When Katikati calls

They’re both upping and leaving - Ross Stewart and Suzie. Photo: Nikki South.

“After 27 years in Tauranga we have decided to move on.”

That’s the thrust of a message to The Weekend Sun this week. It’s both a message and an indictment because Ross and his partner Gay say their “nice little retirement town” is no longer the haven they came here for.

And as Aucklanders flood down SH2, Ross and Gay will be driving back up SH2 against the flow.

They’re quitting Tauranga city, the jewel of the bay, and going to Katikati, a farming and agriculture service town.

Why? Because, they say, Tauranga has become too expensive, the traffic here is now chaotic and the city has become an untidy city. “At least it is up the avenues south of 15th Avenue,” says Ross.

He always fancied Tauranga for his retirement, always thought it was nice. “But then, all of a sudden, it was discovered by Aucklanders.” According to Ross, Tauranga’s problem is Auckland. And this from a transplanted JAFA – he was brought up in Auckland. “But we decided Tauranga was no longer for us.”

Traffic’s his first big bugbear – and this from a former cabbie and airport shuttle driver. “People seem to think indicators are toys that you play with only when you want to. They think it’s a challenge to beat red lights and most are illiterate because they can’t read speed signs.”

Then there’s congestion. Last Friday Ross left his much-loved Tauranga South Bowling Club at 11.30am. “It took me more than half an hour to go from 11th Avenue to 16th Avenue to get home. What does that tell me? It tells me Aucklanders should stay where they are, in Auckland.” Half joking, half serious.

He insists he’s not leaving town bitter. “Not at all, everyone to their own.” But he was sufficiently ruffled to fire off a disgruntled parting letter to the editor. And it’s probably an attitude shared by a lot of Tauranga people, not just the retired, as they adjust to the city’s massive growth spurt.

Then there’s the litter, the noise, and the house prices. And there’s the fact that Ross and Gay’s peaceful little retirement place south of 15th Avenue is now surrounded by rental properties.

Life just isn’t the same. And when they gaze down the street from their lounge window, it seems to them Tauranga is no longer conducive to an enjoyable, peaceful retirement. “Thirty six properties in the street and only a handful, a small handful, owner-occupied.”

That means lots of people coming and going and lots of cars. And renters, he says, don’t seem to have the same pride in their properties.

All small issues, but collectively enough to drive some retirees out of their homes and out of town.

Why Katikati though, why not simply buy elsewhere in Tauranga? “It would just mean we would end up with something smaller, something further out of town and further away from all the facilities we need and enjoy. It just doesn’t work for us.” And Katikati, apparently, does work for them.

“It’s the newcomers to this town.” The JAFAs. “They’re pushing their own barrow to get museums and the like. But older residents in town are reluctant about all this change and they certainly don’t want Aucklanders pushing their barrows. They want Tauranga to remain a retirement town.”

Are Ross and Gay expecting an exodus of Tauranga retirees up SH2? “Everyone’s free to make their choice. And we know the move will suit us.”

Today, Ross and Gay and their wee dog Suzie up and left. The couple will be reading this story from the peace and quiet of their new Katikati retirement retreat and contemplating a roll-up at the local bowling club.