Nostalgia for dear old Britannia

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Even as a new UK store is opening its doors in Tauranga, there is evidence the British influx into the Bay of Plenty is declining.

The movement of British migrants into certain parts of the Western Bay has been so marked over recent years it has redefined them. Areas such as Omokoroa and Papamoa have become such large British population centres they have been colloquially renamed 'Pomokoroa' and 'Pommiemoa'.

However, that tide of migrants might be starting to wane.

Statistics New Zealand figures show the annual migrant numbers arriving from the UK into Tauranga in 2001 stand at 488. These peaked at 658 in 2005 but fell back to 420 by 2011.

Hugh Smith, headmaster at Omokoroa Point School, said his English pupil numbers were down.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

"There was a stage where we had quite a few [UK-born children] but that has certainly tapered off over the last two-to-three years. It tends to go in waves."

Mr Smith said about 20 per cent of his pupils were born in the UK but that they enjoyed the New Zealand lifestyle so much "they quickly become Kiwi".

Phil Friar, headmaster at Papamoa Primary School, also said the English impact on his school's roll was easing.

"I would say three years ago the impact on our roll was significant but since the economy has tightened up we are getting less obvious immigration specifically regarding English families."

The numbers might be showing a slight decline but British people still represent the majority of migrants arriving at the doors of Settlement Support New Zealand's (SSNZ) Tauranga/Western Bay of Plenty office.

In the six years since the service began, in 2006, 14.62 per cent of people who visited them were British. Looking at 2012 in isolation, that figure went up to 18.4 per cent.

Helen Gould, at SSNZ Tauranga/Western Bay of Plenty, said other major migrant nations included India.

"The largest groups we see are from the UK and Ireland and from India. In the Bay of Plenty we have the largest Indian population outside Auckland. About seven or eight years ago South Africans were featuring very heavily amongst our English-speaking migrants as well but that seems to be changing now. The Brazilian community, especially in Mount Maunganui, is also becoming more prominent."

Miss Gould is herself a UK migrant having been born in Oxford. She came to New Zealand on holiday 17 years ago and fell in love with the country.

"I just loved the lifestyle, the people and the environment. I thought 'Why would I go back?"'

The falling UK migrant numbers will not be good news for Paul Hill, who is opening Piccadilly Circus in Tauranga's Piccadilly Arcade on September 1.

However, with large British populations already established locally, it is unlikely to affect business prospects.

Mr Hill, who already runs a UK shop in Cambridge called Victoria Station, said he had branched out because of popular demand.

"I had customers coming into my Cambridge shop saying they had come there especially because they didn't have anything similar where they were from," he said. "The three main centres people referred to were Rotorua, Taupo and Tauranga. So I undertook an exercise where I visited all three and everything just fell into place with Tauranga."

The store will carry large stocks of UK food and other goods. Mr Hill said the biggest sellers in his Cambridge store were items of confectionary.

"Curly Wurlies, Double Deckers, Rowntrees gums and Jaffa Cakes are very popular, as are drinks like Cherry Coke, Irn Bru and Yorkshire Tea, and biscuits like Digestives. It's very personal though.

"It's purely nostalgia. People want that connection with their former homes. They don't generally come in and load up with lots of groceries but they will pick up a few bars of their favourite chocolate. Primarily they're coming in to get a taste of home or to show friends something from their home country."

However, Christmas is a time when that spending is increased.

"That's when the nostalgia button really gets pressed," said Mr Hill. "For example, we sold 300 tins of Quality Street in the Cambridge store last year. That's a lot of Quality Street for a town the size of Cambridge."

Mr Hill is a New Zealander but is opening the store with his British-born wife Sinead. He said although the shop had obvious appeal for the expat community there were goods which Kiwis also enjoyed.

"There are products which have the ability to turn on the New Zealand market as well. Things like Bisto gravy granules. We don't have freeze-dried gravy granules at all and a lot of people have gone over to those. And there are things like the Birds Custard as well."

He said an import partnership he has entered into should avoid a common issue faced by companies bringing foreign goods to New Zealand.

"One of the biggest problems stores like this face is that the food will run out and you're six-to-eight weeks removed from getting the next delivery. There's no reserve. The import partnership I've agreed will ensure a steady and regular supply."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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