Kiwis decide home’s best

New Zealand could be heading for a population blip as thousands of Kiwis stay home instead of trying their luck overseas.

Net migration numbers arriving in New Zealand compared with those leaving last month was the highest for 2 1/2 years at 1720.

The main factor in the increase was the lower number of New Zealanders leaving. One thousand fewer Kiwis departed for overseas than in the same month last year, with 800 fewer leaving for Australia.

At the same time, an increasing number of people are heading to New Zealand.

In the year to last month, 4000 more non-New Zealand citizens and 1400 more New Zealand citizens arrived in the country than in the year before.

The last time New Zealand had consistently high net migration figures was in 2003-2004, when a record number of migrants, including thousands of Chinese students, flowed into the country.

Statistics New Zealand demographic analyst Nick Thomson said that if the trend continued, New Zealand could have a net inflow of 20,000 for 2009 compared with about 4000 last year.

He said the biggest shift was due to the worsening economic situation in Australia, leading to a drop in the number of Kiwis moving across the Tasman, while the number of migrants entering New Zealand continued to rise.

Rob Marshall-Lee and wife Yvonne moved back to Christchurch with their three boys a month ago after eight years in Australia.

Marshall-Lee said being made redundant from his job as a senior software test analyst on the Gold Coast was a “blessing in disguise” as the family had always wanted to return to New Zealand.

He had had a few job interviews already and was confident of finding a role that suited his experience.

“I’m pleasantly surprised that Christchurch is more buoyant than I thought it would be,” he said.

“I’m very pleased that we came back. New Zealand is not as bad as people make it out to be. There’s depth in the employment market for people like me.”

James Sugrue returned to Christchurch with his wife in September after 20 months in Britain contracting as a software developer.

He said they had decided to come back at the end of 2008, but sped up their plans when he was offered a job.

“I could see the writing on the wall in the UK. Things really started to slow down,” he said.

Stuart Maxwell, general manager of Track Me Back, a website that connects Kiwi expats with New Zealand employers, said there had been a significant increase in activity on the site recently.

March attracted double the registrations compared with the same time last year, with many more high-calibre applicants in mid to senior-level positions.