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International Travel and Migration: September 2015
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  21 October 2015

Visitor arrivals up 12 percent in September

Overseas visitor arrivals to New Zealand numbered 217,000 in September 2015, an increase of 23,700 (12 percent) from September 2014.

 Graph, Monthly visitor arrivals, September 2005 to 2015.  

Visitor arrivals by country of residence

The biggest changes in visitors by country of residence between September 2014 and September 2015 were in arrivals from:

  • Australia (up 10,100)
  • China (up 7,500)
  • Japan (up 1,200)
  • the United States (up 1,000).

Visitors arriving from Australia numbered 113,100, with most from New South Wales (39,500), Queensland (31,800), and Victoria (26,000).

China had the highest-ever number of visitors for a September month, up 41 percent from September 2014.

Visitor arrivals by travel purpose

The biggest changes in visitors by travel purpose between September 2014 and September 2015 were in arrivals for:

  • holidays (up 18,700)
  • visiting friends and relatives (up 4,000).

Visitors arriving for holidays numbered 107,000 in September 2015, up 21 percent from September 2014 (88,300). This was primarily driven by more holiday visitors from China (up 7,100) and Australia (up 6,200). 

Australia drove the increase in arrivals to visit friends and relatives, up 3,400 from September 2014.

Annual visitor arrivals number 3.04 million

Visitor arrivals to New Zealand numbered 3.04 million in the September 2015 year, the highest-ever annual total. The latest figure was 9 percent higher than the September 2014 year.

Australia (1.30 million), China (327,900), and the United States (237,300) were New Zealand's biggest visitor sources, contributing 61 percent of all arrivals in the September 2015 year. These three countries also provided the biggest increases compared with the 2014 year, with arrivals from China up 85,100, Australia up 64,800, and the United States up 23,600.

For more detailed data about visitor arrivals, see the Excel tables in the 'Downloads' box.

New Zealand residents go on 7 percent more overseas trips in September

New Zealand-resident travellers departed on 235,600 overseas trips in September 2015, the highest-ever for a September month. This was up 15,900 (7 percent) from September 2014.

Graph, Monthly overseas trips by New Zealand residents, September 2005 to 2015.   

Overseas trips by country of main destination

The biggest changes in overseas trips by country of main destination (where the person will spend the most time) between September 2014 and September 2015 were in trips to:

  • Australia (up 6,300)
  • the United Kingdom (up 3,600)
  • Fiji (up 2,800)
  • the United States (up 1,700).

New Zealand residents holidaying in the United Kingdom in September 2015 numbered 5,300, almost double September 2014 (2,700). This coincides with the start of the Rugby World Cup, which began on 18 September 2015.  

Highest number of overseas trips by New Zealand residents annually

New Zealand residents departed on 2.38 million overseas trips in the September 2015 year, the highest-ever annual total. This was an increase of 134,900 (6 percent) compared with the September 2014 year.

Almost half of all trips by New Zealand residents were to Australia (1.13 million). The number of trips to Australia increased 55,900 from the September 2014 year. 

Residents also took more trips to the United States (up 22,200), Fiji (up 17,800), and Indonesia (up 6,600), compared with the September 2014 year.

For more detailed data on overseas trips by New Zealand residents, see the Excel tables in the 'Downloads' box.

Net gain of 5,600 migrants in September 2015

Seasonally adjusted permanent and long-term (PLT) migration figures showed a net gain (more arrivals than departures) of 5,600 migrants in September 2015. Net migration has been fluctuating around 5,100 over the last 13 months, peaking in July 2015 at 5,700.

September 2015 had a seasonally adjusted net gain of 100 migrants from Australia, the sixth month in a row to show a net gain. Before April 2015, there had not been a net gain in migrants from Australia in over 20 years (since 1991).

Graph, Seasonally adjusted monthly permanent and long-term migration, September 2005 to 2015.

Annual net gain of migrants continues to rise

Unadjusted figures showed a record net gain of 61,200 migrants in the September 2015 year. The annual gain in migrants has been setting new records for the last 14 months.

The increased net gain of migrants in the September 2015 year was driven by both more arrivals and fewer departures. Migrant arrivals (118,900) continued to reach a new high, up 13 percent from the September 2014 year. Migrant departures (57,600) were down 4 percent.

PLT migration by country of residence

The increase in migrant arrivals between the September 2014 and September 2015 years was led by India, Australia, the Philippines, and China. The increase in arrivals from Australia was for both New Zealand citizens and non-New Zealand citizens.

The fall in migrant departures was mainly due to fewer New Zealand citizens leaving for Australia. Departures of New Zealand citizens to Australia fell 15 percent, to 21,500 in the September 2015 year. This is less than half of the record 48,800 departures in the December 2012 year.

The net loss of people to Australia decreased from a record 40,000 people in the August 2012 year to just 200 people in the September 2015 year. The latest figure is the smallest annual net loss to Australia since 1991.

New Zealand recorded net gains of migrants from most other countries in the September 2015 year, led by:

  • India (12,900)
  • China (8,500)
  • the Philippines (4,700)
  • the United Kingdom (3,700).

PLT migrant arrivals by visa type

The biggest changes in migrant arrivals by visa type between the September 2014 and September 2015 years were:

  • student visas (up 5,600)
  • work visas (up 4,400)
  • New Zealand and Australian citizens (up 2,200).

A total of 27,000 migrants arrived on student visas in the September 2015 year. Most of the arriving students were from India (10,700) and China (5,200).

Migrants arriving on work visas numbered 36,300 in the September 2015 year, with the United Kingdom being the biggest source (6,100). Arrivals on work visas include working holidaymakers.

Arrivals of New Zealand and Australian citizens, who do not have to apply for a visa, numbered 35,500 in the September 2015 year. 

Another 13,900 migrants arrived on residence visas. Most migrants gain New Zealand residence after, rather than before, arrival. Many arrive on temporary visas (eg work, student) and transfer to a residence visa after spending time in New Zealand.

PLT migration by New Zealand region

All regions had a net gain of international migrants in the September 2015 year, led by Auckland (28,400), Canterbury (6,800), and Waikato (2,400).

Half of all migrants who stated an address on their arrival card were moving to the Auckland region. Of those who stated an address on their departure card, 42 percent were migrating from the Auckland region. In comparison, the Auckland region is home to 34 percent of New Zealand's population (at 30 June 2014). 

For more detailed data about permanent and long-term migration, see the Excel tables in the 'Downloads' box.

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