It was a risk — a big one.
In the middle of a Global Financial Crisis, a Tauranga developer looked at 254ha of semi-developed farmland and saw an opportunity.
It wasn't the first to do so. An established development company at the time, Grasshopper Farms had also tried to transform the rural landscape - and failed.
It was 2011 and The Lakes subdivision in Pyes Pā West was in receivership.
Stretching from Route K roundabout along the Kopurererua Valley to Pyes Pa Rd at the crematorium, The Lakes was the shining light of new urban development in the Western Bay of Plenty.
There were parks, reserves, sculptures, kilometres of walk and cycleways and an 8ha man-made lake. The adjacent hillside had been re-vegetated with plants and trees.
More than 100 houses had been built, some multi-million dollar homes - more than 300 sections were sold and the Bridgewater retirement village was under way. A neighbouring shopping centre had not yet started.
Seven years earlier, Grasshopper had bought what was then just empty farmland.
The developers had poured their heart and soul into the development.
But hit by a property downturn and carrying too much debt, the company ended up plunging into receivership owing $95 million to Bank of Scotland International.
Grasshopper became a victim of the times.
Rates relief offered to some CBD businesses
Saving The Lakes
The Carrus Corporation - headed by Sir Paul Adams, knighted this month in the Queen's Birthday Honours - was busy with residential and commercial developments.
The Tauranga company had developed and sold thousands of residential property lots, including Bethlehem Heights and Bayfair Estate. But it wanted a new local development to add to its portfolio.
It took about a year for Carrus to clinch the deal, buying The Lakes development for about $30m.
"Don't mess it up," was Adams' advice to his son Scott as he handed him the role of project manager.
Now, The Lakes is the biggest residential development in the Bay of Plenty, knocking on the door to Tauranga's newest mega-mall, Tauranga Crossing.
The area is now worth $1.7 billion and is home to nearly 4000 people. What was kilometres of rolling farmland has now been transformed into more than 2000 sections.
Paul Adams says Carrus has been a significant contributor to the growth of the Western Bay and Tauranga, which is now the fifth largest city in New Zealand.
"If you look at what our housing supply crisis is now, if we hadn't of had The Lakes we would be in absolute turmoil," Scott Adams says.
Living at The Lakes
In 2007, Alastair Murray caught wind of the development at The Lakes and its Bridgewater Village that was being promoted.
"The development was very interesting," he says, now sitting in his sunny dining room that overlooks the Crossing shopping mall.
"It had the lakes; it had the paths, the greenery and the growth. But it didn't have any houses."
The idea of a freehold Bridgewater retirement village enticed Murray, who soon found himself choosing his site and property from off the plans.
"There was a bit of, 'What are we doing?' when we started off because we are looking at this muddy site with one or two houses in it," he says.
"There was an element of wonder as to whether it was going to develop the way we hope it is. But it did and it has. It has been developed with a little bit of imagination."
But the initial stages were primitive, with just one showhome and an office in the middle of muddy farmland.
"If you wanted to go an see a house somewhere on the site you had to be prepared to put your gumboots on," Murray says.
"The road was going in, but all of the sections were still mud and slush."
Murray moved in at the start of 2008 when there was only a sprinkling of houses occupied.
"The plans were for the development to take two or three years because they were talking about starting building houses at the rate of two a month," he says.
But the economic climate changed and things started to slow.
"The first thing that happened through the life of the village was the building stopped; different owners bought and new developers came in.
"From that point, things progressed again."
There was a degree of unease when Grasshopper vacated the development, but Murray says he wasn't too worried.
"We owned our properties. That was the reassuring factor. Nothing could happen."
His now neighbour Neville Vucich moved in from Auckland in 2014.
Vucich looked at several house and land packages, but he too settled on the option of a freehold village. "We all like the idea of being owners," he says.
It wasn't easy for Vucich to get in. There weren't any properties for sale, but luckily they knew someone who was in the market to sell.
"It is pretty exciting really with development still happening around us," he says.
The first 100 lots had sold by the end of 2012. Then dozens of sales followed, with The Lakes selling 1250 lots in just seven years.
"The local and Auckland market has driven the sales," Scott Adams says. "Interest rates halved through the GFC and are still low."
