New Zealanders Are Flooding Home. Will the Old Problems Push Them Back Out?

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Like many New Zealanders before her, Cat Moody chased the broader horizons of life abroad, unsure if she would ever return to a homeland she saw as remote and limiting.

But when the pandemic arrived, it “changed the calculus” of what she valued, she said. Suddenly, fresh air, natural splendor and a sparse population sounded more appealing, as did the sense of security in a country whose strict measures have all but vanquished Covid-19.

In February, Ms. Moody, 42, left her house and the life she had built in Princeton, N.J., and moved back to New Zealand with her husband, a U.S. citizen. She is among more than 50,000 New Zealanders who have flocked home during the pandemic, offering the country a rare opportunity to win back some of its best and brightest.

The unexpected influx of international experience and connections has led to local news reports heralding a societal and industrial renaissance. Policymakers are exhorting businesses to capitalize on the “fundamental competitive advantage” offered by the country’s success against the coronavirus.

have received both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, and Australians and residents of the Cook Islands are the only non-New Zealanders who can visit.

“Shifting into how we take advantage of the way things have changed, I think having a government that is risk-averse is actually going to be damaging to New Zealand,” Ms. Moody said.

Ms. Imam, who worked in communications for the computer company Dell in the United States, said that New Zealand’s reputation abroad was better than it deserved.

Still, she said that new government policies, such as paid leave for women who have miscarriages, had convinced her that the “project that is New Zealand” was worth returning for.

“At least we’re doing something right,” she said. “I want to be part of that.”

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