When Auckland-based assistant film director Anton Steel and his wife Kylie decided to move to the Bay of Plenty in 2009, it was meant to be a short-term stint. The pair had built their own home on Auckland’s West Coast and were reluctant to move away from their close circle of friends and family.
However, the allure of the Tauranga lifestyle proved overwhelming. Three years into what was supposed to be a two-year stay, the Steels sold their property in Auckland and bought a home in the Bay.
“We bought a large property across the road from the beach [in Pukehina] with great views over the estuary. There is room for fruit trees and chickens and we have access to three main centres with drive times within 45 minutes – no longer than people spend sitting in Auckland traffic,” Steel says.
The move to Tauranga also provided an opportunity for the two to explore their talents and passions.
Kylie founded Fruit of the Pacific Charitable Trust, which runs educational and empowerment programmes with Pacific seasonal workers while they are in New Zealand, while Anton is one of the founders and general manager of Bay of Plenty Film Trust, a Regional Film Office growing the screen media industry in the Bay.
The pair combined their skills together and made a community-sourced feature film called Z Nail Gang for next to no budget in Te Puke in 2014. It went on to win the Trustpower Western Bay of Plenty Supreme Community Award.
Steel says though job and pay structures in the Bay of Plenty might differ from Auckland’s standards, there’s so much to be gained in other facets, such as quality of life and career opportunities.
“Kylie and I have found so much fun and freedom in being creative and creating our own businesses and projects. We are always trying to encourage our other Auckland friends to come on down,” he says. “For us, it has been an open door to living our dreams.”
When a bunch of Kiwi surfers explained the beauty of New Zealand to French-born Pascale Hyboud-Peron in the late 1990s, she wasn’t aware it was a conversation that would change her life forever.
Later, when a TeachNZ Campaign was recruiting UK-based teachers to come to Aotearoa, she remembered that very conversation and jumped at the chance to move abroad.
After conducting some short-yet-efficient background research, she took a teaching job at Tauranga Girls' College.
“It was 1998 and there was not much Googling going on then. I remember looking at a map and saw that Tauranga was coastal, and the beach looked like it was a bike ride away. I was sold,” she says.
She has since grown to love the diversity of Tauranga, the relaxed approach to life and the beautiful locations she can walk or bike along. But perhaps most importantly, the move to Tauranga has helped Hyboud-Peron transition career-wise from teaching to realising an entrepreneurship dream.
She has founded the Think Agency, a company that helps others develop, explore and experience new kinds of learning through technology, Basestation, a co-working space, and Venture Centre, an organisation that helps entrepreneurs connect and find the tools and resources they need to be successful.
“The motivation for co-founding Venture Centre came from seeing and working with so many talented people here in Tauranga. As a teacher, I worked with young people, as a consultant with clients, and as a cofounder with colleagues with incredible potential. All formed the grass roots of a truly entrepreneurial city,” she says.
She says a strong ecosystem has emerged locally and she’s excited by the level of collaboration in the community.
“The timing for our city and regional leadership to join with its people is just right. There is huge people potential in our city, ready to be realised faster and better by working together.”
In the time since she first touched down in the Bay of Plenty over 15 years ago, she says her appreciation and understanding for the city has soared.
“Tauranga has grown more important to me. It has given me a sense of place that I had not felt before, and with it a sense of belonging to a community. Alongside this, [there’s] a sense of responsibility to contribute to its growth and appeal.”