Wednesday, 20 March 2019

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Preserving the feeling of coming home

Thames Coromandel District Council mayor Glenn Leach has a vision for the Coromandel Peninsula to be turned into a heritage region. When sharing his vision with Brent Page, chairman of TCDC’s Economic Development Committee, Mr Page immediately started looking into the practical implications of such a ground-breaking arrangement.

There are no heritage regions in New Zealand, but overseas a number of examples can be found.

One good example is the Oil Region Heritage Area in Pennsylvania, USA. In the United States a National Heritage Area is defined as, "A place designated by [government] where natural, cultural, historic and scenic resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally distinct landscape arising from patterns of human activity shaped by geography. These patterns make National Heritage Areas representative of the national experience through the physical features that remain and the traditions that have evolved in them. Continued use of National Heritage Areas by people whose traditions helped to shape the landscapes enhances their significance."

The Oil Region is generally deemed to be the birthplace of the Unites States’ petroleum industry. The area isn’t short on natural beauty and has a rich history of rapid growth that established many communities along its waterways and on its highlands.

For Mr Leach there are similarities between the Coromandel and the Oil Region. "The Coromandel, and Mercury Bay specifically, is most likely the spiritual birthplace of New Zealand as a nation," he said. "It’s where Kupe came on shore. It’s where Cook put New Zealand on the world map. It’s where gold mining and kauri logging created a lot of growth, not only on the Peninsula, but further afield as well. Would Auckland have developed the way it did if it wasn’t for industry on the Coromandel?

"Clearly it can be argued that mining and logging were detrimental to the Peninsula, but it is part of our heritage and needs to be preserved.

"There’s another thing too. The Peninsula has a spiritual impact on the people living here. Every time I come home from Auckland and I see the Coromandel Ranges when driving across the Hauraki Plains, I have this profound feeling that I’m coming home. Many people share that feeling with me. It’s something that needs to be preserved."

Practically the creation of a heritage region means thinking and planning 50 or 100 years into the future. "It means to protect the beauty and bounty of the Coromandel, the same beauty and bounty that attracted Kupe and Cook here, for our grandchildren and their grandchildren," said Mr Page. "A heritage region is a way to prescribe how an area of natural beauty and historical significance can be preserved while allowing communities inside that area to flourish. It means the Thames Coast Road will never be dotted with houses all the way to Coromandel Town and Whitianga’s Buffalo Beach won’t turn into a Gold Coast. It may also mean more marine reserves and a booming recreational fishing industry."

There’s no legislation in New Zealand allowing heritage regions. "But that can be changed," Mr Leach said. "It’s early days and there are many people we have to talk to. But really all we need at the end of the day is a groundswell of public support from people who also want their grandchildren to feel they’re coming home when they see the Coromandel ranges in the distance."

Whitianga Community Fundraiser to benefit Community Pool Trust

Promotion for the next Whitianga Charity Fundraiser, the Gothic Glam Ball, is about to kick off in full swing. The evening will include a balance acrobatics display by The Dust Palace performers and by popular demand the band The Dukes of Hammersmith is back. Included in the ticket price is a drink on arrival as well as canapés and other great surprises throughout the evening.

The Mercury Bay Community Swimming Pool Trust was selected as the beneficiary of the fundraiser. We asked Rebecca Edwards and Rekha Percival, the organisers of the event, why? And while at it, we couldn’t resist asking how they decided on gothic glam as the theme for the evening.

Rebecca and Rekha organised and hosted last year’s Whitianga Charity Fundraiser, the Bollywood Ball. The event raised more than $3,500 for the Coromandel Rescue Helicopter Trust. Earlier this year the two of them called for other local groups to apply to become the beneficiary of the 2014 fundraiser.

"We had such a hard time selecting the beneficiary of this year’s event," said Rebecca. "A number of exciting community projects are happening. But we felt the pool really brings something to everyone in our community, whether they are young or old or living in Whitianga or the wider Mercury Bay area. What’s more important than teaching your children to swim? Or giving people a place to train and exercise year round?

"The vision of the Swimming Pool Trust is to have a covered and heated year round swimming pool facility for the community. We would like to help them to achieve that."

