‘Plenty’ Work & Lifestyle Choices….
Tauranga (‘sheltered anchorage’) is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country – but with a shining reputation as one of the country’s lifestyle capitals. The Western Bay sub-region in the planner’s jargon, including Tauranga City, Mount Maunganui, Papamoa and outlying towns, has a population of 149,000-plus – heading for the 200,000-mark by about the year 2020.
Much has been written about urban sprawl ‘n growing pains, but the Western Bay remains a ‘to-Hell-with-the-Auckland-traffic’ place - where you can participate in a booming economy with low unemployment - but still nip down to the beach after work. ‘Terrific Tauranga’ remains pretty laid back and unspoilt. Set on one of the ‘glittering tentacles’ of the harbour, Tauranga is vibrant and prosperous.
The Western Bay provides for a big range of lifestyles: live as a fashionable urbanite in a luxurious high-rise in the centre of town or at Mount Maunganui, on get back to nature on a ‘lifestyle block’ in the countryside, as a part-time farmer. Not surprisingly with its ‘sunbelt’ pulling power, Tauranga is also a major retirement centre. With a large percentage of over -65s, retirees are well catered for with around 30 resorts, villages and rest homes. They range from luxury complexes with high quality accommodation and resort-style facilities, to more modest retirement villages and rest homes.
The region’s economic engine-room is the Port of Tauranga —New Zealand’s biggest export port, handling much of the North Island’s logs, dairy produce and other goods. The local boat-design and manufacturing industry enjoys an international reputation, the port is home to a big fishing feet, and plays host to dozens of cruise ships in the summer.
Tauranga’s economic development agency Priority One sums up its appeal well: “People from other parts of New Zealand and overseas are tempted to Tauranga and Western Bay for a multitude of reasons. Some will come for the sun, sea and surf; some for the high standard of education and health; and some for the recreational opportunities. Others will be eyeing business opportunities in a high growth region that is strategically located on the east coast of the North Island, home to New Zealand's largest international port.”
The Western Bay is also one big fruit bowl. Te Puke is known as the Kiwifruit capital of the world, and Mount Maunganui is home to Zespri International —the marketing company behind New Zealand’s lucrative kiwifruit export industry, providing jobs for nearly 20% of the local workforce. More than 80% of New Zealand’s kiwifruit are grown in the Bay. There are plenty of avocadoes too! There are over 170 exporters in the region, many niche and innovative. They export natural health bee products, coloured calla lily bulbs, lawn mowers, slat beds and bedroom furniture, darts and dartboards, and all sorts of other things … even sea-horses!
Across the harbour from Tauranga, Mount Maunganui (‘large mountain’), population 20,000) is commonly known as ‘the Mount’. It’s famous for 20 kilometres of brilliant beach and fabulous surf. The town sits on a sandy peninsula (a tombolo), with the inner harbour on one side, surf beach on the other. At the end is Mauao, the iconic, 232-metre ex-volcanic peak that forms part of the entrance to Tauranga Harbour. The Mount is a fast-changing landscape: those old wooden holiday baches (cottages) give way to luxury apartments, while a parade of cafés, restaurants and boutique shops thrive alongside.
Along the coast from Mount Maunganui is fast-growing Papamoa, a satellite town that’s on the way to becoming a coastal city in its own right. It’s more laid back than the Mount, with miles of beach and not-yet-extinct Kiwi campgrounds, bless ‘em. There’s plenty to do in the outdoors, with beaches stretching north and south, and the ‘blokart Heaven’ land-yachting track. Inland is the Bay of Plenty’s first regional park, with magnificent views out over the coast.
Katikati (40 kilometres from Tauranga) is home to nearly 40 colour murals on buildings and walls, earning it the moniker ‘mural town.’ People in this ‘re-invented open-air art gallery’ have also created the Haiku Pathway, a poetic and unusual walkway. Katikati is built on the banks of the lovely Uretara River, and there’s hot springs and vineyards nearby.
Paengaroa is five minutes east of Te Puke. It is also known as ‘The Junction’, sitting as it does at the crossroads to Whakatane and Rotorua. It’s possibly best known as the home of inimitable Comvita —a local company that’s created a multi-million dollar business based on natural bee products —with a great combined shop and visitor centre. The Junction, as you might expect, is quite a hub —with art and crafts, and antiques. And it’s also a gateway to adventure activities including jet boating and off-roading, and a wildlife estate.
‘Magic’ Maketu, a small seaside settlement near Te Puke, is famous as the landing place of Te Arawa canoe (waka) in the migration of early Maori from Hawaiki. It’s also famous in New Zealand for Maketu Pies sold across the country, based on an old family recipe. Maketu has beautiful beaches and estuaries and popular horse treks with sea views, of course.
No guide to the Western Bay of Plenty would be complete without mention of Whakatane —despite the fact that it’s actually in the Eastern Bay of Plenty. Whakatane is a delightful ‘sun-gilded’ seaside town with a main street that leads to a small, beautiful harbour mouth, where the Whakatane River reaches the sea.
‘Tauranga is a growing, developing, vibrant, exciting city that is attracting big money, big business, overseas people, retiring people and people who are escaping the lack of lifestyle other places have to offer. They are coming here for the whole environment - not just because of the beaches.’
- Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby