Tuesday, 07 April 2020


Whitianga JP awarded QSM in Queens Birthday Honours List

Whitianga JP, Walter Russell was presented with a Queen’s Service medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List released this morning.

Mr Russell was bestowed the honour for his service to the New Zealand Fire Service. He has been a member of the Whitianga Volunteer Fire Brigade for the past 30 years.

Volunteer service is part and parcel of Mr Russell’s life. He was involved in Land Search and Rescue for more than 50 years, was a member of the Order of St John during its early days in Whitianga and was, when there was only one police officer covering the northern Coromandel, a member of the Civil Defence Police. He is at the moment chairman of the Coromandel Rescue Helicopter Trust.

Asking Mr Russell what he thought of his Queen’s Service Medal, he said , “It’s very humbling and a great honour, but that’s not why I made myself available for volunteer service. I enjoy serving the community and will continue doing that until I really can’t anymore. I’m certainly not going to hang up my boots now.”

Mercury Bay Netball awarded centre status

A few years ago a few Mercury Bay mums contemplated the netball future of their daughters and their friends. Junior Netball was going great in Mercury Bay - we were full to capacity at the Mercury Bay Area School netball courts. But as soon as girls turned 13, they had to travel to Thames to play on Wednesday nights. To play representative netball required an even bigger effort as training involved an extra trip to Thames each week. Handfuls of girls gave up netball.

We shifted our games to the netball courts at the Mercury Bay Multi-Sport Park last year already. The Sport Park is an outstanding facility and allowed us to apply to become a netball centre. By becoming a netball centre, we could create a local competition, engage teenage girls from our community back into the sport and even trial and select Mercury Bay reprentative teams. We worked hard to fulfil all the requirements for our application. In the final stages of our application the Netball Waikato zone merged with the Netball Bay of Plenty zone to form a new Netball Waikato Bay of Plenty Zone (NWBOP). During this merger, there was some restructuring within Netball New Zealand and in the process our application to become a netball centre was forgotten about.

After a meeting with NWBOP the wheels were once again in motion and two weeks ago we received the call we have been waiting for... yes Mercury Bay Netball has become the 26th netball centre of NWBOP and the 86th Netball New Zealand centre.

Our season started the beginning of May. More than 200 netballers have registered and have been put into teams. We have Junior Netball on Saturday mornings, including a new programme endorsed by Netball New Zealand to ease five to seven-year-olds into the game. On a Wednesday evening, we have five high school teams and six senior ladies teams playing Senior Netball, including the MBAS Senior A team and a team travelling from Coromandel Town each week.

Two weekends ago girls trialled for representative teams with Year 6, 7 and 8 players being named and during the coming week our Under 15 team will be named.

Our teenagers have started to come back to play and to coach and umpire our junior players. Through netball wonderful role models for our community are appearing.

We have purchased and put up our own temporary lights at the netball courts at the Sport Park in order for us to run our Wednesday night senior competition. Our next challenge is permanent lighting and to have a pavilion at the courts for netball. We are working with Sue Costello from Thames Coromandel District Council to see how we can achieve funding for this.

From June our representative teams will travel away every second Sunday to compete with the best in their age groups all around the Waikato region and in their brand new netball uniforms they will proudly represent Mercury Bay.

Free business seminar in Mercury Bay

A popular FREE two-hour business seminar is coming to Mercury Bay on Tuesday 10 June.

Thames Coromandel District Council and the Mercury Bay Business Association have teamed up to bring presenter Hamish Carnie to the Whitianga Town Hall to explain how business owners can truly make the potential of their business become a reality. Rather than just a “feel-good” seminar filled with fluff, this is a seminar where local business owners will get a chance to take a really good look at the things that matter.

For example, most people confuse the number of potential buyers with results. But business owners know all too well that the sound of ringing phones does not mean that the cash registers are ringing as well.

ActionCOACH presenter Hamish Carnie has an unusual combination of experience and skills covering senior roles in the government and as a corporate executive through to entrepreneurial start-ups in areas as diverse as internet marketing, agriculture value chain management, the service sector and business consultancy.

ActionCOACH specialises in making more profit for business owners/managers and helping them get more of a life by coaching them to success.

Holiday weekend off to tragic start following Mercury Bay fatality

Waikato Police are warning motorists heading towards Whitianga this evening to expect significant delays following a head on collision at Whenuakite this evening.

District Road Policing Manager, Inspector Freda Grace, said emergency services were called to the scene of the crash on SH25 about 6.30pm.

"The Serious Crash Unit will be conducting an investigation into what caused the crash however at this stage initial indications are a campervan has collided head on with a 4x4 vehicle resulting in one person travelling as a passenger in the 4x4 losing their life.

"The driver of the 4x4 suffered serious injuries and has been flown to Auckland Hospital by helicopter while the two occupants of the campervan have been taken by ambulance to Thames Hospital."

