New Zealand's immigration rate continues to ease from the record levels but at a steady and gentle pace.

Data for April, released today, showed the annual net migration gain falling to 67,038 from about 68,000 in the year to March.

That's a decline from the record peak at 72,4000 in July last year.

The trend may start to take some political pressure off the Government to act on immigration policy.

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Immigration became an election issue last year with New Zealand First campaigning for a dramatic tightening.

Labour policy was initially targeting significant cuts to net migration by 20,000 to 30,000 although the rhetoric around hard numbers has softened.

The coalition Government has remained coy on whether further policies to restrict immigration numbers will be forthcoming.

Business groups have cited uncertainty around immigration policy and issues about skill shortages as one reason for flagging confidence in outlook surveys.

Migration trends have had a tendency to shift quickly throughout New Zealand history - based largely on the flow of people cross the Tasman.

New Zealand was a net migration loser as recently as 2013.

Since mid-2013 - as New Zealand's economy outpaced global peers, including Australia - migration gains have grown steadily to record levels.

That has assisted the economy, inflating GDP growth but increasing pressure on infrastructure and housing.

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The latest data showed monthly permanent and long-term arrivals remain at historically high levels, but are now 4.5 per cent down on the same time last year.

But as ASB economists noted, "the proportion of those arriving on a work visa continues to lift and is now at 36 per cent, highlighting that NZ's relatively strong labour market remains a draw for international migrants."

Data for April shows the annual net migration gain falling to 67,038 from about 68,000 in the year to March. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Data for April shows the annual net migration gain falling to 67,038 from about 68,000 in the year to March. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Monthly departures are rising and are up 11 per cent compared to a year-ago.

Stats NZ noted that the lift was largely due to non-New Zealand citizens leaving the country.

Departures to Australia remain low and steady whilst departures to Asia, Europe and the Americas are climbing.