Statistics New Zealand published its latest travel and migration data, detailing how many South African migrants have arrived in the country over the last year. The statistics body said that people’s ability to travel in 2020 has been limited due to Covid-19 border and travel restrictions, as well as capacity restrictions in managed isolation and quarantine facilities.
StatsNZ defines ‘migrant arrivals’ as overseas residents, including New Zealand citizens living overseas, who cumulatively spend 12 out of 16 months in New Zealand after arriving. The classification of travellers as migrants is based on their time spent in and out of New Zealand, not what visa type or passport they cross the border on.
StatsNZ’s data shows that annual net migration for the year ended September 2020 is provisionally estimated at 67,700, with 96% of the gain occurring in the six months from October 2019 to March 2020 in the lead-up to travel and border restrictions.
“As the Covid-19 pandemic developed many people who arrived in New Zealand in late-2019 and early-2020 have not yet returned overseas, and are staying longer than usual,” said Tehseen Islam population indicators manager . “Annual net migration estimates provisionally peaked at almost 95,000 in the year ended March 2020, however since then migration has fallen due to travel and border restrictions.”
This means that the longer people stay in New Zealand, the more likely they are to be estimated as a migrant arrival. Migration estimates could be revised up or down depending on whether these people stay in New Zealand or go back overseas.
For migrant arrivals in the September 2019/2020 year, New Zealand citizens were the largest group with 44,000 arrivals. The next largest groups were citizens of:
Not a reflection of permanent emigration
This figure is not an accurate representation of South African citizens who have permanently emigrated to New Zealand – especially as strict travel restrictions remain in place due to the pandemic. Many visitors to New Zealand, travelling on a range of visa, have been unable to depart. Estimates show that as of 6 November 2020 there are 80,000–110,000 visitors still in the country.
New Zealand is historically a popular destination for emigrating South Africans – typically only behind the United Kingdom and Australia. South Africans opt to move to New Zealand for numerous reasons, most notably because its safe, is child-friendly, and for job opportunities. Usually, South Africans enter the country on residence and work visas but the data shows that there has also been an increase in student visa-arrivals in recent years.
“Travellers arriving into the country have identified with a broad and diverse range of occupations, however we don’t know whether these people will be looking to join the New Zealand workforce,” Islam said.
From April 2020 to September 2020, the stated occupation of overseas resident arrivals has included:
About half (26,900) of all arrivals from April 2020 to September 2020 had an occupation allocated.
Auckland most popular destination
Just over two in five (about 13,000) overseas resident arrivals from April 2020 to September 2020 provided a street address in the Auckland region. By comparison, just over one in three (about 1.7 million) of New Zealand’s population lives in Auckland.
“Most overseas residents are providing street addresses in North Island regions, particularly Auckland, however they may end up staying elsewhere during their time in New Zealand,” Islam said.
Overseas resident arrivals have also provided addresses in other regions, including Canterbury (3,000), Wellington (3,000), Waikato (2,500), and Bay of Plenty (2,100).