Migration to New Zealand has reached its highest point in more than a decade, with fewer Kiwis moving to Australia and more Chinese than Britons settling here for the first time in 10 years.

Statistics New Zealand travel and migration figures for February show there was a net gain of 3500 migrants to New Zealand last month - the highest gain since April 2003.

The increase was mainly due to fewer New Zealanders moving to Australia, as well as more migrants arriving in New Zealand from overseas.

In the year to February, there were 96,900 migrant arrivals and 67,800 migrant departures, resulting in a net gain of 29,000 arrivals.


That was well up on the year to February 2013, when the net gain was only 1200.

The number of New Zealanders leaving for Australia also dropped, with 15,000 people making the move in the year to February - well down from 36,700 in the previous year to February.

The gains were led by China, with 6100 migrants, followed by India and the United Kingdom with 5800 migrants each.

The net gain of migrants from China surpassed that of the UK for the first time in a decade. The last time China surpassed the UK was between March 1996 to January 2004.

The number of visitors last month reached a new record for February, with 301,200 people arriving in New Zealand.

Statistics New Zealand population statistics manager Andrea Blackburn said that was driven by visitors from Australia.

"Compared with February 2013, fewer visitors arrived from China and Hong Kong, due to the earlier timing of Chinese New Year. However, an increase in visitors from Australia more than made up for the decrease in visitors from Asia."

There were 2.77 million visitors to New Zealand in the year to February, up 7 per cent from the previous year.


Last month, New Zealand residents departed on 116,900 overseas trips - up 6 per cent from the previous February, and a new record for the month.

In the year to February, New Zealand residents took a total of 2.21 million trips, up 2 per cent from the previous year.

The most common destinations were Australia, with 1.03 million trips, followed by the United States (145,300), Fiji (114,100), and the UK (96,100).