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Less Kiwis jumping the ditch

The estimated number of people migrating from New Zealand to Australia was 31,300 in the year ended June 2019, Stats NZ has released.

This is half the peak of 62,800 in the June 2012 year.

"Trans-Tasman migration has ebbed and flowed at different times, and currently we have relatively low numbers of migrants departing to Australia," population insights senior analyst Kim Dunstan says.

This is the first time Stats NZ has published figures showing migrant departures to Australia, since the end of traveller departure cards more than a year ago. At that time the official measure of migration also changed from being based on intentions to outcomes.

"A statistical downside of removing the departure card in November 2018 is no longer knowing where our migrant departures are going," says Kim.

"There is no existing New Zealand data source that tells us the destination of migrant departures. However, we’ve collaborated with our Australian colleagues to publish a new series of migrant departures to Australia."

The estimates are based on data collected at the Australian border and published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australia uses the same 12/16-month rule as New Zealand to identify migrants arriving and departing and has done so since 2007.

The outcomes-based measure of migration using the 12/16-month rule is based on the actual duration of stay/absence of travellers after crossing the border. Australia also removed their departure card, in July 2017.

"The new outcomes-based estimates follow similar trends to the old Stats NZ intentions-based measure of flows to Australia," says Kim.

"The new estimates are higher than the intentions-based measure, which understated both migrant arrivals and migrant departures."

The intentions-based measure of migration relied on the stated intentions of travellers at the time of their border crossing. This was not always the same as what they ended up doing, because of changed circumstances or different interpretations of the passenger card questions. The intentions-based measure of migrant departures and net migration is not available after October 2018.

The new estimates can be combined with existing Stats NZ data to estimate net migration with Australia and the ‘rest of the world’ combined.

While 31,300 people migrated from New Zealand to Australia in the year ended June 2019, 27,600 migrated from Australia to New Zealand. About four in five migrant departures to Australia, and  two in three migrant arrivals from Australia, were New Zealand citizens.

Net migration to Australia – the difference between migrant arrivals and migrant departures – amounted to a net outflow of 3,600 in the year ended June 2019. This compares with the highest-ever net outflow to Australia of 43,500 in the year ended March 2012.

"Although New Zealand traditionally loses more people to Australia than it gains, the latest net flows to Australia are small by historical standards," says Kim.

The historical ups and downs in migration with Australia reflect a combination of factors, including relative economic and labour market conditions between Australia and New Zealand and Australian immigration policy changes.

Trans-Tasman migration trends have generally been driven by departures from New Zealand to Australia. By comparison, flows from Australia to New Zealand have hovered at much lower levels – around 20,000 a year during 2004-12 – although they did exceed 30,000 a year during 2014-17.

The implied migrant flows with the rest of the world, excluding Australia, can be derived by subtracting the trans-Tasman flows from New Zealand’s total migrant flows. These indicate significant inflows and net migration gains from the rest of the world combined.

In the year ended June 2019, the net migration gain from the rest of the world (excluding Australia) was 50,900. This is down from the highest-ever annual net inflow of 66,600 in the year ended September 2016. The recent upturn in migrant departures to the rest of the world will partly reflect the increased migrant arrivals from 2014, many of whom were on temporary visas such as work, student and visitor visas, and are now departing.

Trans-Tasman flows continue to be an important feature of New Zealand’s migration balance. However, current departures to Australia, and resulting net migration, are relatively low by historical standards.

Trans-Tasman flows are dominated by the movement of New Zealand citizens in both directions. In contrast, migration between New Zealand and the rest of the world is dominated by non-New Zealand citizens in both directions.

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