National is defending its promise to stop the Kiwi flight to Australia, after new figures showed that for the first time in a decade more New Zealanders have left for good than people arriving to settle.
Statistics New Zealand released figures on Tuesday showing the bulk of the outflow came from almost 49,500 people leaving for Australia in the year to October 31, with just 14,500 coming the other way.
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Prime Minister John Key says he doesn't believe National's failed on its promise before the 2008 election to stem the brain drain across the Tasman - and he says it hasn't been abandoned.
"That's been an ongoing problem for about 30 or 40 years so it's not something you can turn around overnight, although we are making progress in some areas," Mr Key told Radio New Zealand.
"We have narrowed that wage gap in after-tax terms in the three years we've been in office, and we now do have a faster growth rate than Australia."
Mr Key says one difficulty has been the global financial crisis, which Australia was less affected by because of its mining industry.
He believes measures like cutting New Zealand's debt, growing the economy and lifting business productivity will see a growth in wages and help keep New Zealanders in the country.
Mr Key says National's tax cuts have also given New Zealanders more cash in the hand, which goes some way to closing the wage gap, while Australians face a higher cost of living.
National's raised the minimum wage by just $1 an hour over three years, but Mr Key doesn't believe that's contributing to the exodus across the Tasman.
"I take a very responsible view, and I need to balance people's ability to have a job and businesses' ability to pay with people's ability to live."