About a gothic glam-themed ball, Rekha said, "That was almost has hard as choosing a charity. Between Rebecca and I we had a number of ideas and in the end decided on the one that will be like nothing else people can attend in Mercury Bay."

The Gothic Glam Ball will, like the Bollywood Ball, take place in a marquee off Whitianga’s Racecourse Road. Rebecca and Rekha are already hard at work on ideas to transform the marquee into a gothic cathedral. "The marquee is really like a blank canvas, which is great, but we can get a bit excited and have to reel our ideas back sometimes," said Rebecca.

The fundraiser will take place on 18 October. Tickets are $65 each and can be purchased by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or contacting Rebecca on 866 5141 or Rekha on 866 5239.

More details are on the Facebook page of Whitianga Charity Fundraiser.

Tairua dreamboat gets first dunking

It was the beginning of a new era for Tairua boat builder, Russell George, as his labour of love, the "Betty G" set out en-route for her first dip in the ocean.

After 13 years on a hard stand outside the family home, the big white boat, named after Mr George’s wife, was carefully loaded onto the back of a semi-trailer. One of Mr George’s good friends suggested a life-sized cardboard cutout be erected on the lawn to soften the glaringly obvious reality the boat is no longer there.

Transportation of the landscape landmark was kept quiet, but the news seeped out and supporters turned away from their morning routines to witness the move. The humble Mr George looked happy the "Betty G" was finally on the move, but all the sudden action had his head in a spin - he couldn’t believe it was happening.

When the semi was ready to pull out for Whitianga, he checked his bronze cargo, the propeller, was carefully secured in the flatbed of the pilot vehicle. "It cost about six grand so I thought I better make sure it didn’t fall off," Mr George said.

As the "Betty G" transitioned Tairua’s Pepe Bridge, locals gathered to acknowledge the man who had realised his dream to build a comfortable boat for his wife, Betty.

With his preference to fix and build things rather than pay someone else to do it, Russell George is an example of a generation of people who did things for themselves - a DIY poster boy in the truest sense.

He had initially predicted he could transform what was little more than an empty hull into a sleek ocean-going vessel within a couple of years, but he was wrong. Pursuing his retirement project with an unrelenting and patient determination kept him toiling away from the sea he loved and tied fast to terra firma.

The retired commercial crayfisherman - and tractor mechanic by trade - designed and crafted nearly every component of the "Betty G" over 13 long and arduous years fraught with difficulties.

With the "Betty G" permanently gone from the front lawn of his Tairua home, the wiry 76-year-old said, "It’s one hell of a load off my system." Now that his girl - a 12 metre long, sedan-style, 15 tonne displacement launch - is temporarily on a hard stand in Whitianga, Mr George mostly feels relieved his wife no longer has to play second fiddle to a boat.

With the clarity of hindsight, Mr George wouldn’t have embarked on the build all those years ago if he had known just how complicated and costly it would be.

The move from Tairua to Whitianga Marina, including the quick dunk in the water and positioning on the hard stand there, took less than three hours. When the straddle truck lowered his dreamboat into the water, she just sat there, perfectly balanced.

There was less than a 5mm difference between the anti-fouling line and the water line. "That was a little plus for me, not that I engineered it," he laughed.

Mr George and his two sons, Rex and Paul, sat down for a sandwich and a celebratory beer at midday, before they took advantage of the fine weather, "to do a little sanding."

Used to working quietly on his own, and often standing around scratching his head about how to fix a problem, having his sons with him sped up the rate in which last minute tasks were completed - and Mr George said his mind struggled to keep up with the pace.

Before the "Betty G" takes her maiden voyage home to Tairua, the George boys have to put the tape up to the correct level, put on the propeller, the exhaust, the radar tower and the vents for the aft heads.

"We’ll take a beetle up and down the harbour to check there are no unexpected problems before we take her home. Then I’d like Betty to smash something on it and bless it, you know, what do they say, "I name this boat Betty G and God bless all who sail on her."

Tairua dreamboat gets first dunking

It was the beginning of a new era for Tairua boat builder, Russell George, as his labour of love, the "Betty G" set out en-route for her first dip in the ocean.

After 13 years on a hard stand outside the family home, the big white boat, named after Mr George’s wife, was carefully loaded onto the back of a semi-trailer. One of Mr George’s good friends suggested a life-sized cardboard cutout be erected on the lawn to soften the glaringly obvious reality the boat is no longer there.

