More people moving to New Zealand from Australia than vice versa

Dancers perform the Haka, a traditional Maori dance. Source: AAP

More people are moving from Australia to New Zealand than vice versa for the first time in 25 years, NZ government statistics reveal.

New Zealand has experienced its first net increase in migration from Australia since 1991, according to new data from Statistics New Zealand.

Last year 25,273 moved to New Zealand from Australia and 24,504 people moved to Australia from New Zealand, which is a break from the historic trend of New Zealand losing numbers of residents to Australia.

Immigration from Australia to New Zealand, and from New Zealand to Australia, per year for 2001-15

SOURCE: Statistics New Zealand

The majority of people moving in each direction are New Zealand citizens.

However, the number of New Zealand citizens moving to New Zealand after living in Australia is still lower than the number of New Zealand citizens leaving for Australia.

This means that the net increase in immigration from Australia to New Zealand has been mostly due to New Zealand citizens returning, but also Australians and citizens of other countries moving to New Zealand.

Statistics New Zealand analyst Melissa McKenzie said migration was influenced by many factors and was hard to predict.

"[That] makes it hard to say for sure whether or not we will see a net annual gain in NZ citizens migrating from Australia [to New Zealand]," Ms McKenzie said.

"There have been times in the past when there was a small net gain in NZ citizens from Australia, most recently the years ending in July 1991 and January 1984.

"In the December 2015 month, the NZ citizens migrating from Australia [to New Zealand] did outweigh those moving to Australia for the first time since December 1990."

In 2001, the Australian Government announced that New Zealand citizens were required to apply for and be granted a permanent visa if they wished to access certain social security payments, obtain Australian citizenship or sponsor their family members for permanent residence.

Dr Anna Boucher, from the University of Sydney, said New Zealanders may be leaving due to limitations imposed on them in Australia.

"We've had these policy parameters in Australia which have not been very advantageous to New Zealand citizens for a long time - with welfare restrictions and children of New Zealand citizens having limited access to HECS," she said.

"But has there been a tipping point? Maybe New Zealand citizens of the second generation are starting to get sick of [the restrictions]?"

Reserve Bank of New Zealand Governor Graeme Wheeler highlighted last week that growth in that country is expected to increase in 2016 as a result of continued strong net immigration, tourism, a solid pipeline of construction activity, and the lift in business and consumer confidence.

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