Tauranga is set to cement its reputation as God's waiting room - with new data predicting one-third of the city's population will be over the age of 65 in less than 20 years.

Of the 117,280 people living in the city, 22,880 are 65 or over, but a new Smartgrowth report estimates the number of people in that age group will more than double to 54,725 by the year 2033.

The city's overall population would grow by 37 per cent to a projected 161,646 in that time, and 71 per cent of that growth would be people over the age of 65.

In contrast, those aged 15-39 years will make up just 4.4 per cent of the population growth, while 23 per cent would be people between 40 and 64 years, according to the data.


Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby said this was a world-wide trend and it was no surprise Tauranga was following suit.

He said Local Government needed to look what interventions it could make to have a more balanced community and the council had asked Waikato University for ideas to help attract a broader population base.

The council would also need to look at transport, housing and support services for the future, Mr Crosby said.

The ageing population trend is similar in the remainder of the Western Bay, with demographers predicting one-third of the population will be aged 65 or older by 2033 - up from 19.5 per cent in 2013. By 2063, that proportion is projected to reach 41 per cent, the report says.

Between 2034 and 2063, all age groups are predicted to increase but a whopping 84 per cent of the growth will be made up of people over the age of 65 years.

Western Bay of Plenty District Mayor Ross Paterson said planning to deal with towns that were top heavy with pensioners was well under way. He said demographers had warned councils of the implications, such as paying for vital services coupled with a declining rates base.

Mr Paterson said developing recreational activities to suit the older population was high on the agenda, he said.

"We are also looking at employment options ... because we understand that people over the age of 65 will be looking for work."

Age Concern Tauranga chairwoman Angela Scott also believed the Bay was ready for the increase.

"Tauranga has the Age Friendly Strategy in place, which the elders' forum is responsible for.

"The strategy has a number of goals around transport, accessibility and employment opportunities, so although these are large numbers, we are working hard and I feel we are ready."

The projections did not surprise to Greerton retirees Jim and Val Carruthers, who moved to the Bay 21 years ago in search of sunshine.

"You only have to look at the number of retirement villages popping up to see it is going to be a real growth industry," Mr Carruthers, 82, said.

"It's understandable, the Bay is beautiful, it's sunny and it has everything you want as you start getting older."

SmartGrowth is a joint initiative between Western Bay of Plenty District Council, Tauranga City Council, Bay of Plenty Regional Council, tangata whenua and the New Zealand Transport Authority.