Monday, 20 May 2019

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Octobers weather in review

The month in review

Our tracking for October ran from 1 to 31 October and we at the Informer got the timing of our first issue in November exactly right to capture all of the October data in time for publication. We are starting to see temperatures move up now and along with it the corresponding first signs of summer. Blowflies, hot nights and mosquitoes. Remember mosquitoes breed in stagnant water, so it’s a good idea at this time of the year to have a scout around your property and see if there are any pockets of water trapped in hidden places where they could be flourishing.

The birds that were waiting to be fed on the back porch every morning all through the winter have now disappeared, with an abundance of food naturally available to them. The little waxeyes still turn up to enjoy kiwifruit and apples, but with so many nectar plants available to them they are spoilt for choice.

Visitors are starting to arrive to enjoy the wonderful beaches and boating that the wider Mercury Bay area has to offer and the shopkeepers are starting to smile again. October temperatures were fairly typical for this time of year with a low of 2 degrees (25th October) and a high of 23 degrees (15 October). Historical averages for the month are 3° and 22° centigrade. However, October typically has around 146mm of rainfall and we were well below the historical average at 102.2 millimetres for the month.

The science of weather forecasting - emerging technologies

We’ve all experienced what happens when it rains and our cell phones start dropping the signal. One emerging new technology has found a clever way of using this very problem by tapping into networks of cell phone towers to detect rainfall events.

Current observation techniques for rainfall can be limited in the amount of coverage they provide, but antennas for mobile phones cover 90% of the world’s inhabited areas. The Science Daily website recently reported on a new idea which has originated on the African continent.

The Rain Cell Africa consortium is exploring signal disturbances as a way of predicting rainfall, managing water resources and providing drought and flood warnings. So far the research is proving 95 per cent accurate in detecting rainfall. In a country like ours which has extensive cell phone coverage, this new technology could prove valuable for farmers, trampers and many others if it is adopted by forecasters.

Public meeting on Cathedral Coast Walk to be held in Hahei

A public meeting has been arranged to provide an update on the proposed Cathedral Coast Walk, which is part of the Coromandel Great Walks Project of Thames Coromandel District Council.

Everyone is invited to the meeting at the Hahei Community Hall on Saturday 29 November, from 10:00am until midday.

"This is a chance for us to share with everyone where we're at with the walks project and to discuss parking issues around Hahei," said Garry Towler, TCDC's spokesperson on the proposed Cathedral Coast Walk. "We need to talk about the impact that increasing visitor numbers is having on Hahei and how we can best manage it short and long term," said Mr Towler.

The Proposed Cathedral Coast Walk is being developed in partnership with the Department of Conservation and local iwi Ngati Hei. Stage 1A and 1B of the Cathedral Coast Walk is approximately 10km in length from the iconic "blowhole" at Te Pupuha Recreation Reserve at Hahei through to the Purangi Estuary at Cooks Beach. It takes in DOC estate, Council reserve and QEII Trust land.  A private section of land at Lees Rd is also being negotiated, which will help to provide additional car parking for anyone wanting to walk the route.

"While the public meeting is primarily as an update on the Walk project and parking around Hahei, DOC are also coming along to give an update on its integrated plan for Cathedral Cove and Hahei," said Mr Towler.

WRC has also been invited along with TCDC staff and elected members.

One of the next steps in the proposed Cathedral Coast walk project will be finalising the names of a working group , made up of permanent Hahei residents, non-permanent residents, the Hahei Business Association and Coastal Walkways. This group will be the major forum through which the Hahei community and stakeholders can table views and issues and report back to the Project Governance Group, which is made up of TCDC, DOC and local iwi Ngati Hei.

Secret Santa registrations to open next week

Registrations for the award winning New Zealand Secret Santa game open next Thursday 13 November and the digital team at New Zealand Post is expecting more players than ever.

NZ Secret Santa, known as #nzsecretsanta on Twitter, is an online version of the well-known Christmas game where people give an anonymous gift and get one in return.

“We have really upped the stakes this year, with plans to give surplus gifts, as well as a cash donation, to charity,” said New Zealand Post Secret Santa Coordinator, Rob Holmes.

The game, led by the community and coordinated by New Zealand Post, is growing in popularity. Last year, NZ Secret Santa donated around 100 surplus gifts to the Wellington City Mission. This year, as well as gifts, the Christchurch City Mission will receive a New Zealand Post sponsored cash donation based on the number of people who sign up.

Holmes said the game is about encouraging generosity and goodwill at Christmas time making the donation to charity a good fit.

The way the game works is that everyone sends a gift and receives one in return. However, there are always a few people who sign up, and for whatever reason, don’t end up sending a gift. The New Zealand Post team dubbed these people “Bad Santas” and decided to send the gifts intended for them, to charity.

Go to http://nzsecretsanta.nzpost.co.nz to register between 13 November and 19 November.

A school the community can be proud of

The Education Review Office (ERO) visited Mercury Bay Area School during August this year and their report has now been confirmed. The report paints an overall picture of a school the community can be proud of.

At the time of the ERO’s visit, MBAS had 884 enrolled students, of which 22 are international students. Girls make up 52 per cent of the student body, 70 per of the students are New Zealand European/Pakeha, 22 per cent are Maori, three per cent are Asian and five per cent are from other ethnicities.

According to the ERO, when they report on a school, they always answer the question, "How effectively is this school’s curriculum promoting student learning - engagement, progress and achievement?" In order to determine the answer, they look at a variety of things, including the school’s management of health, staff, assets and finances and the emotional and physical safety of students.

Under the overarching question, five key issues are considered.

The first is the important features of the school that have an impact on student learning.

The ERO said MBAS is a focal point of the local community and, "Students enjoy a safe and inclusive environment for learning in well-maintained and highly functional facilities. The school’s KAURI expectations (Kindness, Achievement, Unity, Respect, Identity) underpin the school's culture. Student achievements and successes are recognised and celebrated. Relationships among students and teachers are positive and mutually respectful.

"The experienced and long standing principal continues to effectively lead the school and its community. He continues to promote a vision for teaching and learning that is based on current research for education in the 21st century. The deputy and assistant principals provide leadership and are respectively assigned to primary, middle and senior areas of the school. They work closely with the principal to provide school-wide professional leadership for staff."

The second issue is the school’s use of "achievement information" to make positive changes to students’ engagement and progress.

According to the ERO, MBAS students have a good understanding of their achievements. As a result, they are learning with greater independence and confidence and that contribute to the school’s academic success and sporting and cultural achievements.

Most students in Years 1 to 8 achieve above the National Standards in reading, writing and mathematics. Good information on Year 9 and 10 students’ progress is available and the NCEA achievements of Years 11 to 13 students are above national comparisons. The school is tracking well towards the Ministry of Education goal of 85 per cent of students achieving at least NCEA Level 2 by 2017.

"The number of students staying at school to gain appropriate qualifications that are aligned to their career pathways has increased," said the ERO. "The school has a robust attendance monitoring system and overall student attendance has significantly improved."

The third issue is how effectively the school’s curriculum promotes and supports student learning.

"[MBAS] provides a broad and flexible curriculum to promote and support student learning," the ERO said. "A range of effective teaching strategies engage students in purposeful learning. Teachers talk with students about their learning and use their prior knowledge of students to guide their next learning steps. Classroom environments are settled, well organised and supportive of students learning.

"A strong pastoral care network supports students learning and wellbeing. Designated teachers in Years 7 to 13 mentor and guide students to reflect on their progress and achieve success.

"Many innovative vocational opportunities such as marine and industry-based programmes, support student retention, interests and career planning."

The fourth issue is the school’s success in promoting educational success for Maori, as Maori.

MBAS data showed that Maori boys are not achieving at the same level as non-Maori boys in Years 1 to 8 and the proportion of Maori students achieving NCEA qualifications in Years 11 to 13 is lower than other students.

The school is nevertheless making good progress in the implementation of a plan to strengthen te reo and tikanga Maori for Maori students. Recent initiatives include a closer partnership with Ngati Hei, relocation of the whare to make it more visible and the appointment of a suitably qualified and experienced teacher to teach te reo in Years 7 to 12 and to teach a Years 7 to 9 Roopu class. Te reo and tikanga Maori are also being promoted in a Years 4 to 6 bilingual class.

"Te iwi o Ngati Hei is able to influence and support a clear definition for Maori to succeed as Maori. It also encourages Maori students to be confident to celebrate their culture, identity and learning across all school subjects," said the ERO.

The last issue is how well placed the school is to sustain and improve its performance.

The ERO found MBAS is a school built on positive relationships and is well positioned to sustain and improve its performance. They also said, "A learning culture that supports teachers to reflect on their practice, and which provides them with leadership opportunities is developing.

"[Members of the Board of Trustees] bring a useful range of skills and knowledge to their roles and have a clear understanding about school governance. They have well-established systems in place to sustain good governance practices."

The ERO concluded their report with the following, "Mercury Bay Area School… offers students a wide range of learning opportunities. Students enjoy a safe and inclusive environment for learning in well-maintained and highly functional facilities. Student achievements are recognised and celebrated. Relationships among students and teachers are positive and mutually respectful."

When The informer asked school principal, John Wright what would be a good photo to accompany this feature on the school’s ERO report, he didn’t hesitate to say, "A photo of the students. They are the ones who make us what we are."

We agreed. It is therefore our privilege to publish the first group photo of the 2015 MBAS student leaders with this feature.

Deceased diver yet to be identified

Waikato Police are working to complete a formal identification of a woman's body recovered off the coast of Hahei following a diving incident this afternoon.

