Permanent and long-term international migration to Rotorua is at its highest level in more than 25 years.

Rotorua had a net gain of 973 people as a result of permanent and long-term migration in the year to September, according to Statistics New Zealand figures.

That was the highest net gain in more than 25 years and up on 571 last year and 297 the previous one.

The district had recorded net annual losses due to permanent and long-term migration in the decade to 2014.


Multicultural Council Rotorua president Waitsu Wu said migration benefited Rotorua and the country and its economy by creating more job opportunities, more tourist infrastructure and enriching the community through cultural diversity.

Most migrants previously settled in bigger cities such as Auckland, Hamilton, Christchurch and Wellington. However, the recent housing crisis in the bigger cities had resulted in migrants starting to move to nearby cities.

"Since last year, Rotorua has seen a significant percentage of old migrants moving here from Auckland and also many new migrants settling directly into Rotorua," said Ms Wu.

Statistics New Zealand defines permanent and long-term arrivals as people arriving for a stay of 12 months or more, including New Zealanders returning after an absence of more than a year.

Permanent and long-term departures are New Zealanders departing for 12 months or more, and migrants leaving after more than a year.

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said the population growth was great for the district.

"People from other parts of the world also bring greater diversity to our population and that's also valuable. They bring cultural diversity and new and different skills, ideas, perspectives and thinking.

"Citizenship ceremonies are one of my favourite duties as a mayor.

South African Wendy Wilkins and her family arrived in Rotorua in January. Photo/Ben Fraser
South African Wendy Wilkins and her family arrived in Rotorua in January. Photo/Ben Fraser

"When you hear people's stories and see how grateful they are to be here it makes us reflect on what a wonderful place New Zealand is and how privileged we are to live here in Rotorua, a place they've chosen to be their new home because they love it.

"It's nice to be reminded of just how special this place is and reflect on the positive," she said.

NZ Association for Migration and Investment chief executive June Ranson said the cost of housing in Auckland would have been part of the reason for the increase in migration to the regions.

Ms Ranson said the regions had been suffering with vacant jobs and migrants were able to fill them.

"These migrants are actually providing a benefit to the economy by paying their taxes."

She said the Government policy offering bonus points toward residency for migrants living in the regions gave them more incentive to live out of Auckland.

Migrants would increasingly go to the regions as their friends and families settled there, but that wouldn't happen overnight, said Ms Ranson.

Out of Africa

South African Wendy Wilkins and her family arrived in Rotorua in January.

She said she and her husband Juan were in the hospitality business so job opportunities in Rotorua were vast.

The schools were good, as was the weather and the location of the city, said Mrs Wilkins.

Rotorua was close - but not too close - to Auckland, an hour from the beach in Tauranga and it didn't have the central North Island's cold temperatures.

It was nicely spread out with the lake in the centre but everything was close, she said.

"Nothing is far here, if you have more than three cars in front of you, that's traffic."

Mrs Wilkins said Rotorua was also a diverse place. As well as its traditional Maori culture, people from all over the world lived there, which was great for her children.

The couple have a son, Blake, 7, and two daughters, Danica, 4, and 2-month-old Sheina.

"My son manages to say about 20 words in about five different languages," she said.

"He can say 'hello' and 'goodbye' and 'what's your name' in Chinese, Japanese, Russian."