Thursday, 19 July 2018

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Tides Cafe is going with the changes during the Whitianga Town Centre upgrade - as the final touches to Stage One of the main street upgrade between Lee St and Monk St is finished up - and construction of Stage Two from Monk St to Hannan Rd progresses.

Alan Hill and wife Katrina have owned Tides Café, situated on the corner of Albert and Lee Streets, for the past four years. They are looking forward to getting back to some normality as the final touches are made to the town upgrade construction nearest them, which includes laying the last paving blocks on the footpath outside the café.

"It definitely was time for a change, whether the mix of pedestrian areas and footpaths versus car parking is right, only time will tell, but we won't really know until it's completely finished" says Alan.

"The construction works has had an effect on us, we've had a few customers tell us that it's a little harder with the parking gone out the front, but hopefully with the couple of extra spaces now created on Lee Street, everyone will adjust," adds Alan.

Alan moved from Taranaki some 30-odd years ago and owned and operated his own building business on the Coromandel for some time, before he and Katrina went into the café business.

With staff numbers ranging from four in the winter to 10 in the summer period, working a café six days a week at the moment, and getting back to seven days a week as the works finish up outside the cafe, it can be quite hectic for Alan and Katrina.

"Owning and operating your own business can be tough at times, and while we're feeling the effect of the construction works at the moment, we really just want people to come back into the town centre again and help us promote Whitianga as a whole and get the people back in to town itself," says Alan.

With an ever changing menu from week-to-week, special treats are always available, like their pumpkin spinach and feta salad, or some delicious savoury muffins, so come in and grab your coffee loyality card and enjoy the hospitality at Tides Café. You can also check them out on Facebook.

The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) is advising SH25, Thames Coast Rd, will be open to one lane at 5pm Tuesday 17 July with stop/go traffic management in place. The road will then be closed daily from 9am to 4pm due to the clean-up of a large slip located at Ruamahunga just north of Otuturu Cresent in the Coromandel. 

Contractors are on site clearing around 10,000 cubic metres of material that has come down since the heavy rain on Sunday.

Waikato Systems Manager Karen Boyt says the full closure is required during the day to allow them to clear the slip more effectively, which means a faster recovery time. The narrow width of the road does not allow for one lane of traffic, diggers and trucks to operate safely and effectively together.

"The road will re-open to one lane on Tuesday 17 July at 5pm under stop-go traffic management and close Wednesday 18 July at 9am. We ask people to travel safely through the site and to observe the 30km/hr speed limit.  For the rest of the week the road will open at 4pm," says Karen.
 
“We appreciate the inconvenience to those that these events cause.  NZTA and our contractors are working hard to get this work done to ensure we get this important route up and running as soon as possible," she says. "At this stage we are expecting to open to two lanes 24/7 by the end of this weekend if site conditions remain stable."

The NZ Transport Agency asks motorists who are travelling through Thames or Coromandel during the day to plan ahead and consider spending the day at their destination before returning after 4pm when the site is reopened.

Colville Rd, near Golden Bay, is still closed due to a large slip. It is expected to be open to one lane late on Wednesday 18 July. We will update our local roads at www.tcdc.govt.nz/roads.

Local Justices of the Peace, Walter Russell and Gary Fowler, were awarded certificates acknowledging their contribution to the service, at a meeting held at Hikuai Hall on June 18.

Walter Russell of Whitianga received the award on his retirement, after 44 years offering this free and confidential service to his community.  Gary Fowler of Hikuai was acknowledged for 30 years of service as a JP.

Walter signed up for the voluntary role in 1973. At that time there was only one policeman and one undertaker on the eastern side of the peninsula.  The only acting JP left town and the policeman asked Walter if he would take on the work.

“There was no coroner and I was required to sign certificates, search warrants, and other paperwork. In the early days you might sign one paper a week. Now it is getting up to 10 a day, some of them quite complicated.”

Walter has also served the Whitianga community many years in key roles and was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal in 2014 for services to NZ Fire Service. He has been involved with the local Coastguard as well as Search and Rescue operations. He is chairman of the Coromandel Rescue Helicopter Trust and actively involved in saving the Rescue Helicopter Service based in Whitianga.

