Tauranga, Maori for ‘resting place’, is far from resting today as it is the fastest growing city in New Zealand (apart from Auckland which, because of its much larger population, has its own growth dynamic)

Just over an hour’s drive away, Hamilton’s growth is similar. Since Tauranga and Hamilton are within Auckland’s sphere of influence and are located in the sunny upper North Island, it is easy to understand why these three cities make up the “golden triangle”.

A European trader, James Farrow purchased flax from Maori in 1829 and nine years later, brought land at Otumaetai. At the same time, a mission station was established there. This marked the birth of Tauranga. Today, this Bay of Plenty city is a magnet for water sports of all kinds, especially surfing and beach sports.

Tauranga City (

In 2008, Tauranga’s population reached 127,000 making it the country’s fifth largest city joining Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Hamilton as a ‘main centre’. The city has the largest export port in the country which is a major contributor to the city’s economy and helps drive the rapid development.


I have been to this city on a few occasions and I was always struck by the casual style of living and easy pace of life. I guess this is why it has become popular as a holiday destination with the best known beach in the country. The mild climate also attracts retired people. The city has a considerable mature population with another large retirement village currently under development.. The central city shopping area is compact with many of the malls and important shops scattered around the suburbs. To me, it appeared to be a city of connected towns rather than a city with an obvious CBD or area that acts as the focal point for people to meet and socialize. To a visitor, Tauranga has a rather confusing road system. I have always got lost trying to negotiate my way around. With its rapidly expanding population, traffic congestion is unfortunately becoming a reality in this city.


The distinctive volcano, Mount Maunganui is one of the most recognized natural landmarks in New Zealand. It lurks over one of the most popular beaches where Kiwis have historically flocked to for a summer holiday. Mt. Maunganui was regarded as a separate settlement from Tauranga until 1988 when a harbour bridge made it part of the city. As a child, I used to visit an aunt who lived at ‘the Mount’ as locals refer to it, and was always excited by the broad expanse of warm white sand. There were always plenty of surfers showing off their skills to those lounging on the sand or playing ball games on it. It was the busiest beach I had ever experienced. New Zealand’s first artificial reef was recently created at ‘The Mount’ but it has had limited success.

The only obvious nod to the area’s history is the home of J.C.Adams, the founder of Mt. Maunganui.  It was the first home built here and can still be seen in the avenue carrying his name. The modest little house is protected by the Historic Places Trust and is quite a contrast to the surrounding glass and concrete apartment buildings that give Mt. Maunganui the appearance of a mini Surfer’s Paradise.  Although Papamoa is Tauranga’s most populated suburb, the largest shopping mall in the city is located at Mt. Maunganui so to some people this beach suburb is regarded as the true hub of the city.

Mount Maunganui (


The suburb of Gate Pa takes its name from a six month conflict between Maori and the British over land ownership. In April 1864, despite having many more soldiers, the British suffered a shocking defeat at Gate Pa. As the town developed and became a city, the name has become part of Tauranga’s identity.

The Historic Village is a rather unique way of presenting the city’s past. Rows of colonial era buildings line both sides of 17th Street and house a variety of businesses. Since it opened in 1977, it has been a magnet for photographers and tourists alike. As far as I know, no other urban area in the country offers such a selection of original and replica buildings presented in a specially created street. There are museum streets in some South Island towns, but this is the only museum street offered in a city. It is also unique in that it offers community groups a venue to promote their services and to sell produce and stage exhibitions with a particular focus on organisations involved in the arts from dance, to period artifacts, food, gemstones and entertainment.

The rapid growth of Tauranga is changing the face of the city and as more people move there, the relaxed style of life may also change as more dense urbanization creates its own dynamic. However the city’s reputation as having the best climate in New Zealand will ensure a continuing interest from people wanting to move there.

Ceidrik Heward

Speak Your Mind