700, before returning to the long-run average of 12,000 by June 2019.

"We expect annual net migration to gradually slow over the coming years from current record levels," Westpac senior economist Satish Ranchhod said in a note. "Foreigners who have arrived on temporary work or student visas over the past three years will start to depart. In addition, an improving Australian economy is expected to entice New Zealanders across the Tasman over time. However, this will take time, meaning annual net migration will remain at elevated levels for some time yet."

Of those new migrants who arrived in the latest year, a net 32,187, or 47 per cent, settled in Auckland, followed by a net 9.9 per cent moving to Canterbury, a net 4.7 per cent going to Wellington and a net 3.8 per cent settling in Waikato.

At the same time, overseas short-term visitor arrivals reached 3.36 million in the year ended August, up 11 per cent on the year earlier and a new record.

A 17 per cent increase in holidaymakers drove visitor arrivals in the year, with the biggest increases from China, Australia and the US. In August, visitors arriving from the US most commonly came from California, Texas, and New York state, with the increase related to the introduction of new airline routes, Statistics NZ said.