Tuesday, 20 August 2019

WHITIANGA WEATHER

The royal albatross Annemieke Kregting looked after

Few people are more dedicated to the welfare of birds than Kuaotunu’s Annamieke Kregting.

A vet nurse with 23 years’ experience, she is not only caring for sick and injured wild birds free of charge, but funding much of the expense to keep the birds fed while they are in her care.

So when a royal albatross, the giant of the ocean’s seabird species, was brought in a box by a visitor to Waitaia Beach just up the road from her home in Kuaotunu a few days ago, there were no more capable hands than Annamieke’s for this majestic creature to have landed in.

The bird had a broken wing and was given the love and best care possible by Annamieke for three days before being euthanized on the advice of avian specialist vets at Auckland Zoo. With fundraising and work by other volunteers in Whitianga, it is hoped the bird will be on permanent display as an educational feature at the Mercury Bay Museum, ensuring its death was not in vain.

The southern royal albatross, or toroa as they are known in Maori, is among two New Zealand species that are the largest of all seabirds in the world. Reaching a wingspan of up to 3.3 metres, these birds fly an estimated 190,000 kilometres a year.

Annamieke’s albatross had a wingspan of more than 3m and she believes it was a southern albatross, which means it breeds on the sub Antarctic Auckland and Campbell Islands - among the world's most important seabird sanctuaries - and had travelled a long way.

"It does happen from time to time, they come from the sub-Antarctic and it was probably injured and unable to fly for some time. It would have ended up on the water and the tide would have brought him in," she said.

Annemieke has nurtured many sick and injured birds back to health, but after taking the albatross to the supportive team at Peninsula Vet Clinic in Whitianga for help in handling the bird - which she said had a ferocious bite - she contacted expert avian vets at Auckland Zoo.

She was told that while it was possible to operate on the injured wing, the albatross would never be able to fly again. These are birds that spend 85 percent of their life at sea and eat 1kg of fish per day. It was recommended that the best course of action was to euthanize.

"Bird rescue was a big part of the job I did and you never stop learning because every species is so different. It’s interesting and I really hope the display at the museum goes ahead because I will be so stoked to see this enormous great bird greeting you. It will be a real asset to Mercury Bay," Annmieke said.

Annamieke is preparing for a busy summer looking after injured birds as a volunteer. She has a paid job as a relief cook at Whitianga Continuing Care and also works part-time at the Kuaotunu Store, which helps pay for the costs of fish that she buys to feed injured birds in her care.

"The team at Peninsula Vet Clinic has been amazing and they are always very helpful. I refer people to them if I’m away for any reason," she said. "Other people in the community are really good at donating cages for the birds, old towels and frozen fish, which I need a lot of."

And while she loves what she does to help wildlife, she is looking ahead toward summer with a slight feeling of anxiety. "I might have to quit my job," she said. "I realise it’s going to get busier coming into summer as the penguins start arriving and I don’t know what to do about this, because I am only one person on my own."

She said one bird can eat $10 worth of fish every day and any donations of fresh or frozen fish are greatly appreciated. Residents were so helpful when she called out via social media networks for assistance to transport the albatross to Auckland, however once the decision was made to euthanize, this was no longer needed.

Are there fishing companies that might be able to supply fish? If anyone would like to donate fish or other help to Annamieke, please contact The Informer or Annemieke directly.

DOC says one of the major threats to albatrosses is fishing practices as the bird looks for food by following fishing vessels as an easy source of food. The Department is responsible for the care and management of New Zealand's albatrosses and is working closely with the fishing industry and with international researchers to tackle the threats facing these ocean wanderers.

DOC says fishermen do not want to catch seabirds and in New Zealand money collected as a levy from the fishing industry is being used to develop new ways of preventing them from getting caught.

More about how to reduce the potential harm to these endangered birds can be found on the DOC website at www.doc.govt.nz

Round two of Major Event Sponsorship fund now open for applications

If you are planning to establish a major event on the Coromandel then you may be eligible for funding support.

Applications are now being accepted for sponsorship in round two of the major event fund of Thames Coromandel District Council and a total of $45,000 has been made available.

Events play a big role in the social calendar of Coromandel Peninsula communities, they encourage non-resident families to visit, attract tourists and they have an important economic benefit.  TCDC said it is for these reasons they will support quality events, especially those that have potential to become iconic Coromandel events like the Scallop Festival and Beach Hop.

Earlier this year, round one resulted in allocations to Leadfoot Festival, Thunderbeach, Thames Festival of Mindsports and Tairua Wet n Wild, all unique local events. 

