Tauranga's rapid population and housing growth in recent years has had many impacts on the region - thriving economy, more jobs, increased traffic - and the relocation of key wine and wedding destination Mills Reef Winery. Kiri Gillespie finds out how the increased pressure brought by the city's urban growth has affected the winery, where it will be moving to, and what is taking its place.
Tauranga winery Mills Reef is returning to its rural roots as it confirms a new relocation site.
Mills Reef Winery will next month move from its current venue on Moffat Rd, Bethlehem, to the Leveret Estate on State Highway 2, 5km south of Katikati.
Mills Reef director Tim Preston confirmed the news to the Bay of Plenty Times yesterday , after spending nearly five years of searching for another suitable, local venue.
In 2015, the Bay of Plenty Times revealed plans for the 12.5ha Moffat Rd site being developed into a high-specification lifestyle retirement village comprising 198 units with associated activities. Construction work on the village, The Vines at Bethlehem, is now halfway through.
The existing winery's restaurant, tasting room, and main offices - all housed inside an iconic art deco building - will be retained and extended to eventually become a communal centre for the village. Winery staff will celebrate with their final Christmas party onsite this Friday.
"It has been a drawn-out process," Preston said.
He confessed the search for a new venue had been "really tricky" and significantly affected by Tauranga's urban sprawl.
Preston said the team had considered two different sites in the region but due to resource consent matters, neither of these were viable. He was keen to emulate what the team had built at the winery's existing site but found the closer he got to Tauranga's centre, the trickier his goal became.
When Mills Reef was first established at the Moffat Rd venue in 1995, "there wasn't a house in sight", he said.
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"When we came here 25 years ago, we were a good distance from town. That was the norm. We didn't have some things like drink driving rules and those things that we've now got.
"The world has changed."
Preston admits Leveret Estate was not his first option but he was "really excited about what can happen in Katikati".
He was keen to keen to create a Bay of Plenty "wine destination hub".
Leveret Estate, which is part of Wine Portfolio, will continue as usual but is offering its equipment and cellar doors shelves to Mills Reef.
"It's fantastic news for us. Together we are creating that new tasting room experience," Preston said.
Grapes will continue to be sourced from Hawkes Bay, with the 2020 Mills Reef season being completed at the Katikati site.
Two staff have lost their jobs through a restructuring process but Preston said they had moved on to "better things".
Many of the staff at Mills Reef have been there for 20 to 25 years and the team was tight-knit, he said.
"It's pretty incredible," he said.
Leveret Estate Wines director Fiona MacDiarmid said: "We've had a long association with Mills Reef, and this move to begin sharing our winemaking facilities and cellar door is an exciting development".
The Vines at Bethlehem is being built by Classic Group.
Developer Peter Cooney, of Classic Group, said there were already about 120 people living at The Vines. Work on the new communal area will begin next year.
"It has been very strong. We've had good growth in there," Cooney said.
However, getting access to land to develop was "very difficult".
"Tauranga is one of the fastest-growing regions in New Zealand and has been for a long, long time," Cooney said.
"The growth over the last five years has been exceptional."
Tourism Bay of Plenty's Kath Low said Western Australia developed Taste 2020, a strategy that solely focuses on food and wine tourism. This included research suggesting tasting food and wine was one of the fastest-growing drivers of tourism worldwide.
Having Mills Reef and Leveret Estate come together was "fantastic".
"We, in the Bay of Plenty, are blessed with world-class horticultural provenance and stunning land and seascapes which are significant drawcards for visitors to our region."
Mills Reef's restaurant will remain open on-site until December 14 and the tasting room until December 22, when it will be moved to the new Katikati site.
Mills Reef on the move
Moving Mills Reef is following a pattern in planning to relocate from a traditional site to make way for urban sprawl. Other well-known wineries that have relocated include Corbans, Villa Maria and Soljans in Auckland, and Vidal in Hastings.