Gary Fowler told The Informer he was nominated by a member of his farming community years ago, and he felt honoured.

 “Back in those days you were given a manual to read. I remember going to Tirau Court, where somebody shook my hand, and suddenly I was a fully-fledged JP.  But now it’s become a more formal process.”

After Gary sold his farm at Matamata and moved to Pauanui, he continued serving as a JP. He had already been doing mediation work when he became a judge in 1996. This involved studying a course of 12 assignments over two years. He presided at Waihi Court for five years, and then did Thames Court as well. During that time the court system changed, to include depositions hearings.
“I saw a side of society that people do not normally see, and I became very appreciative of my own up-bringing. Sadly, I saw young people make the wrong decisions and suffer the consequences of this. There are some cases that continue to play in my mind.

 “During some of the hearings I could see people doing stuff in the court that was not acceptable and had to ask that they be removed. We were always reminded that, as a judge, it was our court.

 “When you are working in a close environment you get to know the people, and I have a lot of respect for the people that work in the court system.”

Gary received a Queen’s Service Medal for community services and services to agriculture. He led the move to complete the Pauanui Trail, continuing the dream of the late Ian Hopper. With his wife, Anne, he was also responsible for the annual Concerts in the Orchard, held at the family farm over a decade and still remembered fondly by locals and visitors.

Justices of the Peace have been serving the country since 1814 and are appointed to provide a range of duties important in the administration of New Zealand.

Their functions fall into two categories, ministerial and judicial duties. All Justices of the Peace carry out ministerial duties, but further training is undertaken before they provide judicial duties.    

Ministerial duties include taking oaths and declarations, witnessing signatures and certifying copies. Judicial duties include hearing summary offences, presiding over preliminary hearings and conducting traffic courts. They also hear bail applications and requests for remands and adjournments.

Along with the jury system, judicial JPs represent the participation of ordinary people in the administration of justice in New Zealand. They perform a great service to the communities they belong to.

By Jack Biddle

The Waikato Regional Council (WRC) are about to embark on a harbour and catchment management plan which will include around 54,000 hectares of land from Waitaia Bay and as far south as Sailors Grave. Included in the main objectives of the plan is the need to reduce sedimentation in rivers, harbours and estuaries, improve water quality, reduce flood risk for people, and to sustain the mauri of the catchment.

Emily O’Donnell, the Harbour & Catchment Management Advisor for the WRC, is heading up this project. “It’s a big picture plan,” says Emily. “It’s about looking at the catchments as a whole and all the potential contributors to sedimentation, but the answers don’t always lie with the obvious. To complete the objectives we need to start at the very beginning and find out what all the causes of sedimentation in our rivers and streams actually include.”

Emily says that while sedimentation is a natural process, current sedimentation rates are not. Work in other areas and long term studies highlight the collective sediment contributions from regenerating native bush, as well as land uses such as urbanisation, farming, forestry, and roading infrastructure. There are a number of things which can be done to manage this, including retiring vulnerable areas from grazing, wetland creation, and restoration and enhanced sediment trapping.

When asked about forestry, Emily noted that Central Government recently introduced a new National Environmental Standard (NES) for Plantation Forestry that supersedes many of the Regional Council rules that control this activity. While the new standards may have its benefits, it’s unclear as to how or if these rules will assist in ensuring sediment run off from plantation forests in environments like the Coromandel.

While the WRC focus for integrated catchment management is nothing new. The WRC has had a harbour and catchment plan programme since 2008 with the greater Coromandel being given regional priority since 2010. The initial concentration was on areas such as Whangapoua, Tairua, Whangamata, and Opoutere.  Additional funding to support the next stage of this project was approved in the WRC’s long term plan.

“It takes a big effort from the community to make such a big environmental change,” says Emily. “The key ingredient in making a difference to the environment, is to include a wide range of people and expertise. Harbour and catchment plans are non-statutory.  Nobody is legally required to carry out any of the recommended actions, so to be successful they rely heavily on people and organisations to help develop them and then assist in taking the required action. As an example, in some of the rural areas there are several generations of families that have seen many environmental and lifestyle changes over the years. Their input and knowledge is going to be just as vital as the scientific studies the WRC will undertake.”   

