Tauranga arrivals at 25-year high

By Kim Fulton, Sonya Bateson

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Ana Gabriel Yugar, 26 moved to Tauranga from Bolivia five months ago. Photo/George Novak
Ana Gabriel Yugar, 26 moved to Tauranga from Bolivia five months ago. Photo/George Novak

Permanent and long-term migration to Tauranga is at its highest level in more than 25 years.

Tauranga had a net gain of 1188 people as a result of permanent and long-term migration in the year to September, according to Statistics New Zealand figures.

That was the highest net gain in more than 25 years, up from 893 last year and 454 the year before.

The Western Bay of Plenty had a net gain of 224 migrants, also the highest level in 25 years.

Multicultural Tauranga community liaison officer Ewa Fenn said numbers had been increasing at an English language class and a networking group for newcomers. At least 20 people from a variety of countries were attending each.

Ms Fenn said Tauranga had become better known over the years. New arrivals loved the city, the weather, the beaches and the lack of traffic.

Ms Fenn said many migrants had originally come from India and Korea. Others came from Bulgaria, Iran, Germany, Austria, Poland and Russia.

She said the new migrants were often well-qualified. Their children studied hard and performed well despite speaking English as a second language.

They added to the region intellectually, culturally and economically. Many shops and restaurants around the city were run by people from other countries.

"They just make the place more vibrant and more interesting," said Ms Fenn.

Western Bay mayor Garry Webber said increased net migration was contributing to the district's rising building consent figures and subdivision requests.

"We're getting back to where we were in the early 2000s."

Mr Webber said the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) programme was bringing in workers from all over the world - everywhere from India and Nepal to Papua New Guinea and Kiribati.

"They are coming from near and far. Some of them bring a wealth of experience, knowledge and skills which adds to the diversity of our communities. The good thing is, we are becoming more multicultural."

Richard Inder, principal of Gate Pa School, said his school, along with many others in Tauranga, was home to a wide range of cultures.

"We celebrate and welcome all cultures. We would anticipate that as we continue to grow, our school and others around the district, there will be even more cultural diversity with more migration happening."

Mr Inder said the school had 14 different cultures at last count.

"It's probably becoming a more realistic snapshot of New Zealand society now. In Auckland and Wellington this has been the norm for quite some time."

He said being immersed in a wide variety of cultures made Kiwi children more tolerant and less biased.

Priority One projects manager Annie Hill said the exciting thing about the migration figures was how Tauranga was leveraging off issues in Auckland and in Australia.

The competitive advantages to being based in Tauranga were becoming more widely recognised.

"We're being contacted by 15 or so people very week who want to move here from around New Zealand," she said.

"We've had the highest job growth in New Zealand for the last two years. We've got the jobs and it's an attractive place to live."

Ms Hill said by relocating to Tauranga from Wellington, Brother International had saved about $1 million a year in operating costs. Tauranga's advantages in being central to major centres and home to a large port was being more widely recognised.

"It all bodes well for our economy and for our future."

NZ Association for Migration and Investment chief executive June Ranson said the Bay of Plenty was attracting migrants from UK, Ireland, Asia, Australia, Europe, South Africa and the Middle East.

They were filling jobs as nurses, chefs, retail managers, restaurant managers and livestock farmers.

She said the cost of housing in Auckland would have been part of the reason for the increase in migration to the regions.


From Bolivia to Tauranga

Ana Gabriel Yugar has been in Tauranga since April and is loving the change - although the cultural differences took some getting used to.

She met her Kiwi partner who was touring Bolivia when she was working as a tour guide.

They moved to Tauranga and, after a long struggle to get the right visa, Miss Yugar is now looking for work.

She found it lonely when she first arrived in Tauranga, saying there were only about 10 other Bolivians in the area.

"I couldn't find anyone here. I've since made a friend in Ohope and one that lives in the countryside near Tauranga."

Miss Yugar said she had become interested in Maori culture, especially because of its similarities to Bolivian culture.

"There are some things that are very similar, like Matariki and some of the traditional costumes. It caught my attention.

"I'm trying to learn some of the words, which I find easy because some it is very similar to a regional Bolivian dialect."

Bolivia was more traditional in many of its attitudes than New Zealand, adopting stricter views on abortions, tattoos and religion, Miss Yugar said.

There were also other differences between the two, with more technology and development in New Zealand.

"It was a big change for me. Another thing was the food - here, people like to have canned food. I like to prepare my own food."

Miss Yugar said she liked living in New Zealand because of its people.

"People are very polite, very friendly, always smiling. It's lovely.

"Living in a great place like this - it's like paradise."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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