Growing economy and better work-life balance attract thousands of Australians to make their homes here.

Australians are admitting that New Zealand is now the place to be as its residents cross the Tasman to find a home here.

The increase in Australians shifting to New Zealand permanently, as well as a rise in expat Kiwis returning home, is reversing the one-way tide of migration of the past 20 years.

And according to a report in the Weekend Australian Magazine, New Zealand's growing economy and superior work-life culture are attracting thousands of Australians put off by their own unstable Government and falling economic fortunes.

"What has happened is that somewhere, somehow, perhaps in the dead of night when no one was looking, Australia and New Zealand have swapped sides," the magazine said.

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"Cocky, confident Australia is now home to dysfunctional politics, yawning budget deficits, rising unemployment and an electorate unwilling to accept tough reforms."

Australian winemaker Anna Flowerday moved to Marlborough in 2003 with her husband, Jason, because of the more "vibrant" viticulture industry. "It's definitely home now," the mother of four told the Herald. "I love the culture of the place, I love that it's a safe little place at the end of the world ... where your kids can still walk to school and you can go down the street and you don't have to lock your house.

"It's all that kind of stuff. The ship's on a pretty good course whether you're family-oriented or business-oriented, and both of those are a consideration for us."

The net loss of 2900 people to Australia in the year to January was well down from net losses of 17,100 in the January 2014 year and 37,900 in the January 2013 year.

In contrast with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, the magazine said, New Zealand's John Key was running the most successful and stable centre-right Government in the world.

"Key presides over a country that is no longer a dead-end backwater but one that enjoys plentiful jobs, strong economic growth and is on the cusp of a budget surplus."

New Zealand is leading Australia in GDP growth and unemployment figures and the Kiwi dollar is nearing parity with the Australian dollar - a record 99.42c at present.

"Forget rugby. New Zealand is winning a bigger game," the magazine said.

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Mr Key told the magazine: "It is harder [in Australia]. I don't think the opportunities are there in the same way, while on the other side of the equation there are lots of opportunities here in New Zealand and while they may make less money the cost of living is generally a lot lower."

Expat Australians said New Zealand had a more balanced work-life culture and it was a better place to raise children.

Hamilton-based Australian Megan Neal said: "I feel like screaming to Tony Abbott ... 'Can't you see that the [work-family] culture in Australia is broken!' They could really learn some lessons from this place."


Read Geoff Cumming's feature on returning Kiwis at tinyurl.com/aussiedrain