From Tauranga to London

Julie Livingston was settling into life in Tauranga after moving to the city from London last year.

The 30-year-old moved from Auckland to London in March 2017 in search of job opportunities and the ability to travel.

She had a five-year Ancestry visa, but decided to move to Tauranga late last year. Her move comes as a recent survey finds Tauranga ranked the eighth most expensive place to buy a home in the world. Read more below.


Livingston was working in private banking in London and knew she would realistically have to take a pay cut of about $20,000 to $30,000 when moving back to New Zealand.

But that did not influence her decision to move back. "I was moving back to NZ to be close to family," she said.

Livingston said London was one of the biggest finance centres in the world, which meant vast job opportunities and competition.

Admittedly, Livingston has found it more challenging to find a job in Tauranga than in London, where she landed a job in just three weeks. She was still looking to find work in Tauranga.

She said it was a big shock moving to Tauranga after the hectic London lifestyle.

"I never moved to Tauranga to live the same fast-paced life, the more relaxed pace is the charm of living here," she said.

"Even though London is an amazing place to explore, you don't have an amazing beach on your doorstep."

Tauranga's claim to costly fame

Tauranga Budget Advisory Service manager Diane Bruin. Photo / George Novak
Tauranga Budget Advisory Service manager Diane Bruin. Photo / George Novak

Tauranga's income to house prices ratio has been labelled ''obscene'' after the city was ranked the eighth most expensive place to buy a home in the world.


Meanwhile local business leaders say affordability is a big issue and the problem had also trickled into the rental market.

A local budget advisor says the average family would need at least $900 per week to get by on the bare minimum.

The calculations were made following the 15th annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Study which said the world's most expensive city was Hong Kong, followed by Vancouver, Sydney, Melbourne, Santa Cruz, San Jose, Los Angeles - and then Tauranga.

The study put Tauranga in front of cities like London and San Francisco, and Toronto, and it had again out-stripped Auckland as New Zealand's least affordable.

Tauranga residents had a median household income of $68,800 per year while the median house price was $623,000, meaning it would take people more than nine years to pay off a house if they poured every cent into their repayments.

Tauranga was ranked eighth on the list. Photo / Supplied
Tauranga was ranked eighth on the list. Photo / Supplied

Tauranga Budget Advisory Service manager Diane Bruin said $900 a week would be just enough to cover rent, power, internet, basic food and minimal clothing for two adults and two children living in Tauranga.

Bruin said the ideal situation was recommended for families to have saved about three months of their salary for emergency expenses, which the average family could not afford.

Tauranga families had to budget for a weekly rent of $550 to $600-plus, as well as paying for other essentials including food and power, which often did not leave enough to pay off any debt, Bruin said.

Survey co-author Hugh Pavletich said the local council wasn't taking its housing problems as seriously as the situation warranted.

Pavletich said it's only getting worse and the ratio of income to prices in such a small city is obscene.

"The question that needs to be asked is why has it taken the Tauranga City Council so long to deal with housing infrastructure and land supply," he said.

"This has been staring the city council in the face for years. There is nothing new here."

It is the second year running Tauranga was ranked less affordable than Auckland, but Mayor Greg Brownless suspected the statistics behind the study did not tell the real story.

"To my mind, no way is it the eighth most unaffordable city in the world," he said.

"Tauranga is not known for having a lot of high-paying jobs, but you've got to remember some people have retired here having made their money."

This wouldn't be reflected in median income statistics, he said.

Brownless said he would have no problems if the city's housing prices fell a little because it was "unfair on people just getting a start".

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Tauranga City Council chair of the economic development and investment committee Max Mason said housing affordability was a "real problem" in Tauranga.

Mason said the council needed a fresh approach to managing the city's growth to ensure sufficient land availability for housing and improving transportation networks.

Councillors would be meeting with the Minister for Housing and Urban Development and Transport Phil Twyford in February to discuss how to tackle housing affordability in the future.

Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief Stan Gregec said it had become increasingly unaffordable for people to afford a home as house prices had risen faster than salaries and jobs.

"A lot of this has been driven by the unaffordability of Auckland, which has suddenly made Tauranga a magnet for Auckland house-selling refugees – who have discovered that their capital goes a lot further down here," he said.

Gregec said the city couldn't keep growing at the rate it was.

Priority One projects manager Annie Hill said Tauranga's median sale price had increased because fewer properties were available for first-home buyers and "smaller investors" to buy, meaning more competition.

Hill said Tauranga was feeling the impact of transitioning from a fairly low-income economy to a higher quality economy.

"We also have a high proportion of owner/operator businesses, who may be paying themselves a relatively modest income and drawing down a dividend at the end of the year," she said.

"There is still a lifestyle component that is considered when salaries are set in many jobs in Tauranga, with this offsetting some of the financial rewards that could be found in other places in New Zealand."

OneRoof editor Owen Vaughan said the report showed what had previously been seen as an Auckland-only problem had spread to the rest of the country.

"Tauranga's median price has almost doubled in the last five years, fuelled in part by a rapid influx of Aucklanders - retirees and workers - who looked to take advantage of the city's lower prices," he said.

Julie's five good things about living in Tauranga:
- Relaxed lifestyle
- Good coffee
- Amazing weather
- Everyone is friendly
- The traffic (compared to London) isn't that bad!

Julie's five good things about living in London:
- The ability to travel
- Job opportunities
- Cultural diversity
- There is always something to do
- Bottomless brunch