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New Zealanders surged home from overseas because of 9/11

The number of New Zealand citizens returning to the country on a permanent or long-term (PLT) basis increased between 2001 and 2003, but was this a result of the terrorist attacks in the United States on 11 September 2001?

In fact, the number of New Zealand citizens arriving on a PLT basis from countries other than the United Kingdom and the United States had been increasing since early 2001. This followed an increase in PLT departures of New Zealand citizens several years earlier. PLT migration data for the last three decades shows increases or decreases in New Zealand citizen arrivals a few years after a similar trend in departures.

PLT arrivals of New Zealand citizens from the United Kingdom and the United States did begin to increase during or soon after September 2001. While the timing supports the 9/11 theory, PLT departures of New Zealand citizens to these countries had also increased a few years earlier, and are likely to have contributed to the increase in arrivals.

Conclusion

This myth is partially busted.

How did this myth arise?

PLT arrivals of New Zealand citizens increased from 21,600 in the year ended August 2001 to 25,300 in the year ended August 2002. There was also a further increase to 27,300 in the year ended August 2003. Because of the timing, and New Zealand's reputation as a safe place to live, the increase has widely been attributed to New Zealanders returning home after the September 2001 terrorist attacks.

This myth is a good example of how international shocks or high profile events can shape people's thinking and distract from underlying trends and facts. However, the myth is only partially busted because of an aspect of diasporic behaviour which we do see to some extent in the data: that people quickly return 'home' in the face of a threat.

While the attacks may have had some effect on the number of returning New Zealanders, much of the increase actually appears to be related to the steady increase in departures in the eight years up to 2001. There were 61,600 PLT departures of New Zealand citizens in the year ended August 2001, up from 45,500 three years earlier and 30,100 in the year ended August 1993.

For your information

International travel and migration – information releases
Statistics on the number of overseas visitors, New Zealand resident travellers, and permanent and long-term migrants entering or leaving New Zealand. Based on final counts of arrivals to and departures from New Zealand. Updated monthly.

Published 22 June 2012, based on information previously published on 11 September 2006.

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