Building consents for Tauranga retirement villages have soared with one owner describing the growth in demand as "insane".
Data from Priority One shows in the year to July 2016, 96 consents were issued, valued at $51.8 million, compared with 87 consents valued at $33.6m for all of 2015 and 35 consents for 2014 valued at $14.3m.
The largest single value consent over the same timeframes was issued to Metlifecare Somervale at Mount Maunganui in March for $11.7m to erect a 69-bed care home and 16 new serviced apartments.
Construction started in April and the facility was expected to open in mid-2017.
Metlifecare Somervale Retirement Village manager Rhonda Howie said the Bay continued to be a destination for retirees. "We know that the Bay of Plenty has a high percentage of older people and it continues to be a sought-after destination for people from Auckland and elsewhere.
"As well as the rapidly expanding population in the Bay of Plenty, we foresee an increased demand and expectation for high-quality care services within villages."
Copper Crest Village Estate manager Astrid Martin said it had experienced the greatest building growth in the past 12 months since the village established in 2006.
"Literally, we cannot build villas fast enough to keep up with the demand."
The village had eight villas under construction with another three due to start in the next two weeks, she said.
"We have all just returned from the Retirement Village Association conference in Auckland.
"The projected numbers of 65-plus people coming on stream in the next 20 to 30 years, it is phenomenal.
Residents moving from Auckland are able to free up cash and 'retire rich' at the beach.
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"So one would have to believe that there is going to be continued strong growth in the retirement village sector."
Copper Crest statistics revealed the number of residents from out of town had increased 25 per cent over two years to March 2016, she said.
Freedom Villages managing director Rudy Van Het Wout said more than 80 houses were occupied and "we are now over our targeted midpoint".
"We expect to be full by the end of 2018 and growth has met expectations."
The majority of Freedom Villages residents were from the Bay of Plenty region, although one in five were from Auckland, he said.
"Residents moving from Auckland are able to free up cash and 'retire rich' at the beach."
Sanderson Group chairman Fraser Sanderson said growth at Bethlehem Shores had been rapid and, within the next three months, all of the 140 houses in stage one would be sold down.
Because "the demand is so insane we just had to look at other options and buy more land", he said.
Stage two would include about 60 homes and there were future plans to develop Bethlehem Lodge, a modern and state-of-the-art 80-bed rest home, hospital and dementia unit, 30 serviced apartments and 70 independent living apartments.
Mr Sanderson said the homes at Bethlehem Shores were upmarket, high quality, spacious homes with views in response to a new generation of retirees that were wealthier and had more disposable income.
"I have been in the industry for 30 years and the first village I built was Omokoroa Country Estate and they are much smaller homes. What we build now is totally different."
About 50 per cent of residents in Bethlehem Shores were local with a lot of Aucklanders who had taken advantage of the cheaper options available in Tauranga, he said.
The Sanderson Group also owns the Bethlehem Country Club, Bethlehem Views and Omokoroa Country Estate, and the Cascades in Hamilton, which all had waiting lists.
The New Zealand Retirement Village Database White Paper, compiled by Jones Lang LaSalle, shows that in December 2015 there were 26,307 retirement village units in New Zealand - 8553 (33 per cent) were located in the Auckland region, followed by the Bay of Plenty with 3067 units (12 per cent), and Canterbury with 3003 (11 per cent).