Thursday, 12 December 2019


Wilderland debt to TCDC paid

A few weeks ago we reported on the predicament of Wilderland Trust in needing to pay more than $30,000 to Thames Coromandel District Council to settle an unforeseen development contribution debt. The debt was paid in full on Tuesday last week.

This is what we’ve received from Russel Mooyman, chairman of the trust -

This month Wilderland Trust needed urgent help to pay an outstanding debt to Council. The public responded with resounding positivity and enough donations were made to pay the debt in full.

We wish to extend our heartfelt thanks for the kind support from our local Mercury Bay community and the wider community of our priceless Peninsula.

Fruit trees will be planted at Wilderland and named in honour of many generous benefactors, bringing a sweet reminder of their gift for years to come. And as a small act of thanks to the local community some of our team spent Wednesday morning collecting rubbish along the full stretch of Buffalo Beach, including two-year-old Maya Perez and 82-year-old Gordon Hammond.

With the debt paid, this is the last hurdle in our efforts to bring Wilderland into compliance with today’s Council regulations. And with this behind us,
we look forward to progressing our plans to broaden Wilderland’s public service. A visitor centre is in the planning stage, which, when complete, will provide greater opportunity for learning experiences in sustainability.

If you’d like to know more about what’s going on at Wilderland, please visit our roadside shop on SH25, 14km south of Whitianga, and speak to one of our many volunteer shopkeepers, or visit our website


TCDC happy with Freedom Camping bylaw ruling

Thames Coromandel District Council is satisfied with the ruling in the case where the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association applied to overturn their Freedom Camping bylaw.

"On that point the NZMCA has failed," said TCDC Executive David Hammond. "While this will be regarded as a win for Council in most people's books, when you have to spend as much as we did to defend a bylaw in Court, no one really wins.

"NZMCA wanted to prove our bylaw was illegal, that it breached the Bill of Rights and we didn't have the information to back our restricted and prohibited areas - they said that our bylaw was the opposite of what the law required. On all these accusations the High Court Judge did not support them. It means that the Coromandel community can have the confidence that the Bylaw they put in place in 2011 is completely legal and fully enforceable."

According to TCDC, all challenges by NZMCA, apart from several minor technical and procedural points, have been dismissed. "There are a lot of implications for local government. Communities can again have the confidence to set their own Freedom Camping bylaws without the threat of legal action constricting their aspirations. And we've greatly appreciated that the Courts respect the democracy of local areas to make responsible decisions for themselves," said Mr Hammond. "My team is available to advise local councils across the country on how to develop robust Freedom Camping bylaws.

"With that in mind, we're also a long way down the track in reviewing our Freedom Camping bylaw to make it even more responsive. Between June and July we held public submissions on our new bylaw. This week our Council were in hearing and deliberations are scheduled for September in time for a new Freedom Camping bylaw to be out by this summer.”

The ruling -

  • Confirmed TCDC’s existing 2011 Freedom Camping Bylaw is legal. It is enforceable and remains untouched. Two clauses of different bylaws are revoked where it was found that technically they contradicted the Freedom Camping Bylaw. Clauses 203.5 of the public places bylaw and 2003.5 of the parking bylaw are revoked and not to be used when enforcing Freedom Camping infringements.
  • Amendments made to TCDC’s Freedom Camping bylaw on 13 March and 27 November 2013 to open up new areas for freedom camping are quashed. This means TCDC has reverted back to their 2011 Freedom Camping Bylaw. The new areas have today been closed to motor caravans as a result of the court ruling.
  • Means that in future, Freedom Camping in the Thames Coromandel district shall be governed by the Freedom Camping bylaw or amendments to the bylaw, which removed any doubt about other potentially conflicting legislation.


Louise Nicholas visit a good opportunity to think about prevention

Louise Nicholas’ upcoming visit to Whitianga on 10 September is a good opportunity for families to think about prevention of child sexual abuse. Rachel Harrison, project leader in the CAPS Hauraki Right2BSafe child sexual abuse prevention campaign said that too many adults are crossing their fingers and hoping that their child will not be targeted.

