The changing face of Pāpāmoa has seen the coastal settlement transform from a rural farmland with a few baches and people being seen out and about a rarity, to the thriving community it has become. Today, Pāpāmoa is one of New Zealand's fastest-growing suburbs, showing no signs of slowing down. Zoe Hunter takes a look at Pāpāmoa over the decades - then, now and tomorrow.
Picture Pāpāmoa in the early 1990s.
Its population was a little more than 5800 people and there were about 2067 houses. The average house price was between $82,000 and $90,000.
Now, Pāpāmoa is dubbed one of the fastest-growing suburbs in New Zealand.
The suburb's total land value is worth more than $4 billion and is now home to upwards of 27,400 people.
The latest Census data showed the population in Wairakei alone - the Pāpāmoa suburb that includes Golden Sands - had jumped 2554 per cent from 126 residents in 2013 to 3345 last year.
The average cost to buy a home is now about $700,000.
What once was a quiet beachside suburb has transformed into a thriving community with more than 11,000 homes.
Pacific View Rd to Gravatt Rd, Palm Beach Boulevard, Papamoa Beach East, Doncaster Drive and Palm Springs, which includes the Wairakei area, are all defined as Pāpāmoa.
But the suburb hasn't stopped growing.
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The Tauranga City Council has estimated capacity for an extra 4658 dwellings in Wairakei and the rest of Pāpāmoa.
The Te Tumu area east of Wairakei also has the potential to accommodate a further 7000-8000 homes.
Growing up in Pāpāmoa
An old photograph taken in the mid-1960s captures what Pāpāmoa used to be - rural farmland.
Bruce Crosby, 66, points to one of the very few houses along the coastline.
"That was our old house," he says.
Bruce and his brother Stuart Crosby were raised at what was then called the Papamoa Holiday Camp from the time their parents Gordon and Thelma took on the lease in 1966.
Back then there were about 16 campsites, only a few baches and two dairies - one of which the Crosby brothers used to work at.
"We spent our high school years in there rolling icecreams and making milkshakes," Bruce said.
If they weren't in the shop, they were picking up rubbish and cleaning the toilets at the campground.
"My very first paid job was for the council," said Stuart, is a former mayor of Tauranga.
The 63-year-old said Pāpāmoa was still a rural community in the 1960s and 1970s. He used to borrow a calf from the local farmer to take to calf club day at Papamoa Primary School when it was on Welcome Bay Rd.
Stuart said the end of Papamoa Beach Rd, near Maranui St, used to be a goat track through the sand dunes to what was now known as Girven Rd.
It meant the family would travel to the nearest service centre in Te Puke, not Mount Maunganui, he said.
"Now we have traffic lights, movie theatres and a library. That was a big game-changer.
"People in Tauranga used to say, 'Oh you live way out there' in those days before the bridge," said Bruce, who bought the campground from his parents with wife Donna in 1986.
"Now my standard joke is, here we front the biggest suburb of Tauranga City."
Stuart said the real changes happened when Dickson Rd was formed.
"In the mid-1970s we got our first real subdivision, with footpaths, street lights and tar sealed roads," he said.
"That is when we started becoming really urbanised. Prior to that, it was baches at the beach."
Pāpāmoa has grown around them.
"It went through the normal boom and bust. But it was constantly growing," Stuart said.
Bruce said people from out of town used to phone the campground, now called the Papamoa Beach Resort, wanting information.
"In the old days if you came in and asked where Sam lives, we could tell ya," he said.
"I couldn't even tell you the name of the subdivisions now."
Then, in 1989, a big shake-up of local government meant Pāpāmoa become part of the Tauranga District Council and millions of dollars was invested into the beachside suburb.
"That's what really saved Pāpāmoa," he said.
"We were running out of water, and the septic tanks, two package plants were bubbling up and failing."
But Stuart said the worst thing for Pāpāmoa was the Rena disaster on October 5, 2011.
"When we knew the oil had come here I went down to the other side of the [Pāpāmoa] Surf Club and the stink of the oil just hit us - and then you saw it. It was just dirty brown, if not black," he said.
"I remember seeing a little seal bubbling along in the oil. That was the worst time."
Bruce said people were cancelling their Christmas bookings at the campground. "Our phone went nuts," he said.
"This was a place we had grown up in and thought it had just been wrecked for probably a decade. But of course, it wasn't."
There's no place like home
Mike Stevens has been holidaying at the Papamoa Beach Resort since the 1970s.
Now, he owns a home just 5km from the campground.
It was the prime holiday spot and beach lifestyle that drew Mike and his wife Jenny to the area permanently.
Searching for the perfect holiday destination in the early 1970s, the couple found a caravan to rent for just $11 a week on the corner of Parton and Papamoa Beach roads.
"We had never been to Pāpāmoa before," Mike said. "When we arrived, we just fell in love with the place. Ever since then, we thought 'this is us'."