The WRC is promising regular media and website updates on progress. One of the first steps promised is a letter which will go out to all ratepayers outlining the plan, and asking for expressions of interest from those who feel they have something to contribute.   

Once the information gathering process is completed, a plan will be drawn up that will reflect those collective visions, key concerns, and aspirations for the future. It will then be up to all concerned to play their part in delivering the actions to ensure we have a healthy catchment and healthy harbour.

“The other key message we want to get across to people is we don’t have to wait for the official harbour and catchment plan to be released to start taking positive action. If ideas and agreement come out of our workshops that can help the environment then there is no reason why they can’t be implemented straight away.  After all, we see this not as a standalone WRC plan but more a plan for the community to get behind and be involved in,” adds Emily.

The Informer will provide updates on progress and keep in regular contact with Emily and the WRC in general on this important issue.

By Stephan Bosman

The wider Mercury Bay property market remains a seller’s market. Sales volumes for the first six months of this year (1 January to 30 June) are similar to the number of sales during the same period last year. The increase in property values have slowed down compared to 2016, when market activity was the highest since the property boom immediately before the onset of the global financial crisis in 2008.

“We thought Thames Coromandel District Council was right on the money when they released the new rateable values of properties on the Coromandel late last year,” says Marlene Nash of Beach Realty in Whitianga. “But what we have seen so far this year is properties selling somewhat above their CVs.”

During the first six months of this year, 125 properties have sold in Whitianga – 13 more than the same period last year. In Tairua, 23 properties have sold for the same period, compared to 27 in 2017.

Cooks Beach has had 25 properties change hands during the first six months of this year, compared to 35 last year. In Hahei, 16 properties have sold between 1 January and 30 June this year, six more than this time last year. Matarangi has seen 43 sales from 1 January to 30 June, compared to 67 sales last year.

“When comparing sales volumes to previous periods of time, it’s important to keep in mind that subdivisions tend to skew the numbers somewhat,” says Shane Rasmusen of Townsend Cullen Valuers in Whitianga. “New section sales are only included in the statistics when titles for the sections are issued.”

The subdivisions in the wider Mercury Bay area are continuing to attract a significant amount of buyer interest. Off-plan sales on the second residential island and Kupe Drive extension of Whitianga Waterways are exceeding expectations. The release of stage two of the Wharekaho subdivision, branded ‘North Beach Whitianga’, has been brought forward, and nearly 40 per cent of the sections in the Opito Sands subdivision in Opito Bay have been sold.

Stage two of the Azimuth estate development in Tairua has been released, and in Cooks Beach stages one and two of the Longreach subdivision have sold out. Very few sections are still available in the Beaches Matarangi subdivision.

John Hunt of Richardsons Whitianga says a lack of stock is the only thing holding sales volumes back. “The legitimate buyers are out there who are committed to buying a property in the area,” he says. “The only problem is that there isn’t a lot to show to them.”

“In 2013, if you looked on Trade Me, there would have been 300 plus properties for sale in Whitianga. If you look today, just over 100 properties are for sale. In places like Cooks beach there is virtually nothing.”

Rob Ball of Harcourts Whitianga agrees. “Stock is an issue,” he says. “If a property is realistically priced, it doesn’t stay on the market for very long. Interestingly, we see more local buyers wanting to buy bigger or trade down to a smaller property. Previously about 70 per cent of our buyers came from outside the Mercury Bay area, but that’s easily down to 50 per cent now.”

The upper end of the market has seen a fair proportion of activity in the first six months of this year. “In Whitianga two properties have sold in the past three months in excess of $2 million,” says Shane Rasmusen. “That’s unprecedented. Properties are moving right across the board. Lifestyle blocks remain popular, but there’s not a lot available for purchasers to choose from.”

