February 27, 2018 / 11:00 PM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-NZ tourist arrivals drop in January, migration also eases

 (Adds details)
    By Charlotte Greenfield
    WELLINGTON, Feb 28 (Reuters) - New Zealand's visitor
arrivals dropped for the first time in five years in January as
fewer Chinese tourists visited the country, Statistics New
Zealand said on Wednesday.
    The number of short-term visitors to New Zealand fell 0.5
percent in January from a year earlier.
    The number of tourists from China fell more than 30 percent,
though statistics officials said that was largely due to the
timing of Chinese New Year, which this year fell in February.
    "Provisional figures show arrivals from China are picking up
in February 2018, as expected, with the start of the Year of the
Dog," said Peter Dolan, the agency's senior manager for
populations insights.
    The country's annual net migration also eased off recent
highs as government regulations introduced in the middle of last
year came into force.
    On an annual basis net migration was 70,100, down from a
record high of 72,400 in July.
    However on a monthly basis, the country posed a seasonally
adjusted net gain of 6,210 permanent and long-term migrants in
January compared to 5,780 the month before, which economists
said showed immigration was not at risk of plummeting.
    "While off its highs, net migration is still showing a great
deal of resilience. Consequently, even though we expect a
continued easing off over the next few years, this may be quite
gradual," said Satish Ranchhod, senior economist with Westpac
    The country's soaring immigration has in recent years been
some of the fastest in the Western world when compared to
population size.
    That has underpinned the country's strong economic growth,
but also caused public concern as the nation's infrastructure
struggled to keep up.
    Migration was a hot topic in September's turbulent election
and the newly elected Labour-led government has said it would
introduce restrictions which could curb net migration by up to
30,000, leading some economists to warn of slower growth in the
next few years.
    New Zealand's dollar        was largely unchanged in the
wake of the release, having already been knocked to a two-week
low of $0.7230 overnight as the U.S. dollar gained on an upbeat
first speech by the new Federal Reserve chair, Jerome Powell.

 (Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield
Editing by James Dalgleish)
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