Skilled New Zealand tradies in their twenties are replacing young, well-educated Kiwis as the face of trans-Tasman migration.
The New Zealand Herald says the NZ brain drain to Australia has been replaced by the trade drain.
In the 12 months to June a record 53,763 people left New Zealand for Australia.
Professionals made up 11 per cent and the number of technicians and trade workers nine per cent.
But in the 20-29 age bracket, technicians and trade workers are leaving in the greatest numbers - 14.4 per cent of the total - chasing jobs and better pay.
"This is a disaster for New Zealand," NZ Labour's deputy leader Grant Robertson said.
"New Zealand is on the way to a skills crisis.
"The government's lack of investment in apprenticeships or other skills training programmes is exposing the gap being left in the economy - along with the absence of a coherent economic plan, it's a fatal combination."
The Herald's report quoted carpenter Saan Barratt, 33, who lived in Australia 10 years ago and is getting ready to return.
"The standard of work is higher and, of course, you get paid for it," he said.
"Anyone with a hammer here can be a carpenter, or at least assume the premise of being one."