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Cheeky billboards have gone up in Auckland's city centre, including one near the Sky Tower, promoting Timaru's median $350,000 house price with the tagline: "We love our first homes".
The ad campaign comes as the Herald recently revealed Auckland first-home buyers were labouring under crushing mortgages of up to $950 per week and that one couple fled the city to Invercargill where they paid just $160,000 for a four-bedroom villa.
Aoraki Development - the government agency responsible for driving economic growth in the Timaru district - is behind the new billboards and a welovetimaru.nz website.
It is part of a broader advertising and social media campaign aiming to attract new businesses and skilled workers to the coastal city, two hours south of Christchurch.
First home buyers Gemma and Henry told the welovetimaru.nz site, the city had allowed them to get on the property ladder.
"We wouldn't have been able to do that when we were living up north," Gemma said.
"Now that we are on the ladder, we can slowly work our way up to hopefully a lifestyle block on the edge of town."
The campaign comes as data by analysts CoreLogic shows first home-buyers in Auckland were now paying an average of $856,467 for their properties.
Loan Market mortgage adviser Bruce Patten calculated buyers would need to save a minimum 10 per cent deposit of $85,600 and have an annual combined income of around $150,000 to be granted the $770,000 loan needed to buy homes at that price.
This would mean up to $850 weekly repayments over 30 years on current record low interest rates of 3.99 per cent or $950 per week repayments on 5 per cent rates.
With Auckland's median salary sitting at $53,872, community groups warned there could be as many as 90,000 city families unable to even afford a KiwiBuild home at a maximum price of $650,000.
By contrast, a small two-bedroom do up, marketed on OneRoof as a fishing getaway in the Timaru district can be picked up for $125,000.
Multiple one-bedroom units are also up for sale at under $160,000, while a three-bedroom home in the Timaru suburb of Parkside is almost on the waterfront and up for grabs for $265,000.
The welovetimaru.nz website claimed the region had a wide range of jobs on offer, excellent schools and healthcare and daily flights to Wellington.
Paula Campbell told the website she and her husband Murray moved to the small town of Geraldine from Hawke's Bay two years ago for job opportunities and family reasons.
"Murray's an engineering project manager for Fonterra, and I'm a food technologist [with Mt Cook Alpine Salmon] so we wanted to live in an area with lots of career opportunities for both of us, and it's certainly a great area for this," she said.
The campaign also comes as the Herald today reported how Graham and Amanda Sumner two years ago packed their bags and left Auckland to move to Invercargill.
Having paid $450 per week for a two-bedroom rental in Sandringham, Auckland, in 2016, the couple now pay just $150 per week in mortgage repayments after buying a four-bedroom Invercargill villa for $160,000.