Transportation of the landscape landmark was kept quiet, but the news seeped out and supporters turned away from their morning routines to witness the move. The humble Mr George looked happy the "Betty G" was finally on the move, but all the sudden action had his head in a spin - he couldn’t believe it was happening.

When the semi was ready to pull out for Whitianga, he checked his bronze cargo, the propeller, was carefully secured in the flatbed of the pilot vehicle. "It cost about six grand so I thought I better make sure it didn’t fall off," Mr George said.

As the "Betty G" transitioned Tairua’s Pepe Bridge, locals gathered to acknowledge the man who had realised his dream to build a comfortable boat for his wife, Betty.

With his preference to fix and build things rather than pay someone else to do it, Russell George is an example of a generation of people who did things for themselves - a DIY poster boy in the truest sense.

He had initially predicted he could transform what was little more than an empty hull into a sleek ocean-going vessel within a couple of years, but he was wrong. Pursuing his retirement project with an unrelenting and patient determination kept him toiling away from the sea he loved and tied fast to terra firma.

The retired commercial crayfisherman - and tractor mechanic by trade - designed and crafted nearly every component of the "Betty G" over 13 long and arduous years fraught with difficulties.

With the "Betty G" permanently gone from the front lawn of his Tairua home, the wiry 76-year-old said, "It’s one hell of a load off my system." Now that his girl - a 12 metre long, sedan-style, 15 tonne displacement launch - is temporarily on a hard stand in Whitianga, Mr George mostly feels relieved his wife no longer has to play second fiddle to a boat.

With the clarity of hindsight, Mr George wouldn’t have embarked on the build all those years ago if he had known just how complicated and costly it would be.

The move from Tairua to Whitianga Marina, including the quick dunk in the water and positioning on the hard stand there, took less than three hours. When the straddle truck lowered his dreamboat into the water, she just sat there, perfectly balanced.

There was less than a 5mm difference between the anti-fouling line and the water line. "That was a little plus for me, not that I engineered it," he laughed.

Mr George and his two sons, Rex and Paul, sat down for a sandwich and a celebratory beer at midday, before they took advantage of the fine weather, "to do a little sanding."

Used to working quietly on his own, and often standing around scratching his head about how to fix a problem, having his sons with him sped up the rate in which last minute tasks were completed - and Mr George said his mind struggled to keep up with the pace.

Before the "Betty G" takes her maiden voyage home to Tairua, the George boys have to put the tape up to the correct level, put on the propeller, the exhaust, the radar tower and the vents for the aft heads.

"We’ll take a beetle up and down the harbour to check there are no unexpected problems before we take her home. Then I’d like Betty to smash something on it and bless it, you know, what do they say, "I name this boat Betty G and God bless all who sail on her."

Family fun day at Mercury Bay Multi-Sport Park a great success

The opening of and the family fun day held at the new Mercury Bay Multi-Sport Park was a great success.

"We want to say a huge thank you to everyone who came along, as a player, a coach, a volunteer or just as a member of the public," said Mercury Bay Community Board chairman Paul Kelly. "It was fantastic to see so many of our community enjoying the facility on the day and it is a hugely positive milestone in the history of the Sport Park. We are looking forward to many more."

Several hundred people turned up on the day to see Mercury Bay sports teams playing netball, rugby, rugby league and football.

"This was a real family and community focused event and an opportunity for everyone to come and learn about the sports they could get involved with at the park and to see what our facility has to offer," said Thames Coromandel District Council Sport Park co-ordinator Sue Costello.

The Sport Park will also be the base for the Goldrush Rally of New Zealand in August.

Surveying work almost finished for section of proposed Cathedral Coast Walk

Land and quantity surveying for the first section of the proposed Cathedral Coast walk is almost complete.

According to Thames Coromandel District Council this will give them a true sense of how much Phase 1A, from what is known as the "Blowhole," just below the “Narnia” site, on through to Pa Road at Hahei,- will cost.

The land where the track is to be built is predominately owned by the Department of Conservation.

Cathedral Cove via Lees Road through to the Purangi Estuary is being proposed as Phase 1B and a Hot Water Beach back dune track is Phase 2.

