Bloomberg News

New Zealand’s Net Migration Slumps to Lowest Since 2001

October 20, 2011

(Updates with economist’s comment in fourth paragraph.)

Oct. 21 (Bloomberg) -- More migrants left New Zealand than arrived for the sixth month in the past seven, extending the biggest exodus in a decade, after residents were uprooted by an earthquake in the South Island city of Christchurch.

Permanent migrant departures exceeded arrivals by 660 in September, the most since February 2001, Statistics New Zealand said in Wellington today. In the year to Sept. 30, net arrivals declined to 773, also the lowest in a decade, from 2,257 in the 12 months through August.

Slower immigration may weigh on consumption and housing in New Zealand, giving central bank Governor Alan Bollard reason to maintain a record-low benchmark interest rate of 2.5 percent until rebuilding accelerates. Earlier this week, he said reconstruction should provide “significant stimulus” in the medium term.

“The weakness in net migration highlights ongoing weakness in total domestic consumer demand, and the lack of urgency to increase the official cash rate,” Jane Turner, economist at ASB Bank Ltd. in Auckland, said in an e-mailed note.

The Feb. 22 temblor killed 181 people, wrecked houses, split roads and shut businesses. The rebuild is likely to cost about NZ$20 billion ($15.9 billion), equivalent of 10 percent of gross domestic product, Bollard said Oct. 18.

Christchurch residents departing permanently overseas rose to 5,500 in from March through September from 3,300 in the same period last year, the statistics agency said.

Australia Beckons

Many of those departing go without migration restrictions to Australia, a country with five times New Zealand’s population of 4.4 million people that is little more than three hours away by aircraft and offers higher average wages.

The number of New Zealanders leaving for Australia rose 49 percent to 43,766 persons in the year ended Sept. 30 from 29,392 in the year through September 2010.

Short-term visitor arrivals surged 26 percent from September last year, boosted by fans attending the Rugby World Cup, which began last month and ends Oct. 23, the report showed.

About 74,400 visitors in September said they came for the tournament, the agency said. About 95,000 foreign fans are forecast to attend the tournament, bolstering the tourism industry, which makes up about 9 percent of the economy.

--With assistance from Chris Bourke in Wellington. Editors: Brendan Murray, Michael Heath

To contact the reporter on this story: Tracy Withers in Wellington at twithers@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephanie Phang at sphang@bloomberg.net


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