Earthworks and civil construction on about 1500 lots have been completed and there are just 80 lots left to sell.
Scott Adams says other developments in Pyes Pā West make up the total 2081 sections.
"There was never any doubt the project was going to fly," he says. "We just needed to get the timing right and we certainly got it right."
Driving through The Lakes
Standing atop a small hill that overlooks the suburb, The Lakes looks like a sea of rooftops.
From a distance, there is a uniformity to the houses. But drive through The Lakes and each home has been peppered with personality.
Each stage of the development is different. There is a mix of housing typologies, including single-storey medium density homes and two-storey townhouses.
Some have flat roofs, others are pointed, some have sleek black cladding and others have opted for brick.
Manicured lawns, trees and hedges line the tidy streets.
Mothers sip on their morning coffees in the local shopping centre - The Lakes Village - while watching their children play on the bright coloured playground.
A 1km freshwater lake, Lake Taurikura, meanders through 8ha of the suburb and a steel coloured heron takes pride in the centre of many of the roundabouts.
The failed Bella Vista Homes development, meanwhile, appears like a pimple on the clean face of The Lakes. Houses have been removed and steel fences surround the site, which is now concrete rubble.
A son's success
Paul Adams says The Lakes development has been completed five years faster than anticipated.
"The Lakes has been a major contributor to the growth of Tauranga...Scott and his team have achieved an incredible outcome for the company in record time," he says.
Paul Adams says when Carrus took over the development in 2012, the GFC was still impacting on all facets of business in New Zealand.
"However, as land developers, we are used to weathering the financial cycles, and knew that by applying the Carrus business model, we could kick start The Lakes development."
"Scott and his team have completed a magnificent, successful, community development that the residents and Tauranga City can be proud of."
Valuing The Lakes
Tauranga City Council revenue manager Jim Taylor says the council's revaluations last year considered The Lakes a defined area part of Pyes Pā West.
"The estimated population of Pyes Pā West was 3720 people as of June 30, 2018," he says.
The total valuation for the area is $1.7b - about $1.01b residential and $690 million commercial.
The average rateable value is $1m - about $685,000 for residential and $3,269,000 for commercial.
The averages include improved and non-improved (vacant) land.
"Imagine the city without this development," Pyes Pā/Ōtūmoteai ward councillor Larry Baldock says.
"The employment created in the commercial and industrial areas has been a significant boost to the local economy."
Baldock says five years ago Tauranga was emerging from the GFC.
"As a resident of Pyes Pā since 1996, I have seen the growth over more than 20 years, but in the last five years it has been spectacular."
The big risk that paid off
Although nobody knew for sure at the time, Scott Adams says Carrus took a punt that the GFC was coming to an end in 2011.
"Carrus was busy undertaking residential and commercial developments at that time. But given our head office is based here we really wanted a local development in our portfolio."
Luckily, a lot of the landscaping had already been done and Lake Taurikura - the main stormwater catchment for the area - already existed.
"All of the master and structure planning had been done, so we knew what we had to deliver," Scott Adams says.
"It was just a matter of timing. We didn't take on the debt... we bought the assets.
"It was pretty hard slog... but it was worth it."
Living at The Lakes
Guy Nicholson, 89
"This is my eleventh year at The Lakes. I was the last of the originals. There has been some big changes in the area. You almost wouldn't recognise it now. Shops were just a thing that was talked about happening in the future. Now it is just amazing."
Marcia Boyle, 73
"We have lived here for six years. It is the people I like; they are just lovely. The area has grown so much in the last few years."
Jeanette Loney, 84
"I lived in Rotorua for many years and I always wanted to come to Tauranga, but we couldn't afford it. When we retired, we managed to get a house in Bridgewater Way. We were very lucky."
Wilf Robinson, 78
"I have lived here for four years. We came from Auckland and we looked around for somewhere to retire and this place seemed to fit us. I like the camaraderie among the people."
Clem Howes, 82
"We lived in Grace Rd in Tauranga before my wife was diagnosed with cancer and we decided to downsize. We looked at our home at Bridgewater Way in The Lakes four times before we bought it. I like the rural outlook of the place."