Steve Short went to the US for six months on his OE and ended up staying 11 years.
In the process, he gained experience and contacts in the mortgage business, which eventually led him to launch one of Tauranga’s most challenging residential property developments.
He was born in the US to Kiwi parents from Christchurch who went there to study. When he was aged 6 months his parents shifted to Tauranga, where his father Des Short founded the theological training institution Faith Bible College on an 8-hectare site in Welcome Bay.
The college also has operations in Russia and Singapore.
Mr Short grew up in Tauranga but, after leaving Tauranga Boys’ College, he decided to put his American passport to use and try his chances in the US.
“I started off selling photocopiers on a commission-only basis, just to get some money and get started,” he said.
Mr Short went into the mortgage business and ended up running a wholesale mortgage division for Medallion Mortgage Corp, a role that saw him based variously in Dallas, Texas, Denver, Colorado, and Boise, Idaho, over the next decade.
But in 1999, married and with three children, he decided it was time to rebase in Tauranga. He spent the first couple of years settling down his family, while he explored property development options.
“I had a huge interest in property and a big passion for architecture and the two things came together,” said Mr Short. “When you work in the wholesale mortgage banking business, you meet a lot of people and they’re all involved in property. Finding a piece of property and developing it was the next step really.”
Mr Short initially resisted checking out the 27ha land block that is now the upmarket Coast project, his prime focus for the past dozen years.
One of his rugby league-playing mates had urged him to have a look at the old rifle range block on Papamoa Beach Rd but he had resisted, on hearing it was Maori land.
“I told him I wasn’t really interested,” said Mr Short.
“Being Maori land made it just too hard.”
But after a season of being “hounded” by his friend, he went to check out the site, which included 2.7ha of prime beachfront land.
“I thought someone’s going to end up with this piece of land, so it might as well be me,” he said.
Mr Short began what turned into a complex 18-month process of negotiating with 147 individual Maori shareholders, any of whom could have changed their mind at any point, skewering the deal.
“We had to jump through all the hurdles and road blocks everyone put up, including the Maori Land Court, which is there to protect the land,” he said.
“It wasn’t easy but we were eventually able to settle the land at the end of 2004.
“It was an amazing transaction actually.”
Mr Short formed a local joint venture, Fraser Property, with an arm of Singapore’s Fraser Centrepoint, to help fund the resource consent for Coast Papamoa’s master plan, a five-year process.
The involvement with Fraser came about through contacts of Mr Short’s father Des, who had developed a Faith Bible College in Singapore.
Coast Papamoa was conceived as an upmarket, low-density residential development and the joint venture built a display village with nine homes.
“We launched in 2009, right in the middle of the global financial crisis,” said Mr Short. By then finance companies were collapsing, property developers were struggling, and banks were reluctant to lend to the developers. However, Fraser stepped up to support the development through the GFC, he said.
It took two-and-a-half years to sell 18 houses on the 51 existing sites in the first phase of development. But sales had picked up since late last year and there were now only 11 sites left unsold.
“With property development, timing is everything,” said Mr Short.
“The market will shift and change. The essential factor is to be well-funded so you can hang on and come out the other side, and continue and make sure what you say is going to happen, happens.”
Pat Buckley, director of the Amped4Life Trust, who has known Mr Short for almost 20 years, described him as totally committed and passionate about the Coast Papamoa project and to the local community. “He’s in it for the long haul,” he said.
Right decision to bring family back
Steve Short says he brought his American-born family back to Tauranga because as a local boy he knew it was an amazing place to live.
He and wife Tammee have a daughter and two sons, aged 24, 22 and 17.
“It didn’t take my family long to settle into the Tauranga way of living, which is what I wanted when I brought them back,” he said.
Mr Short coaches a Tauranga Boys’ social rugby team, which had a winning streak last season. But the Coast project consumes a major part of his life, and leaves little time for recreation.
“I do surf, which is one of my passions,” he said. “I used to fish, but don’t have time to do that anymore. I used to dive and don’t have time to do that anymore. You immerse yourself in your work – especially now the property market is so exciting.”