Applications for round two close on 15 October. More information and the application form can be found here.

Opportunity for students to go to Everest

Last week Wednesday John Gully, the founder and managing director of a company called Everest Treks, addressed more than 20 Mercury Bay Area School students about Youth to Everest, a division of his business aimed at improving the lives of the people of the Everest region of Nepal.

John is based in Nelson and was brought to Mercury Bay by Gary Hindz (of Hot Water Beach Surf Lifesaving fame). Youth to Everest is a philanthropic programme and fully accredited to the Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award. It offers a unique insight into the daily life of the Sherpa people living in the Everest region.

Under the programme, a group of young people travel to the Everest region for two weeks every year, where they become involved in specific projects, including teaching and conservation. The next trip to Nepal will be in April next year.

Gary, who is part of the Youth to Everest leadership team, was introduced to the programme in 2011 by Chelsea Johnson, a member of his extended family and previous Mercury Bay Area School student. Chelsea also attended John’s address on Wednesday.

For John, who spends up to four months every year in Nepal, the Youth to Everest concept started in 1988 when he took a group of students with him as support for a mountain climbing expedition of which he was the manager. "The students were offended with the amount of rubbish around the Everest base camp," he said. "So, in 1990 I took another group of students to the mountain and we cleaned up more than 5 tons of rubbish."

John met Gary when he and Chelsea attended an information session on the programme in Hamilton. "In walked this scruffy looking fellow and I knew we were going to get on just fine," said John. "The programme is intense and strong leadership is necessary. On a trip to the Everest region, we cannot have discipline issues. Gary is not scared to get his hands dirty making sure everything goes according to plan and everyone stays in line.

"For all the students participating, it’s emotionally, physically and spiritually a massive challenge. It’s a big ask from our leaders to make sure everyone gets the most out of the experience."

Asking Chelsea why she decided to go to Nepal, she said, "I was somewhat lost when I was in Year 11 and 12. I had no idea where I was heading in life. My family was really supportive when I said in 2011 that I wanted to go with John and a group of students to Everest in 2012. Gary decided to go with me, which I really appreciated."

After Chelsea returned from Nepal, she enrolled in a pre-nursing course in Christchurch and is now in her second year of formal nursing studies at Wintec in Hamilton. "Seeing the way people live in Nepal and how privileged we are in New Zealand, completely changed the way I look at things," she said.

Both John and Gary agree that Chelsea isn’t unique in the way a trip to the Everest region affected her. "It’s subsistence living over there," John said. "It’s people with very little. Time and time again, when a group of students has to say goodbye to the people of Nepal, they become really emotional. Just the thought of the life they have in New Zealand makes them want to give more of themselves."

This is certainly not an idle statement as many students return for a second trip with John to Nepal. "We even had a student who went on to become a doctor going with us back to the Everest region a few years ago," John said.

The trip costs more than $7,500, but, said Chelsea, that shouldn’t deter students from going. "I did a lot of student work and saved every penny. I didn’t spend anything. And I did a lot of fundraising. I had all the money together in less than six months. In the end, it was all worth it. I really can say the direction I now have in life I owe to the people of Nepal."

Matarangi tennis courts to remain for public use

Three of the five tennis courts at Matarangi have now been vested into Thames Coromandel District Council ownership.

The three courts are on a corner site between Matarangi Rd and Matai Drive and are currently managed and maintained by TCDC with support from the Matarangi Ratepayers Association.

"There's been a historical issue with these tennis courts dating back to early stages of development at Matarangi," said TCDC Mercury Bay Area Office Manager, Sam Marshall. "It appears that these sites should have been vested in Council but weren't. There's also been concern that the land could be sold or developed and therefore lost as a community asset and public reserve."

Following discussions between TCDC, the Matarangi Ratepayers Association and the current owners of the courts Burfoot Limited (who assumed the role of developer of Matarangi township), the vesting of the three courts into Council ownership is on a no-payment basis. The two remaining sites will be retained by the Burfoot Limited. There is also no expectation of development contributions.

"We've been offered these courts on no commitment. Burfoot Limited will no longer have to pay the rates on these three sites, which Council will now pick up," said Mr Marshall.

The rates are approximately $5,000 per annum.

"I want to congratulate the Matarangi Ratepayers Association, Council staff and Burfoot Limited for working together to preserve the courts for the public," said Mercury Bay Community Board chairman Paul Kelly.

"We don't have many other public tennis courts in Matarangi. The Pines courts are private, along with the ones by the Matarangi Store, so this outcome of having some public courts available is fantastic.”