"There are some simple things adults can do to make their children safer from child sexual abuse - starting from the moment you first have a baby. Using the correct names for your baby’s body parts is a good place to start. This is because children who use proper names for their genitals are less likely to be targeted and more likely to be believed if they try and tell about abuse."

Rachel also said that upskilling yourself and talking with children about appropriate and inappropriate touch and encouraging them to tell a trusted adult (and to keep telling) until someone helps are also good strategies.

"Silence is what keeps putting children at risk. When we don’t talk about healthy sexuality and sexual abuse, children learn that we are not OK with hearing about it.

"Kids will not tell you about inappropriate touching if you are not open to hearing. Every day we have opportunities to let children know that we are willing to listen to them and show them that what they think and feel is important. It is up to us adults to make the difference for children so they are safer."

Prevention strategies are available online at in the "Get Info" section of the website. CAPS Hauraki also has a Facebook page where easy to follow tips and strategies are sent out every couple of weeks.

CAPS Hauraki is a child abuse prevention service in Thames which has been running the Right2BSafe Campaign across the Hauraki and Thames Coromandel Districts for the past three years. The campaign has involved local champions who have appeared in posters and billboards modelling strategies to help keep children safe.

To date, the campaign has focused on parents and caregivers, but this year it’s focusing on the whole of the community. "If we want to have a world where child sexual abuse never happens, then the whole of our society needs to work toward this together," Rachel said. "It is not just about parents and caregivers. Schools, clubs, local councils, workplaces, media, everyone can do something to help.

"Whether it is having the right screening processes for people who work with children, to encouraging a violence free environment, we can do something to prevent child sexual abuse. We all have to be a part of the solution."

Rachel will be attending the Louise Nicholas talk at 7:00pm at Mercury Bay Area School on 10 September and will have free prevention resources available.

High Court found TCDCs Freedom Camping Bylaw lacking

NZMCA President Bruce Stanger is hailing the long-awaited High Court judgement over the Thames Coromandel District Council’s consolidated freedom camping bylaws as “a tremendous result” for the organisation.

Delighted that Justice Cooper’s decision has upheld the vast majority of the NZMCA’s concerns with the legality of TCDC’s consolidated freedom camping by-laws, Mr Stanger says the key aspects of the judgement include -

The amendments TCDC made to its Freedom Camping by-law in 2013 were unlawful.

TCDC’s use of Parking Control and Public Places by-laws as an integral part of the council’s consolidated freedom camping by-laws were illegal.

As a result, Justice Cooper has ordered that the Council’s 2013 amendments be “severed from the Freedom Camping bylaw and quashed.” He has directed the council to revoke clauses of their Parking Control and Public Places bylaws as part of their consolidated freedom camping bylaw and finally to not enforce these by-laws any longer.

“That’s great news for our members who were only ever interested in responsible freedom camping,” said Mr Stanger.

“This decision means they now know that they can no longer be served with unlawful infringement notices, which vindicates the Association’s stance in taking this High Court action.

“With Justice Cooper having ordered that the illegal clauses now be removed from TCDC’s bylaws we can have confidence that the remaining bylaw will meet the requirements of the Act.”

TCDC is busy reviewing its Freedom Camping bylaw. Public submissions on a draft bylaw closed a month ago.

Continuing Care concerns

The beginning of this month Oceania Group, the owners of Whitianga Continuing Care, announced to their Whitianga staff that a roster review was to be undertaken and once input from all staff members have been considered, a new staffing structure will become operational.

According to a proposal put forward by Oceania more part time staff will be utilised at the facility, thereby reducing overtime, absence will be reduced and efficiencies in cleaning and kitchen processes will enhance the living environment of Continuing Care residents.

Many people expressed concern to The Informer that Oceania’s proposal will mean an overall cut to staff hours and a drop in the standard of service provided by the facility. Mike Brown, a Whitianga local whose mother is resident in Continuing Care, and another prominent local who are at the moment a Continuing Care resident, and who requested to remain anonymous, were happy to put their concerns on paper. We presented their concerns to Oceania for comment.

