Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick says New Zealanders can't expect young people to stick around as the cost of living increases and the border opens after "talking down" to them for years.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has warned at least 50,000 New Zealanders will leave over the next year - many of whom will be young New Zealanders in search of better pay and living conditions.
While some of the Kiwis leaving will simply be taking their overdue OE, there are fears some won't come back due to high inflation and the cost of living.
Swarbrick said it's worth noting if 50,000 did leave it would be in line with regular migration figures from the early 2010s - before the pandemic.
But she said young New Zealanders can't be expected to stick around after being criticised for years.
"In this country and in political and public policy debates we have spent years talking down to renters and young people and workers and students and when you've spent years doing that, you can't expect people to stick around when you need them," Swarbrick told AM on Wednesday.
"So there is a real shift for paying attention to those voices and shifting the priorities, I think, in terms of public policy."
However Swarbrick said New Zealand isn't the only country dealing with high inflation and increasing living costs. Inflation in the United States hit a 40 year high of 7.9 percent this year while the United Kingdom is dealing with inflation of 6.2 percent. The rate for the European Union also reached an all-time high of 5.60 percent. Australia is the only outlier with relatively low inflation of just 3.5 percent.
Swarbrick said despite the costs Kiwis will head overseas for some "fun".
She said while New Zealand might not be able to compete with cities like London and Berlin, prioritising public transport would make our cities more attractive to youngsters.
"When we are talking about what young people want I think we are generally talking about what all people want, which is affordable and quality housing, a decent income and god forbid the ability to have some fun as well as put down roots.
"We're never going to have a Berlin or Melbourne or a London or a New York in Aotearoa New Zealand but we do have a Tāmaki Makaurau, a Wellington, a Christchurch, a Dunedin and everything in between.
Swarbrick said cities have been treated like museums for too long and change is needed.
"They [cities] do need to shift and change and we do need to be prioritising things like public transport - which is exactly the ease of movement and the mobility and the fun and the lifestyle young people go overseas to experience."
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday responded to questions in Parliament about MBIE's briefing. She said Kiwis leaving New Zealand for overseas experiences has been "part of our history".
"I note with interest the question comes from a member who spent some time in - if I recall - Canada and is being asked to myself who spent some time in London. It has been part of our history as a nation to frequently have New Zealanders come and go as part of our overseas experience, building skills and talent."
Ardern said the Government is focused on ensuring businesses in New Zealand can access the workers they need.
"We know that there's more to do on that front but unlike the member's perspective of New Zealand, New Zealand is a very highly desirable destination for workers and that's why we've already seen thousands of people applying for working holiday visas to come to our shores."
It's a sentiment shared by Opposition leader Christopher Luxon who told AM on Wednesday OEs are a part of Kiwi life.
But Luxon also called on the Government to do more to attract migrants to our shores to help meet labour shortages.