Mercury Bay Community Board grants announced

The Mercury Bay Community Board confirmed at their meeting in Whitianga yesterday the recipients of grant funding they have available for local community groups and organisations.

A list of the 28 recipients can be accessed by clicking on the photos accompanying this feature.

The Community Board was also yesterday informed that the Whitianga Lions will not be hosting a fireworks display in Whitianga around the time of Guy Fawkes this year. The Board used to contribute $7,500 to the fireworks every year. The Board decided yesterday to allocate $5,000 of the fireworks money to the Mercury Bay Community Swimming Pool Trust. The Swimming Pool Trust will also receive $2,000 under the grant funding confirmed yesterday.

Murray McLean, Thames Coromandel District Councillor and Mercury Bay Community Board member, said yesterday he's uneasy with the concept of distributing part of the rates paid by ratepayers to community groups and organisations. He, in essence, would like to see lower rates and ratepayers deciding on their own accord if they want to support community groups and organisations.

Learn more about Community Clubs and Groups operating in and around Whitianga and the wider Mercury Bay area.

Mercury Bay Community Board grants announced

The Mercury Bay Community Board confirmed at their meeting in Whitianga yesterday the recipients of grant funding they have available for local community groups and organisations.

A list of the 28 recipients can be accessed by clicking on the photos accompanying this feature.

The Community Board was also yesterday informed that the Whitianga Lions will not be hosting a fireworks display in Whitianga around the time of Guy Fawkes this year. The Board used to contribute $7,500 to the fireworks every year. The Board decided yesterday to allocate $5,000 of the fireworks money to the Mercury Bay Community Swimming Pool Trust. The Swimming Pool Trust will also receive $2,000 under the grant funding confirmed yesterday.

Murray McLean, Thames Coromandel District Councillor and Mercury Bay Community Board member, said yesterday he's uneasy with the concept of distributing part of the rates paid by ratepayers to community groups and organisations. He, in essence, would like to see lower rates and ratepayers deciding on their own accord if they want to support community groups and organisations.

Learn more about Community Clubs and Groups operating in and around Whitianga and the wider Mercury Bay area.

Mercury Bay Community Board grants announced

The Mercury Bay Community Board confirmed at their meeting in Whitianga yesterday the recipients of grant funding they have available for local community groups and organisations.

A list of the 28 recipients can be accessed by clicking on the photos accompanying this feature.

The Community Board was also yesterday informed that the Whitianga Lions will not be hosting a fireworks display in Whitianga around the time of Guy Fawkes this year. The Board used to contribute $7,500 to the fireworks every year. The Board decided yesterday to allocate $5,000 of the fireworks money to the Mercury Bay Community Swimming Pool Trust. The Swimming Pool Trust will also receive $2,000 under the grant funding confirmed yesterday.

Murray McLean, Thames Coromandel District Councillor and Mercury Bay Community Board member, said yesterday he's uneasy with the concept of distributing part of the rates paid by ratepayers to community groups and organisations. He, in essence, would like to see lower rates and ratepayers deciding on their own accord if they want to support community groups and organisations.

Learn more about Community Clubs and Groups operating in and around Whitianga and the wider Mercury Bay area.

Those were the days

Last week Wednesday, Walter Russell had his first official engagement as Mercury Bay’s newest recipient of a Queen’s Service Medal. He was invited to address an afternoon tea audience at St Andrews by the Sea Community Church on "Growing up in the Bay."

It was a memorable afternoon for the more than 60 people who attended, many of them ending up sharing their own stories of what life in Mercury Bay was like 40 and 50 years ago. Indeed when Walter got up, he said, "I thought this was going to be walk in the park, but seeing so many friends who grew up with me here, I’ll have to be on the money."

We caught up with Walter afterwards to canvass a few of the topics and incidents he addressed in a bit more detail. It wasn’t only interesting, but outright hilarious.

Walter arrived with his family in Whitianga in 1941, when he was only two years old. At age five he was sent to the old Whitianga Primary School (down School Lane next to The Lost Spring), something he didn’t really like. "There was too much to do," he said. "Fishing, swimming, being out and about. School really interfered with my time to do useful things.

"At that time there were little primary schools everywhere. Kaimarama had one, there was one in Kuaotunu and one called ‘Dunsdale’ where Twin Oaks Riding Ranch is today. All twelve students at Dunsdale were Simpsons and their teacher was one of their aunties."