Mike summarised his concerns as follows -

What are the factors that create the change? In our experience some of the key factors are –

  • Head office pressure for continuing additional shareholder profit.
  • The ability of the local manager to balance the demand for profit against providing a happy staff environment, which promotes a caring and safe environment for the residents.
  • Pressure to relax good and safe clinical standards for the treatment of the residents to increase profitability.

What do the residents families want for their loved ones?

  • A clean and safe environment.
  • A homely environment with responsive and caring staff looking after them.
  • A well-managed facility compliant with the published goals and standards in the facility’s promotional literature and compliant with the standards set out by the District Health Board and the Health and Disability Act.
  • Good communication from staff to the residents’ families, especially when issues arise.

In the past the care provided by Continuing Care staff has been exemplary.

The latest proposal from Oceania is asking staff to provide the same level of care with considerably reduced hours of work and all staff members are concerned about the care levels they will be able to provide to the residents in the future.

Staff concerns about the new staffing roster as communicated to the residents’ families are many and are summarised under the following generic categories –

  • Reduced hygiene of residents.
  • Concerns over the health and safety of residents and staff.
  • Concerns over staff burnout and stress.
  • Concerns over clinical safety and maintaining standards.
  • Concerns over time to complete compliance paperwork.

Recently residents’ families have started to look more carefully at the cleanliness of the facility and were disgusted to find that the same mop heads used to clean the bathrooms and toilets in the residents’ rooms were not sanitised between rooms. How does this comply with the infection control requirements of a hospital care facility?

We believe Oceania documentation claims a wage to revenue ratio of 65 per cent. We crunched the numbers as the revenue the facility receives is shown in the invoices to the families and the hourly rates of staff members have been given to us. Our wage to revenue analysis showed this to be in the range of 30 to 40 per cent of revenue.

As family of the residents and Oceania’s clients, we are still waiting to be informed formally from Oceania Group as to how these staff cuts will affect our loved ones for the better as claimed. We would like to ask Oceania when they propose to let the people funding their facility know how these changes will maintain previous standards.

To us reducing staffing hours for staff already struggling to complete shifts makes no sense.

The prominent local who is at the moment a Continuing Care resident summarised his concerns as follows -

It has come to our notice (and tangata whenua) that moves are afoot to restructure and downsize the level of care being provided at the Oceania Continuing Care Facility in Whitianga.

This is not the type of "hard-nosed" culture being forced upon the Continuing Care facility anyone in Whitianga wants to see or condone.

This is a community facility, originally set up for the nurture, care and health of our senior citizens of this close knit town. By the business and care manager’s own admission on first impression here, I quote, "I was immediately impressed with Continuing Care, its staff and with Whitianga and the Mercury Bay area (Craig Scaman 4 March 2014).

So why are there moves to change our culture here and the excellent standard of care being provided by very caring, qualified and competent nursing staff?

If this draconian restructure result in shorter staff numbers or resignations because of higher and unreasonable workloads, then it is obvious that the standard of care here is seriously compromised. Vulnerable senior citizens and tangata whenua are at great risk and families suffer accordingly. This is not acceptable, nor in accord with the caring culture established in this facility originally.

The only conclusion that can be made is that offshore investors and profit margins are dictating such moves in this scenario.

As a long time concerned local who has had an ongoing association with this facility over 12 years, through four family members being cared for here as well as providing musical entertainment and through ministry, we are qualified to comment.

This letter is written to highlight the serious nature and implications of such a scenario on our care facility.

Craig Scaman, business and care manager at Continuing Care, responded to the written concerns as follows -

We appreciate this is a very emotive issue for many staff, residents and families. We are undertaking a roster review for a number of reasons.

We wish to look at skill mix in order to provide improved consistency of care over each day of the week and we are working with staff reviewing work schedules and position descriptions to assess how we can do things better, ie activities, cleaning and care delivery.

