Australian firms are head-hunting our youngest and brightest like never before, with the best of the next generation snatched away before they finish studying.
Recruiting from across the ditch has prompted a new call for Kiwi businesses to boost their intern programmes.
A University of Auckland careers director said opportunities in Australia could mean many of New Zealand's high-achieving young people would not even start their careers here next year.
"Five years ago, four top students went over to Sydney for interviews and four came back unsuccessful because they weren't globally ready," said James Hairsine, director of the ASB Careers Centre at the university's business school.
"Today, I would estimate that 70 to 80 per cent of our top 150 students are being aggressively recruited by Australia, to the point where some Australian companies target our university specifically each year."
One student had been offered four jobs in Australia.
Starting salaries of $60,000-plus, travel packages and cars are offered to New Zealand graduates, whose well-rounded education, presentation and hard work ethics were valued.
Closer alliances between entities such as the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants and its Australian counterpart, set to happen later this year, would make it even easier for Kiwi graduates to emigrate, Mr Hairsine said.
An Australian graduate careers report found the number of employers recruiting overseas had risen from 15 per cent in 2005 to more than 30 per cent last year, with finance, communication and technology topping the most sought after roles.
It was crucial for large employers to invest in Kiwi talent by offering quality recruitment programmes, intern-ships, graduate schemes and global job exchanges that could secure loyalty and respect from top graduates, Mr Hairsine said.
A handful of large companies such as PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG and Deloitte provided internship and graduate programmes, but there was a surprising number that did not.
"If offerings don't improve, New Zealand should expect its top business brains to leave and not come back for a long time, if at all."
Oz Jobs Expo organiser Jason Clayton was not surprised at the high demand.
"While Australia's economy continues to expand at a higher rate than New Zealand, there will be an increasing economic gap, and better career opportunities in Australia," he said.
Victoria University had been approached by 27 Australian companies keen to recruit graduates this year, compared with 25 last year.
A survey of graduates across the country's eight universities found while most planned to stay and work in New Zealand, nearly 40 per cent were interested in working overseas.
Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce told the Herald that while aggressive recruiting was part of a growing transtasman job market, it was also a timely reminder for Kiwi businesses to sharpen their act.
She's young, talented... and off to Oz
With a stack of top scholarships to her name, Alice Wang is one of our brightest students.
But the 21-year-old is set to become another loss to Australia as opportunities across the Tasman beckon. She will move to Sydney in 2014 to work for Boston Consulting Group in its graduate programme.
Ms Wang, studying for a conjoint Bachelor of Law (with honours) and Bachelor of Arts at the University of Auckland, believed most graduates wanted to stay in New Zealand, but too much worked against them.
"Students either struggle to find employment in New Zealand and so they look overseas, or the industry they want to work in is small and has limited opportunities."
Ms Wang's awards include a University of Auckland scholarship and the Sir Alexander Johnstone Scholarship in Law.
She felt that unless New Zealand's economy and job market improved, there was little that could be done to keep graduates from leaving.
Fast-developing globalisation would also inevitably contribute to the brain drain, she said.
"Graduates today will probably not only go through several careers over a lifetime, but also maybe live in several different countries too.
"As a young person, that is a very exciting prospect.
"Personally, I think graduates leaving New Zealand is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as enough overseas graduates come here to work, or that the graduates who have moved overseas straight after graduation come back to New Zealand after a few years.
"It's good for New Zealand to have people bringing back overseas perspectives."