Heading for the sun: City's eateries abuzz with young people

11.01.06 By Simon Collins From www.nzherald.co.nz/

Stroll along the Strand in Tauranga this summer and you'll find it hard to believe you're in the city with the country's highest proportion of elderly people. There are more outdoor eateries and bars along this stretch of the old waterfront than you could find in any comparable length of Ponsonby Rd or Courtenay Place - and the raucous voices and laughter you hear at nights from several blocks away is a fair sign that their patrons are not elderly.

In Tauranga and other sunbelt towns, retirement services have become a growth industry alongside tourism, horticulture, winemaking and forestry, sucking in thousands of younger people to build their homes, manage their money, package their holidays and care for them in rest homes and hospitals. Just over a sixth of Tauranga's residents are over 65, compared with slightly less than an eighth of all New Zealanders. But that means five-sixths are of working age or younger. Tauranga is not just a retirement home.

Its port is our biggest for exports and our second-biggest for imports by value. The region has spawned the world's leading kiwifruit industry, the avocado industry and innovative exporters such as Te Puke natural health products business Comvita. The country's biggest retail stockbroking firm, ABN Amro Craigs, is headquartered in Tauranga, employing 100 people in the city and another 100 in 12 branches nationally. Chairman Neil Craig founded the firm in Whakatane in 1984, moved to Tauranga in 1988 and saw no need to move again when ABN Amro took a half-share four years ago. "For the first 10 years up to 1998, it was quite difficult to get people who were prepared to leave Auckland and Wellington to come to Tauranga. "Yes, the lifestyle choice was fine, the schooling choice was okay, but career choice - if this job didn't work out, where do you go?" he says. "What's happened over the last four or five years is that the city has grown up.

There are opportunities in the corporate world - Port of Tauranga, Trust Power, Zespri, which all have their headquarters here, and there are a number of smaller innovative firms such as Design Mobel and Comvita."

A Waikato University study shows that the Bay of Plenty gains proportionately more people than any other region from internal migration from other parts of the country, adding 0.74 per cent a year to its population between the last two Censuses. It loses a tiny 0.18 per cent of its population overseas each year, a smaller share than any other region except Auckland and Nelson, which have net gains from overseas, and Marlborough and Canterbury, which have slightly smaller net losses. But the Bay generates the major part of its growth, 0.83 per cent a year, through its own excess of births over deaths, the fifth-highest in the country despite the number of elderly.

Women in the Bay of Plenty have an average of 2.31 children each, third-highest behind Gisborne and Northland. It's no coincidence that these three regions also have the highest proportions of Maori.

From www.nzherald.co.nz/