In order to do this, we have gone out to all staff and asked for proposals as to how they see task allocations, hours of work and how these can best benefit our residents.

Involving all staff during consultation in looking at quality improvements does take time and we appreciate this can be unsettling for many involved. This isn't an opportunity to make cuts to hours. Oceania is and has been reviewing all rosters at all facilities in looking to improve service delivery, indeed certain roles have benefitted from increased hours at other facilities when shortfalls in service have been identified.

At this stage the roster review is very much in proposal form, a starting point from which meaningful discussion can take place. Any changes will be made in line with the Ministry of Health safe staffing guidelines to ensure the best possible outcome for all involved.

With regard to Mr Brown’s comment about mop heads, we continue to use separate mop heads for rooms and bathrooms, as has always been the case.

Continuing Care is an essential facility in Whitianga and the wider Mercury Bay area. It’s a unique facility with a rich history and it’s important that all stakeholders - residents and their families, staff and owners - are happy. We will in a later issue of The Informer look in more detail into the history of the facility and its place in the Mercury Bay community.

Are you interested in getting more involved in the local community? Visit this link to learn about clubs and groups in and around Whitianga.


Scalloping with Captain Karl

The alarm went off at 3:00am. It just felt wrong. Brain fog clouded my consciousness as I layered up in preparation for a day on the ol’ briney with scallop fisherman, Captain Karl Aislabie.

His boat, the Kataraina, wasn’t hanging around if I didn’t make it to the wharf on time, so I grabbed a banana, slammed the door behind me and headed for Whitianga. Outside, it was freezing.

Karl only eats about a dozen scallops a year. That seemed difficult to comprehend for a lover of the tiny and tasty little morsels. "By the end of the day you’ll see why," he chuckled.

As romantic as the ocean is, a commercial fishing boat is a workplace and safety is top priority. Captain Karl explained how to operate the emergency position-indicating radio beacon and indicated the location of the life raft and survival suits.

The big steel thing on the back is the dredge, the business end, and that was a no go zone. The pointy end is the bow, a go zone, as long as I wasn’t intending to jettison myself over and out of my "day in the life of a scallop fisherman."

Kataraina’s lines were cast off. In darkness we headed out of Mercury Bay, following the navigation lights of Una-rae, skippered by Karl’s son-in-law. Behind us was Kuranui, owned by Karl’s brother’s wife’s brother (no tongue twister intended).

The stars of Orion were bright in the sky and the moon illuminated the gentle roll of the sea. We passed the rocky outcrops of The Twins (Motumanga) and went around the headland to Otama Beach on the Coromandel’s northeast coast.

Cruising at nine knots, it took two hours to reach the fishing ground. Karl released the heavy brake on the hydraulic winch, and the steel cable unspooled, dropping the heavy eight-foot dredge to the sea floor.

We towed for about 15 minutes before the dredge was pulled up and emptied onto a wooden platform mounted across the stern. Amidst the sounds of the winch groaning and the tang of metal contacting metal, scallops, starfish and other sea critters were shaken out of the dredge and onto the table.

Karl and his deck hand, Bruce Hunter were super fast sorters. I pulled on a pair of big, yellow fishermen’s gloves to lend a hand picking the pile. We sorted the scallops into Kataraina’s red bins, throwing the by-catch back into the water.

Gulls wheeled overhead alert to the opportunity of a quick meal. Una-rae and another boat in the fleet, Unity, worked the area too. The fleet fish as a team, not like the cat and mouse games on reality TV - where fishermen battle the elements and each other to bring in the catch.

There were very few undersized scallops that came aboard. Anything borderline was measured against devices mounted on the edge of the sorting table - 90mm is the minimum-take size. Any rubbish that came up (old fishing lines, plastic, etcetera) was separated out so it could be disposed of on-shore.

After 27 tows, and six long and cold hours dredging, Kataraina’s work was done. We had filled our 30 bins of scallops and it was time to head in. Hallelujah. I was exhausted.

