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Annual net migration slows

Annual net migration is dropping steadily, with far fewer migrant arrivals and departures in the eight months since border restrictions were imposed in March 2020, Stats NZ says.

Overall, net migration in the year ended November 2020 is provisionally estimated at 52,400, based on 102,900 migrant arrivals, and 50,500 migrant departures.

"Almost all the net migration gain in the November 2020 year occurred from December 2019 to March 2020, before border restrictions were imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic," population indicators manager Tehseen Islam says.

Latest estimates show annual net migration falling from a provisional peak of 95,500 in the year ended March 2020. This peak was due to many people who arrived in New Zealand in late-2019 and early-2020 being unable to, or choosing not to, return overseas and staying longer than usual.

Low net migration since April 2020

Border restrictions, disruptions to international travel, and capacity limits in managed isolation and quarantine facilities have monthly net migration estimates well below levels seen in previous years.

In the eight months from April 2020 to November 2020, net migration was provisionally estimated at 5100.

This was made up of a net gain of 11,200 New Zealand citizens, and a net loss of 6100 non-New Zealand citizens.

"Historically, net migration gains have been dominated by non-New Zealand citizens, but since April 2020 this pattern has reversed, and New Zealand citizens are driving the small net gain," says Tehseen.

The net gain in the population from migration since border restrictions has averaged about 600 people a month. In the same eight months in 2019 the gain from migration averaged close to 6,000 a month, about 10 times higher.

"With slowing net migration, New Zealand’s population growth is lower than at any other time in the last seven years."

Border crossings remain low

There were 210,600 border crossings in the eight months from April 2020 to November 2020, down 98 percent from the same period in 2019.

From April 2020 to November 2020 there were 77,600 arrivals and 133,000 departures, compared to 4.44 million arrivals and 4.43 million departures in the same period in 2019.

Arrivals and departures include all people crossing the border, either for short-term trips or longer term. April 2020 to November 2020 were months under full border restrictions imposed by the government to slow the spread of COVID-19. From April 2020 to November 2020, 50,600 arrivals (65 percent) were New Zealand citizens and 27,000 (35 percent) were non-New Zealand citizens.

Non-New Zealand citizens include: people arriving on residence, work, or critical purpose visas; Australian citizens and permanent residents; and others who meet border entry criteria (see Border closures and exceptions).

From April 2020 to November 2020 104,800 departures (79 percent) were by non-New Zealand citizens and 28,200 (21 percent) were by New Zealand citizens.

Provisional data for December 2020 show a slight increase in the number of departures, with arrivals relatively unchanged from previous months.

Provisional border crossing data are currently being published on the Stats NZ COVID-19 data portal. Provisional international travel data are also published weekly.

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