Opinion by Political Editor Duncan Garner
It's always hard being "ambitious for Nu Ziluund".
And so it's proving for John Key.
This is the crucial and embarrassing number he won't want to talk about today.
Remember it. 53,900.
That's the number of Kiwis in the year to August 2012, who - according to Statistics NZ - departed for Australia. It's a record number.
They made Australia home.
They turned their backs on New Zealand for a better life or a different life.
For whatever reason, they now don't live here.
Picture a chokka full Eden Park and pushing those Kiwis through the gates at the end of the game to jump on a plane to Aussie.
Because that's what 53,900 Kiwis looks like.
And they all left for Australia.
Christchurch probably has something to do with it. But perhaps Australia just has more opportunities.
Better paid jobs perhaps. More jobs probably.
The net loss to the year to 2012 is actually 40,000 because 13,900 people from Australia, mainly Kiwis, made their way home.
Still, even if you take the two way traffic calculations into it - the 40,000 figure also represents a record.
It's a long way from what John Key was saying in 2008 - when he stood in Wellington's 36,000 person capacity Westpac Stadium to symbolise the number of people leaving for Australia each year.
His message was clear - that people were over the Helen Clark years - and he was going to fix the brain drain.
Well truth is, it's got worse.
We'd have to add another level onto Westpac Stadium to fit them in now. Guess National won't shoot another commercial down there at the next election.
And don't expect any press releases from National giving excuses for today's figures.
The Greens have been quick though. (where's Labour? Friday-itis?)
Russel Norman says the Government hasn't intervened enough in the economy to keep people here and to keep people in jobs.
"The total number who have left since the Key Government came to power now stands at over 166,000. That's more than the entire populations of Northland or Hawkes Bay," says Norman.
In manufacturing alone, Norman says 40,000 jobs have been lost under this Government.
"It is past time that the National Government acted. There are a range of measures that other Governments are taking to protect and grow their industries and give jobs to their people," he says.
Sure the Government will point to yesterday's growth figures as encouraging.
And yes there are some signs of life amongst the 'grumpy growth' that Bill English talks about. But let's not overstate that.
So New Zealanders - in record numbers - are voting with their feet.
This is not good for us as a country.
It's not good for our skill base.
It's not good for employers, our schools, our communities, our businesses and our growth prospects.
We need our best and brightest to stay here and build a 'brighter future' for all. Who said that?
We are in the days of the mass exodus, and no one seems to know how and if we can stop it.
It's certainly not something the Government talks about anymore.
And there are 53,900 reasons why.