Pacific Migrants Set Record (New Zealand)

Pacific migrants set record

5:00AM Thursday March 08, 2007
New Zealand Herald

(Cook Islanders, Niueans and Tokelauans have the right to enter New Zealand. Photo / Glenn Jeffrey)

A record number of Pacific people are coming to New Zealand to stay.

Professor Richard Bedford, of Waikato University's population studies centre, says the 12 months ending March last year saw the highest permanent and long term net-migration gain of citizens of Pacific countries – 4224 people from Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia.

An average of 3179 a year had arrived during the preceding five-year period.

He did not take into account Cook Islanders, Niueans and Tokelauans who had right of entry to New Zealand. Nor did he count Pacific peoples from French and American colonies who travelled here on passports of those countries.

There had been a public perception that the number of Pacific migrants may have dropped compared with people from the Asian region.

However, migration between the Pacific and New Zealand had been steadily gaining momentum since a lull in the early 1990s when there was a loss back to the Pacific countries.

That had followed massive job losses in New Zealand affecting many Pacific people after the economy was restructured in the late 1980s.

Professor Bedford said between the 2001 and 2006 censuses there was a net gain of 15,898 Pacific citizens as a result of permanent and long-term migration.

That greatly exceeded the net gain of the previous five year period of 11,114.

Part of the increase came from more flexible rules relating to changes in visa and permit status while on shore.

The changes in immigration policy had made it easier to gain permission to live in New Zealand permanently while already here either as a visitor or while studying on a temporary work permit.

That opened up new pathways along which Pacific people could move from study to work, and work to residence.

There was also some recovery in response to the introduction of the Pacific Access Category in July 2002.

And from this year a seasonal work policy will allow 5000 temporary workers from Pacific countries to be recruited for periods of up to seven months to help meet labour shortages in the agriculture and horticulture industries.

By country, Fiji was the largest contributor of Pacific people to New Zealand and, with Samoa, Tonga, and the Cook Islands, accounted for 80 per cent of the total arrivals and departures.

Professor Bedford said there was evidence that citizens of Pacific countries were travelling back and forth to New Zealand in unprecedented numbers.

Of those born in Pacific countries who came and then left New Zealand for the long term, many headed for Australia.

But just as many came back from there, he said.