The New Zealand population clock is speeding up as record numbers of expats arrive in the country.
Latest government figures reveal one expat is added to the country’s population every 16 minutes.
By the end of 2014, New Zealand expects to welcome at least 40,000 expats – the highest number for more than 10 years.
The year-on-year gain is keeping pace with the expected trend as 36,400 expats have settled in the country since May 2013.
However, the government fears the swelling population will push up house prices and impact on the jobs market and is considering raising official interest rates to compensate for the economic upheaval.
Politicians are adopting a wait-and-see policy as some experts expect the trend might slow during the winter months.
Kiwi economy hots up
Part of the problem is a slowing economy in neighbouring Australia – just a three-hour flight across the Tasman Sea from New Zealand.
As the jobs market in Australia contracts, more New Zealanders are returning home, while fewer are leaving as the Kiwi economy heats up.
Many expats are flowing into the country for the rebuild of earthquake-hit Canterbury, which was devastated in 2010. The redevelopment needs skilled and professional construction workers.
Although job prospects in Canterbury are good, the government has had to act to protect the rights of expat workers who complained they were underpaid and worked too many hours.
New Zealand’s highest ever monthly expat gain was 4,700 in February 2003, due to an influx of students. The current average is 4,000 expats moving to New Zealand each month.
Canadian expat vote row
Meanwhile, Canadian expats still do not know if they have a right to vote in four upcoming elections.
The government wants more than 1 million Canadians who quit the country more than five years ago to have voting rights – but the move has been challenged in the courts.
The government case was thrown out of the courts, but is subject to an appeal and the government wants a stay against the decision until an appeal is heard.
However, the judge has delayed a ruling until Friday, June 27, 2014.
Opponents claim the government is trying to bulldoze the new law through the courts to increase the number of voters supporting their policies.
So far, just 130 expat voters have registered for the four by-elections.
“The number of people involved is not high,” said a government spokesman. “But we feel too many Canadians abroad may feel disenfranchised and deserve the chance to vote. Whether they decide to take that chance is another matter.”