Moving to raise a family
Shelley Leach and Craig Sims moved to Te Puke two weeks ago after "seriously talking" about the shift for five years.
Leach grew up in Te Puke, but had been away 15 years. Her husband was born and raised on Auckland's North Shore, where the couple settled and started a family.
Leach said the plan was to raise their now 2-year-old daughter, Lucy, in the Tauranga area. She said they weren't sure until recently when they'd make the move.
"Craig was really loving the job he was doing in Auckland, so we said, 'Let's not rush'." After living in the same house eight years, they decided to look for another house in Auckland.
"It was insane. To take the next step up from our little three-bed, one-bath 1960s bungalow, we would have had to spend close to a million bucks, and they weren't what I'd consider million-dollar homes. It was not realistic for us.
"We said: 'This is absolute craziness; let's just make this move happen'."
Leach said the fact they sold their house for "a decent price" made it possible to come to the Bay without jobs, knowing they had money in the bank for a while.
Sims, a consumer trends expert in the supermarket industry, says he's fortunate his employer offered him a short-term contract after he resigned so he can work from home and deliver a few projects.
So now, instead of leaving his Auckland home before seven each morning and returning around 6pm, Sims spends more time with his family in Te Puke. They live on Leach's parents' orchard in a self-contained flat.
"If we didn't do it now, we were never going to do it. I'm proud of being here and I want to work in this area, so here I am. The support from our families removed barriers for us in the areas of housing and finances."
The couple are foodies who believe Tauranga has an advantage over Auckland in the events department.
"Because traffic is less of a problem, it's easier to enjoy, therefore it's better for me," says Sims. "An example is the Gourmet Night Markets at the Mount. We've done four of them and were at one point planning visits around them. Trying to go to that stuff in Auckland, it just becomes too hard."
Leach says Te Puke and Tauranga still feel the same. "Which I love. Papamoa is the area that blows my mind - we used to drive from Te Puke to the Mount to my grandmother's. It was just farmland between here and the Mount. Now, there are houses for miles."
Her husband said although he had always loved the Bay, he moved for his daughter. "This is the place we can give Lucy the kind of childhood we had."
Another father of young children, Gregg Dell, left Auckland just over a year ago. He says a four-month sabbatical in France and the death of his wife's close friend at age 35 strengthened their resolve to shift gears.
"I wanted a change in my life. Rachel, my wife, didn't want to go back to corporate life quite yet, either."
Dell is a financial services consultant and says to maintain a home in Auckland took two full-time salaries and an au pair. Now, his wife can afford to stay home with their children, all aged under 5.
The couple, both 42, and their children live on an acre in Oropi Downs. "There's neat schools, a great lifestyle and it didn't matter where I was based. I don't want to use 10 or 12 hours of my week behind the wheel of the car. We've used that for family time and other things, like driving my daughter to pre-school. We also wouldn't have come down here if we didn't have challenging and exciting things to do. It was finding a balance for the two for us."
Dell also says Bay food markets are a bonus. "We couldn't go to the night markets in Auckland, but we do here."
In the business world, he says one surprise is the local talent pool.
"When you live in Auckland, you think all the talent goes to Auckland. That's incorrect." He motions to people sitting in the co-working space he hires in downtown Tauranga called Ignition. "There are architects, IT and building contractors, entrepreneurs ... there are a lot of smart people doing exciting things."
Dell still loves Auckland, but sees the city as an outlier rather than faraway. "I've made the leap with the help of technology. I've got clients in Auckland and Wellington. My next challenge is to tap into Tauranga itself."
The couple couldn't wait until their 60s or 70s to leave Auckland for the Bay of Plenty.
"If you do it when you retire, you miss half the fun. I like to go to the beach, fishing, walking the Mount and have discovered the Redwoods. It's all here."
Stacey Bracegirdle said she and her family moved to Papamoa East two years ago to raise their children (now aged 6 months and 2) close to her parents, who were already living in the Bay.
Bracegirdle said her husband accepted a project engineer job with Fulton Hogan on the Tauranga Eastern Link, and the couple sold their Auckland home for a "huge profit" the first day of their open home.
"We wanted a better lifestyle for our family than the rat race of Auckland. The only thing I miss about Auckland is the shopping."
Bracegirdle says she's meeting locals through her kids' play groups, and neighbours organised a street barbecue for them when they moved in.
"We find there are many more families here with younger children and in our age group [she's 25; her husband is 32]. We have been looking into schools and we are lucky enough to be zoned for both Papamoa Primary and Golden Sands Primary - both of which we have heard good things about."
What property experts have to say
Auckland median home prices (the midway point of homes sold during a certain period) jumped 20 per cent from this May to last May, according to figures from the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand. The median home value last month was $771,500 - and that has many Aucklanders cashing up and moving to areas such as Tauranga, where median house values in May were nearly $414,000 (up 17 per cent compared with May, 2014).
The median price for Mount Maunganui and Papamoa homes was $470,000.
Ross Stanway, chief executive for Realty Services, which operates Bayleys and Eves, says for certain types of properties, about a third of inquiries come from Auckland.
