Annual migrant departures exceeded migrant arrivals among non-New Zealand citizens for the first time since the late 1970s, Stats NZ has released.
In the February 2021 year, a provisional net loss of 1400 non-New Zealand citizens and a net gain of 18,900 New Zealand citizens made up an overall net migration gain of 17,400.
"Historically, New Zealand has had an annual net migration gain of non-New Zealand citizens and an annual net migration loss of New Zealand citizens," population indicators manager Tehseen Islam says.
"Although the annual net loss of non-New Zealand citizens is small, it's a significant reversal of the pattern over the last 40 years."
February 2021 is the 11th consecutive month with a net migration loss of non-New Zealand citizens, due to COVID-19 travel and border restrictions. In contrast, there has been a net migration gain of New Zealand citizens in each month from August 2019 to February 2021.
The annual net migration loss of non-New Zealand citizens is made up of 22,400 arrivals and 23,800 departures. Of these arrivals, about half arrived in the month of March 2020, before the first full month of COVID-19-related border restrictions in April 2020.
Net migration gain from Australia
Since the removal of departure cards in November 2018, the destination where migrants are going is no longer available. However, using data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, currently available to September 2020, we are publishing estimates of migrant departures from New Zealand to Australia.
New Zealand has provisionally seen an estimated net migration gain of about 7000 from Australia in the year ended September 2020. This came from an estimated 26,000 migrant arrivals to New Zealand and 19,000 migrant departures to Australia.
Historically, there has been a net migration loss of New Zealand residents to Australia, which has fluctuated over time. For example, the net loss averaged around 27,000 annually in the early 2010s compared with about 3000 annually in the late 2010s.
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 lower levels.
New Zealand citizens traditionally dominate trans-Tasman migration flows. In the year ended September 2020, almost three in four migrant arrivals from Australia were New Zealand citizens. About two in three migrant departures to Australia were New Zealand citizens.
Travel from Pacific countries picks up in recent months
From April 2020 to February 2021, there were 7700 arrivals, including both short- or long-term, from Pacific countries (excluding Australia). This was a 99 per cent drop from 583,000 arrivals for the same period in 2019-20.
During the nine months from April 2020 to December 2020, arrivals from Pacific countries averaged 500 each month. This has increased in January-February 2021 to an average of 1800 arrivals each month.
"The increase in arrivals from the Pacific, excluding Australia, in 2021 coincides with the arrival of seasonal workers, in particular from Vanuatu, Samoa, and Fiji, and the resumption of a one-way travel arrangement with the Cook Islands," Tehseen says.