Rototuna - is this New Zealand's boomtown?

People are coming from everywhere to live in Rototuna.

When a suburb expands, house prices surge, flash new schools open and the word "elitist" starts crossing peoples' lips. Donna-Lee Biddle and Christel Yardley visited Rototuna, in Hamilton, for Stuff's 'One in Five Million' project.

Every day, Brian Sheedy fields calls from parents wanting information on how they can enrol their child at his decile 10 school.

He prefers parents to come in and take a look around. So they do - up to 50 at a time.

Te Totara Primary School opened nine years ago, in response to the growing population in Rototuna.  ​Two more primary schools - Endeavour and Rototuna - have since opened.

Rototuna Junior and Senior High schools opened this year to cater for
pupils after they leave primary school.

Sheedy said his roll rocketed from 58 when it first opened to over 800

He expects there will be 1000 pupils at Te Totara within the next four

The diverse nationalities at the school are also a reflection of
Hamilton's north-east.

Close to 150 pupils qualify for additional funding because English is not their first language, Sheedy says.

The school has around 100 Chinese families, a statistic that's echoed in the Rototuna community.

About 16 per cent of the suburb's residents identify as Asian.
Sheedy says he's keen to acknowledge the diversity so they have signs around the school with different languages.

But he says he's noticed a trend that he didn't expect; families are renting out rooms as opposed to homes.

"It's a growing trend, two families in together - something we wouldn't have had predicted."

And not only are families moving in from overseas, they're moving down from Auckland.

"Parents that choose our school do so because they like our values. We have values - instead of rules - about being respectful and positive."

A school is focal point in a community, Sheedy says, and it's a big attraction to live in a community where children can walk, bike or scooter to school.

Slightly south of Te Totara school is Borman Road.  The area was once a swampy mess until it was drained, sometime during the nineteenth century, for farming.

Cathy O'Shea points out the properties she's sold on Borman Road - which is all of them. There are around 490 hectares in Rototuna. O'Shea has sold 122 hectares over the last 10 years.  Her understanding of the Resource Management Act helps.

"Thirty-three years ago, there was a buzz about Epsom Girls Grammar - it was a state school and it had a lot of money put into it," O'Shea says.
"And now, extraordinarily, the Ministry of Education has decided to repeat the experience here in Hamilton, in Rototuna."

Seven out of 10 open homes in Hamilton are attended by Aucklanders, she says.

"They move here, buy something a little bit cheaper, one commutes to Auckland and the other looks for work here. There's that transition period - it's a tsunami out at sea. This is Epsom Girls Grammar 40 years ago."

"There's a new town centre going in, a recreation centre was just opened by Prime Minister Bill English and the high school was opened," she says.

"There a five high-decile primary schools within the zone and there's not only malls, but important community assets, like a doctor surgery and a pub.

"I've had to look at the history of development in Auckland I can see a similar pattern."

But O'Shea admits that there is a bit of an imbalance with Rototuna.  "We have lots of land in Peacockes and Rotokauri, but I sold a house
on the far reaches of the city, on the Te Kowhai side. It was in the city boundary and it was planned to be developed by 2040, she says.

"So I'll be long gone by then but that's the lead time we're talking about."

Chinese and Indian professionals are attracted in high numbers by the perception the community is very safe, O'Shea says.

"One of the characteristics of the area is the perception that it's safe. We never locked the doors when we lived in Rototuna and we left bikes on the lawn. There are still break-ins everywhere but it feels like a safe place."

In the three years to June, 2017 there were 49 break and enter burglaries recorded in Rototuna. In the neighbouring suburbs of Queenwood and Chedworth there were 124 and 212, respectively, according to police data.

As well as professionals, the "lock up and leave" demographic are looking to buy in Rototuna, O'Shea says.

She says there is a proliferation of retirement complexes coming but the future of houses in Rototuna is duplexes.

"People in their 50s or 60s are looking for accommodation that will last. Land is so expensive and the sections are now 140sqm, so they have to build up.

"The suburb is maxed out, there's no land left. There are now townhouses, that in the UK, we would call a semi-detached.

"The concept is alien to New Zealanders because it's only been a generation since New Zealanders were used to having a quarter acre.

"We do duplexes, each on their own title, between 250 sqm and 275 sqm. It works very well for the lock up and leave demographic - who have worked hard their whole life and now have assets and they're proud to be mortgage free."

One of O'Shea's children has bought their first home and the other eight are either actively trying or will be trying to get into their own homes soon.

So although she would describe the suburb as high-density living, she hopes there will be provisions for affordable housing where people want to live.

"It shouldn't be elitist," she says.

"It shouldn't be segregationist or discriminatory on any basis, and that includes an economic basis."


Rototuna average house price