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International travel and migration

In the year ended June 2010:

  • Total passenger arrivals and departures numbered 9.1 million, up 3 percent from the year ended June 2009.
  • Permanent and long-term (PLT) arrivals exceeded PLT departures by 16,500.
  • New Zealand citizens made up 61 percent of all PLT departures and 32 percent of all PLT arrivals, compared with 78 and 50 percent, respectively, for the year ended June 1990.
  • Australia was the largest destination country for PLT departures (31,700) and the largest source country of PLT arrivals (15,800) – 68 percent of these arrivals were New Zealand citizens returning to New Zealand.
  • The largest net inflow of PLT migrants was from the United Kingdom (7,100), followed by India (5,600) and China (3,600).
  • Half of PLT arrivals were 15–29 years of age.
  • Auckland region received the greatest net inflow of PLT migrants (8,800), followed by Canterbury (2,100).
  • Of those PLT arrivals requiring a visa, 38 percent arrived on a work visa, 29 percent on a student visa, and 25 percent on a residence visa.

Figure 5

 Figure 5, Annual permanent and long-term arrivals, departures, and net migration

Total migration

Total international passenger arrivals and departures were up in the year ended June 2010, with 9.096 million passenger movements in total. There were 4.549 million arrivals and 4.548 million departures. Although the total number of passenger movements is up from the previous year, it is still down slightly from the peak of 9.119 million in the year ended June 2008. Short-term travellers accounted for 98 percent of total movements, while the remaining 2 percent were PLT migrants.

Details on short-term travellers are no longer included in Demographic Trends as these individuals do not impact on the resident population of New Zealand. Instead, this chapter concentrates on PLT migrants, who do play a key role in determining New Zealand’s resident population.

Note that the official statistics on PLT migration are based on intentions expressed on arrival and departure cards. Because of category jumping and other data issues, changes in the volume of arrivals, departures, and net migration need to be interpreted with care.

Permanent and long-term migration

PLT arrivals include people who arrive in New Zealand intending to stay for a period of 12 months or more (or permanently), and New Zealand residents returning after an absence of 12 months or more. The former group includes people with New Zealand residency as well as students and holders of work permits. PLT departures include New Zealand residents departing for an intended period of 12 months or more (or permanently), plus overseas visitors departing New Zealand after a stay of 12 months or more.

In the year ended June 2010, 82,300 migrants came to New Zealand, down 5,900 (7 percent) on the 2009 figure of 88,300. Over the same period, departures decreased by 13 percent to 65,800. As a result, New Zealand experienced a net inflow of 16,500 migrants during the June 2010 year, compared with an inflow of 12,500 in 2009.

Net PLT migration varied greatly between 1922 and 2009, as illustrated in figure 5.01. Migration flows were influenced by legislative and economic factors in New Zealand and overseas. The most PLT arrivals in a June year were 97,300 in 2003, while the highest number of PLT departures occurred in 1979 (83,700). The same year (1979) saw the highest net PLT outflow of migrants ever recorded in New Zealand (-43,300), while the greatest net PLT inflow was in 2003 (42,500).

People who come to New Zealand intending to stay 12 months or more tend to be younger than those who come on short visits. In the June 2010 year, 65 percent of PLT arrivals were people under 30 years of age, and only 3 percent were aged 65 years or over (65+). This most likely reflects New Zealand’s immigration policy, which tends to favour younger applicants. A similar pattern exists for PLT departures, with 62 percent under 30 years of age and 2 percent 65+.

Permanent and long-term migration by country

Migration flows to and from Australia and the United Kingdom continue to play a major role in New Zealand’s migration patterns. In the June 2010 year, Australia surpassed the United Kingdom as the largest source country for PLT arrivals (15,800 from Australia compared with 15,700 from the United Kingdom). Previously, the United Kingdom supplied the greatest number of PLT arrivals each year since 1995.

In 2010, Australia was by far the largest destination country for PLT departures (31,700). The result was a net outflow of 15,900 people from New Zealand to Australia during the June 2010 year, compared with 28,700 in 2009. In comparison, there was a net PLT inflow from the United Kingdom of 7,100. There were also net inflows from India (5,600), China (3,600), the Philippines (1,500), Germany (1,500), Fiji (1,000), the United States (900), Japan (800), and South Africa (600).

Permanent and long-term migration by citizenship

New Zealand citizens make up a larger proportion of PLT departures than PLT arrivals. In the June 2010 year, 61 percent of people departing New Zealand permanently or long-term were New Zealand citizens, as were 32 percent of PLT arrivals. This compares with 69 and 28 percent, respectively, in 2009.

Although Australia and the United Kingdom had similar levels of PLT arrivals in 2010, more New Zealand citizens make up the flow of migrants both to and from Australia. During the year ended June 2010, 68 percent of PLT arrivals from Australia were New Zealand citizens compared with 45 percent from the United Kingdom. Similarly, New Zealand citizens comprised 87 percent of PLT departures to Australia compared with 55 percent to the United Kingdom.

Permanent and long-term migration by New Zealand region

In the June 2010 year, the Auckland region had the largest number of PLT arrivals (33,100) and departures (24,300), as well as the greatest net inflow of PLT migrants (8,800). Net inflows also occurred for Canterbury (2,100), Otago (500), Wellington, and Southland (each 300). Small net outflows were recorded for Bay of Plenty and Northland (each -200).

Note that regions are territorial authority groupings that approximate regional council areas. Where territorial authorities span more than one regional council area, a territorial authority has been fully included in the region it is mainly in.

Permanent and long-term migration by visa type

In the June 2010 year, 30,200 PLT arrivals were Australian or New Zealand citizens who did not require a visa to remain in New Zealand. Of those who did require a visa, 19,700 arrived on work visas, 15,100 arrived on student visas, 13,100 arrived on residence visas, and 3,800 arrived on visitor visas. Compared with the June 2009 year, there were fewer arrivals on each of these visa types, the biggest decrease being 3,700 fewer arrivals on work visas.

More information

The following information on international travel and migration is available on the Statistics NZ website:

International travel and migration time series data is from the Infoshare database in the Tourism category:

  • International Travel and Migration – ITM.

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