New Zealand annual net migration continued to moderate in February, though it's still at historic highs, as more New Zealanders and non-New Zealanders left.

Annual net migration was at 68,900 in the year to February, from 71,300 in the year to Feb. 2017, Statistics New Zealand said. In January, monthly net migration on a seasonally adjusted basis rose to 6,210, which was a seven-month high, causing market watchers to question whether the trend of declining net migration had reversed or whether the month was an anomaly. On the same measure, February net migration was at 4,970, lower than any month in 2017.

Some 29,100 non-New Zealanders left in the February 2018 year, up 22 percent from the February 2017 year, Stats NZ said. A net 69,800 non-Kiwis arrived in the latest year, while a net 800 citizens left, bringing the total to 68,900.

"All migrant departures to Asia increased by 31 percent in the February 2018 year to 11,700," Stats NZ said. "Nearly two-thirds of migrant departures to Asia were to China, India, Japan, and the Republic of Korea. Overall there was a net gain of 30,500 migrants from Asia in the February 2018 year."

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New Zealand has been experiencing record levels of net migration in recent years, which made rising immigration a key election issue as it strains the country's infrastructure and is blamed for inflating property markets. Net migration peaked at 72,400 in the July 2017 year.

Chinese migration continued to be the largest on a net basis, with 8,600 of net arrivals coming from China, though that was down 16 percent on a year earlier. India was the second-largest source at a net 6,900, though Indian net migration was also down 16 percent from a year earlier, with a 4.1 percent drop in annual student visas granted to Indian citizens to 6,000.

China continued to be the biggest source of migrants on residence visas, though that dipped 19 percent to 2,800 in the year, while the total number of residence visas dropped 12 percent to 14,800.

There was a 7.3 percent increase in work visas granted in the year, to 46,200, while student visa numbers rose 0.5 percent to 24,000.

Short-term visitor arrivals, which include tourists, people visiting family and friends and people travelling for work, reached 3.8 million in the January year, up 7 percent from a year earlier.