Tauranga Welcomes You!

Tauranga Welcomes You!

Kiwi Expats Blog

Tauranga is a Growing City of Opportunity for Architects ~ A Kiwi Homecoming Story
23 October 2017
Tauranga is a Growing City of Opportunity for Architects ~ A Kiwi Homecoming Story

After six years working in Bristol, Kiwi architectural graduate, Shara Paulo, and her partner, Matt, chased the sunshine back to New Zealand in 2014. Originally from Wellington, living in Tauranga is helping Shara get over her self-proclaimed ‘irrational fear of the cold’ that the UK instilled in her.

Shara loves what she does and has always done well as a result: top one percent in high school, First Class Honours at university and a finalist for a national award in her year. It should come as no surprise that her architectural graduate career is an important part of her life. Luckily, she has found Tauranga to be incredibly fostering of her career ambitions.

Tauranga’s gorgeous scenery, warm weather and cycle-friendly nature may have lured her in, but the career opportunities are keeping her here.

Shara, what drew you overseas?

The insatiable desire to travel plagues many kiwis and I was no exception.  It was a chance to see and take in what I could before putting down roots. I learnt about what Kiwi culture is all about through its absence and I became so proud of our understated approach, can-do attitude and relaxed demeanour.

Can you give me a quick snapshot of your six years abroad?

My partner, Matt, and I first headed to my home country of South Africa before settling in Bristol which we chose because it's a good cycling city, is close to London and is slightly warmer than the rest of the UK. Bristol has a real buzz to it and, being country bumpkins, we enjoyed the breathing room. We travelled as much as we could with Bristol as our base.

My lack of UK experience combined with the recession made my chances of finding architecture work slim, so instead I took a temp position at Severn Deanery, a postgraduate medical education for the NHS (National Health Service). This role became permanent and, with Matt working as a teacher, we settled in and our two-year plan quickly turned into six years.

What did you gain professionally from this time?

The Deanery position taught me so much about leadership, management, people and adult education.  I was responsible for managing a team, utilising a large budget and initiating projects to improve the quality of training. I was a panel member, a trainer, a board member, a mentor and a manager.

The skills I learnt have been invaluable in my architectural career to the point where I am actually pleased the recession hit when it did. It was a priceless opportunity to acquire skills architects often only gain later in their careers, plus I got to see architecture from the outside in.

What did you gain personally?

I gained a real understanding of power, particularly the power I have due to my background.  I developed an acute understanding of the privileges I enjoy that others are not afforded. I gained perspective on what is important to me, who I am and the gratitude and awareness I need to maintain when it comes to equality.

Tell us about your current role at Ignite Architects.

I am an experienced architectural graduate at Tauranga studio of architecture firm, Ignite. Ignite supports a team-based work environment and offers a career pathway with substantial opportunities to further develop skills and leadership. As a Project Team Leader, I am able to get heavily involved in projects. 

My role is incredibly diverse with the dream combination: being a satellite studio of a larger practice means we get the backing of a well resolved admin hub, access to a huge range of talent and knowledge, coupled with the local requirements to be a generalist covering a wide range of sectors and a variety of skills within a project.

Being based in Tauranga means one minute I am designing a unique tourism offering and the next I'm fitting out a bank in town. Having operated since 2004, Ignite relishes the opportunity to be part of these projects and support Tauranga's growth. 

How has your career progressed in Tauranga? 

Ignite is incredibly supportive of my professional development. I am given a long leash balanced by the perfect level of support to ensure I can keep aiming higher and growing. 

Over the last 3 years, I have seen a shift in Tauranga where clients are more frequently appreciating the value of quality design and the impact strategic master planning and urban considerations can have on the success of a project.

Is there a shortage of architects in New Zealand?

Yes, it seems every architect we speak to is incredibly busy. Many graduates won’t have experienced the highs and lows our industry faces, but being in a boom is the best time to gain valuable experience. Whilst it is frantic, my view is to make the most of it while it lasts and enjoy every opportunity. 

New Zealand is grappling with a housing shortage, which will put pressure on the industry for years to come, so it's possible this shortage will continue. People say it is a candidate’s market, but people are still recruited on character – everything else can be taught.

Does a move to Tauranga mean sacrificing one’s career? 

No: quite the opposite. The demand for architecture suggests plenty of career development is possible.  With the rate of growth projected there is a need for commercial, retail, education, health, and residential experience. A large portion of architects here focus on residential stand-alone houses which increases our need for architects and graduates who can work in other sectors.

What is the motivation behind your career ambitions?

It’s easy to work hard when you love what you do. I have been incredibly fortunate to have positive experiences throughout my education; putting in the hard yards has been a pleasure. We spend more of our waking hours working than doing anything else, so it’s important to find something we love and enjoy.

I am motivated by learning and making a positive difference in architecture. There is a saying that architects love their 'next' project most and there is a strong desire to aim high in the industry. To generalise, we enjoy seeing our efforts realised, but our critical eye is also constantly looking for ways to improve the next project. Architecture is a life-long learning experience, which suits me well!

Tell us about your passion for promoting sustainability within architecture.

There is a reasonable level of knowledge here but there are always opportunities to do better. Sustainability is most successful when it is part of the everyday conversation within a project. We have several projects currently that work that way and I expect this number will only increase with time.

