Migrants are pouring into Whanganui at historically high levels. Statistics New Zealand figures show the city had a net gain of 187 long-term or permanent migrants in the year ending March, higher than any year since at least 1990.

This is a stark turnaround from 2011 and 2012, when the city was losing hundreds of people overseas. The trend reversal has 19 of the last 24 months showing growth.

The figures count the number of people moving into the area who have lived overseas for 12 months or longer, including returning New Zealanders.

Whanganui Multicultural Council president Vijeshwar Prasad says he thinks Whanganui's tourism marketing has attracted more than just visitors - it has brought in new residents, too.


"Whanganui is a good place to bring up children, so a lot of people are coming," Mr Prasad said.

"People are realising that it's a multicultural city, and that there is acceptance from local people toward foreigners coming into the area. It's a positive sign."

Mr Prasad, originally from Fiji, has lived in Whanganui since 1991. He said integrating into New Zealand culture was the most challenging aspect for most, followed by finding a job.

"There's a saying: 'You have to wear out your first pair of shoes before you find a job'.

"I think after three months, if they want to work, people will get a job in Whanganui. But initially, it's not easy.

"Still, there are not many migrants on the dole in Whanganui - I'm very proud to say that."

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

Multicultural New Zealand executive director Tayo Agunlejika said immigrants created a diverse and dynamic New Zealand.

"It's a very positive thing - it gives you a vibrant society where not everyone is the same. It comes with its own challenges, but it's good for society," he said.

The most difficult factors for new immigrants were culture shock and isolation.

"They have to start fresh with social capital and, for some of them, there's a language barrier, too."

Mr Agunlejika said many immigrants were still poorly treated because of their ethnicity - an area he was trying to improve.

"We still have the challenge of discrimination. We're trying to run a campaign to encourage people to realise it's okay to be different - that being different is positive and it makes a rich society.

"You don't need to be afraid if people are different to you. It's difficult to overcome but it's about educating people."

In the past 12 months, 1862 more people moved from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction - a huge reversal from 2012, when almost 40,000 people a year were leaving to cross the ditch: more than 100 a day. Between May 1991 and September 2014 - a period of 281 months - 280 months had a net loss of migrants across the Tasman.

More than 40 per cent of all long-term or permanent migrants last year settled in Auckland.