Stats NZ | 2021 Migration Loss to Australia

There was a provisional net migration loss of 5,800 people from New Zealand to Australia in 2021, Stats NZ has revealed.

This compares with a net migration gain of 7,300 people from Australia in 2020. These estimates use data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), which is currently available up to December 2021.

COVID-19 related border and travel restrictions, introduced in March 2020, affected international travel and migration patterns between Australia and New Zealand. This contributed to a period of net migration gains from Australia in 2020, which was a reversal from the historical pattern of net migration losses.

“Traditionally, there is a net migration loss from New Zealand to Australia, and the loss in 2021 is small compared with the record loss of 43,700 in the March 2012 year,” population indicators manager, Tehseen Islam said.

In the late 2010s, before the COVID-19 pandemic, the net migration loss to Australia averaged 3,000 a year, although historically there have been ups and downs. Changes in migration are typically due to a combination of factors, including relative economic and labour market conditions between New Zealand and the rest of the world, and immigration policy in New Zealand and other countries.

New Zealand citizens drive trans-Tasman migration

The net migration loss of 5,800 with Australia in 2021 was made up of 16,100 migrant arrivals from Australia, and 21,900 migrant departures from New Zealand.

New Zealand citizens – people travelling on New Zealand passports – traditionally dominated trans-Tasman flows and in 2021 made up 3 in 4 migrant departures to Australia, and 3 in 4 migrant arrivals from Australia.

However, the number of New Zealand citizens migrating in both directions was almost 40 percent lower than in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Net migration loss with rest of the world

There was a provisional net migration loss of 6,000 from New Zealand to the rest of the world (excluding Australia) in 2021. The March 2021 year was the first annual net migration loss with the rest of the world (excluding Australia) since the July 1980 year.

The net loss in 2021 was driven by a net loss of 11,900 non-New Zealand citizens. This more than offset a net gain of 5,900 New Zealand citizens from the rest of the world (excluding Australia).

New Zealand has typically had an annual net migration gain from the rest of the world (excluding Australia) and a net migration loss to Australia. In the five years from 2015 to 2019, net gains from the rest of the world averaged 62,700 a year, more than offsetting net migration losses to Australia which averaged 3,000 a year over the same period.

These net migration estimates draw on two data sources, both of which are freely available in Infoshare (from Infoshare, select ‘Tourism’, then ‘International Travel and Migration – ITM’).

  • Migrant arrivals into New Zealand from Australia, using Stats NZ monthly estimates currently available to May 2022 – see ‘Estimated migrant arrivals by citizenship, visa type and CLPR, 12/16-month rule’ in Infoshare.
  • Migrant arrivals into Australia from New Zealand, using Australian Bureau of Statistics quarterly estimates currently available to the December 2021 quarter – see ‘Estimated migrant arrivals to Australia by CLPR, citizenship and birthplace’ in Infoshare.