Hong Kong residents are increasingly looking to New Zealand as a refuge to escape escalating protests and uncertainty.
Protests have sparked fears of a heavy response from China, serious economic fallout the financial powerhouse and yesterday closed the city's airport. Hundreds of flights were cancelled, including between Hong Kong and Auckland.
Immigration consultants from Malcolm Pacific say they haven't seen this level of inquiry since 1997 when there was fear for the territory's future when Britain handed it back to China.
""They're not in panic mode yet but people are saying it's not a one day wonder and it's time to make a move,'' said the firm's director of client services, David Cooper.
It was not only Hong Kong Chinese looking to move but British and European ex-pats who are looking for a new home.
People interested in migrating were contacting the firm and a seminar it was running Hong Kong later this month had two to three times the interest of events since concern about Beijing's rule diminished in the early 2000s.
Now that China was talking tough and the protests showed no sign of easing off.
Cooper said the up to 400 people could enter New Zealand under an investor visa or migration and investor visa.
There were 400 places a year for those with $10 million who were required to invest for up to three years or those with $3m to invest for three years.
Numbers had dwindled to about half the cap due to the foreign buyers' ban on property and the change of government which led to perceptions it was less business and investor-friendly.
Air New Zealand cancelled two flights today as tourism businesses in Hong Kong and the territory's flag carrier Cathay Pacific are under increasing pressure as a result of the protests.
Cathay Pacific, already feeling heat from increased competition, saw its share price fall to its lowest level in a decade this week as passenger bookings sag. Under pressure from Beijing earlier this week it sacked some staff involved in protests.
Hong Kong stocks have lost nearly $775 billion of value since the protests, initially over a controversial extradition bill, escalated in early June.
Hotels and resorts such as Disneyland have reported a drop in bookings and there are fears the slowdown could spiral into a full economic crisis.
Stats NZ figures show the number of arrivals from Hong Kong slumped by 33 per cent to 2700 in June compared to a year earlier while the number of Kiwis listing the territory as their primary destination fell 14 per cent to 1300.
Flight Centre says it had seen the first noticeable drop in New Zealand-Hong Kong traffic for five years.
This July, Hong Kong was done down 25 per cent compared to the same month last year, with those passengers opting for Delhi or Hanoi as a preferred destination with those destinations up 60 per cent.
Air New Zealand cancelled a flight to Hong Kong today because of protests at the city's airport.
The airline said that due to the situation at the airport, NZ87 that was due to depart from Auckland for Hong Kong at 11:45 last night and was initially delayed until this morning, was cancelled.
The return flight from Hong Kong was canned as a result.
Cathay Pacific's website says that its flight due to leave at 1.35pm today has been delayed for more than an hour.
Over the past two days hundreds of Cathay and subsidiary Dragon Air flights were cancelled due protests at the airport when thousands of demonstrators thronged the departures hall, many angry at police action during the past two months.
Helloworld executive general manager Simon Mckearney said most airlines were delaying departures.
He said the disruption had a ''sizeable'' impact.
''Passengers need to contact their agents for advice as the airlines are working closely with us to ensure all passengers are advised in a timely manner. As we all know the situation can change at any point.''
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade warns New Zealanders in Hong Kong to avoid all protests and demonstrations, as even those intended to be peaceful have the potential to turn violent with little or no warning.
''New Zealanders are also advised to monitor local media for developments and comply with any instructions and restrictions issued by the local authorities.''
Travellers should expect road closures and disruptions to public transport as a result of demonstrations, the ministry's SafeTravel site says.
Cathay Pacific is gearing up for a big summer in New Zealand, in spite of scaling back some of its office functions in this country.
This October, it will be the first airline to bring the Airbus A350-1000 to New Zealand. That plane will begin flying three times weekly to and from Auckland, before switching to twice daily flights from December to February during the high season.
Its seasonal service to Christchurch, launched in 2018, will resume later this year. There will be more flights – four per week between December 2019 and February 2020, compared with the previous three per week – while the first flights will begin in mid-November, two weeks earlier than last year.