I was born in Tauranga and I have lived here all my life. I love this place and for me, it will always be home.
Tauranga is the fifth largest city in New Zealand. This is home to our country's largest port and one of, if not the most popular beach getaway. Without Tauranga, there is no Bay Of Plenty. Here is paradise where the weather is often great when it's gloomy over other parts of New Zealand.
So everybody knows Tauranga, right?
I used to travel very often out of New Zealand for speaking engagements. Major Australian cities were often my overseas ports-of-call but I also travelled very often to Asia and North America.
And when I tell people that I'm from New Zealand, the conversation often goes something like this.
- Joe: Where are you from?
- Tony: New Zealand
- Joe: Auckland?
- Tony: No. Tauranga.
- Joe: Pardon?
- Tony: Tauranga.
- Joe: Is that in the North or South Island?
- Tony: It's in the North Island.
- Joe: Near Auckland?
- Tony: Yes, sort of. About 3 hours drive away.
- Joe: Oh, not that near Auckland, I guess.
It used to surprise me how most people outside of New Zealand have never heard of Tauranga. Many would know Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, Rotorua, Queenstown, Dunedin, Nelson, Taupo and Hamilton. Why would they know of Hamilton and not Tauranga? What's in Hamilton?
My partner Jiun has been in the travel business for close to 20 years and first brought tourists to New Zealand in 1995. Prior to meeting me, she had never heard of Tauranga.
This says a lot.
Having visited several times and relocating here recently, she now feels the same as I do about our beautiful city and likes life here. She also looks at Tauranga as an entrepreneur, a business person at heart and a travel agent down to the bone. Like me, she fails to understand why Tauranga has not lived up to its obvious potential.
Auckland is known as the largest city, commercial and financial centre of New Zealand. Before the earthquake became notorious, Christchurch was our most "English" city and Wellington our capital city. Rotorua for tourism, culture and geothermal activity, Taupo for a great lake and Queenstown for adrenalin-pumping activities and the gateway to the Sounds.
What is Tauranga known for? How do Kiwis in other parts of the country view our city? What are we known for commercially, internationally or as a tourism destination?
I'm still not sure. I spoke to some business partners in Auckland recently and they said Tauranga is a nice place. So is that it? We're nice?
It bugs me that the city closest to us in distance and population, that is Hamilton, has international chain hotels and even a casino. They have far bigger, newer and flashier malls like Te Awa complete with an impressive cinema which we do not boast.
Tauranga is a far better place to live and visit because we have so much more to offer. We even have better weather. Unfortunately, we have a big problem. We have not been an easy place to invest in. I often heard about our Council staff making the process too difficult, turning investors off and away. In comparison, Hamilton City Council welcomes them with open arms. How then could we grow?
We are not an easy place to conduct business in either. A good friend of mine who owns a large engineering business in Greerton is selling out and moving away because in his own words, "The bl**dy Council is making things too difficult, mate!"
How many more businesses and jobs can we afford to lose before we will buck up and become a business-friendly city that will keep businesses here, attract new investors and in turn, create more jobs?