The exodus of New Zealand's skilled workers to Australia is the biggest threat facing the country, NZ First leader Winston Peters says.
In a pre-budget speech on Monday he used the latest statistics showing trans-Tasman migration at a record level to accuse the Government of doing nothing to create jobs or raise wages.
"About 1000 Kiwis a week, many of them qualified in trades, are quitting our country," he said.
"This loss of tradespeople is ripping the heart out of our economy and creating a serious lack of grunt for future growth."
The number of New Zealanders heading to Australia accelerated in April, with a new record number of annual departures at 53,462.
Some 4,500 people left New Zealand for Australia in April for a net loss of 3,500 in the month, according to Statistics New Zealand.
That took the annual net loss to 39,800, almost 13,000 more than the same annual exodus a year earlier.
Mr Peters says Thursday's "slash and burn" budget will do nothing to turn that around.
"They are selling state-owned assets, privatising schools and the social welfare system and allowing prime farming land to be sold to foreigners," he said.
"They are letting currency speculators, financial gurus and money jugglers get away with economic murder while ignoring the plight of ordinary New Zealanders."
He says it isn't the right time to cut spending and "plunder at will".
"It has never worked in the past and it's doomed to failure."