The couple soon after discovered the Papamoa Beach Resort and began travelling from Hamilton every weekend during summer to pitch their tent on the waterfront.
In the early 1980s, Mike and Jenny bought their first beach house on Papamoa Beach Rd for a little more than $100,000.
The couple later bought a section on Motiti Rd to build their next home, which sold for about $300,000 in 1989.
Mike and Jenny have lived permanently in Pāpāmoa for 20 years and now live just down the road from the campground where they still holiday most weekends.
"It is because when you are here, it is like you could be anywhere in the world," he said.
"We have seen a fair bit of the world, we have done a bit of travelling. But honestly, truly, this is magic compared to a lot of it."
Mike said the suburb's growth had been "tremendous".
"When we first bought here, on a normal weekend if you saw 10 people walk past, it was a busy weekend. Now, there would be 1000, maybe 2000 or 3000," he said.
"It was lovely in the old days. Now it is busier, but it is still a nice place."
Mount Maunganui/Pāpāmoa ward councillor Steve Morris was just a baby when he moved to the beachside suburb in 1981 with his family.
"Pāpāmoa used to be very similar to Pukehina with a lot of baches and isolated from both Tauranga and Mount Maunganui," he said.
"It was a great place to grow up but there wasn't much to do other than have adventures in the sandhills."
Pāpāmoa has progressed since then.
The $30 million Te Okuroa Drive extension. The $10m Domain Rd upgrade. Widening of Tara Rd and a nod to the Pāpāmoa East interchange. The Sandhurst Drive overbridge and connection to Truman Lane and Grenada St extension.
They are roading projects that have either been completed, funded or brought forward by the council.
Construction of the $140m Waiāri Water Supply Scheme for the Mount and Pāpāmoa. The Southern Pipeline harbour crossing project. The $2.2m for tsunami evacuation routes. The Pāpāmoa War Memorial site.
These have all been achieved for Pāpāmoa in the last six years.
Becoming a business hub
Rapid growth, increased demand for commercial space and Tauranga's worsening traffic woes have sped up plans for a new office building as part of Papamoa Plaza's expansion.
Opening early next year, the plaza's new office building will accommodate a range of local and national businesses.
Papamoa Plaza centre manager David Hill said the shopping centre, which was completed in 1998, had expanded to keep up with demand.
The adjoining childcare centre, office block and large format shopping build with an extra 6000sqm of retail space at the plaza will be completed by 2020.
"Pāpāmoa is still growing with new housing, infilling of land and new subdivisions – retail offers are struggling to keep up with demand," he said.
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley said steady population growth, the Tauranga Eastern Link and the roll-out of ultra-fast broadband have made Pāpāmoa an attractive and accessible place for commercial and light industrial businesses.
"The Pāpāmoa success story has snowballed over time. As the population grew, more businesses were encouraged to invest," he said.
"There is now a self-sustaining network of commerce in the wider Pāpāmoa area."
Priority One chief executive Nigel Tutt said Pāpāmoa will be the centre of much of Tauranga's growth in the next few decades, with a substantial portion of the city's greenfield housing planned there.
Tutt said retail and hospitality businesses will continue to expand alongside the growth in population.
"The Rangiuru industrial development is exciting and will add a significant amount of jobs in very close proximity to Pāpāmoa, providing more work options for residents," he said.
A local icon
In 1988, the iconic Bluebiyou restaurant was built by the beach.
Overlooking the Pāpāmoa coastline, the restaurant on the reserve holds many memories for the local community. Some have worked there, dined there, celebrated their birthdays or anniversaries there. Others have got engaged and even married there.
Nathan and Delia Schaeffer tied the knot at the Bluebiyou.
It was 2003.
The Rugby World Cup was on. The quarter-final between the All Blacks and South Africa was showing on the big screens in the Bluebiyou.
In the function room, Nathan and Delia had just said: "I do".
In 2018, the couple became the Bluebiyou's newest owners alongside Nathan's younger brother Matt Schaeffer.
Matt had arrived back to the Bay from travelling the Middle East and Asia working and establishing many restaurants, cafes, and bars across Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Vietnam.
The experienced chef had spotted a very vague newspaper advertisement, which he thought looked like the Bluebiyou.
"At the time, pickings were slim, probably because of the high growth in the area."
It was like fate.
The Schaeffer brothers had grown up in the Bay of Plenty and spent many summer holidays at Pāpāmoa Beach.
They used to go to church across the road from the Bluebiyou in the Pāpāmoa Domain - or "the doughy", the name Matt said the locals called it.
"This area was imprinted into our family culture and family memory," Nathan said.
After meeting with the previous owner, Luigi Barattieri, Matt said everything fell into place.
"Rather than trying to create a story, there was already a story there," he said.
The Schaeffers took over the restaurant, which had been renamed The Blue on November 12 last year. Six months later, the family rebranded and brought back the name Bluebiyou.
