New Zealand population grows through net immigration

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New Zealand's population rose by 7,900 in 2012/13 because of net immigration, the latest government figures show. In 2011/12, the population fell slightly due to migration. The government expects the net immigration figure to rise to 16,000 in the year to September 2013 and to 30,000 in mid-2014.

New Zealand's immigration minister Michael Woodhouse welcomed the news. He said 'These figures suggest that our policies are working with more New Zealanders choosing to stay and work in New Zealand, more returning home, and more immigrants choosing to come here and take advantage of everything we have to offer'.

New Zealand has been seeking to grow its population through immigration for some time. It is a country roughly the size of the UK but has a population of only just over 4m compared to over 60m in the UK.

Kiwis fly the nest

New Zealand is a remote country. As a consequence, many young New Zealanders leave the country on lengthy trips. Many find opportunity elsewhere and never return. The most popular destinations for young 'Kiwis' are Australia and Europe, particularly the UK.

This leaves New Zealand with a stagnant, even shrinking population. The New Zealand government wants to replace these 'missing' workers and has an active immigration policy but, in recent years, the number of people leaving the country has been a little higher than the number of immigrants arriving in New Zealand.

The government has been especially keen to recruit skilled foreign workers since the Christchurch earthquake in February 2011. The earthquake measured 6.3 on the Richter scale and devastated New Zealand's second city. Only 185 people were killed but most of the city will need to be rebuilt.

Christchurch rebuild will cost $40bn

The estimated cost of rebuilding the city is NZ$40bn (US$34bn, £20.5bn). The massive project will provide jobs for many skilled workers particularly in the construction industry for decades to come.

The figures show that the number of people approved for a permanent resident visa in 2012/13 actually fell by 4% from the 2011.12 figure to 38,961. The number of temporary workers in most visa categories rose. The rise in the number of temporary work visas has come about because the Christchurch rebuild is now getting under way in earnest.

India provided the highest number of skilled migrants -18,156 Indians came in the Skilled Migrant Category. The UK was home to the second highest number of skilled arrivals.

International student numbers down

The number of international students arriving in New Zealand to commence their studies fell by 7% to around 64,000. The New Zealand government blamed this on the high price of the New Zealand dollar.

The highest number of family stream arrivals came from China while most Humanitarian Stream migrants came from Pacific nations.

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