Tara Corley from Ray White Whitianga also agrees with the lack of stock, but remains positive about the future of Whitianga’s property market. “I am finding the market is quite flat, stock is short and at this stages prices are at a plateau,” says Tara. “The town still feels quite confident, more houses are being built, new commercial development is on the horizon and we keep on growing.”

The availability of rental properties remains a problem. Krissie Brand, the Richardsons Whitianga property manager, says there are very few three bedroom, two bathroom properties available for rent in Whitianga. “People who are in the market to rent mostly have to settle for apartments now,” she says. “And when a good quality home becomes available, the rent will be somewhere between $420 and $450 per week. That’s a lot of money for working families to come up with.”

On 29 June this year, 506 properties were listed for sale on the Peninsula. That’s 2.3 per cent less than the number of properties that were available for sale on the same day last year.

If no new listings were to come onto the market on the Coromandel Peninsula, it would take 40 weeks to sell all the properties that are currently for sale. A total of 89 properties were listed for sale on the Peninsula during the course of last month. That’s close on 26 per cent less than the number of properties that were listed for sale in June 2017.

MetService has issued a severe weather outlook for the Coromandel this weekend.

Waikato Regional Council (WRC) is monitoring the weather system which has the potential to affect some of the region’s low-lying coastal areas on Sunday.

"Better information is expected overnight and an update will be issued tomorrow," says WRC hazards team leader Rick Liefting.

“At this early stage, the weather system is due to arrive in the region on Sunday and is expected to produce north-easterly gales. Combined with the large king tide cycle peaking from Saturday to Monday, there is the possibility of localised inundation of low lying coastal areas, particularly at Kaiaua and Miranda, but potentially on the Coromandel’s east coast too,” says Mr Liefting.

On Tuesday, a new ridge of high pressure should bring more settled weather.

The extent and impact is currently uncertain, however, the east coast of the Coromandel will likely experience large waves associated with the north-easterly winds, which may cause localised inundation and/or erosion.

“Other coastal low lying areas of the Waikato region may also experience minor localised inundation, due primarily to the king tides, not storm effects,” said Mr Liefting.

The weather system on Sunday also predicts heavy rain fall, primarily across the Coromandel Peninsula. So it is likely MetService will issue a warning and there may also be flooding, especially over the high tide periods.

Waikato Regional Council has set up an online hub for rainfall and flood-related information to help people more easily keep up to date with severe weather events in the region. It can be found here.

The advice from Civil Defence is to secure loose outdoor furniture, tie down trampolines, and check drains and gutters around your property.

High tides around the Coromandel are expected to be 3m - 3.3m at:

  • Saturday 14 July  - 07:37 and 20:05
  • Sunday 15 July - 08:32 and 20:58
  • Monday 16 July - 09:26 and 21:51

Sandbags:

"We have identified vulnerable areas to be properties close to the coastline and particularly those who were recently affected by the January king tide weather event," says our local Civil Defence Controller, Garry Towler.

"We have a limited number of sandbags and are asking only the most at-risk property owners and residents to collect them and please take only the number you require to ensure that they are available to all those in need," says Mr Towler.

The sandbags will need to be filled with either sand or dirt and the key recommendation to ensure effectiveness of sandbags is to lay plastic/polythene against the building to be protected before packing the sandbags.

Information will be available at the locations below on how to fill and place the sandbags, or you can download a copy here.

Thames, Whangamata, Coromandel and Mercury Bay residents please give TCDC a call on 07 868 0200 or visit one of the Council offices to arrange collecting sandbags in advance.

For other areas, sandbags will be available from the following locations:

West Coast

  • Tapu Store
  • Te Puru Hall
  • Tararu Store
  • Waikawau Trams
  • Colville Fire Station
  • Papa Aroha campground (for use within camp)

East Coast

  • Kuaotunu Fire Station
  • Cooks Beach Fire Station
  • Whangapoua Fire Station
  • Matarangi Fire Station
  • Hahei Fire Station

What to expect with the winter weather:

Civil Defence has informed TCDC that MetService and NIWA confirm the Pacific and Tasman seas are still much warmer than normal and as such are fuelling weather systems, especially north west across from Australia.

