Saturday, 25 May 2019


New faces at Mercury Bay Recreation Trust

There are some new faces at the Mercury Bay Recreation Trust.

Deli Connell and Bill McLean, who are also Mercury Bay Community Board members, have come on board with Mr McLean taking over chairmanship from Doug Bourne, who has decided to step down.

Other new members are Gary Fitzsimons, a tourism and transport operator with two sports-mad boys, Kiri Moore, a local businesswoman who enjoys multi-sport events, Wayne Malcolm, a Mercury Bay resident for nine years with a strong involvement in the building industry and Mike Brown a retired consulting engineer based in Whitianga.

"We're looking forward to being actively involved in the promotion and development of the Mercury Bay Multi-Sport Park," said Mr McLean.  "We're already embracing the work and wanting to encourage relationships with all sport and recreation groups."

The Mercury Bay Recreation Trust is an incorporated society which was established in 2011 to promote and develop the Mercury Bay Sports Park and recreation opportunities in the Mercury Bay. Its main objective is to foster relationships with sports and recreation groups and apply for external funding for various aspects of the park that will not be funded by Thames Coromandel District Council.

The Trust is also closely linked to working with the Mercury Bay Multi-Sport Park coordinator, Sue Costello. Sue's role is to liaise directly with the codes and coordinate bookings and events at the Park.

"Right now we're working on developing a sponsorship policy for the Sports Park as well as prioritising projects that need funding and then seeking funding opportunities for these," said Mr McLean.

The Trust's most recent funding success has been for trestle tables and chairs, three drinking fountains, rugby and football goal posts and a fully equipped kitchen with fridge and mobile barbeque. An application to a funding agency for further rugby goal posts has been submitted recently and the Trust is also working on obtaining quotes for lights in the car park, turf area and netball courts.

"Next on the agenda is investigating options for a temporary function room which can accommodate the needs of the codes in the short-term," said Mr McLean.

Pauanui amenity building underway

Construction of the Pauanui amenity building which will house the Community Library, i-SITE and a community meeting room is underway.

With only ten weeks before Christmas the plan is to get the building closed in. Final completion and landscaping will be done by March 2015.

"We are looking to Easter at this stage for an official opening, but that will depend on the plan coming together," said Garry Towler, Whangamata Area Manager.

The location for the purpose built GJ Gardner building is in the middle of the Pauanui CBD.

Consumer NZ reveals most trusted cars

According to the latest car reliability survey by Consumer NZ of their 11,209 members, Skoda owners are a satisfied bunch, with 95 percent of the respondents saying they would buy the same make again.

Once regarded as a laughing stock of European brands, the Czech car has had a major uplift in quality and popularity since being taken over by Volkswagen.  People should not have been surprised to see it come so high on the list, but they definitely would not have been surprised to see so many Japanese makers there.

The most reliable models from the survey were the Honda Civic, CRV and Jazz, Hyundai i30, Kia Rio, Mazda 2 and 3, Mitsubishi ASX and Lancer, Nissan Tiida, Suzuki Swift and the Toyota Corolla, Prius and Yaris.

Honda, Mazda, Toyota, Mitsubishi and Suzuki makes again scored highly. The makes were all given an “above average” reliability rating by their owners.

As well as rating cars for their reliability, respondents also provided satisfaction ratings and stated whether they would buy the car again. Skoda scored the highest in both these categories.

 Questions about vehicle models saw the Toyota Hi Ace came out on top. Ninety-three percent of those who reviewed the van said they were satisfied or very satisfied and all said they would buy the same model again.

Other car models that did well for satisfaction were Toyota Prius, Kia Cerato, Mazda CX-7, Suzuki Sx4  and Hyundai Getz - all were given a “satisfied or very satisfied” rating by their owners.

Those models with the least satisfied owners were Holden Captiva, Nissan Murano, BMW 1 Series, Nissan Primera and Volkswagen Passat.

Respondents were asked about the problems they’d had with their vehicles and heading the list was electrical faults.

Thirty-six percent of 4-wheel-drives had at least one problem compared with 31 percent of 2-wheel-drives.

Diesel-powered vehicles were slightly less reliable than petrol vehicles - 38 percent of diesels and 32 percent of petrol vehicles had at least one problem. Used imports were slightly less reliable than NZ-new used cars.

10 most likely cars to be bought again -

Skoda, Honda, Lexus, Mazda, Toyota, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, Subaru and Volvo.

10 models least likely to be bought again -

Renault, Daihatsu, Holden, Peugeot, Land Rover, Citroen, Mini, Jeep, Ford and Volkswagen.

One week left to apply for major event funding

Thames Coromandel District Council is now accepting applications for sponsorship in round two of their Major Event Fund. A total of $45,000 has been made available.

