Major Australian companies are headhunting Kiwis at a time when Canberra is fattening citizens' wallets with tax cuts and school benefits.

Rio Tinto, one of the world's largest mining companies, has taken out big advertisements here calling for more engineers, tradespeople, project managers and specialists as it expands iron ore production from 225 million tonnes a year to 353 million by 2015.

The moves have prompted fears that the numbers of New Zealanders crossing the Tasman will increase from already record levels.

Australia has become more attractive after its government announced millions would benefit from tax breaks, Labour leader David Shearer said.


Record numbers of New Zealanders are moving across the Tasman - Statistics New Zealand puts the figure at 52,000 in the year to January - and those numbers could boom off the back of the Budget, Mr Shearer said.

"Basically, where the Australians have targeted tax cuts is in the middle classes ... These are the people who are, as in New Zealand, working hard making all the choices trying to get ahead and this will mean that they have this more incentive to get ahead.

"I don't think that will be lost on New Zealanders here ... [They'll be thinking], 'Maybe I can get a bit more of a break in Australia because I'm not getting one here.'

"It's a nice new welcome mat."

Described by Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan as a Budget for the "battlers", it promises that up to one million people will be freed from paying tax after the tax-free threshold is trebled from A$6000 to A$18,200.

More than seven million earning less than A$80,000 ($102,000) will receive tax cuts and parents with children at school will be given a bonus where they will be paid A$410 for each primary school pupil and A$820 for each secondary student.

The bonuses are possible after slashing A$33 billion off other spending.

In March, New Zealand Labour abandoned the A$5000 tax-free policy it advocated at the 2011 election. Asked if NZ could afford any of the Australian initiatives, Mr Shearer said he would have to have a good look at the figures. He wouldn't be drawn further.

However, tax cuts under the National Party two years ago had been skewed towards those in higher-paying jobs, he said.

"The decision we made was the wrong one. I think [the Australian Budget] is going to increase the disillusionment not only with the [John Key] Government but with the way things are going here."

Prime Minister John Key did not respond when asked to comment.

Tasman recruiters said Kiwis had long been drawn by higher wages and they are expecting a big rise in inquiries in light of the Budget.

Stamford Hotels and Resorts managing director Graeme Goldberg said 250 New Zealanders had applied for positions across seven job roles. Today and tomorrow, he will interview 40 applicants.

People jumping for bigger opportunities in a bigger pond would always be a challenge smaller countries had to deal with, he said. From a family point of view it was also easier to get on to the property ladder.

In Adelaide, where Mr Goldberg is based, NZ$350,000 could buy a three-bedroom home, he estimated. In Auckland that would buy a garage, he joked.

Oz Jobs Expo is holding its third expo in 18 months in Auckland this weekend at the SkyCity Convention Centre. Director Jason Clayton said more jobs were available across nearly every conceivable field than could be filled.

The Budget changes would capture the bulk of working Australians, but New Zealanders would be quick to do their sums Mr Clayton said.

"It's just going to drive more people to realise you get more discretionary spending if you live in Australia, you get higher wages and you get to spend more of it."