Well-known journalist Rod Vaughan writes about why it made sense for him to swap busy Auckland for the lifestyle of the Western Bay.

It's often said by those living south of the Bombay Hills that the best view of Auckland is in the rear-vision mirror as they head home along the southern motorway.

As someone who has just embraced the charms of living in the Bay of Plenty after 50 years on and off living in the City of Sails, I have some sympathy for this point of view but have yet to embrace it completely.

Despite a new, laid-back lifestyle in one of the most beautiful and underrated parts of New Zealand, part of me still hankers for the place I will always call home.

It all began on a cool and overcast day in May 1964 when I stepped off the MV Ruahine on to Auckland's Princes Wharf after a five-week voyage from Britain through the Panama Canal.


After escaping from the drizzle and drudgery of living in one of the most over-populated islands on this Earth, I was expecting to arrive in a South Seas paradise bathed in continuous sunshine.

Instead, I discovered an antipodean version of Liverpool where the most imposing building on the dull and grey skyline was the underwhelming and ugly Farmers department store in Hobson St.

This city of barely 500,000 people seemed to my youthful eyes to be locked in a 1930s timewarp where everything and everybody appeared dowdy and down at the heels.

It was almost enough to make this young immigrant catch the first boat home, but that would have been admitting defeat.

Today, of course, the city has mushroomed into a sprawling mass of around 1.5 million inhabitants enjoying one of the most enviable and exquisite settings in the world, which is why I grew to love it.

So why swap it all for the Bay of Plenty or, more precisely, Tanners Point, a tiny community of just 100 or so houses on a pohutukawa-clad peninsula, jutting out into the upper reaches of Tauranga harbour?

It's a question Auckland friends continue to ask.

To them and, I suspect, most other Aucklanders, the only places worth moving to are points north or east of the city such as the Bay of Islands or the Coromandel.


Mention Tauranga or the Bay of Plenty and their eyes glaze over.

To them, the region spells endless rows of kiwifruit and avocado orchards, countless retirement villages brimming over with people waiting for God and various old-school politicians such as Winston Peters.

In other words a pretty boring place, apart from the odd riot at Mount Maunganui on New Year's Eve to liven things up a bit.

Regrettably, the only time Aucklanders take any notice of the Bay is when there is a calamity such as the Rena grounding or a particularly gruesome homicide.

But all this is changing because, quite frankly, Auckland is becoming a mess and many of its citizens, like this writer, have come to the conclusion that relocating to the Bay of Plenty makes more sense than seeking refuge in more popular havens such as Warkworth or Whitianga.

Yes, Auckland is a vibrant and exciting place boasting major sporting and cultural events, beautiful and bountiful regional parks, a stunning harbour and waterfront, and great cultural diversity as immigrants pour in from all over the world and other parts of New Zealand.

It's hard not to get excited by the buzz in the air especially when the economy is humming, jobs are relatively plentiful and people have got money to burn, even if it is on the back of grossly inflated and unsustainable house prices.

The downside is that intolerable pressures are being brought to bear on the city's infrastructure and housing.

Motorways and major arterial roads are choked with traffic, cheap and nasty apartment blocks litter the inner city, suburbs are swamped with ugly in-fill housing and dreary housing estates are springing up on the city fringes.

It's not a pretty picture and it's being driven by migration.

Last year, New Zealand experienced a record net migration inflow of 50,992 with the largest numbers coming from India, China, Britain and the Philippines in that order.

Most of the migrants, especially the Indians and Chinese, have settled in Auckland with 39.1 per cent of all overseas-born people now living there compared with 37 per cent in 2006. The cultural/ethnic make-up of New Zealand is vastly different to what it was in 1964 when I stepped off the Ruahine.

Back then about 92 per cent of the population was European, 7 per cent Maori and 1 per cent of other descent.

Today, these figures are around 74 per cent, 15 per cent and 11 per cent respectively.

The face of Auckland and, indeed, New Zealand has changed forever and is likely to change even more so in the coming years.

This may be no bad thing, despite what the xenophobes might say, but the reality is the Bay of Plenty will have to brace itself for what I believe will be a flood of Aucklanders in the next decade.

Eager to escape the gridlock, find affordable housing and enjoy a good quality of life they will discover that Tauranga, Mount Maunganui, Papamoa, Whakatane and even little old Katikati have much to offer.

This is good and bad news for the Bay.

Tauranga is already growing like Topsy and with a population of 121,700 is poised to overtake Dunedin as New Zealand's fifth largest city.

Already there are big demands on the city's infrastructure such as water, sewerage and roads.

Busloads of refugees from Auckland will only exacerbate the situation especially if they largely comprise holders of Winston's gold card.

What's needed are highly motivated 30- to 40-somethings keen to put their stamp on what could become the best place in New Zealand in which to live.

These are exciting times for the Bay of Plenty but please, God, don't tell those Jafas about Tanners Point. It's nice the way it is, thanks.