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The diaspora is a long-term feature of New Zealand’s migration system and its political landscape. Yet the New Zealand government does not have a coherent approach towards it. Why not? It cannot be because nothing important is happening: around 850 New Zealanders emigrate in the average week, and around one in five New Zealanders now lives abroad. Moreover, while not a first-order policy issue in itself, this is important across a range of policy areas, and occasionally requires urgent government attention. A more likely explanation for the absence of coherence is that New Zealand still sees itself as a migrant-receiving country, and that the diaspora has been a political hot potato, making level-headed debate difficult. With some heat temporarily dissipated from the issue, it seems an appropriate time to consider long-term scenarios. This article suggests that the diaspora is a long-term social, political and economic reality for New Zealand, and that it therefore deserves a more coherent, holistic and long-term approach from the New Zealand Government. Moreover, it suggests that good state-diaspora relations can mitigate some of the political and economic costs of sustained emigration. With this in mind, the article presents three scenarios to illustrate what kinds of relationship the New Zealand Government could have with the diaspora. It is hoped that these scenarios might contribute to more strategic thinking in this area.

More information


Journal article


Institute for Governance and Policy Studies, Victoria University of Wellington

Publication Date



3 (4)


12 - 21


New Zealand, diaspora, state, enagement policies