Wednesday, 12 August 2020


The year that was - farewell 2019

It’s been a year of progress, reflection, celebration and loss in and around Mercury Bay. As 2019 draws to a close, we look back at some of the news that made the headlines over the past twelve months.

Volunteers help turn the tide for Coromandel kiwi

In December 2019 a chick from the Kuaotunu Peninsula became the 100th Coromandel kiwi to be released on predator free Motutapu Island in the Hauraki Gulf in a project aimed at growing the local population of our national bird. Representatives from five kiwi conservation groups from across the Coromandel Peninsula celebrated the momentous occasion, which marked the half-way point of Operation Nest Egg.

Major funding boost for new Whitianga skatepark

The reality of a new state-of-the-art skatepark in Whitianga was a massive step closer with the project securing $118,455 from the Lottery Community Facilities grant programme. Chris Devenoges of the Mercury Bay Skatepark Trust (MBST) said their whole team was excited by the funding boost, which meant their fundraising efforts were now closing in on the $150,000 target which the community committed to raising. In October, the first draft designs for the new skatepark at Taylors Mistake were released.

Local ladies are national golf champions

On Sunday, 17 November, it was announced that a Mercury Bay Golf & Country Club 18-hole ladies golf team took out the 2019 Women’s National Club Teams’ Championship. The announcement was made at the Hauraki Golf Course in Mangatarata, after which the team members - Robyn Anderson, Chris Watson, Barbara Bradley and Joan Roseman - were each presented with a medal and the “Women’s National Club Teams’ Championship” Trophy.

A totara has fallen

On Tuesday 22 October, the Mercury Bay community woke to the sad news that Senior Constable Pat Doak, known to everyone as “Policeman Pat,” had passed away. He was 62 years old. Pat moved to Whitianga in 2006 to take up a road policing role. He was married to Sandra, who passed away several years ago, and is survived by his two step-daughters, Katherine and Marelle. Pat’s funeral at the Mercury Bay Game Fishing Club was arguably one of the biggest Whitianga had ever seen and a true celebration of Pat’s life. Greg Nicholls, a former Police colleague, recalled how Pat, whom almost everyone knew as a gentle giant, was fearless in the face of adversity. “Make no mistake, Pat’s passing is significant. A totara has fallen, there’s a gap in the forest,” he said.

Past honoured and future embraced at Te Pōwhiri

An estimated 2,000 strong crowd gathered in glorious sunshine at Wharekaho on Friday, 18 October, for a historic coming together of the people of Te Whanganui o Hei/Mercury Bay that was 250 years in the making. Through the sharing of words, music, gifts and food, Te Pōwhiri, which commemorated the first positive encounters between Ngāti Hei and the crew of HM Bark Endeavour, was carried out in magnificent surroundings beneath the Wharetaewa Pa at the southern end of Wharekaho Beach. In what both Joe Davis of Ngāti Hei and Coromandel MP, Scott Simpson, described as “a significant and important day,” the focus was firmly on a shared future paved by important lessons of the past. The event was the centrepiece of Mercury Bay’s week-long Tuia 250 commemorations.

Kauri 2000 celebrates 20th anniversary

Kauri 2000 celebrated their 20th anniversary with a screening of the documentary, “Mauri o te Kauri,” to an invited group of friends and supporters at Mercury Twin Cinemas in Whitianga. The screening was followed by drinks and nibbles at The Lost Spring, and the cutting of a birthday cake.

Mercury Bay sends experienced duo back to new-look district council

It was business as usual in terms of the Mercury Bay Ward’s representation at the Thames-Coromandel District Council table with both sitting councillors, Murray McLean and Tony Fox, retaining their seats for a fourth consecutive term in the local body elections. In the Mercury Bay Community Board election, sitting chair, Rekha Giri-Percival, received a strong endorsement, newcomer, Hahei-based Jeremy Lomas, finished second with incumbents Deli Connell and Bill McLean also returning.

Bronze for basketball girls at nationals

The members of the Mercury Bay Area School Senior Girls basketball team celebrated an outstanding end to their season after taking out third place in the Schick A National Championships held in Palmerston North in October. The team came away with a bronze medal after just one loss throughout the whole tournament. In September, the girls were undefeated at the North Island Championships.