"We wanted to celebrate its history with a whole new look," Matt said.
The brothers said they felt privileged to be serving the community they felt so connected to.
"It is one of the most iconic locations in the area," Matt said. "Being on the reserve I have always felt like space should be available to everybody."
Nathan said Pāpāmoa was not the small, quiet beachside town it once was.
"Before when we used to visit here, there was hardly anyone around," he said.
"Now on weekends the beach is just chocka. It just shows there are so many more people living here locally."
Schools have also been feeling the pressure of Pāpāmoa's growing population.
Papamoa Primary School principal Phil Friar said the school's roll was the highest it has been with 714 pupils.
Friar said the school had reached just more than 500 pupils by 2007.
In 2009, the school's roll increased to more than 660 pupils and two extra classrooms were added to meet increased enrolment needs.
Tahatai Coast School principal Matt Skilton said his school's roll had reached 790 pupils - the highest for the school, which opened in 1997 with about 400 children.
The Western Bay of Plenty Principals' Association president said Tahatai Coast School had grown in the last three years, particularly in the junior school.
Papamoa College principal Steve Lindsey says the school opened in 2011 with 450 students and the roll has now reached 1405 children, with expectations of it growing to about 1520 by next year.
Lindsey, who moved to the area in 2010, said rapid population growth in the last eight years had pompted school roll numbers to skyrocket.
"Clearly the building of new housing estates, town centres and the infrastructure that is necessary, has brought more people, more retail opportunities, and a more diverse and vibrant community," he said.
Nearly $4m worth of building consents had also been approved for three new childcare centres in the area in the last two years.
A total of $1.2m was approved for an early childhood education centre for 100 children at 20 Hills View Drive in 2018. This year, $1.1m was approved for a 389.92sq m childcare centre at 183 The Boulevard and $1.5m for a single-storey pre-school at 7 Gravatt Rd.
Retiring by the beach
A number of new retirement villages are being built or are expanding in Pāpāmoa.
Eight major building consents worth more than $1m have been approved for the eco-friendly Pacific Lakes Retirement Village at 242 Grenada St in the last two years.
One building consent worth $12.6 million was approved in June to build a new 110-villa retirement village at 718 Grenada St, which would be named Parewaitai.
The development is being built in partnership with the Classic Group, Kensway Consultants and Parewaitai Estates Limited, which is a family-run company.
In April 2018, $13m was approved for stage two of the Pacific Coast Village including 36 apartment units at 210 Maranui St.
Four consents totalling about $15m were also approved last year for a new Metlifecare retirement village named Papamoa Beach Village at 2 Te Okuroa Drive.
Retirement Villages Association of New Zealand executive director John Collyns said Tauranga was a popular place to retire.
"A total of 31 per cent of people aged over 75 in Tauranga live in a retirement village," he said. "This is about double anywhere else."
Collyns said developers had chosen Pāpāmoa to build new retirement villages because there was land available.
Retirement villages could expect another influx of people in the next few years when the baby boomers begin to retire, he says.
Managing director of Generus Living Group Ltd, which is building the Pacific Lakes Village and Pacific Coast Village, Graham Wilkinson, says Pāpāmoa is an ideal location for a retirement village.
"The Pāpāmoa/Mount Maunganui strip is a great beach and lifestyle living that will appeal to retirees," he said.
"That is evident in the number of senior people already living in that area who are well suited for the next phase of retirement from standalone to villages."
Both villages were a joint venture between Generus Living Group and Mangatawa Papamoa Blocks Inc, who Wilkinson said owned a significant area of the land in Pāpāmoa being built on.
A new town centre was also being planned for Pāpāmoa.
The Wairakei/Te Tumu Town Centre is planned on the boundary of the Wairakei and Te Tumu urban growth areas.
It will be the main retail and community area for the estimated 30,000 people who will call Te Tumu and Wairakei home once the area is fully developed.
The proposed new regional hub is being planned by Tauranga developers, the Bluehaven Group.
Bluehaven chief executive Nathan York said the development will be the "regional hub that provides an array of commercial offers and new employment for Tauranga".
He said the Bluehaven Group has developed more than 2500 residential lots in the Pāpāmoa and Golden Sands area, as well as the new Excelsa Centre on Golden Sands Dr.
The Tauranga developer said Bluehaven had been instrumental in the growth of Pāpāmoa since it first invested in the area 25 years ago.
"We could see an opportunity for growth in Pāpāmoa, even back in the mid-1990s," York said.
"Tauranga has a lot going for it as a city from a business and lifestyle perspective and we wanted to invest and enhance the lifestyle that Pāpāmoa particularly offers."
York said Pāpāmoa and Golden Sands was one of the highest growth areas in New Zealand, with recent Census data indicating a 2500 per cent increase in population.
"Importantly Pāpāmoa and the Golden Sands has a future that is well planned out," he said.