"Every winter we get on average four winter storms that affect the Coromandel to some degree. This year we are expecting the same so are preparing accordingly," says our local Controller Garry Towler.

There are four dates for king tides that TCDC will be paying particular attention to: 13-18 July, 11-16 August, 9-13 September and 9-12 October.

"The last king tide chaos was only last January when the Thames Coast got smashed, so we know full well that if weather is brewing in these time periods we could have our hands full," says Mr Towler.

Council and Civil Defence staff are also working together on Community Response Plans, Emergency Operation Center training, external support networks and the on-going reminders for everyone to have their own emergency response plans sorted at work and home should an event happen.

Stay up to date on the weather and road conditions:

Weather updates: MetService.

State Highways (SH25, SH25A, SH26 in the Coromandel): NZTA NZTA. You can also call NZTA on 0800 4 HIGHWAYS (0800 44 44 49) for traffic and travel information. You can also use their journey-planning website www.onthemove.govt.nz to plan the best route for your journey, taking into account known issues and traffic on state highways.

Council roads: TCDC will post regular updates on the  Council's Facebook page as well as on the website and email newsletters. If you see an issue that needs attention, call TCDC on 07 868 0200.

Local radio - Check stations and frequencies here.

Red Cross Hazards App - alerts about hazards. Download from the App Store or Google Play.

Emergency Mobile Alert - these can be sent to your mobile phone, without needing to download an app or sign up. Check if your phone is capable of receiving them, here

Waikato Regional Council has set up an online hub for rainfall and flood-related information to help people more easily keep up to date with severe weather events in the region. It can be found here.

Also follow Waikato Civil Defence on Facebook here and check out their website for updates here.

Know your neighbours - phone each other in an emergency, especially vulnerable people, to check if they're OK.

To report a power outage, contact Powerco or your provider.

For more on these channels, and other information about staying informed in emergencies, go to the Civil Defence "Never Happens" website.

 By Stephan Bosman

The Labour Party list MP responsible for the Coromandel, Jan Tinetti has spent the last few days travelling around different areas of the Coromandel Peninsula, listening to what the locals have to say. She popped into The Informer office on Monday this week, after meeting members of the Tairua Business Network in Tairua.

Jan told us the purpose of her trip around the Peninsula was to better understand the issues the residents of the Coromandel are dealing with. “The meeting I had with the Tairua Business Network was really interesting,” she said. “Straight away I could see that there are things of great concern to the locals that I haven’t considered before.”

One of the issues Jan was referring to, is the impact of commercial fishing on recreational fishing and tourism. “It was obvious how much commercial fishing was worrying the Tairua business community, so it’s an issue I immediately wanted to be a part of,” said Jan. “I now realise how important it is for me to get the concern across to the decision-makers in Wellington.”

Jan listened carefully as we voiced many of the concerns the Mercury Bay community is faced with.

We discussed the problem of sedimentation in our waterways and the flow-on effects it creates. We focused strongly on the, in our view, responsibility of DHBs to make government-funded specialist medical care more accessible to rural communities that are not in close proximity to a hospital.

The discussion transitioned easily to the pressure on St John in the Mercury Bay area and the absolute importance of retaining the Coromandel rescue helicopter base. It was clear that Jan fully appreciates the benefits to the entire Coromandel Peninsula of an air ambulance service based in Whitianga. “It really is a great service,” said Jan. “I’m finding out as much as I can about the matter and I am working on it. I hear you loud and clear.”

Inevitably we raised the Coromandel’s state highway network. Continuous “patching up” of the Thames Coast Road, the dangerous passing lanes on the Kopu-Hikuai Road and the Tairua one-lane bridges were all discussed. Jan was agreeable that a closer look at the Peninsula’s roads is warranted. “It’s about safety too,” she said. “I’m well aware that the government needs to consider regional roads carefully, particularly in places like the Coromandel, where you go from not much traffic in the winter to a major increase around the summer months and the roads just aren’t equipped to handle the increase in vehicles.”
We also spoke about the pressure tourism puts on local infrastructure. We suggested to Jan that New Zealand’s natural attractions, like Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach, should perhaps not be that “free” to overseas visitors anymore. That prompted Jan to talk about the tourism levy that will be introduced at the county’s borders. “That’s what the tourism levy is designed for,” she said. “It’s designed for places like the Coromandel, where you need help to improve or extend the available infrastructure. We just have to make sure some of that money makes it here.”