Whitianga Hotel to close

In a decision released on Monday, 30 September, the Thames-Coromandel District Licencing Committee (DLC) refused to grant a new liquor licence to The Whitianga Hotel in Blacksmith Lane. “The decision was like a bucket of cold water, totally unexpected,” said Tony Dowse, who owns The Whitianga Hotel, and neighbouring Salt Restaurant and Bar with his wife, Lisa. An appeal of the decision heard later in the year was refused and the hotel remained closed.

Scallop Festival back with a vengeance

The Whitianga Scallop Festival dawned with a brilliantly bright and sunny day, matched by the great mood of the festivalgoers who lined up in the newly updated Taylor’s Mistake to check in and grab their wine glasses for a day of fun. With a break in 2018 due to the Whitianga town upgrade, the festival returned with a vengeance. The new layout, using a combination of Taylor’s Mistake and the Northern Reclamation area was a winner, allowing a more relaxed and spread-out feel for the attendees who had ample room to kick off their shoes and put a rug down for an afternoon in the sun, feasting on an extensive variety of food and listening to great music.

Memorandum of Understanding for new Medical Facility signed

In July, the Mercury Bay Medical Facility Trust and the owners of Mercury Bay Medical Centre (the “White House”) in Albert Street, Whitianga, a Memorandum of Understanding to jointly investigate the feasibility of developing a new multi-service medical facility in Whitianga. Whitianga Waterways made land available for the development of a medical facility in 2016. At approximately the same time, the Mercury Bay Community Board and Thames-Coromandel District Council earmarked $250,000 of “seed funding” towards a business case for, and planning and consenting of the facility.

Wishing you clear skies and tailwinds, Jim Evans

The Mercury Bay community suffered a major loss when Whitianga resident, Jim Evans, died in an aeroplane accident in the mountains above Coromandel Town on 14 June. Jim took off from Whitianga Airport in his Van’s RV12 aeroplane, bound for Ardmore Airport south of Auckland. Bad weather forced him to turn around and he headed back to Whitianga. His plane was reported missing late on Friday afternoon. A Land Search and Rescue team reached the wreckage of Jim’s plane the following day.

Was it the right decision?

On Tuesday 2 April, Thames-Coromandel District Council decided by a vote of six councillors to three against signing the Local Government Leaders’ Climate Change Declaration. The decision was met with dismay by several people.

Prestigious trophy awarded to Cooks Beachcare Group

The Cooks Beachcare Group were awarded with the Dune Restoration Trust’s prestigious trophy for the “Best Coastal Restoration Project of the Year” at the trust’s annual conference that was held in Warkworth at the end of March.

We’re all Kiwis

More than 200 people gathered at Soldier’s Memorial Park in Whitianga to show their support for the Muslim community of New Zealand after the horrific mosque shootings in Christchurch. Mike Walker, pastor of the Whitianga Baptist Church, shared a brief message in which he questioned how anyone can believe that they are superior to any other human being because of their faith. He said that the people of Mercury Bay, and New Zealand as a whole, were united in their love for their Muslim brothers and sisters and the people of Christchurch.

The stories Whitianga’s new murals tell

The first six murals reflecting the Tuia - Encounters 250 themes of “Navigation” and “First Encounters” were completed throughout the Whitianga CBD during the Tuia 250 Street Art Festival. Talented artists were invited to participate in the festival, which was organised by the Mercury Bay Art Escape. Further murals were added throughout the year including a series by students from local schools.

Whitianga Community Menz Shed formally opened

In February, Thames-Coromandel District Council mayor, Sandra Goudie, formally opened the new Whitianga Community Menz Shed. The shed is situated on South Highway in the Moewai Park industrial area. The opening was attended by more than 40 people, among them Keith Dixon, the MENZSHED New Zealand coordinator for the Waikato and the Bay of Plenty.

A Ferryman’s Tale

After 16 years and nine months of transporting passengers, bicycles, prams, fresh produce, takeaways and a myriad of other things across the Whitianga River, well-known and much-loved Whitianga Ferry driver, Eric Mair, retired on Monday 11 February.

Pictured: Eric Mair, Whitianga Ferry driver for almost 17 years, retired on Monday, 11 February this year.


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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.