Life as an F3 doctor in Bay of Plenty, New Zealand
Moving abroad as a junior doctor can be scary, so researching what to expect before you take a new job is top of the to-do-list. Here, we’ll take a closer look at Bay of Plenty in New Zealand - giving you the inside scoop to help you decide whether it would be a good fit for your F3 year in Australia or New Zealand.
Where is Bay of Plenty?
The Bay of Plenty is a large open bay on the northern coast of New Zealand's North Island. It stretches 260 km from the Coromandel Peninsula in the west to Cape Runaway in the east. The Bay of Plenty Region also incorporates several large islands in the bay. Much of the central part of the region lies within the Taupo Volcanic Zone, which extends from the centre of the North Island northwards to Whakaari/White Island.
The Bay of Plenty is famed for its lifestyle opportunities and a climate that means outdoor activities can be enjoyed year round. The most iconic element of the Bay of Plenty is its expansive coastline – home to stunning white sand beaches that attract residents and holidaymakers alike. At the heart of the Bay’s beachy sea-side culture is the town of Mount Maunganui in the west. Just five minutes drive away is the Bay's largest city, Tauranga - an established, green and leafy city that’s home to more than 115,000 people. Other places worthy of note are the world-famous Rotorua and its surrounding lakes, and the coastal town of Whakatane - where you will find a laid back community, typical of the casual ‘Kiwi’ way of life.
Size: The Bay of Plenty is the fifth-most populous region in New Zealand, accounting for 6.3% of the national population.
Population: At the 2013 New Zealand census, it had a population of 267,741. Most of the population along the coast is concentrated in the western and central parts of the shore; the eastern part is sparsely populated hill country. The major population centres are Tauranga, Rotorua and Whakatane.
Weather: The Bay of Plenty has a temperate climate with warm, humid summers and mild winters - perfect for a year abroad filled with a variety of adventures. .
It is one of the warmest regions in New Zealand, particularly along the coastline, and most areas experience at least 2,200 hours of sunshine per annum. The average daily maximum temperatures range from 10–16°C in winter and 22–26°C in summer, and the lows sitting around 0-9°C in winter and 11-17°C during summer - so not too dissimilar to what we expect in the UK. Tropical storms in summer and autumn can produce heavy rain and high winds, so be sure to pack your brolly!
Connectivity: Car travel is the dominant form of transport in the region, and the coastal area is an easy road trip from anywhere in the North Island. From Tauranga you can expect the following journey times:
to Whakatane - 1 hour
to Auckland - 3 hours
to Rotorua - 45 mins
to Hamilton - 1 hour 30mins
Public transport bus services exist only in Tauranga and Rotorua.
What is there to do in Bay of Plenty?
The Bay of Plenty is one of New Zealand's most unique and varied regions. It is a outdoor-lover's paradise, where it is possible to experience everything from lush native forests and waterfalls to spectacular beaches and even active geothermal wonders. Get your arms pumping out in the water on a kayak, your heart pumping with some adventure sports and mountain hikes, and your instagram account pumping with mouth-watering local menus and craft beers.
In 1769 James Cook arrived in a beautiful bay ‘full of plantations and villages’ and quickly remarked that it was indeed ‘a bay of plenty’. Today, The Bay of Plenty is no less plentiful. Around Tauranga you will find hectares of orchards and gardens producing everything from kiwifruit and apples to avocados. Add to this bounty the local craft beer and fresh seafood and you can feel confident that you will be one well-fed and watered trainee doctor!
Here are a handful of our favourites to whet any foodie's appetite:
Julian's Berry Farm and Cafe: this award-winning farm and cafe in Whakatane allows you to pick your own produce and enjoy delicious meals overlooking the fields. It is regarded as one of New Zealand's hidden treasures.
The Cider Factorie Restaurant: Like cider? This cellar door is located in the greenbelt of Te Puna, and they craft and share small, fresh batches of award winning cider, as well as made-from-scratch, fresh, & local menus in the restaurant
The Rising Tide: 39 taps of craft beer, cider, and wine from all across New Zealand, plus delicious dumplings made with local, free range produce. And did we mention they have a huge outdoor deck that soaks up the warm Mt Maunganui sun?
Volcanic mountains and lakes, geothermal areas and geological fault lines all dot the landscape of New Zealand's most active geothermal area. Watch the roaring gas vents in air, vivid sulphur colours, bubbling pools of mud, and of course, an active marine volcano. The most famous of these geothermal regions is Rotorua, and whilst the ever-present sulphur fumes can take some getting used to, it's worth it for the many hot springs which are used as swimming areas. Also worth visiting is Whakaari/White Island, the site of a former sulphur-mining operation, and an active volcanic island, popular with tourists.
