Tauranga Welcomes You!

Tauranga Welcomes You!

Aucklanders & Other Kiwis Blog

TV Producer Debbie Griffiths Returns Home to Tauranga and Finds it a Changed City
1 July 2017
TV Producer Debbie Griffiths Returns Home to Tauranga and Finds it a Changed City

You may not know Debbie Griffiths, but you'd probably recognise her voice.

Following a wonderful upbringing in Tauranga, Debbie left home in search of an exciting journalism career. She went on to cultivate an impressive CV: she worked as a radio journalist, a news reader and is currently the travel presenter and producer on morning television show, The Café. But you might know her best from your weekly trip to the supermarket: Debbie is also the voice of the Pak'n Save and New World’s self-service check-outs.

After over twenty years away, Debbie – along with her husband and two children – has recently returned to live in her hometown. As Debbie settled into life in Te Puna, she was thrilled to discover that she wasn’t the only one to grow and develop over the years: while she was away, the little old Tauranga she had been expecting had blossomed into a thriving hub of excitement and activity.

Here is Debbie’s homecoming story.

Why did you want to leave Tauranga?

I had an idyllic childhood in Tauranga, but I never intended to return to my hometown. I remember Tauranga being labelled the 'retirement capital of New Zealand' and it stuck with me. It felt dull and sleepy. As a kid, I loved wandering along the Strand with my parents on a Sunday when all the shops were closed, or driving the long way (pre-Harbour Bridge) to the Mount. It was a great place to grow up but I never saw it as a city that would support my big career plans.

How did you break-away and start your career?

I was accepted into the Certificate of Journalism at ATI (now AUT) just after my eighteenth birthday. I spent the next twenty years as a voice actor, a radio journalist and an early morning news reader in various spots around the country. I met my husband while working in Whakatane and we both landed jobs in Auckland and shifted to the North Shore.

What attracted you to the journalism industry?

I’m a very shy person, but I’m naturally friendly, approachable and a good listener. When I was younger, I got really great at asking open questions to keep others talking so that I didn’t have to. Gradually, I became genuinely interested in other people’s stories.

Journalism lets you peek behind the curtain and see the details normally hidden from public view. It allows me to meet new people, ask questions, listen and then convey their story to others. 

What brought you back to Tauranga?

In Auckland, I would get up at 2.30am to start my radio shift by 4am while my husband, Tony, organised the kids, dropped them off at school, then took two buses to get to his inner city job at - ironically - Auckland Transport. In the evenings I did homework, dinner, bath-time and bed for the kids before falling into bed myself – not long after Tony returned from the city.

"The pace was grinding us down, we weren’t making any progress financially and as a couple we were ships in the night."

My parents opened TopKatz Cattery in Te Puna in 2004 and loved it but after a while the physical labour began to take its toll. They urged me to buy the cattery but I never even considered it; I loved working in media and my newsreading job was in Auckland.

Years later, I could see we needed to make drastic change to our lives. In December 2015, Tony suggested we buy the cattery and the kids were instantly over the moon. Six months later, we were the new owners and my parents sub-divided the section and built a new house right next door.

What media role are you working in currently?

Two months before we moved to Tauranga, I was offered my dream job as a producer and travel presenter on a new television show, The Café. I thought moving to Tauranga would mean giving up my media career, but when I told my Auckland colleagues I was moving, it was suggested I continue reading news from the local office. I had no idea until then that it was a possibility! My bosses at TV3’s The Café didn’t even blink. I am able to do a lot of the work from home, once a week I drive to Auckland for filming and every few weeks I’m away filming a different destination.

"My colleagues not only respected my decision to leave Auckland, they celebrated with us and some even admitted they were envious!"

Tell us about your role as producer and travel presenter on The Café.

I set up interviews for four of the show's segments, write the script and look after my guests on filming days. As travel presenter, I organise destinations and then travel there with a cameraman, write and present the segments. I present the intro and outro of my pre-recorded items in the studio.

I also write newspaper and online articles to accompany my television travel items. I find and share amazing experiences around New Zealand and was even invited on overseas shoots last year in Taiwan and the Whitsundays. Meeting guests is always a treat as they have great health, wellness and fitness messages, lessons and life hacks that I find fascinating. The travel is a dream come true.

Is it a drag driving up to Auckland each week for work?

I actually love the drive. I head out at 3.30am and arrive in time for make-up at 6am. It’s two-and-a-half hours of listening to songs, practicing my script out loud, nutting out solutions or thinking of future guests or segment ideas. Filming day is always exciting.  I arrive home that night shattered but satisfied…and happy to be back in Tauranga.

Is today’s Tauranga different to the one from your childhood?

Absolutely. Tauranga is now a modern, slick metropolis. There’s a buzz of anticipation as well as pride about living in paradise – after all, when we close down our computers, we get to go for a surf or stand-up paddle at one of the world’s best beaches. Tauranga used to feel removed and far away from everything, now it’s the hub and all the best minds are either here or on their way!  Tauranga has become action central, but has the natural beauty to soften it.

I’m so proud of where Tauranga is going and I would love to be involved in promoting my beloved Bay and supporting local projects on a national or international stage. It has the most spectacular landscape, dozens of sheltered bays, an amazing stretch of beach, hills for climbing and mountains for waterfall gazing and bushwalking.

How has your lifestyle changed since moving here?

A normal day now is getting up with Tony at 6.30am to clean and feed in the cattery, come to the house at 7.15 to get the kids off to their school buses, collect kindling and chop firewood for the stove, then work from home on The Café. Tony and I can attend daytime school events and are both home to welcome the kids after school. We have lunch together and, if the cattery is quiet, we might even have time to go for a walk, jog or paddleboard together.

I wanted the kids to be able to run around safely on their own property; to build tree houses and tee-pees, fly drones, kick balls, ride bikes, hang out with their grandparents and uncle who live next door and fire arrows into hay bales. In Auckland, I was constantly worried about their safety from the street out front. Now they explore and adventure. Plus they’ve both been on travel assignments with me so they understand and respect what I’m doing when I go away for work.

What has moving to Tauranga meant for your wellbeing?

For the first time, we have family to share the load of raising kids and help out in our daily life. It makes for less stress: I breathe deeper, smile bigger and laugh longer. Being closer to my parents is good for my soul and we are under a lot less financial pressure.

I was surprised by how comforting it was to see familiar streets and faces. Several cattery clients are people I went to school with - how cool! I find myself driving along and pointing out to my kids and husband places I’d played as a child and even the house I grew up in. Living in the country is lovely, the community is relaxed, welcoming and tight-knit.

For fun, we take the stand-up paddleboard to a nearby beach, discover new bush walks, collect pine cones, visit friends or pop up to my parent’s house with freshly baked cake.

What advice would you give to a teenage girl today wanting to pursue a career in journalism?

Be pro-active. My first assignment for the school newspaper was to interview a new teacher. My deadline was two weeks away. I was so excited that I interviewed the teacher at morning tea, wrote the article during my art class and handed it in at lunchtime.

Be courageous. I spent school ‘work days’ at the Bay of Plenty Times or the Bay News. Working in a real newsroom and seeing my work published was a huge buzz. It still is!

Be authentic. If you don’t know the answer to something – ask. There’s no such thing as a dumb question and your interviewee will respect that you’re trying to get their story correct.

Finally: give it a good shot. Journalism is a skill that can be translated into so many different careers – it teaches discipline in writing, how to have an engaging conversation and gives you a good knowledge of events and issues. Even if you don’t become a journalist, it’s worth having those skills.


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

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


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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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