Most people coming from Australia… are Kiwi

A wee while back, Winston Peters complained that arrival data used by Herald reporters mistook arrivals from Australia as Australians (spoiler – it didn’t).  But he did raise an interesting question: who does come over from Australia when they move here long-term? Turns out, almost two thirds of people moving from Australia to New Zealand are in fact Kiwis.

Interestingly, however, the pool of people crossing “the Ditch” has become more diverse over time.  At the previous net migration peak in May 2003, New Zealanders and Australians made up 94% of arrivals from Australia (compared to the current 84%). Although the proportion of Kiwi’s coming over has been more or less the same, the number of Australians moving to New Zealand over the past decade has not increased quite as quickly as the number of people that don’t hold New Zealand or Australian citizenship.

Up until 2007/08, arrivals of “other” citizens, were otherwise stable as a proportion of total arrivals from Australia.  But since then, the proportion of Australian’s coming to New Zealand has dropped and the proportion of citizens from other countries has risen to fill the gap.

Why are we so interested in arrivals from Australia?

Arrivals from Australia are not something to thumb your nose at.  Over the year to May 2017, arrivals from Australia made up a good 20% of all long-term migrants to New Zealand (as measured at the arrivals gate).  But what this suggests is that arrivals that are actually New Zealand citizens are very significant in the grand scheme of net migration numbers.

How does Australia rank if New Zealanders are taken out of the equation?

If we take Kiwi’s out of the equation, Australia is actually only our third biggest source country for migrants, following China and the UK.  But, the gap between the ranks is narrow for the top four countries, with each contribution in the ballpark of 8% of total arrivals.

However, if New Zealand citizens coming through our arrival gates all came from the same place – let’s call it “Kiwiland”– that place would overwhelmingly be the largest source country of arrivals.  Just over 32,000 New Zealand citizens moved back to New Zealand over the year to May 2017, meaning that arrivals from “Kiwiland” made up a quarter of New Zealand’s in-bound "migrants" in the past year.

Contribution to migrant arrivals by country

% of arrivals (excluding New Zealand citizens) over the year to May 2017



Share of arrivals








United Kingdom









South Africa


What does this all mean?

The above highlights a key point that hasn’t really been raised in recent debates about migration: what New Zealander’s decide to do has a huge effect on overall migration statistics.  Although arrivals from most of the top source countries are higher than a few years ago – arrivals of New Zealand citizens are at their highest since at least 1980!  And we haven’t even begun to look at departure levels, which for Kiwi’s have been at their lowest levels in decades. This means that, although New Zealanders only make up part of the equation when it comes to net migration, they are a significant group that needs to be considered in order to develop balanced immigration policies.

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