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Immigration way down 

In brief

  • Stats show NZ is losing population with a net migration loss of about 8400 people over the past year. 
  • While NZ generally ranks high as a destination for migrants, its appeal is slipping. 
  • Only three applications – that are in limbo – under the new Active Investor Plus visa since the rollout in 2022. 

Gains and losses

Overall, net migration is negative as of September 2022. Stats NZ recently reported that NZ has lost 8400 people. A net migration of around 12,700 NZ citizens leaving has been offset by the arrival of around 4200 non-NZ citizens.

According to Stats NZ, it is normal for migration patterns to show negative some years and that has been the case every decade since the 1960s. The past few years were unique, however, because COVID related travel and border restrictions introduced in early 2020 disrupted usual migration patterns. The result was net gains of New Zealand citizens, and net losses of non-New Zealand citizens. 

Losing its appeal 

New Zealand has generally ranked near the top of most lists compiling best places to live, invest in, migrate to, etc. However, while still desirable by many measures, the appeal is slipping. Many workers find Australia, for example, a better place to ply their trade. Difficulties in migrating to New Zealand along with lower wages, for instance for nurses, has been widely discussed in the media. 

With a sentiment that can be observed in many similar types of rankings where NZ is mentioned, popular conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation noted recently “New Zealand has registered an [overall] loss of economic freedom since 2017 but nevertheless remains in the top, ‘Free’ Index category. The country’s indicators are generally very strong except for the burden of government spending on the economy.”

Active Investor Plus visa fails to attract applicants

The aim to attract wealthy migrants to invest in domestic businesses and bring international skill sets to NZ is coming up short. Only three wealthy foreigners have applied for residency under the new Active Investor Plus visa since it was rolled out in July 2022 as part of the Government’s Immigration Rebalance strategy. 

Under the program migrants are required to make a minimum $5m investment in New Zealand business, with the option to instead make a larger alternative investment.

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) is responsible for identifying what investments are deemed suitable, but so far have not done so. The three applicants are in limbo and may be stuck for months while the program details are fully worked out, which NZTE says will be in early 2023. 

According to Economic and Regional Development Minister Stuart Nash and Immigration Minister Michael Wood, the old system attracted in excess of $12b over the previous decade before being scrapped in favour of the new program. But the preference for investors to put their money into passive investments, like bonds and dividend yielding shares, meant NZ businesses weren’t benefiting from the potential savvy and experience high value migrants can bring. 

According to data from Stats NZ, over the past ten years, applicants to the two categories of investor visa, which the new program replaced, averaged around 350 per year.

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