What is it like being a female in a male-dominated sector?

While there are still more males than females in the industry, I quickly stopped noticing. I've had a very positive experience working at Ignite; regardless of gender, we all share the pleasure of working in architecture and everyone is judged on their abilities and treated with respect.

The beauty of Tauranga is that it still maintains its community feel, despite the growth it is experiencing – this helped me form meaningful professional relationships early on and these have only grown and increased in number. Many suggest it takes six months to two years to feel settled in a place, but I felt at home in Tauranga within a month.

Any advice for female architects in Tauranga?

Find a mentor, ask them to mentor you, repeat until you find someone who says yes!

Aim high. British-Iraqi female architect, Zaha Hadid, said women “simply need to possess great design talent, terrific management skills and a quiet insistence that they will not be held back by something as incidental as their gender”.

Finally, failure is okay. Architect Kerstin Thompson said "be prepared to fail at both parenting and practice equally! That’s just the reality – you’ll do both of them not very well sometimes and that’s normal. Don’t beat yourself up about it, even though you feel dreadful at the time."

Did you always assume you would return to New Zealand?

Yes, even before leaving New Zealand we knew it was paradise, a place where we could raise ‘free range children’. It’s not something you can accomplish in many of the countries we visited.

The distance from home was the killer. We visited New Zealand twice while we were away, but it wasn’t the same as living here.  We both had nephews and nieces growing up without us, and parents getting older in our absence.

How did Tauranga end up on your radar? 

We sat outside a pub with a pint of cider and drew up a pros and cons list of all the options New Zealand offered. Tauranga won for the following reasons:

1.     Size: we wanted a bit of life after being in the ‘big smoke’, but we weren’t keen on Auckland, Wellington, or Christchurch.

2.     Cycling: it’s a great cycling city with Redwoods down the road and loads of cycle trails nearby

3.     The Sea: we wanted to live somewhere with a seaside lifestyle

4.     Proximity to Auckland: for further travel, gigs etc.

5.     Affordable Housing: it’s a city where we could afford to buy a house

6.     Scenery: have you googled-images “Tauranga”? It is stunning! My UK workmates were incredibly jealous when I showed them.

What advice would you give Kiwi architects overseas considering a move to Tauranga?

Do it! Tauranga is a beautiful city with gorgeous people. There is a feeling of anticipation in Tauranga and the level of growth is unprecedented. For architecture, this is an exciting time as we have the chance to shape the city for our future. There is genuine engagement from the community and commitment from the Council. 

What connection have you had with Priority One?

Ignite Architects are Priority One members.  I’ve met Nigel and Mark to talk about opportunities and challenges in our profession and they were involved in our recent inaugural Festival of Architecture. The beauty of Priority One is the independence they have in supporting both the private sector and Council to enable economic growth locally. I am a big fan of collaboration and see Priorty One as facilitators of partnerships - an invaluable organisation in ensuring quality in our regional growth.

What do enjoy about living in Tauranga?

The weather, seeing the sea all the time, the relaxed vibe and the luscious greenery. I love that exercising outdoors is something you can do consistently – the weather is that good.

What has moving to Tauranga meant…

For your wellbeing?

I hate the cold after living in the UK and Tauranga has helped me get over that. The access to daylight makes all the difference. I have many moments of joy, like riding my bike along Cameron Road on my way to work and seeing the water on both sides of me. 

For your family?

It has meant buying a house is possible which is important for our lifestyle and family plans.  We truly feel at home here, which makes everything else easy. I am also closer to Auckland where my sister and two nephews live.


Gets You Thinking Doesn't It?

No-one can tell you when you're ready for a change of lifestyle...but when you are, we'd love to have you in Tauranga!

1. Join us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TaurangaWelcomesYou

2. Subscribe to our montly e-newsletter to receive stories just like this one about people who have already made the big move you are thinking of making. 

3. Have a story to share? We love sharing your sea-change or homecoming stories. Email me at kathryn@priorityone.co.nz to start a conversation.

Meet Kathryn Overall
Explore www.wishyouwereworkinghere.co.nz


Looking for work in Tauranga?

Send me your CV and a 100 word bio and we will send it out to local businesess who are on the lookout for good people. Priority One is not a recruitment agency, but as the economic development agency for the region we seek to make connections for people where we can. There is no charge for this service.

Email me at annie@priorityone.co.nz.

Annie Hill | Priority One
Communications/Project Manager

Tauranga Welcomes You

Tauranga Welcomes You


Ready for a better work/life balance in a vibrant, growing, sea-side city?

We'd love to have you in Tauranga!


Contact Priority One

Contact Priority One

Need help?

Send us your 100 word bio and we will send it out to local businesses who are on the lookout for good people! info@priorityone.co.nz

Tauranga Welcomes You

Tauranga Welcomes You


Ready for a better work/life balance in a vibrant, growing, sea-side city?

We'd love to have you in Tauranga!


Visit us on

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About Kathryn

About Kathryn


Kathryn Overall is the friendly voice behind the 'Wish You Were Working Here' stories and Facebook posts.  Each month she chats with returned Kiwi expats,  Auckland imports and New Zealand immigrants who have moved to Tauranga, collecting their stories and advice to share with you. 

CLICK HERE to read her own story of reluctant homecoming!


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