Senior Sergeant Gael Mockford of the Waikato District Command Centre said a diver was reported missing in Feal Bay on the edge of the Marine Reserve shortly before 2:00pm.

"The Police Eagle helicopter from Auckland, a Coastguard vessel and surf lifesavers were deployed to the area to try and help locate the woman.

"A search team was also deployed to search the shore. When bubbles were sighted in the water near rocks a number of boaties, scuba divers and snorklers converged on the area and her body was located shortly after 3:00pm."

Ms Mockford said the woman's body was recovered to shore by rescue boat a short time later. However, despite the best efforts of rescuers the woman was pronounced deceased by an attending doctor.

"A lot of people were involved in the initial search for the woman and her subsequent recovery and Police would like to acknowledge their efforts. Work is currently underway to identify the woman and locate her family and we will not be able to release the woman's name until her family have been notified.

“Police would like to extend our sympathies to the woman's family for their loss.”

Author to share new book - Ka the Falcon

Tairua’s Bruce Gilberd is excited about the upcoming launch of his first children’s book, Ka the falcon. The book tells the story of the formation and settlement of New Zealand and in particular the Coromandel Peninsula and Tairua through the eyes of Ka, a New Zealand bush falcon.

Beautifully illustrated, the book draws attention to New Zealand’s endangered bush falcon, Karearea and to the many native species that have been lost to extinction. It acknowledges the human struggle towards fairness and peace and advocates sharing - taking only what we need from the earth and sea.

All are welcome to attend the official book launch, Thursday 13 November at the Tairua Library. Those attending will be treated to a reading of the book by its author, who hopes to have a falcon puppet on hand for children to direct any questions. The book’s price will be discounted at the launch.

Easy to read and with great graphics, the book delivers its message in a powerfully subtle and poetic way. Mr Gilberd intends Ka the Falcon to be educational for younger and older generations. He believes a grandfather could read it to his granddaughter and they both get something out of it.

Bruce is a retired Anglican bishop and the author of “Taproots for Transformation” - a dialogue on personal and social transformation and “Future Focus” - a work written to help people set their life aims. As he has matured, his reflective component has surfaced, he said. He now writes more from his heart than his head.

This is a book launch not to be missed. “I am Ka, the falcon. I fly high, see much, and recall all that my ancestors have told me of bygone days.”

Update on Brophys Beach seawall

The proposed Brophy’s Beach seawall design is presently being peer reviewed by the Water Research Laboratory at the University of New South Wales for its appropriateness. 

Waikato Regional Council (who’s responsible for issuing the resource consent to construct the geotextile wall) anticipates that the university will report to them during the course of next week, at which stage their processing officer will be in the position to complete a draft recommendation on the resource consent for review by an external independent commissioner. That is on the assumption there are no further information requirements. 

Depending on the outcome of this process, Thames Coromandel District Council should be aware of the contents of the draft recommendation by mid-November.

It is unclear when construction on the wall will commence. Members of the Whitianga Coastal Erosion Steering Group aren’t happy with the current state of affairs.

TCDCs biosolid composter in Whitianga to be turned off

Operations at the biosolid composter in Whitianga will cease in November while Thames Coromandel District Council take time to look at how they can improve the composter’s financial viability. A decision will be made by April 2015 as to whether to reinstate operations or decommission the plant.

The composter, which mixes green waste with biosolids (mainly from the Whitianga Wastewater Treatment Plant) was set up to produce Aa grade compost.

"While the composter has shown good operational results and is producing grade Aa compost, which we've been using on our Council parks and reserves, we now need to do a more in-depth assessment on its cost benefits," said TCDC Infrastructure Manager Bruce Hinson.

“As part of our 2015-2025 Long-Term-Planning, we've been reviewing the viability of the Composter, and commissioned an independent report to assess the cost benefits. The report was presented to Council's Infrastructure Committee this week. The report says there's no significant financial benefit to retain the composting operation and it's cheaper to send biosolids to landfill rather than compost.

"The original 2007 Business Case said the Composter would save money by taking biosolids out of landfill and turning it into compost. It assumed that landfill costs would increase and the fact is, this just hasn't happened. The amount of compost the plant is producing, while being used on our parks and reserves, right now doesn't financially justify its on-going operation costs.

"It's costing us more to produce compost from the Biosolid Composter than what we can buy it for commercially.”

TCDC Mayor Glenn Leach said, "The prudent thing to do is to stop the Composter now and re-evaluate its viability to see if there is financial benefit for us to turn it back on. We need to get some definite figures around the volume and costs for producing the compost, as well as understanding more fully the financial implications if we decide to turn it back on or decommission the Composter."

TCDC's Infrastructure Committee resolved at its meeting this week that staff should now come back to the committee by April next year with detailed figures on compost volumes, along with a decommissioning plan for the composter and possible options for re-use of the Whitianga site. It also recommended TCDC's Audit Committee consider any future financial risk to ratepayers.

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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.