Beaches and Surfing
Mount Maunganui is famous for spectacular beaches which are a magnet for surfers all year round, with the official accolade of being voted New Zealand's best by TripAdvisor. The Mount - as it is lovingly referred to by the locals - is home to plenty of surf schools and a fun beach break, which has something for beginners and pros alike. The white sand beach stretches as far as the eye can see, and at the tip is the dormant volcano Mauao. In the summer you will be able to enjoy a buzzing beach atmosphere and plenty of friendly locals more than happy to have a chat about the area's popular surfing culture. And in the winter? More waves to enjoy without the crowds (just pack your wetsuit!)
Whale watching and swimming with dolphins.
Swimming with wild dolphins in their natural habitat is an experience for the bucket list - and one which you will certainly be able to tick off during your F3 year, in the open waters just off Tauranga. And if you’re lucky, you may also see Orca.
Whale watching has also grown in popularity as the number of whales, including blue whales and humpback whales, migrating into the bay has began to rise.
Fancy taking up a completely new hobby whilst enjoying your time away from the hospital? The Bay offers lots of opportunities to discover wildlife and get the biceps pumping, whilst on the water. You can kayak the scenic Wairoa River located at the western end of the Bay, where you will enjoy peaceful birdsong and wildlife in the lush surrounding forest. Alternatively, explore Moutohora Island, a protected wildlife sanctuary which is home to a range of rare flora and fauna, endangered native species like the Kakariki, Kiwi and Tuatara.
Walking and hiking
For those fascinated by lush forests and waterfalls, the obvious weekend retreat is the Kaimai Mamaku Forest Park - a 30min inland drive from Tauranga. Here the avid hiker will be spoilt for choice by more than 300km of walking tracks.
Also popular is McLaren Falls Park, just ten minutes by car from Tauranga. The park is popular for camping, fishing, kayaking, disc golf course, picnics, bush walks and summertime concerts. It is also home to one of the best botanical collections of trees in New Zealand.
Arts, culture and sport
It's not solely outdoor adventure in the Bay of Plenty, and both Tauranga and Rotorua are also well-known for events focusing on food and wine, music (including an annual jazz festival), arts and culture, sporting events, and a thriving and diverse nightlife scene.
How does the cost of living compare?
Both Tauranga and Rotorua are very affordable cities to live in - with Rotorua often topping the lists of 'cheapest NZ cities to reside in'. For the purposes of this article we have focused on prices in Tauranga specifically.
Housing: Monthly rent for a 85 m2 (900 sqft) furnished apartment or house costs between £880 and £1170, depending on the location.
Transport: If you plan on doing lots of travel whilst away, it is probably worth investing in your own set of wheels. Obviously, the cost of this varies hugely depending on what you are looking for, but a simple but reliable runaround (like a 2009 Suzuki Swift) will set you back around £4,500 (with good resell value after only a year). A litre of petrol is only £1 (20-30p cheaper than in London). Feeling green and fit? A bike is another good option for getting around town.
Food: A basic lunchtime meal with a drink in the city costs around £8, with an evening meal for two in a neighbourhood pub costing around £25. A doctor's essential flat white or cappucino comes in at a respectable £2-£2.50.
What are the local hospitals?
There are 3 public hospitals in the Bay of Plenty region:
Tauranga Hospital is a secondary hospital, providing level 4-5 services including medical, surgical, paediatrics, obstetrics, gynaecology and mental health, predominantly to the Western Bay. The hospital is also a base for a range of associated clinical support services and allied health, such as rehabilitation, speech therapy, physiotherapy, stroke and cardiac support, district nursing and drug and alcohol programmes.
The campus has undergone significant development in recent years and has seen the construction of a new wing, including new theatres, outpatients department and maternity unit, of extremely high quality.
Whakatāne Hospital is a secondary hospital, providing level 3-4 services including medical, surgical, orthopaedics, paediatrics, obstetrics, gynaecology and mental health, predominantly to the Eastern Bay. The hospital is also a base for a range of associated clinical support services and allied health, such as rehabilitation, speech therapy, physiotherapy, stroke and cardiac support, district nursing and drug and alcohol programmes.
There are currently plans to redevelop the hospital campus, to meet new seismic requirements and the modern needs of a diverse region. It is envisaged that Whakatāne Hospital will be a key base for clinical and medical trainees in the future, with some training and placement programmes are already underway.
Rotorua hospital clinical services include acute, emergency and inpatient services; elective inpatient, outpatient and ambulatory services; mental health services; a range of secondary level diagnostic services; community nursing and some allied services.
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