The number of Hawke's Bay people leaving to live in Australia has nearly tripled in some parts of the region in the past three years.
Statistics New Zealand figures show residents are leaving the Bay in significantly higher numbers than before - with Napier, Hastings and Wairoa all losing more than 1 per cent of their populations in the year to March, and Central Hawke's Bay losing 0.9 per cent.
Wairoa was leading the pack with a 286 per cent increase in Oz-bound traffic over the three years, the ninth worst affected place in New Zealand.
Wairoa Deputy Mayor Denise Eaglesome said it was job instability and higher wages drawing her constituents to Australia.
"It's a little bit of a concern for us that people are leaving to go there," she said. "Over the last couple of years with the Affco strikes it is probably where the majority of the numbers have come from with people leaving - they need to pay their bills, they need security, and they need continuity in work."
Between March 2009 and March 2010, just 29 Wairoa residents headed across the ditch, whereas between the same months of 2011 and this year, 112 have crossed the Tasman.
The lifestyle in Wairoa was not to blame, Mrs Eaglesome said.
"It is probably the money, because money is always going to drag people anywhere - just look at the hourly rate.
"I don't think we will ever be able to stop that while Australia offers that amazing hourly rate, that's really all I can put it down to, money, better money, and the Affco industrial action putting the numbers up a bit more than they should be."
Massey University sociologist Paul Spoonley agreed.
"There's a strong push factor of not enough good-quality jobs that are paying well here, and the pull factor that those jobs are available in Australia," he said.
Hawke's Bay ex-pat Tony Watt, 47, moved north of Melbourne 18-months ago, but said he wished he'd gone sooner.
"It's more about the increase, here I'm working in the wine industry and I was a cellar hand in New Zealand - but it's pretty close to double what I was on in New Zealand."
Mr Watt lives in Golden Valley, a wine growing area similar to Hawke's Bay. At the same time he applied for his current job, he was offered an equivalent role here.
"That was offering around $18 per hour, where here the pay rate is between $25 and $26 per hour Australian, which is about $33 New Zealand dollars.
"On top of that I get 9 per cent superannuation tax free, whereas in New Zealand KiwiSaver comes out of your wages."
He said not only did he earn more, but the lifestyle was better.
"You can compare pay rates but it's also the standard of living. I'm buying a new place here, but in Hawke's Bay it would just be impossible.
"I had always thought about doing it, but once my son had left home and went to university it gave me the chance to go, otherwise I probably would have gone sooner."
Hastings district councillor and Flaxmere community leader Henare O'Keefe said he knew of people leaving weekly.
"It's not good is it, but what do you expect? As long as that big sandpit over there keeps coughing up all those precious minerals we are never going to compete," he said.
"The only thing that will keep them here and bring them back is family, because why on earth wouldn't you if you can get that remuneration."
DeparturesMr O'Keefe has two sons and a daughter working as engineers and a nurse, respectively, in Perth.
"They are doing extremely well in terms of the money that they earn and they are raising their families there and they have rich Australian accents, but they tell me they will return one day, but it probably won't be until their later years."
However, Central Hawke's Bay Mayor Peter Butler said the figures showed only those leaving, not those returning or settling.
"My niece has been over there for 12 months, but she's coming back. So how many others come back? Our population numbers in CHB are going up every year, so I suppose the figures you have could just be kids doing an OE.
"I know there is people going overseas to Australia and that sort of thing, but they come back - it's not the promised land they think it is."
Mr Butler said the lifestyle in his region was improving.
"We haven't noticed any downturn in numbers, there are no empty houses. The average price of housing has actually gone up, a council officer reported to me."
The departure figures were for New Zealand citizens only, and Statistics NZ demography spokesman Nicholas Thomson said population of districts included non-citizens.