Jan told us that she was proud to be the first Labour MP in a long time to visit the wider Mercury Bay area. She says there is a great realisation in the government about how precious the Coromandel is. “I’m pleased I have taken the opportunity to travel around the Coromandel and hear about the issues that are affecting people’s lives,” she said. “This is the difference between reading about an area and talking about it face-to-face. There’s so much more going on than anyone realises.”

The Royal New Zealand Navy’s dive tender, HMNZS Manawanui was instrumental in clearing the southern Pacific waters of unexploded ordnance left over from the Second World War. Now the decommissioned vessel will carry on a similar environmental mission, with ships sunk in battles during that same war.

Last Monday, the former HMNZS Manawanui passed into the hands of Paul Adams of Australia’s Major Projects Foundation. He will use the ship, renamed MV Recovery, to carry out research into the extent of fuel leakage and corrosion from wartime shipwrecks, mainly in Melanesia, and extract oil and fuel from sunken ships.

Mr Adams, the ship’s new master, Bill Fenelon and a 15-strong Australian volunteer crew attended the handover beside MV Recovery at Devonport Naval Base in Auckland.

In a short ceremony, New Zealand Defence Force Programme Director Fleet Disposals Chris Calvert handed Mr Adams the ownership papers and bill of sale, while the Manawanui’s last commanding officer, CDR Muzz Kennett and new master, Mr Fenelon exchanged a Manawanui cap and a Major Projects Foundation t-shirt.

“I could not have picked a better outcome for the Manawanui,” said CDR Kennett, who spent much of the handover in a captain-to-captain chat about the ship’s capabilities and features with Mr Fenelon.

“In a sense she will be carrying on the work we have been doing. There was talk of the Manawanui becoming a dive attraction, but this is better. She will continue to do a highly valued role on the sea, as opposed to being a permanent feature under it.”

The Manawanui was decommissioned from the Royal New Zealand Navy on 23 February, following a farewell tour along the east coast of the North Island and a week in Whitianga, her home port.

The ship, as MV recovery, will be refitted in Australia and will spend several months on research missions off Australia’s east coast, before heading into the Pacific.

“I’ll follow the ship’s progress with interest,” CDR Kennett said. “I’m a keen diver. I might even go holidaying with her.” He speculated the ship could last another 20 years for the work the Major Projects Foundation planned.

“She’s a great little ship, very versatile,” CDR Kennett said. “She’s got a four-point anchor system, a dive bell, decompression on board, two 20ft containers and a five ton crane. She’s really set up to support diving.”

Mr Fenelon, who has experience in ocean oil recovery, said the MV Recovery looked like an excellent ship. “It’s a very capable boat for the kind of work we plan for her to do,” he said.

Mr Adams said they are delighted to have purchased the ship from the Royal New Zealand Navy. “There’s even three litres of fresh milk in the fridge this morning,” he said during the handover. “And it feels like the Navy have fallen in love with what we want to do.”

As well as extracting oil and fuel from sunken ships, the Major Projects Foundation could employ “cathodic protection”, involving the placement of batteries on a shipwreck’s hull to put a current through the steel, preventing further deterioration.

Commander Kennett - who has had two postings on HMNZS Manawanui, as executive officer and as commanding officer - said two things stood out for him while he was the commanding officer of the Manwanui. “The first was Operation Render Safe in 2016 in the Solomon Islands, recovering Second World War ordnance,” he said. “The other was the association of the Manawanui with Whitianga, her home port. Every time we went there, people would turn out and welcome us. For our farewell, we spent a week there and when we sailed, 400 people came to wave us goodbye.”

Page 1 of 124

LATEST WEEKLY ISSUE

ONLINE POLL

Should Mercury Bay property owners pay and additional, say, $300 per year in Thames Coromandel District Council rates to fund a new swimming pool in Whitianga?

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.