Australians have always looked at New Zealand as their daggy younger brother, but it turns out we have a few things to teach them.

Not only are Australians migrating across the ditch in droves, but they're also losing some of their best talent to the booming creative and tech industry hub of Wellington.

In the three years to 2015, the number of Australians moving to the NZ capital spiked by 86 per cent, and the flow of expats last year reversed direction for the first time in more than two decades.

There are now more Aussies moving to New Zealand than vice versa, many of them lured by start-ups offering pay cheques that stretch a lot further than they would in Sydney or Melbourne.

Advertisement

Wellington's average salary of $82,000 goes a long way in a city where the median house price sits at just $550,000.

Among the recent arrivals is Dan Ferguson, who moved to Wellington from Sydney six months ago after being poached by online auction site Trade Me.

The 40-year-old marketing director talked his pregnant wife into making the move, and the pair welcomed their son into the world three weeks ago.

Dan Ferguson is loving life in Wellington. Photo / Facebook
Dan Ferguson is loving life in Wellington. Photo / Facebook

"We were warned about extreme windiness and freezingness, but most of the days have been 22 degrees, crisp, clear and sunny," Dan said.

More importantly, the city had none of the angst experienced by Sydneysiders around their core obsession: property prices.

"You read the papers about how difficult it is to buy a house back home," he said.

"When you arrive somewhere that you can live incredibly close to work in a place that has water views for at least half the price of what you'd expect in Sydney, it's game changing."

The couple had been renting a two-bedroom house in the Sydney suburb of Ryde for A$700 (NZ$732) a week after their (more expensive) property on the Lower North Shore was flooded.

"The house was old, poorly built and right next to a major arterial road, and I spent up to 90 minutes getting to work," he said.

"For the same money in Wellington, we're in a four-bedroom with study, plus our own private forest on 20 acres (8ha) with goats, rabbits and a 20-minute commute into the city. It's amazing and so much better for our kids."

While Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull talks up innovation, jobs and growth, the New Zealand Government has been luring entrepreneurs with co-working spaces and publicly funded business incubators like Lightning Lab, a four-month programme that helps new companies grow.

Unlike Australia there's no payroll tax or capital gains tax, and companies pay just 28 per cent and the top personal tax rate is 33 per cent.

It's all part of the drive to grow exports to 40 per cent of New Zealand's GDP by 2025, moving away from reliance on primary industries like meat, dairy and wool farming.

And it's working, with 54 companies featured on Deloitte's Fast 500 Asia Pacific list last year, 13 of them in Wellington.

By comparison, Australia - with a population more than five times NZ's 4.4 million - had 80 companies on the list.

"We recognise that we're a small economy and a very open economy, so we want to make sure we attract skills," said Chris Whelan, chief executive of the Wellington Economic Development Agency.

"And the tyranny of distance is easily overcomable when one is thinking of things in a knowledge sense. To work in that space you don't need to be close to a mega city, but you need to be globally oriented and globally connected."

He said Wellington was perfectly placed for a tech hub, with Singapore Airlines having just announced a new route via Canberra.

While Australia struggles with its transition from the mining boom, Wellington boasts an economy where almost half of the working population is employed in knowledge-intensive industries.

A major success story is GreenButton, the cloud computing company bought by Microsoft in 2014.

Founder Scott Houston got the idea for the start-up while working for digital visual effects company Weta Digital on the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It now counts Pixar, Nasa and Boeing among its customers.

Gaming entrepreneur Andrew Lamb, 26, moved to Wellington from Melbourne in April 2014 to scale up what had been a two-year side project.

After launching the car company tycoon game Automation while working as a programming teacher, Andrew and his co-founder Caswal Parker sold enough copies to quit their jobs and focus on expanding their business.

He chose Wellington for its cooler climate and lifestyle perks, but said it also appealed as a business environment, with a simpler tax system and a thriving local start-up community.

"Because we're in games specifically we're on the outside a bit of the main tech community, but just a couple of weeks after we arrived we started a Meetup group for game developers, and a whole bunch of other events sprung up out of that," he said.

"Now we've got six fulltime employees in the office and a bunch of contractors around the world."

Along with Caswal and his partner Jayelinda Suridge, who also works in the business, Andrew bought a house a half-hour's drive from the city in Wainuiomata.

While it needed some renovations, he said, it was "a total bargain", with four bedrooms, two kitchens and two bathrooms on a large block for just $195,000.

"That's unusually cheap, but you could expect to get a decent house in our area for under $300,000, or in one of the inner suburbs you'd get something reasonable with $500,000."

It takes the trio just 15 minutes to drive to their office in Petone, closer to the city.

Andrew said the city was "a lot more relaxed than Melbourne", while still offering plenty to see and do - especially for outdoorsy types.

"It's a really beautiful place, spread over the top of mountains and around a bay. You can go on a great mountain bushwalk without really even leaving the city," he said.

Cafes and craft beer pubs abound in the city, he said, and there were plenty of small bars offering live music.

"Admittedly, I sometimes travel back to Melbourne when an artist I want to see comes down - they do often skip Wellington."