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New Zealand sees lowest net migration in three years in October

[WELLINGTON] Annual net migration to New Zealand fell to the lowest level in three years in October, a year after the Labour-led government took over promising to curb the number of people entering the country to help ease a growing housing crisis and reduce migrant exploitation.

Net migration fell to 61,800 in October, Statistics New Zealand figures showed on Thursday, well below the record peak of 72,400 in mid-2017.

That came 12 months after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's Labour-led coalition government took the helm after campaigning to cut net annual migration by up to 30,000.

The country's fast-growing population had fueled stellar economic growth in recent years, but is blamed by many locals for contributing to strained infrastructure and rising house prices.

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The recent moderation was partly due to tightened work visa restrictions introduced in the last months of the previous centre-right National government's tenure.

Greater numbers of New Zealanders staying overseas, particularly in Australia, which is home to a huge diaspora, also contributed to the drop.

"The recent moderation has been driven by lower student numbers and NZ-resident arrivals, but annual work visa numbers also modestly declined in the October year," said Mark Smith, senior economist at ASB Bank.

Labour is now considering tightening up the rights of international students to work due to reports of exploitation by employers, which could see migration levels fall further.

"We expect to see a further decline over the coming years," said Satish Ranchhod, Senior Economist at Westpac Bank.

The New Zealand dollar was largely unchanged from the release, hovering just below US$0.6830.

Tourism - a key export earner - posted robust growth, climbing 4.8 per cent from a year ago, largely on increased visits from Australia and the United States.

REUTERS