New Zealand has long-standing links with Australia, including open migration access which allows the largely unrestricted flow of New Zealand and Australian citizens between the two countries. This article looks at trans-Tasman flows of migrants over the last four decades, and the relative contribution of Kiwis, Aussies, and other migrants to these flows.
Net migration historically westwards
Historically, more people have migrated from New Zealand to Australia than have gone in the other direction, although in the 1983-84, 1991-92, and 2015-16 June years these flows were relatively balanced. Net migration to Australia averaged 17,000 a year over the 38 years from 1979 to 2016, ranging from a small net gain of 1,900 in 1991 to a net loss to Australia of 39,800 in 2012. In the year ended June 2016, the net gain from Australia was also 1,900, a small proportion of the total net gain of 69,100 from all countries during the year.
As a result of open migration, in June 2015 an estimated 611,400 New Zealand-born people were living in Australia (Australian Bureau of Statistics) and 653,800 New Zealand citizens were in Australia (Department of Immigration and Border Control). New Zealand’s 2013 Census counted 62,700 Australian-born people living in New Zealand (Statistics NZ).
Kiwis departing are main trans-Tasman flow
The dominant historical flow of migrants across the Tasman is New Zealand citizens moving from New Zealand to Australia. This averaged 27,600 a year from the year ended June 1979 to 2016, but there were considerable fluctuations, often within periods of a few years. For example, there were 20,200 departures in the June 2016 year compared with 48,600 in 2012.
Half of all migrant departures from New Zealand were to Australia during 1979–2016, and seven in eight of these were New Zealand citizens.
Migrant arrivals from Australia driven by Kiwis
An average of 15,800 New Zealand citizens a year have migrated to New Zealand from Australia in the last three June years (2014–16). This compares with an average of 8,900 a year in the previous 35 years from June 1979–2013.
One in five migrant arrivals to New Zealand in the June 2016 year were from Australia, and two in three of these were New Zealand citizens.
Australian citizens contributed an average of 3,800 a year to trans-Tasman arrivals from 1979 to 2016, although they reached 5,000 in the June 2016 year. Some of these Australian citizens are children of New Zealand citizens.
Citizens of other countries have historically been a small part of trans-Tasman flows. However, they exceeded 3,000 arrivals a year in the last three June years (2014–16). Three-quarters of these migrants were citizens of the United Kingdom, Ireland, and other European countries.
Still more Kiwis leaving than arriving
Despite a reversal in trends since 2012, there are still more New Zealand citizens departing to Australia than arriving from Australia. However, the net loss has shrunk from 39,700 in the June 2012 year to 3,500 in 2016. This deficit was more than offset by small net gains of Australian citizens (3,000 in 2016) and other citizens (2,400 in 2016), giving a small overall net gain of 1,900 in 2016.
The pattern of trans-Tasman migration has been one of volatility, driven by New Zealand citizens. Australian citizens make a relatively small contribution to trans-Tasman flows, while the contribution of other citizens is even smaller.
- This article is based on the International Travel and Migration permanent and long-term (PLT) migration measure, which excludes the short-term movement of overseas and New Zealand citizens, where Australia was the country of last/next permanent residence.
- PLT arrivals (migrant arrivals) are people from overseas arriving to live in New Zealand for 12 months or more (including permanently), and New Zealanders returning after an absence of 12 months or more from overseas.
- PLT departures (migrant departures) are New Zealanders departing for an absence of 12 months or more (including permanently), and migrants leaving after a stay of 12 months or more in New Zealand.
- Net migration is the difference between PLT arrivals and PLT departures.
Published 21 July 2016