New Zealand has proudly been a significant attraction for tourists from all over the globe.
Total international visitor spending reached $10.1 billion in the year to December 2016, with visitor spending up 4 per cent over the same period the year before.
In 2016 we welcomed 3.5 million visitors to our shores with holiday-makers’ spending totalling $6.4b, up 10 per cent year on year.
This is positive news for a nation that prides itself on being an international tourist haven.
But it’s not just tourists that are voting with their feet.
So are Kiwis.
In previous years, the numbers of New Zealanders leaving to live overseas was high.
Australia has been a particular destination of choice for many of our friends and love ones.
As the Prime Minister recently reminded Parliament, four years ago 40,000 Kiwis left New Zealand to live in Australia.
Now, this has all changed. The net migration from Australia to New Zealand is now at zero.
Kiwis are returning home and choosing to back their home country again.
Not only does this demonstrate people’s confidence in New Zealand and recognition of the way our country has moved forward, this return will also have a positive contribution to our growth.
In the next five years, annual economic growth is expected to average approximately 3 per cent.
This means that more jobs can be supported, unemployment will keep tracking downwards, and incomes will continue to rise faster than the rate of inflation.
In fact, at the end of last year, unemployment had fallen to 4.9 per cent and is projected to fall to a further 4.3 per cent by 2020/21; more people are now in employment – a record of 2.5 million; 144,000 jobs were created last year and a further 140,000 are expected to be created by 2020/21.
To help New Zealand stay on track with these goals, it is important for this country to have New Zealanders returning and contributing.
Immigration has always been an important contributor to New Zealand’s economic growth, but we always need to back our own first and foremost.
These figures also point to migration, in particular return migration, to be another crucial component to New Zealand’s growth and development.
Member of Parliament for Botany