Anna is a reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Housing prices may take toll on trained professionals

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HOUSING PRICES: Student teacher Casey Ireland is hopeful she will be able to enter the housing market in Tauranga. PHOTO/ANDREW WARNER
HOUSING PRICES: Student teacher Casey Ireland is hopeful she will be able to enter the housing market in Tauranga. PHOTO/ANDREW WARNER

Tauranga's median house price is outstripping the average wage of four essential professions in the Bay, with concerns that shortages will be felt in the future.

Despite a flood of individuals hoping to move to the Bay to fill teaching positions, some Tauranga principals are concerned rising prices could lead to a shortage of teachers in the region. The Ministry of Education says there is no shortage of teachers in the city.

The concerns follow media reports earlier this month that Auckland schools were struggling to fill staffing positions and find relievers due to high house prices.

The Green Party quoted REINZ data as of June 2016, which showed Tauranga's median house price was $556,750.

Statistics from QV showed a higher house value for Tauranga in June, sitting at $599,915.

The REINZ data was compared to the average salary midpoint of professions such as primary and secondary teachers of $59,000 and $60,000 respectively, collected from Careers NZ, to find the house price to income ratio.

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A Green Party spokesperson said median house price to median household income ratio of 3.0 was generally considered affordable, by sources such as Demographia.

Tauranga primary teacher's ratio was 9.4, secondary was 9.3.

NZEI national executive general member and Merivale School principal Jan Tinetti said it was becoming "impossible" for new teachers to enter the housing market in the Bay.

When asked if she thought the teacher shortage which has hit Auckland could happen in Tauranga she said, "Absolutely I do".

"The housing crisis has had such an impact that it is actually making teaching not that attractive sadly. Yet it is still an amazing job, and it is so important yet we are not attracting people into it because living is too expensive."

In the past three months, Merivale School had seen a drop in the number of reliever teachers available.

"I would maybe get at any one time 15, if I wanted, and now I can't get any."

Mount Maunganui College principal Russell Gordon said they had been "blessed with quality applicants" for teaching positions, but was worried increasing house prices would take its toll in the future.

"The prices have exploded. I think we will start to see that impact in our schools in the years to come.

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"I don't want house prices to be the wedge that drives teachers from this area to move somewhere more affordable."

However, Greenpark Principal Graeme Lind said they regularly received emails from teachers wanting to move into the area.

"We have a good supply of release teachers," he said.

"It is certainly something not affecting Greenpark."

Mount Maunganui Intermediate principal Lisa Morresey said she hoped the housing market would settle and there had been an increasing number of teaching applicants from Auckland.

New Zealand Nurses Organisation associate professional services manager Hilary Graham-Smith was concerned that nurses could struggle to afford houses in Tauranga.

"I think this is a reflection of what is happening downstream from the overheated Auckland market which is affecting more than just nurses."

However she did not think it would be a contributor to a shortage of nurses.

"We already know that with the impending retirement of nurses in the baby boomer generation we are likely to face a shortage."

"More recent modelling done by the Ministry of Health is somewhat more optimistic, indicating that with the current flow of new graduates we are probably on track to cover the exit of the baby boomers," she said.

Ministry of Education acting head of early learning and student achievement Karl Le Quesne said there was no shortage of teachers in Tauranga.

"Tauranga is seen as an attractive place to teach. The availability of relief teachers typically fluctuates from time to time," he said.

He said the actual average pay for teachers was considerably higher than the salary midpoint range.

"That's because many teachers are experienced, and extra allowances increase the average rate of pay."

Ministry of Education payroll information showed the New Zealand average remuneration for primary teachers last year was $71,773, and $75,486 for secondary teachers.

A police spokesperson said they had not identified any attraction or retention issues which could be attributed to Tauranga housing costs.

"The number of constabulary employees in Bay of Plenty is at full strength, with more recruits due to be posted to the Bay of Plenty District on graduation."

Green Party MP Kevin Hague said the housing crisis was spreading from Auckland to Tauranga.

"Tauranga's growing really fast but there's a real risk developing that the people to look after that growing population, teach its kids, and keep them safe won't be able to afford to live there.''

Building and Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith said the increase in house prices in Tauranga needed to be considered alongside "the lowest interest rates for home mortgages in over 40 years".

"The main solution is growing supply and that is why we are working with the councils in Tauranga and Bay of Plenty on Special Housing Areas, and supporting the cost of infrastructure. We are also directly supporting first-time home buyers with the HomeStart KiwiSaver Scheme."

He said he had not heard any reports of difficulties for police or those in education sectors in recruiting new staff.

"Independent measures of housing affordability from Massey University and interest.co.nz... actually show housing is more affordable now than when National came to Government in 2008."

Paying off someone else's mortgage

Otumoetai teaching student Casey Ireland, 24, said she hoped to land a teaching job in Tauranga after she finished her training, but was not confident she would be able to afford a house "anytime soon".

"I'm sure most people want to own their own house one day, and it's getting harder and harder to do it in places like Auckland and Tauranga. But I considered here my home and I don't want to move somewhere else, I suppose I would have to be content in not reaching those nice ideas of owning my own house," she said.

"Guess I will just pay off someone else's mortgage instead."

"My family is here and I don't want to leave."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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