"We know that Phase 1A will need to establish a walking track, safe viewing platforms along with landscaping," said TCDC project spokesperson Garry Towler. "So, aside from any Council money, we're preparing to lodge funding applications with external sources.”

TCDC has allocated $275,000 towards Phase 1A and 1B of the project in their 2014/2015 draft Annual Plan.

Earlier this year experienced track builder John Gaukrodger was brought onto the project team with the responsibility of developing the route, liaising with landowners, resolving boundary and access issues and the construction and building of the track. Mr Gaukrodger's position is funded by the Department of Conservation, who are partners in the project, along with local iwi, Ngati Hei.

Once external funding is confirmed and consents and design have been signed off, the actual build of Phase 1A should take only a couple of months to complete.

Learn more about walks in the Whitianga area.

Coromandel communities well-represented on Conservation Board

Coromandel MP Scott Simpson is pleased our region’s communities are well represented on Waikato’s Conservation Board.

He made the comments after the Department of Conservation announced who’s got the nod for its regional boards.

“I want to congratulate the Coromandel locals who’ve been appointed, or reappointed. They are Arthur Hinds from Whenuakite, Kevin Robinson from Thames, David Taipari from Ngatea and Joyce Birdsall from Tairua,” Mr Simpson said.

“The Coromandel is blessed with New Zealand’s finest natural surroundings. Our representatives’ local knowledge will directly benefit our communities. That’s because they’ll advise the New Zealand Conservation Authority and Department of Conservation about planning here.”

“This year, boards will be looking harder at promoting recreation opportunities and tourism on conservation land, and enhancing relationships with iwi/hapū.”

Tairua and Pauanui in numbers

Following on from our recent statistical profile of Whitianga, this is the profile of Tairua and Pauanui. Information that has been gathered from Statistics New Zealand census and other official statistics can help you understand the dynamics of these communities.

Just over 2,000 people live in the area, 1,269 in Tairua and 741 in Pauanui Beach. There has been a net loss in population since the 2001 Census of 150 people with Tairua losing 13 per cent (192) of its community while Pauanui has grown by 42. There are as many men as there are women in each community.

Tairua residents are mainly European (81.6 per cent) with a Maori community of 11.1 per cent and the balance from a diverse number of cultures. Pauanui also has a predominant European base (78.2 per cent) but a much smaller (4.2 per cent) Maori population. One fifth of this Coromandel community were born overseas with the most common birthplace being the UK and Ireland. Almost everyone speaks just one language (English) with just 27 people fluent in Maori.

Almost 60 per cent of the people (over the age of 15) living in the area are married, and of the rest, half have never married and half are separated, divorced or widowed. Nearly 30 per cent of people in Tairua and nearly 40 per cent of people in Pauanui aged 15 years and over who have never married, live with a partner. In Tairua, couples with children make up a third of all families (in Pauanui it is less than 20 per cent), while couples without children account for more than half of all families. Less than 10 per cent of families are one-parent-with-children families.

In Tairua, 28.6 per cent (Pauanui Beach, 23.2 per cent) of people aged 15 years and over have no formal qualifications however the rest have a secondary school and/or post-school qualification. This may be a factor contributing to the low unemployment rate in this area of just 2.1 per cent compared to 5.2 per cent for all of Waikato Region. Like Whitianga, managers make up 20 per cent of the workforce, while professionals, technicians and labourers each account for 15 per cent of the employed community. Community and personal service, clerical and administration and sales workers are each 10 per cent of the workforce.

In Tairua, the average annual income per person is even lower than Whitianga - just $18,400 with more than half of the people aged 15 years and over having an annual income of $20,000 or less. Only 11 per cent earn more than $50,000 per year. For Pauanui incomes are better with the average annual income per person at $21,700 with less than half of the people aged 15 years and over having an annual income of $20,000 or less. 16 per cent earn more than $50,000 per year.

There are 603 dwellings in Tairua and 403 in Pauanui Beach and more than half of these are privately occupied with or without a mortgage and just half of the households have access to the Internet.

For two such apparently diverse communities, Tairua and Pauanui Beach share mostly similar statistics borne out of their geographic location, community profile and economy. Both communities add significantly to the beauty and richness of the Coromandel region.

Learn more about Whitianga.

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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.