Living and Renovating in Tauranga

The city of Tauranga embodies all the qualities one might expect from a region known as the Bay of Plenty. With its sweeping arc of ocean beach, restful harbour, high sunshine hours and close proximity to so many North Island main centres, it is no wonder that this is also one of the fastest growing areas in the country.

View of Tauranga Bay from above
ARTICLE Jason Burgess

Tauranga means safe anchorage or resting place and the city’s port – the largest export port in the country – offers the best anchorage between Auckland and Wellington. Life is a beach here. The sea literally laps at the feet of the inner harbour suburbs and the waterfront CBD boasts a strand of heritage buildings filled with a host of international dining options. Over at Mount Maunganui café patrons can sip latte’s while watching the more adventurous tumble in the surf across the golden sands.
The Kaimai Ranges mitigates the prevailing westerly weather patterns providing an ideal growing climate. The Kaimai’s also offer outdoor enthusiasts superb recreation options. “Tauranga is the best city in New Zealand for climate and ease of moving around,” says Refresh consultant Don Brock. “It has become the Gold Coast of New Zealand; a holiday destination with two lovely waterfronts. Most homes are owner-occupied and the once transient workforce in now transitioning into a stable population.” 
In recent years, overflow from Auckland’s skyrocketing property market has fuelled much of the residential growth here. “While new houses are still relatively affordable, many people are choosing older style homes on larger sections,” says Don. “There are still plenty of great 60s and 70s homes – some still on 900-square-metre sites. Most clients are creating an easy lifestyle for their families.”
Architectural designer Scott Dennison says, “Clients are attracted to a certain style or era of the house. Renovating is always challenging but it is equally rewarding. Blending and creating something new from existing bones is like watching a butterfly emerge from a chrysalis.”
Open-plan renovated living room connected to modern kitchen

Image from a Refresh Renovations project. View full case study here: A 1955 bungalow renovation in New Zealand

During the 1990s, Mediterranean style homes became the fashion when new suburbs opened in Papamoa and Bethlehem. “Many of these proved leaky,” cautions Don. “A leaky home has no real indicators of what you might betting yourself into. We won’t touch a leaky home because we guarantee all our work.” 
“There is nowhere in Tauranga that is not experiencing the benefits of the overall growth,” says Don. The demand for new builds is accelerating, which can tie down the trades. This makes it doubly important to have a great team to draw on. Don works with two Councils, Tauranga City Council and The Western Bay District Council and as with other options, most renovation work needs consent and/or sign off from the council. “This can mean frustrating lead times, even for small jobs, as there is no jumping the appropriate queues.”
For years, renovations here meant little more than a bathroom tickle up or a kitchen refurbishment, but now renovators are moving walls and doing away with the old kitchen-dining-lounge arrangements. “Clients are now expanding rooms,” says Scott. “Adding extra bathrooms, installing modern features like recessed joinery, feature columns and big decks. We have such a temperate climate; many renovations focus on increasing indoor-outdoor flow. Baths are disappearing and we are building a lot more walk-in showers.”
Tauranga may have one of the highest year-round sunshine hours in the country yet the city has been slow on the uptake of solar. In the past, solar hot water has had its share of issues, so Don understands why people might be hesitant. But he has noticed a growing number of solar power installs. He believes if there were subsidies in place for solar then renovators in Tauranga would be ripe for the uptake. 
Modern all-white bathroom with walk-in shower and bathtub
“We have mild winters so in most situations there is no mandatory requirement for retrofitting double-glazing. Anytime we pull off a wall we always insulate where there is non and, where accessible, do the same for underfloor.” Heat pumps have become the most popular source of heating. While there is a mains gas line that runs through Tauranga, few areas have reticulated gas supply. People though are moving to gas bottles for water and home heating.
Much of Tauranga is on mains water with some outlying areas relying artesian bores. Don days the Tauranga Council are proactive and have made upgrades to both the water supply and waste water throughout the centre. Historically waste water was in issue and in places lead to subsidence. “There were so many sections cross-leased quickly, it caught the council out, particularly with waste water. In areas like Otumaitai, overburdened pipes helped trigger slips. In low-lying suburbs like Matua the tides made it difficult for waste to get away.” 
In both suburbs the Council has created reserves in areas where slips have occurred. The Council is very clear about what you can and can’t do, particularly where drainage is concerned. A LIM report will definitely cover this and the Council has done a good job in putting solutions in place. 
A single hanging lamp changes the feel of this renovated yet traditional dining room
The 232m high Mount Maunganui provides the focal point for much of the bay. The suburb below often leads local renovation trends. Much of the Mount is built on sand, which when packed is a very good platform, but for decks and other foundations extra engineering requirements may be necessary. Since the events in Christchurch, the suburb of Papamoa now has to meet extra regulations around liquefaction. This can mean added costs for renovators. 
“Renovations means maintaining clear communication with the client,” says Scott. “People don’t realise how easy it is to blow out costs. Labour and demolition alone are expensive and renovators need to remain realistic around how long things take.”
“We like to bring clients through the renovation process properly,” says Don. “I always ask about budget first. So many things can be costly, for instance, access to sites in one of the biggest logistical issue renovators face here. Do your homework, look at show homes and magazines to see what current trends would be suitable for your home. Allow time to choose and purchase your fittings and make sure they are suitable for New Zealand homes. Check out the Refresh website – there are some great ideas and a lot of before and after images.” 

Do you want to know How much does it cost to renovate a house in New Zealand?

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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.

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