"Many are young people with young families moving here for a range of positives: job opportunities, or they have a business that can operate from here. It's quite a shift from past decades, when it was retired or semi-retired people moving here. That's still happening, but the increase is definitely from younger people from Auckland wanting to bring up their families here."
Harcourts Tauranga franchise owner Max Martin says an analysis of open home viewers from a month ago shows about half were from out of town or out of the country, with a large percentage coming from Auckland.
"A lot aren't moving here to live, they're investing in this town for their future to move here or buying an investment to rent it out."
Colliers International Tauranga office owner Simon Clark says he still sees Tauranga businesses going to Auckland. "We get a lot of interest from Auckland, but mainly it's just branches expanding into the Bay of Plenty but not closing up shop and moving to Tauranga. Most want to be in the biggest market in New Zealand and also have a presence here."
The Business Case
One business with an Auckland presence that's expanded into the Bay is Jenkins Freshpac Systems.
The company, which prints labels for the fruit industry at its Bay of Plenty plant, opened a new purpose-built facility in Tauriko in August, 2013.
Jenkins already had an operation in Mount Maunganui, but moved 11 employees from its Auckland operation to live in the Bay.
One of those staff, production manager Kate Maguire, says she commutes seven minutes each way from Tauranga to Tauriko, as opposed to a 40-minute commute that could stretch three times that long in Auckland.
Maguire, who holds a PhD, also teaches salsa dancing and looks forward to one day buying her own home, something she says isn't possible for her in Auckland.
"I don't think I want for anything down here. My life is more relaxed because I don't have to spend God-awful hours in traffic."
Local economic development group Priority One helped Jenkins open in Tauranga and continues its campaign called The Tauranga Business Case, which aims to attract businesses to Tauranga.
Communications manager Annie Hill says it will not disclose how much money has been spent on the campaign, but thinks it's reached a "turning point."
"That's where businesses start contacting us because they have heard about the campaign through other channels rather than direct advertising.
"The Port of Tauranga and its ability to expand is a huge competitive advantage as well as availability of industrial land and cost. Tauranga is increasingly being seen as a viable location in which to establish a business, partly due to its proximity to the upper Central North Island, where nearly 50 per cent of the country's population lives."
Judy James was one of the first people to buy a home at Freedom Villages over-50 community in Papamoa.
She moved into her new two-bedroom home in early April after living in Auckland 38 years.
"In two months, there hasn't been a minute when I haven't been pleased I made that decision. I still have family in Auckland. It's close enough to visit but I find I get better quality of time with my kids and grandkids - they spend a few nights here and I spend a few nights there."
The 68-year-old says selling up in Auckland and moving to Papamoa has allowed her to be financially secure while living in a beautiful, secure village.
A Freedom Villages spokesman says nearly 20 per cent of residents are from Auckland.
The head of another development, Bob Thorne, told the Bay of Plenty Times late last year about 25 per cent of owners in Urban Ridge - which straddles Bethlehem and Brookfield - are former Aucklanders.
Urban Ridge resident Wendy Hoare, nearly 71, and her 73-year-old husband, Kevin, moved from the North Shore about 18 months ago.
Hoare says: "We knew we needed to get out of Auckland. Prices were just going sky-high. We thought if we don't get out now and cash up and look for something cheaper, we're never going to do it."
They spent less than $400,000 for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom home with a small garden.
Hoare says they enjoy going for coffee every day, and her husband coaches athletics at Tauranga Domain.
"We just love it."
Auckland vs Tauranga Trends:
Statistics NZ says Auckland's population is projected to hit two million in 2033. They say nearly three-quarters of New Zealand's population growth over the next three decades will be in the Auckland region.
Tauranga is projected to grow 1.2 per cent over the next 30 years.
Auckland's population has grown from nearly 1.2 million in 2001 to 1.4 million in 2013.
Tauranga's population has grown from 91,000 in 2001 to nearly 115,000 in 2013, rising in rank from the country's seventh biggest city to the sixth.
Independent migration advice website ENZ says Auckland is one of three regions people have been keenest to leave, due to rising house prices. ENZ says the Bay of Plenty is one of the top four regions New Zealanders are keenest to move to.
Statistics NZ says nearly 20 per cent of the region's population (Tauranga and Western BOP) are aged 65 and over, compared with 12 per cent of the total NZ population.
The percentage of residents 65+ in Tauranga is expected to surpass 25 per cent in 30 years.
The Western Bay of Plenty's retiree population is expected to top 30 per cent.
Valuation service QV says Auckland average house prices exceeded $800,000 in May.
QV pegs the average house value in Auckland at $809,200.
QV spokeswoman Andrea Rush said values in Auckland had risen noticeably sharper in the last six months. "With net migration at a record 54,000 and still rising and 50 per cent of migrants moving to Auckland, house values in the Super City are likely to remain high and keep rising during 2015 as supply continues to outstrip demand."
In Tauranga, QV reports house values have risen 6.7 per cent year on year and are just .02 per cent below the previous peak of 2007. QV Tauranga registered valuer Jessica Videback said: "The market continues to see strong interest and activity from out-of-town buyers and there's been little to no sign of the traditional winter slowdown often seen during the cooler months."
She says high numbers of Aucklanders are attending open homes as people continue look to move to Tauranga or look for investment properties.
Report by Dawn Picken