Photographer: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

New Zealand Population Surges Most Since World Turmoil of 1974

  • Record immigration drives 2.1% jump in year through March
  • ‘New Zealand is an island of calm in troubled waters’: Eaqub

The last time New Zealand’s population grew this much, the world was reeling from an oil crisis and Richard Nixon’s resignation from the White House.

The small nation at the bottom of the South Pacific saw its population surge by 100,300 people in the year to March 31, the biggest nominal increase since European colonization began in the 1840s, according to Statistics New Zealand. In percentage terms, the 2.1 percent gain is the largest since 1974, the year the price of oil quadrupled and U.S. President Nixon was forced to resign by the Watergate scandal.

Then as now, New Zealand’s isolation, relative safety, natural beauty and political stability make it an attractive destination for migrants, who are driving the population increase. Record immigration added a net 71,900 people in the year through March, while natural population growth contributed 28,300.

“New Zealand is an island of calm in troubled waters,” said Shamubeel Eaqub, an independent economist and author at Sense Partners in Auckland. “You’ve got uncertainty with Trump, with Brexit, the rise of the far right in Europe, pollution in Asia. There’s a whole bunch of different drivers that set New Zealand up as a great place to be.”

A strong economy is also a drawcard. Economic growth has averaged about 3 percent a year for the past five years, encouraging New Zealanders to stay put instead of seeking better job opportunities and wages in neighboring Australia.

While the rapidly swelling number of inhabitants is helping to sustain economic growth, it is also putting pressure on infrastructure in places like Auckland. The country’s largest city, home to a third of New Zealand’s 4.8 million people, has seen its average house price surge above NZ$1 million ($683,000) and its roads become congested with traffic.

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