Mrs Grace said it is expected SH25 into Whitianga will be closed for at least four hours however motorists can still access Cooks Beach and Hahei.

"North bound traffic is being diverted off on to the Tapu-Coroglen Rd to allow access into Whitianga from Coromandel.

"With the official holiday period only three hours old this tragedy really brings home the need for drivers to ensure both they, and their vehicles are fit for the road. With rain forecast its really important people drive to the conditions to ensure we all make it through to Monday."

Futher submissions period on proposed district plan soon to open

Thames Coromandel District Council will be calling for further submissions on their proposed District Plan from Friday 30 May until 5pm Monday 16 June. “Further submissions” are a Resource Management Act requirement and allows people support or oppose a submission that affects them.
In total TCDC received 1,236 submissions on their proposed District Plan, ranging from short one-liners to large volumes. They cover almost the entire plan, but are mostly clustered in the topics - development and growth, biodiversity, landscape and natural character, the coastal environment, heritage and rezoning requests. There were also a lot of “duplicate” submissions on mining and visitor accommodation.
All further submissions must be in the correct format and must be served to the original submitter within five working days after serving it to TCDC. It cannot raise new points. A person can only make a further submission if they represent a relevant aspect of the public interest or have an interest greater than the general public.
“It’s not a numbers game. If you've made an original submission on a point, the District Plan Hearings Panel will fully consider your concerns without you needing to further submit on anyone else," said TCDC District Plan Manager Leigh Robcke.
Further submitters have the same rights as submitters to present at the Proposed District Plan hearings, exchange evidence, take part in discussions and appeal to the Environment Court.
The submission summary and all original submissions can be viewed online at www.tcdc.govt.nz. People can also lodge further submission online. Paper copies of the submission summary and original submissions can be viewed at the TCDC offices in Thames, Whitianga, Whangamata and Coromandel Town.

Preserving the feeling of coming home

Thames Coromandel District Council mayor Glenn Leach has a vision for the Coromandel Peninsula to be turned into a heritage region. When sharing his vision with Brent Page, chairman of TCDC’s Economic Development Committee, Mr Page immediately started looking into the practical implications of such a ground-breaking arrangement.

There are no heritage regions in New Zealand, but overseas a number of examples can be found.

One good example is the Oil Region Heritage Area in Pennsylvania, USA. In the United States a National Heritage Area is defined as, "A place designated by [government] where natural, cultural, historic and scenic resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally distinct landscape arising from patterns of human activity shaped by geography. These patterns make National Heritage Areas representative of the national experience through the physical features that remain and the traditions that have evolved in them. Continued use of National Heritage Areas by people whose traditions helped to shape the landscapes enhances their significance."

The Oil Region is generally deemed to be the birthplace of the Unites States’ petroleum industry. The area isn’t short on natural beauty and has a rich history of rapid growth that established many communities along its waterways and on its highlands.

For Mr Leach there are similarities between the Coromandel and the Oil Region. "The Coromandel, and Mercury Bay specifically, is most likely the spiritual birthplace of New Zealand as a nation," he said. "It’s where Kupe came on shore. It’s where Cook put New Zealand on the world map. It’s where gold mining and kauri logging created a lot of growth, not only on the Peninsula, but further afield as well. Would Auckland have developed the way it did if it wasn’t for industry on the Coromandel?

"Clearly it can be argued that mining and logging were detrimental to the Peninsula, but it is part of our heritage and needs to be preserved.

"There’s another thing too. The Peninsula has a spiritual impact on the people living here. Every time I come home from Auckland and I see the Coromandel Ranges when driving across the Hauraki Plains, I have this profound feeling that I’m coming home. Many people share that feeling with me. It’s something that needs to be preserved."

Practically the creation of a heritage region means thinking and planning 50 or 100 years into the future. "It means to protect the beauty and bounty of the Coromandel, the same beauty and bounty that attracted Kupe and Cook here, for our grandchildren and their grandchildren," said Mr Page. "A heritage region is a way to prescribe how an area of natural beauty and historical significance can be preserved while allowing communities inside that area to flourish. It means the Thames Coast Road will never be dotted with houses all the way to Coromandel Town and Whitianga’s Buffalo Beach won’t turn into a Gold Coast. It may also mean more marine reserves and a booming recreational fishing industry."

There’s no legislation in New Zealand allowing heritage regions. "But that can be changed," Mr Leach said. "It’s early days and there are many people we have to talk to. But really all we need at the end of the day is a groundswell of public support from people who also want their grandchildren to feel they’re coming home when they see the Coromandel ranges in the distance."

Whitianga Community Fundraiser to benefit Community Pool Trust

Promotion for the next Whitianga Charity Fundraiser, the Gothic Glam Ball, is about to kick off in full swing. The evening will include a balance acrobatics display by The Dust Palace performers and by popular demand the band The Dukes of Hammersmith is back. Included in the ticket price is a drink on arrival as well as canapés and other great surprises throughout the evening.