The Major Events Fund is for events that have potential to become iconic Coromandel events.

Last year's recipients included illume, the Coromandel Winter Festival of Light, which received $50,000. The event team purchased $27,018 worth of lights, fittings and projectors to guarantee longevity of future festivals. A survey of the Coromandel Business Association showed an average of 58.33% increase in turnover compared to the previous July - even though the festival was held during one of the worst winter storms ever experienced on the Coromandel. Accommodation providers including Bookabach and Bachcare had increased bach rentals in Coromandel, Matarangi, Kuaotunu and Whangapoua. Publicity was high with two promotional stories in the NZ Herald Saturday features magazine, reaching over 100,000 readers nationwide. With local media support as well, attendees came from Whitianga, Thames, Whangamata, Auckland, and Hamilton.

Another success from the first round was the Thames Mind Sports Festival, which received $12,500 in the first round. That event also received a high national profile and forward bookings from national groups ahead of the Queen's Birthday weekend event next year.

This year's funding round resulted in allocations to the Leadfoot Festival, Thunderbeach, Thames Festival of Mind Sports and Tairua Wet n Wild, all unique local events.

TCDC is looking for events that will attract international, national and regional media profile and will attract people to the Coromandel to visit. Their new economic development head, Garry Towler said the Leadfoot Festival is a good example of this. "We are investing in an event that will promote the Coromandel on the world stage, not because of the fame of the organisers," he said.

"Major event funding is just that, funding for events that are big enough to get that level of exposure and whose organisers are also attracting external partnership funding," Mr Towler explained. "If there is an opportunity we can provide initial seed funding to assist we will certainly look at it, but definitely not to bank roll.

"Event Fund recipients are required to provide a full report proving their return on our investment."

There are also other opportunities for event funding from TCDC. "We are no longer the one stop soft touch," said Mr Towler, "But at a local level and through Area Office staff and their Community Boards we will help any organisation as partners to make their event as successful as possible. For example, from local community and event grants last month, the Steam Punk Circus event received $5,000 with another thousand going to the Arts Society for workshops during the Steam Punk Festival, Thames Fast 25s received $2,500, Surf 2 Firth received $3,000, Tairua Wet n' Wild received $2,500, $8,000 was given toward the Tairua and Pauanui fireworks display - and there were many more."

The Major Event fund is the fund for projects that can take the Coromandel to new heights in unique ways. Events do not need to be run on council property - for example, the Thames Mind Sports Festival includes private venues such as local businesses. Funding is also not given to cover wages or honorariums (payments for professional services that are offered for nominal charge). This means that the Major Event fund is not the one to apply to if you simply want to offset the cost of volunteer services.

Applications for round two close on 15 October.

Hahei working group to contribute to walk

A Hahei working group is being formed to contribiute to the Cathedral Coast Walk project. The group, made up of permanent Hahei residents, non-permanent residents, the Hahei Business Association and Coastal Walkways will be the major forum through which the Hahei community and stakeholders can table views and issues. The group will report back to the Project Governance Group, which is made up of Thames Coromandel District Council, the Department of Conservation and Ngati Hei.

"It's really important that we have local knowledge on this project and we want to thank the Hahei community for working with us," said Garry Towler, the TCDC representative on the project.

Proposed to be constructed in several stages, the Cathedral Coast Walk is part of TCDC’s Coromandel Great Walks Project, aimed at creating world-class walking routes throughout the Coromandel to broaden the Peninsula’s economic base.

Stage 1A and 1B of the Cathedral Coast Walk is approximately 10km in length from the iconic "Blowhole" at Te Pupuha Recreation Reserve south of Hahei through to the Purangi Estuary at Cooks Beach. It takes in DOC estate, Council reserve and QE2 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.

Calling Coromandels home-grown food providers and musicians

Do you make a mean mussel fritter? Are you brewing beer locally? Are you growing your own produce to sell? If you're a Coromandel food and beverage producer or grower who wants to promote your product either nationally or internationally - Thames Coromandel District Council wants to hear from you.

Last month Brett O'Reilly the Chief Executive of Auckland Toursim Events and Economic Development  (ATEED) and a group of his staff tour the Coromandel looking at developing opportunities and links between the Coromandel District and Auckland.

"As well as being blown away by the Coromandel scenery, Brett and his team were really impressed with the local food and hospitality," said Whangamata Area Office Manager Garry Towler, who arranged the trip.

"Bringing ATEED to the Coromandel enabled them to experience first-hand our aquaculture and our niche food and horticulture industries. The group all agreed there are some really good opportunities to promote the Coromandel product to the Auckland market and beyond. We're now arranging to work more closely with ATEED on how we can capitalise on these opportunities."

