Australian recruiters crossing ditch to poach Kiwi employees

Australian recruiters have been flying across the ditch with the intention of taking talented Kiwis home with them.

The skills shortage means they're offering double the pay in some cases.

One poacher is on the hunt for lawyers - and is making no apologies for causing a trans-Tasman brain drain.

The headhunter has arrived. Recruiter Sam Bookatz is over from Australia, and plans to take a crop of commercial lawyers home with him. 

"And I'm here to hunt, yes, I don't make any apologies about it," he says. "If I could bring 20 lawyers back with me I think that would be a major achievement."

And money talks. He's offering to pay them up to 40 percent more.

Major Aussie law firms are willing to pay big bucks to fill their labour shortage.

"We're losing lawyers to the UK and the US, and we don't have enough to begin with, so we're turning to new Zealand and that's why I'm here," Bookatz says.

The industry is preparing for poaching. Canterbury law firm Buddle Findlay specialises in the type of lawyer Aussie wants and partner Mark Odlin expects his staff to be shoulder-tapped.

"Oh it is a little bit frustrating, but again, it's been recognised as a common career progression for a long time, so we're quite relaxed about it, we certainly don't encourage it," Odlin says.

And it's not just lawyers in demand. Newshub's been told by leaders of construction and engineering firms that they're feeling the pain of the brain drain too.

Migration figures show 8300 Kiwis quit the country in February, down 77 percent on the year before - but that's because fewer people wanted to leave during COVID.

Still, an exodus could be on the cards if Bookatz has his way.

"All is fair in love and war," Odlin says.

And this is workforce warfare.