Walter became early in his life involved in a variety of community services, Land Search and Rescue, St John, the Civil Police and the Volunteer Fire Brigade to name a few. His first search and rescue expedition was when he was about eight years old. Roger Simpson, who was in the St Andrews audience on Wednesday, went missing. The whole school was commandeered to go look for the three-year-old boy.

"We first found his gumboots," said Walter. "And then we found Roger eating blackberries, not a concern in the world."

As teenagers, Walter and his friends were, as he put it, ten feet tall and bullet proof. This is an attitude that led to them one day experimenting with an explosive mix of gasses. "A friend lived where Charlie’s Garage in Mill Road now is," Walter said. "We filled a balloon with this explosive gas cocktail and when we lit the thing, it was a huge explosion. The whole garage door blew out.

"That of course just motivated us to go bigger. So, we took a beach ball down to Buffalo Beach and forced as much of this explosive mix of gasses into the ball as we could. Man it was big. We lit a fuse we thought would burn for three minutes or so, pushed the ball into the water and started running.

"When the explosion came, it came it was massive. A few surfcasters later said it was like this wall of fire coming towards them from the water. The town dump was that time on the beach, from where the toilets are now to Mother Brown’s Creek. After a lot of speculation, a newspaper report put the explosion down to some internal combustion at the dump.

"And after that a National Airways Corporation pilot wrote in some or other journal that it was a UFO entering the atmosphere according to some grid pattern he worked out.

"I remember I arrived home just after the explosion happened. My mum and dad were outside looking at the horizon lighting up. My dad immediately asked me, ‘What did you do?’ Asking him why he thought I had any kind of involvement, he answered, ‘If it wasn’t you, you wouldn’t be running away from the action. You would be the first one to go see what’s going on.’"

Walter left school as soon as he turned 15 and started a motor mechanic apprenticeship with his dad, who owned the town garage where Taste Café is now. "Town had a high school then, only a few years old, next to the primary school. It started in an old shed the primary school used to use, all the students sitting around an old table tennis table."

As a young man and qualified A-grade motor and diesel mechanic, Walter and his brother, Graham, who also qualified as a mechanic, worked for their dad. Saturday dances were a big thing on the young adults’ agenda. "Every Saturday night there was a dance somewhere, Whitianga, Whangapoua, Kuaotunu, Coroglen, Whenuakite," said Walter. It was a time for the whole community to gather. The young ones danced and the older ones came to watch, some even brought their knitting with them. And all the older folk brought something for a shared supper. I remember the bacon and egg pies, they were magnificent.

"One Saturday evening a few friends and I had to choose between a dance in Whangapoua or Whenuakite. We chose Whangapoua. When we got there, there weren’t many people. So we decided if we leave immediately, we could make Whenuakite in time for supper. Imagine Whitianga to Whangapoua and then to Whenuakite in the early evening on metal roads."

The other big social event was the movies - every Friday night, mostly in the Whitianga Town Hall. When Walter was about ten years old, the hall burnt down after a showing of "Bambi." Talking to one of his friends the following morning, his friend had this theory that some of the sparks from the forest fire in the movie caused the hall fire.

After the hall was rebuilt, the movies resumed as if nothing happened. "For some people it was a big night out," Walter said. "Jackets and ties, the works. And people pretty much always sat in the same seats.

"The funniest was most probably the handwritten messages that appeared on screen while the movie was showing. Things like, ‘Mrs Jones, your cows broke loose, please go put them back.’ One night there was a movie in the Whenuakite Hall. A message appeared on screen that the Dalmeny sawmill was on fire. So the movie stopped. Everyone went to help put out the fire and then came back to watch the rest of the movie."

Walter’s most prominent memory of his days as a child and a young man in Mercury Bay was the abundance of fish. "The dairy factory [where the Mercury Bay Museum is now] was washed down every night," he said. The lukewarm water with all the whey and butter residue ran into the estuary at the wharf. For the sprats it was paradise. And for us. The sprats were massive and easy to catch. And of course they attracted the kingfish and kahawai and the kingfish and kahawai attracted the sharks.
Many fishermen made a living out of shark livers, which was sent to Auckland for processing into cod liver oil.

"And crayfish were everywhere. Those were the days where nobody had to go hungry. The ocean provided for everyone."

And then Walter started talking about the ferry that was a rowboat, learning to swim, milk powder (not milk) in schools, the hunt for criminal George Wilder, when Whitianga became part of the national electricity grid in in 1959, the tsunami of 1960, marrying a wife from Auckland and becoming a dad when Whitianga still had a hospital… More to come, soon in The Informer.

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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.