Wendy Voeglin, one of the people from the ATEED group, specialises in rural development and the home-grown food and beverage market. She has also been involved in Auckland's successful bid to stage the 2017 World Travel Summit. Held every two years, the World Travel Summit and Expo is the largest gathering of food and drink tourism professionals.

"Wendy was really impressed with the niche food and beverage market on the Coromandel and sees lots of ways she can bring international food writers and chefs to the Coromandel and promote food tourism within our District," said Mr Towler.

So TCDC now wants to put together a database of local food producers and providers who would like to promote and showcase their products.

The database will list the contacts and details of local home-grown and niche food and beverage providers. The information will be shared with ATEED, but also promoted through Destination Coromandel for food tourism opportunities as well as on the TCDC website.

If you want your business to be included on the database please send your contact details, a description of what you offer and any website information to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., TCDC’s communications manager.

TCDC is also working with Regional Tourism Operator Destination Coromandel to create a database for professional musicians and bands from the Coromandel.

"We want to promote and support our home-grown talent so that when someone is setting up an event, a festival or even a wedding, they can click onto the database and connect with our local artists," said Destination Coromandel Manager Hadley Dryden.

"Many festival and event organisers may not realise we have a vibrant and talented music industry, so if we can provide a one-stop shop to let them know what we have to offer it's of benefit to everyone," says Mr Dryden.

The database will also provide an opportunity for local artists to connect and network.

If you're interested in being listed on the database - which will be a link on TCDC’s website please email your details and any online links to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The unbelievable story of Jonathan Vaughan’s birth

When Dana Vaughan, wife of Whitianga chiropractor, Grant Vaughan fell pregnant with Jonathan, their third child, neither she nor Grant expected the curve ball life was to throw at them.

Dana was born and bred in Romania. She met Grant on her OE to New Zealand. They fell in love, got married and in the ten years since then Dana has only been home for two short visits.

Earlier this year, when she was about 35 weeks pregnant, Dana’s dad had a severe stroke. She and Grant immediately decided she should go to Romania and take Daniel, their two year-old, with her. They knew Dana was OK to get there, but, wouldn’t be able to travel back before baby was born as she wouldn’t be allowed to fly after becoming 36 weeks pregnant. Oldest son, Reuben stayed home with Grant as he was to start school two weeks later. "It was hard not being there for Reuben’s first day at school," Dana said.

"Unfortunately my dad died the day after we had booked our plane tickets. So, I knew I was going to his funeral. It was really sad that I didn’t get to see him before he passed away.

"I knew it was going to be tough to get everything organised for Jonathan’s birth, including all the paperwork, but nothing really prepared me for what I had to go through. Romania has really changed a lot in the ten years I’ve been away."

Dana first had to find an obstetrician. And that’s when the extent of the corruption in the country really hit her. "As a Romanian citizen, I’m entitled to free medical care," she said. "But when I went to see the doctor, who came highly recommended, he was very interested in discussing how much I would pay him for my treatment, in cash, which was more than a week’s pay for most Romanians. It was quite sad as the government also paid him a lot of money to look after me."

Dana had to have a caesarean section and family friends prepared her for what to expect in hospital. "Basically I had to have access to a wad of cash, otherwise no one was going to do anything for me in hospital. And that’s exactly how it was. The nurses and hospital staff are all paid by the government, but they expected me to pay them also to take me to the bathroom, to give me my medication and to have my sheets changed.

"There was initially a woman in the same delivery room as me who didn’t have money and they literally kicked her out of her bed to make room for someone with cash just as she was going into labour. It was very sad and upsetting."

But if Dana thought it was tough in hospital, the outside was 20 times worse. Jonathan was born as a Romanian citizen and to be able to travel back to New Zealand, he needed a passport. And to get a passport, he needed a birth certificate, which seemingly was impossible to get without Grant being in Romania.

"It was really frustrating," Dana said. "Initially it looked as if nobody knew what to do as they were not used to dealing with someone from outside of Romania. Later I realised that was only half the story and some officials were just putting me off, waiting for me to, well, bribe them."

A week after giving birth and still sore from the caesarean, Dana found herself walking all over town, from one government office to the next, for up to five hours a day, five days straight.

Initially, as Dana didn’t have their marriage certificate with her, she was told she couldn’t have Grant put on Jonathan’s birth certificate as the father and Jonathan would need to take her maiden name as Grant was not there to claim him. In a mad rush Grant ordered their marriage certificate back in New Zealand before having it translated, notarised and overnight couriered to Dana.

