Expats are flocking back to Tauranga, bringing a range of skills and experience to the city.

Recruitment agencies and businesses are reporting a surge in the number of New Zealanders moving to the Western Bay from overseas and say that many are bringing valuable skills learned working for large businesses in major cities.

Priority One, the region's economic development organisation, was approached by 72 jobseekers in February compared with just seven in the same month two years earlier.

The new jobseekers were equally divided between expats returning home, foreigners moving here from overseas, and New Zealanders moving here domestically.

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Priority One projects manager Annie Hill said the expat jobseekers had high levels of skills and experience.

"We're getting a very broad range of people looking for work across most sectors," she said. "A lot of the people we see moving here are couples in their thirties with young children who want them to grow up in this environment."

There are plenty of new jobs to go around. According to Priority One, 3000 were created last year. However, Tauranga has a relatively small number of businesses that employ more than 100 people, and this means that some workers with specialised skills can take a while to find work.

Traditionally, Tauranga has offered lower wages than some other centres. However, Priority One and some recruiters say that this is beginning to change.

Cherie Hill from Kinetic Recruitment agreed that a "significant number" of expats were returning to the Bay and added that some were settling here from overseas after originally being based in other parts of New Zealand.

Typically, these people had excellent skills and had worked with large businesses in fields including engineering, marketing, management, IT and financial and business analysis.

These people were "like gold" for the local economy and businesses.

However, they were not always able to use their full range of skills in the Bay.

"The initial challenge would probably be the volume of opportunities," she said. "Six months ago I would have said salaries, but recently I've seen employers offer competitive salaries to secure good talent. "

A human resources and recruitment specialist from Talent ID, Catherine Brown, said problems in Australia and the UK had boosted the number of expats returning home.

The currencies of both countries had weakened, Australia was having economic difficulties and the UK was going through Brexit.

Another factor was the requirement to pay interest on student loans.

"Every second person we are placing is from outside the region or from overseas," she said. "We are seeing strong skill-sets, and there are some good strengths with work ethics and experience."

She believed that salaries remained a challenge, especially for younger people looking to buy their first home.

However, Claudia Nelson of The Right Staff said that during the past year most of the people moving to Tauranga were Aucklanders. Expats had valuable experience, but sometimes found it difficult to integrate with the local work "landscape".

Tauranga mayor Greg Brownless said the city offered a haven from some of the difficulties being experienced overseas and a place where people could get to know each other.

"With the situation in other parts of the world, we are increasingly seen as a safe destination," he said. "It cements in the mind that this is where people want to live."

Tauranga MP Simon Bridges said the city had become "a place that people want to move to" for lifestyle, work and business.

Statistics New Zealand figures showed 3146 people migrated to Tauranga and the Western Bay last year from overseas, including New Zealanders returning after an absence of more than a year. This was compared to the 1873 people that left the region permanently.

In the years after the Global Financial Crisis, departures from Tauranga and the Western Bay well outweighed the number of arrivals. In 2008, 2996 people left the region compared to 2140 arrivals.

Priority One new jobseeker profiles

February 2017: 72
February 2016: 27
February 2015: 7

Source: Priority One

NZ citizen migration to Tauranga/Western Bay

2016: 1458 people
2015: 1466 people
2014: 1309 people
2013: 1174 people
2012: 989 people

Source: Statistics NZ

Geoff Best

Geoff Best
Geoff Best

Geoff Best was about three days into his New Zealand holiday earlier this month when he started feeling the pangs of homesickness.

London had plenty to offer, but the hectic and crammed lifestyle was literally a world away from the beachfront of Papamoa and Mt Maunganui - not to mention his mother in Te Puke.

After plenty of thought, and conversations with his partner, he decided to move home.

Mr Best, who works for the UK's version of Sky, has already started looking for work in Tauranga and hopes to move here within the next six months. His perfect job would be as a project manager in the information and communications field.

"Tauranga and the Western Bay seems to be a massive hot-bed of development and investment at the moment," he says. "Quite frankly I'm gobsmacked at the investment in the area."

Mr Best will miss London's public transport and "instantness" of home delivery systems, but says that he is looking forward to having space around him and easy access to a beautiful natural environment.

"We are both quite active in different ways and the focus would be on friends, family and living - work hard but play hard. It's easy to work hard in London, but not as easy to play hard unless you drink big."

Amy Hasloch

Amy Hasloch is planning a new life.

For 12 years she has been working as a food technologist in cities including Sydney and London, but now it's time to come home.

"I've always wanted to come back and it was just finding the right way to do it and be able to have a good quality of life outside the rat race."

The problem for Miss Hasloch is that most food technology opportunities are in Auckland. So she's retrained as a Bowen therapist specialising in helping stimulate healing processes in people and horses.

The Western Bay's two major lures are access to horses and access to the coast - she's a keen surf lifesaver.

"I'm a beach person," she says. "With the change in career, I've got more flexibility now to move."

Miss Hasloch plans to build up her Bowen Therapy business while working a regular day job. Ideally the job will be related to food technology, but she is open to anything.

"I've heard Tauranga's growing rapidly, and I've got a couple of friends here," she says.

"I'll give it a go."