Never had a truer word been spoken, when Karl had said I would understand why he rarely ate scallops. Scalloping is hard graft. By 11:00am my fingers were hurting and I had been ready to go home. I couldn’t imagine having to repeat the day.

Karl and Bruce were in good humour and cooked up some homemade sausages that we (ravenously) ate with bread and sauce.

When we got back to the wharf, it was 4:00pm and Whangamata Seafood’s truck was waiting to unload us. We had 692 kgs of fresh Coromandel scallops on board.

Commercial fishermen like Karl and Bruce work hard so that people like us can buy scallops from the supermarket. Go them! The goal, Karl said, "Is to be here for the long term. We always leave enough fish on the ground to reseed."

Coromandel dark horse in Goldrush Rally

Coromandel’s Alex Kelsey could be the dark horse of the VINZ Goldrush Rally of Coromandel.

His home built special, which looks like a small Peugeot hatchback, has the potential to upset the frontrunners on the nine stage 133km event, which is based out of Whitianga.

Dubbed MC2 (for Mad Creation 2), the car has a space frame chassis designed and built by Kelsey and some friends, clothed in a locally made fibreglass body that has more than a passing resemblance to a small Peugeot, "because it looks sexy."

All the major components have been chosen to fit into the compact package. Power comes from a 3.5 litre Renault V6 engine which is used in European single seater racing. Its wail on full song is unmistakeable.

Power is fed to all four wheels by a French sourced Sadev six-speed gearbox and four-wheel-drive transmission. Kelsey has made steering wheel mounted paddle shifters to make life a little easier in the cockpit while racing through a special stage.

The self-designed suspension includes wheels that were surplus to the requirements of the Ford works rally team and brakes which were original used by the Subaru World Rally Team.

The car has taken over two years to design and build when 22 year old Kelsey has not been doing engineering development work or helping at his parents quarrying business.

"I am really looking forward to the rally," said Kelsey. "We’ve had a few teething problems on the two events we’ve done so far. But I think we’ve got everything sorted out now."

An electrical fault side-lined them at the Queen’s Birthday Weekend’s Hawkes Bay Rally and then four weeks later a front suspension arm broke at the Wairarapa Rally.

But in both brief outings, the car showed it was competitive with the leading Subarus and Mitsubishis.

Kelsey he acknowledges he has a slight advantage over some of the other leading drivers, having driven the 309 Road which will be used for three stages on numerous occasions. And last year he competed in a rally sprint on the first part of what will be stages one and eight of the event.

"But I’ve never driven over the Tapu - Coroglen road," said Kelsey. "I’ve never had a reason to."

Argyle and Eyre fastest in Goldrush Rally of Coromandel

Stage 9, the final stage, of the Goldrush Rally of Coromandel has just finished with Geoff Argyle and Joelle Eyre in a Mitsubishi Lancer EVO8 achieving the fastest overall time.

Argyle and Eyre finished in a total time of 1:40:49.5, more than a minute ahead of the second fastest team of Phil Campbell and Venita Fabbro in a Mitsubishi EVO Lancer 9, who achieved a time of 1:41:53.4.

The third fastest time was a tight battle with Carl Davies and Tracey Millar finishing in a time of 1:42:03.8, only 1.2 seconds ahead of fourth placed Nigel Adams and Tanya Gwynne’s time of 1:42:05.0.

Richard and Sara Mason, who have already won the New Zealand Rally series (of which the Goldrush Rally is a part) had to withdraw during stage 6 after their Subaru Imprezza WRX STi suffered a snapped rear toe link.

The Mercury Bay community showed tremendous support for the rally with scores of people attending last night’s street party in Blacksmith Lane, Whitianga and today lining Joan Gaskell Drive in town watching the rally's two 1.17km super stages (stages 7 and 9).

Rally organisers said it’s most likely that the rally will return to Mercury Bay next year.


Latest business rest of site

Business One Limited

Business One Limited, Whitianga is a firm of friendly, accessible and dedicated professionals who provide a complete range of business, taxation and audit services.


Should The Whitianga Hotel's application for a new tavern licence have been refused?

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.