When Dana presented their marriage certificate to the government officials she was dealing with, she was told, "That’s nice, now you need a declaration from your husband, accepting Jonathan as his and giving consent for him to get a Romanian birth certificate and passport."

"I really couldn’t help to wonder why they haven’t told me that in the first place," Dana said.

Finally Dana was put onto the head of the local Births and Deaths Department, a kind man who Dana described as a being like a grandfather. "He took me personally to have Jonathans birth certificate made and waited with me for almost an hour while the paperwork was completed."

Bright and early the following morning Dana, with her sister as moral support, presented herself at the local Passport Office with all the appropriate forms filled out and signed and a pile of supporting documents in hand. The clerk looked the paperwork over, then roughly pushed it back to Dana and said, "The mother or father needs to sign these forms." It turned out that Dana’s last name on Jonathan’s birth certificate was Vaughan, but her passport was still in her maiden name, Lingurar.

For two hours Dana and her sister tried to convince the Passport Office to accept Grant and Dana’s New Zealand marriage certificate as proof of her identity, but they wouldn’t budge. Another visit to the helpful head of the Births and Deaths Department revealed that Dana would need to apply for a Romanian marriage licence in order to legally change her name in Romania, allowing her to apply for a Romanian ID card which she could use as proof of her identity. "It was enough to make my head spin," Dana said.

Finally, ten days later and no less than six weeks after Jonathan’s birth, Dana, Daniel, Jonathan and Dana’s mum, Rozalia were ready to board a plane back to New Zealand.

"It was wonderful coming back, but I want to point out not all in Romania is bad," Dana said. "That lovely man in charge of the Births and Deaths Department gave me confidence that there are some good people out there. And the Romanian government is really working hard to persuade people not to pay bribes. If it’s going to work, I don’t know. My dad wasn’t even 60 when he passed away. I was told that many men in Romania die from strokes at that age. It’s the stress. Things have really changed a lot since the fall of communism and for many people not for the better. "We all really need to appreciate what we have in New Zealand.

"As a family, our only issue now is to get citizenship for Jonathan. He came into New Zealand as a tourist and all the New Zealand government wants us to do is prove that I was pregnant when Daniel and I left for my dad’s funeral. I can understand that. And somehow, compared to what I had to go through in Romania, I don’t think that’s going to be too difficult to prove."

Outstanding performance by United Travel in Whitianga

Monett Johnston has travelled throughout her life, spends her working hours arranging travel for clients and recently won top honours for the many hours she spent outside of work studying a diploma in unique travel destinations.

The diploma is with the United Travel group and allowed Monett to learn more about the many unusual places there are to see in the world - knowledge that is benefitting the United Whitianga branch, of which Monett is the owner, and its clientele.

"We get to know our clients so well," said Monett. "We are able to help them choose what’s best with any product for them to get the most out of their holiday experience. Through all the training that we have, our clients see all the different products that are available that they won’t necessarily find online and we can work through the process to fit their budget and aspirations.

"I think it’s great that Kiwis get off to see all these places, there’s so much to see and do and go back to see again."

United Travel in Whitianga took out some of the company’s top awards at a recent travel conference, the United Travel Frontliners Conference, which recognises the hard work and achievements of people in the industry. There are 53 United Travel agencies around New Zealand.

The conference, attended by over 190 delegates, started with a welcome function at the Crowne Plaza Auckland. During the night, delegates got into teams and constructed 14 push bikes, which were then given away to the Child Cancer Society - United Travel’s charity.

Travel agents Jody Simpson, Diana Williams, Julie Pepper and Julie Sloane won top sales awards while Monett won top honours overall for completion of her diploma.

"It’s great when you think we’re a small agency in the scheme of things and we’re very proud to be part of the United Travel group anyway," said Monett.

Monett was a travel agent before she had children and continued to travel all her life. "I’ve taken my children with me and they assured me they’ve had a great life. I’ve been to a lot of places, I loved Egypt and Jordan. I really enjoyed my travels in South America and in Botswana, Africa too. The Middle East was another incredible destination. How can you pinpoint one favourite?"

She said the development of online travel sites that allow people to book trips themselves has not been a negative thing for the industry and online bookings have begun to plateau. "You use it for a research tool, but when you want somebody that’s with you all the way, you are going to go to a travel agent. There could be weeks and weeks of planning and you wouldn’t always know how to do it on your own."

Clients are from around the Coromandel but also based in Auckland and Tauranga, keeping the Whitianga staff as their travel agents even when they’ve moved out of the area themselves.

As for travel around New Zealand, Monett says she has done plenty of that too. What is her favourite destination in this country? "Whitianga," she smiled,
without a pause for thought.



Should Thames-Coromandel District Council sign the Local Government Leaders' Declaration on Climate Change?

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.