The Mercury Bay Community Swimming Pool Trust was selected as the beneficiary of the fundraiser. We asked Rebecca Edwards and Rekha Percival, the organisers of the event, why? And while at it, we couldn’t resist asking how they decided on gothic glam as the theme for the evening.

Rebecca and Rekha organised and hosted last year’s Whitianga Charity Fundraiser, the Bollywood Ball. The event raised more than $3,500 for the Coromandel Rescue Helicopter Trust. Earlier this year the two of them called for other local groups to apply to become the beneficiary of the 2014 fundraiser.

"We had such a hard time selecting the beneficiary of this year’s event," said Rebecca. "A number of exciting community projects are happening. But we felt the pool really brings something to everyone in our community, whether they are young or old or living in Whitianga or the wider Mercury Bay area. What’s more important than teaching your children to swim? Or giving people a place to train and exercise year round?

"The vision of the Swimming Pool Trust is to have a covered and heated year round swimming pool facility for the community. We would like to help them to achieve that."

About a gothic glam-themed ball, Rekha said, "That was almost has hard as choosing a charity. Between Rebecca and I we had a number of ideas and in the end decided on the one that will be like nothing else people can attend in Mercury Bay."

The Gothic Glam Ball will, like the Bollywood Ball, take place in a marquee off Whitianga’s Racecourse Road. Rebecca and Rekha are already hard at work on ideas to transform the marquee into a gothic cathedral. "The marquee is really like a blank canvas, which is great, but we can get a bit excited and have to reel our ideas back sometimes," said Rebecca.

The fundraiser will take place on 18 October. Tickets are $65 each and can be purchased by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or contacting Rebecca on 866 5141 or Rekha on 866 5239.

More details are on the Facebook page of Whitianga Charity Fundraiser.

Tairua dreamboat gets first dunking

It was the beginning of a new era for Tairua boat builder, Russell George, as his labour of love, the "Betty G" set out en-route for her first dip in the ocean.

After 13 years on a hard stand outside the family home, the big white boat, named after Mr George’s wife, was carefully loaded onto the back of a semi-trailer. One of Mr George’s good friends suggested a life-sized cardboard cutout be erected on the lawn to soften the glaringly obvious reality the boat is no longer there.

Transportation of the landscape landmark was kept quiet, but the news seeped out and supporters turned away from their morning routines to witness the move. The humble Mr George looked happy the "Betty G" was finally on the move, but all the sudden action had his head in a spin - he couldn’t believe it was happening.

When the semi was ready to pull out for Whitianga, he checked his bronze cargo, the propeller, was carefully secured in the flatbed of the pilot vehicle. "It cost about six grand so I thought I better make sure it didn’t fall off," Mr George said.

As the "Betty G" transitioned Tairua’s Pepe Bridge, locals gathered to acknowledge the man who had realised his dream to build a comfortable boat for his wife, Betty.

With his preference to fix and build things rather than pay someone else to do it, Russell George is an example of a generation of people who did things for themselves - a DIY poster boy in the truest sense.

He had initially predicted he could transform what was little more than an empty hull into a sleek ocean-going vessel within a couple of years, but he was wrong. Pursuing his retirement project with an unrelenting and patient determination kept him toiling away from the sea he loved and tied fast to terra firma.

The retired commercial crayfisherman - and tractor mechanic by trade - designed and crafted nearly every component of the "Betty G" over 13 long and arduous years fraught with difficulties.

With the "Betty G" permanently gone from the front lawn of his Tairua home, the wiry 76-year-old said, "It’s one hell of a load off my system." Now that his girl - a 12 metre long, sedan-style, 15 tonne displacement launch - is temporarily on a hard stand in Whitianga, Mr George mostly feels relieved his wife no longer has to play second fiddle to a boat.

With the clarity of hindsight, Mr George wouldn’t have embarked on the build all those years ago if he had known just how complicated and costly it would be.

The move from Tairua to Whitianga Marina, including the quick dunk in the water and positioning on the hard stand there, took less than three hours. When the straddle truck lowered his dreamboat into the water, she just sat there, perfectly balanced.

There was less than a 5mm difference between the anti-fouling line and the water line. "That was a little plus for me, not that I engineered it," he laughed.

Mr George and his two sons, Rex and Paul, sat down for a sandwich and a celebratory beer at midday, before they took advantage of the fine weather, "to do a little sanding."

Used to working quietly on his own, and often standing around scratching his head about how to fix a problem, having his sons with him sped up the rate in which last minute tasks were completed - and Mr George said his mind struggled to keep up with the pace.

Before the "Betty G" takes her maiden voyage home to Tairua, the George boys have to put the tape up to the correct level, put on the propeller, the exhaust, the radar tower and the vents for the aft heads.

"We’ll take a beetle up and down the harbour to check there are no unexpected problems before we take her home. Then I’d like Betty to smash something on it and bless it, you know, what do they say, "I name this boat Betty G and God bless all who sail on her."


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