Migrants are flowing into Northland in historically high numbers, though employment opportunities are few and far between, according to a community group.

Statistics New Zealand figures show in the 12 months to March, the region had a net increase of 809 long-term or permanent residents, more than any other 12-month period since at least 1990. This is a stark turnaround from 2012, when the region had a net loss of more than 1500 long-term residents.

WINGS, a Whangarei organisation helping new migrants settle, consistently welcomes new members, said co-founder Gina Eiger. She said many were skilled migrants moving with their family or spouse for work.

Mina Crisp, 59, moved to Whangarei with her husband in September last year. Emigrating from England, Mrs Crisp said the most difficult part of moving was leaving close friends behind.


"It's not knowing anybody. You don't have friends and you don't have family, and they're the groups of people you rely on for emotional health. That has been fairly difficult. But WINGS has been an absolute godsend, because they're a group of women who have all been through the same thing."

Mrs Crisp, who grew up in Uganda and is of Indian origin, said living in England for many years made the shift easier, but she had sympathy for immigrants for whom the culture was a shock.

"Moving is never easy. It takes quite a lot of courage to move a long distance when you don't know what you're coming to," she said.

Mrs Eiger said finding a sense of belonging in a new community was difficult for many immigrants. Mrs Eiger, an American expat who has lived in Whangarei for 13 years, said many "trailing spouses" had a difficult time finding work in Northland.

"A lot of the time that trailing spouse is as qualified or even more qualified to work here."

Nationwide, net migration is also the highest since at least 1990. More than 124,000 immigrants entered New Zealand in the year to March, while 56,450 emigrated, resulting in a net gain of 67,619 people; the highest net figure in at least 26 years.