NZ migration boom nears 60,000 a year, as Indians and returning Kiwis flood in
Tertiary institutions have seen a rise in Indian and Chinese students on the back of exceptionally strong migration figures.
Statistics New Zealand says the number of permanent and long-term migrants in the year to July was a net 59,600 people with July monthly new migration much stronger than expected at a record 5700.
The figure was boosted by students from India and China and more migrants from Australia, mostly returning New Zealanders.
The net loss of people to Australia is now down to its lowest levels since 1991, as the Australian job market worsens.
After Australia, the next biggest group of migrants was 13,800 from India, with three-quarters on student visas.
Almost as many - 13,500 - were from the United Kingdom, mostly on work visas or with New Zealand citizenship, followed by 10,400 migrants from China, with about half on student visas.
In Wellington, Weltec and Whitireia polytechnics have had a 35 per cent increase in international students in the last year, studying business, IT, hospitality, engineering and health.
Weltec chief executive Chris Gosling said the international student body used to be dominated by Chinese students but there were now just as many from India.
The growing number of Indian students reflected the stronger Indian economy in recent years and visa rulechanges allowing students to work while studying here, Gosling said.
That had made New Zealand more accessible for Indian students, he said.
Indian students often applied to stay on but they still had to meet the immigration skills short-list, he said.
"I think we need to be recognising to a much greater extent that getting good skilled immigrants to come to New Zealand and come to Wellington is something that is really healthy for our economy."
Tim Mahren Brown, director of English language school the Campbell Institute, said his school had no Indian students because they could not get visas to study English here and most of them spoke it anyway.
But he did see Chinese students and they tended to go home.
"It wouldn't even be 50 per cent remain in New Zealand or have the intention to remain in New Zealand. They have better work opportunities back in China."
Economists said net migration remained "extremely high" with no sign of slowing down, which would support spending and demand for houses especially in Auckland. It would also add workers to the job market and keep a lid on wages.
The annual migration figures reflected 117,100 migrant arrivals, and 57,500 migrant departures.
In the year 24,300 migrants were from Australia, with two-thirds being New Zealand citizens, as the job market in Australia worsened.
The New Zealand economy has been doing better than Australia, encouraging more New Zealanders to stay at home rather than seek work across the Tasman.
But in the June quarter, New Zealand's unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 5.9 per cent as jobs growth slowed dramatically from earlier quarters. In Australian the unemployment rate jumped 0.3 per centage points to 6.3 per cent in July.
Economists expected some slowdown in population growthin the coming year, but it was not expected to turn much till Australia became more attractive for New Zealanders and other international migrants looking for work.
Westpac economists said they were cautious about reading too much into the surprise migration figures for July. Statistics NZ noted that a major contributor was a lift in arrivals on student visas and student arrivals tended to surge in July.
"Even allowing for some statistical volatility in the student category, there is clearly no sign yet that migration is slowing," Westpac economist Felix Delbruck said.
The net outflow of New Zealanders to Australia - the other big driver of recent migration patterns - fell to a post-1991 low of just 240 people.
In the 2013 July year, there was a net loss of almost 30,000 to Australia, and 40,000 three years ago.
In the latest July year that was down to less than 900.
With New Zealand's economy expected to slow and a worse job market, migration was expected to cool down.
But that had not happened yet, because economic conditions were no better in Australia.
The migration boom would add to demand for housing in Auckland and for home building.
But more migrants would also mean more workers available and a higher unemployment rate. Weaker economic growth and a rising population meant the Reserve Bank would need to keep cutting interest rates, Westpac said.
Migration has been a driving force in house prices especialy in Auckland, where prices have jumped 21 per cent in the past 12 months. National median prices were up almost 12 per cent in the July year.
The housing market is also getting a boost from lower mortgage interest rates, after the Reserve Bank started cutting rates earlier this year, with another cut expected next month.
But new bank lending rules for investors come into force in November, which may chill the market, helping offset the demand from new migrants.
There will be tougher lending rules for property investors in Auckland and the government plans to tax any capital gain on investment properties sold within two years of being bought.
There are also concerns that house prices may be hit in dairying regions, after the plunge in dairy payout prices this year.
On Monday, Reserve Bank Deputy Governor Grant Spencer will give a speech about the Reserve Bank's view of the property market.
Meanwhile, for July alone, it was the highest ever net gain of migrants for that month.
New Zealand had a seasonally adjusted net gain (more arrivals than departures) of 5700 migrants in July 2015, surpassing the previous record of 5,400 in January 2015.
More student arrivals, mainly from India, contributed to the spike in net migration in July 2015. Net migration has been fluctuating around 5000 since October 2014.
The seasonally adjusted net gain of 200 migrants from Australia in July 2015 was the highest in over 20 years, since 300 in March 1991.
Trans Tasman flows:
The exodus of New Zealanders seen after the Canterbury quakes has slowed to a trickle, with the smallest annual net loss across the Tasman since 1991.
Australia's economy is getting worse with unemployment up to 6.3 per cent.
New Zealand's unemployment rate is 5.9 per cent.
Fewer New Zealand citizens are leaving for Australia.
Departures of New Zealand citizens to Australia fell 18 per cent, to 21,700 in the July 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 slumped from a record 40,000 people in the August 2012 year to just 800 people in the July 2015 year.
The latest figure is the smallest annual net loss to Australia since 1991.
Where are other migrants from?
New Zealand recorded net gains of migrants from most other countries in the July 2015 year, led by
the Philippines: 4,500
Source: Statistics NZ