Thursday, 17 October 2019


Major Event Fund recipients announced

Recipients of the 2014 first round of Thames Coromandel District Council’s Major Events Fund have been announced.

The following events have been allocated sponsorship -

Leadfoot Festival - $40,000. This is a unique weekend in Hahei bringing together a mix of classic cars, vintage motorcycles and motorsports legends.

Thunderbeach - $5,000. This is a three day Motorcycle Rally based out of Mercury Bay.

Tairua Wet ‘n Wild - $5,000. This is two days wet and wild jetski action on Tairua Harbour.

Thames Festival of Mindsports - This is a weekend of sports that challenge the mind including sudoku, chess, dungeons and dragons and much more ($5,000 from the second round of funding).

There will be another funding round later this year. For more details, see the TCDC Major Events Fund webpage.

The decision was made by the TCDC Economic Development Committee.

"The committee has made decisions on events that have the most potential to grow economic returns to the district, over time, and those most closely aligned to the intent and criteria of our event strategy," said TCDC Mayor Glenn Leach. "It was a tough series of decisions to make."

Kyla McLeans book about ZK MBA released

Kyla McLean’s book about ZK-MBA, the VANS RV12 aeroplane Mercury Bay Area School built during 2012 and 2013, has today been released. Kyla is a Year 12 student at MBAS.

“It’s a coffee table book, 74 pages with seven chapters,” said Kyla. “Early on in the building of the plane Mr Bosson [MBAS teacher in charge of the aeroplane build] asked me if I would like to do a book about the project. I didn’t hesitate to say yes.

“I was involved in the yearly MBAS magazine from when I was nine years old. It was great fun to put the book together.”

For the two years the project was ongoing, Kyla often visited the “building site,” talked almost every week to some of the students who worked on the project and had fortnightly catch-ups with Karlos Bosson.

The first four chapters of the book, titled "The Plane Project," deal with the students and community mentors who were involved in the project, the following two chapters recall what happened in each of the two years of the project and the last chapter acknowledges all the people and businesses that supported the project.

Kyla didn’t just write the book, she also did the layout and most of the negotiations with the printers.

Asking her what her overwhelming impression of the project was, she didn’t hesitate to say the generosity and dedication of Jim Evans, the driving force behind the project and the idea of a permanent aviation programme at MBAS. “Jim is a gentleman,” said Kyla. “He’s soft spoken, but he gets things done. I’ve learnt a lot from him.”

The first print run of the book is 200 copies. 30 of the copies will go to all the people who were involved in the project. The rest can be purchased at a cost of $30 each. Please enquire from The Informer’s offices if you would like to buy one of the copies. All the profits from the sale of the book will go to the Mercury Bay Student Aviation Trust, the new joint venture trust between MBAS and the Mercury Bay Aero Club.

Kyla is now mentoring a Year 7 student in putting together a book for the restoration of the Taylor Coot amphibian plane MBAS students are involved in at the moment.

Kyla’s involvement in the ZK-MBA project will never be forgotten. There was a proposal and it was unanimously carried - the plane (ZK-MBA) from now forevermore will be known as “Skyla.”

Do unto others

Mercury Bay’s Bill Smith, the “Clydesdale Man,” passed, but his legacy will live on.

On 10 July Mercury Bay lost one of its local icons. Bill Smith was born on 4 July 1929. He spent the last 30 years of his life on his farm, the 900 acre Twin Oaks Riding Ranch, between Whitianga and Kuaotunu.

Bill’s farewell on 15 July in the Whitianga Town Hall was a celebration of an extraordinary life, the life of someone who never realised he actually was larger than life.

Bill was one of 12 children. He grew up in Otorohanga and Tauranga and even in the early days had a twinkle in his eyes and a cheeky grin that meant he was up to some mischief. He was the one who tried to put the egg back into the hen or tied strings to bumblebees and tin cans to the cat’s tail.

He was tall and lanky and grew into a very good boxer, ultimately becoming the Waikato welterweight champion. Virtually every opponent he encountered in the boxing ring walked away with a broken nose. Bill quit boxing after the father of an opponent asked him to please not hurt his son too much.

As a young adult, Bill and his first wife, Frances moved to a remote sheep farm outside Wanganui. That’s where his love of deer and horses started to take shape. The next move was to a dairy farm at Gordonton, where Bill met Janice, his second wife. A total romantic, Bill courted Janice by taking her to the wrestling show "On the Mat." Occasionally he gave her a bunch of flowers, made up of the abundance of the farm - ragwort, gorse and naked ladies were favourites.

Bill established an Arabian stud farm at Gordonton and his pet deer, Bambi, was well known in the community.

Next stop for Bill, Janice and their family was a sheep farm at Glen Murray north of Huntly. After six years, Bill decided it was time to pursue his dream of establishing a horse trekking business and living near the beach. That’s when the family arrived in Mercury Bay.

A few years after their arrival on the farm between Whitianga and Kuaotunu, Bill got hold of and raised a baby deer, as he had done in the past. The pet deer lived with the horses that were part of Bill’s horse trekking business and for two years she was an attraction (or maybe a distraction) for passing motorists.

"For many years deer weren't allowed on the Coromandel," remembered Andrea Smith, one of Bill’s daughters. "One day some government department turned up and said our pet deer had to go. Bill said that wasn’t going to happen. The government people made all kinds of threats. Bill just said none of the threats were going to happen and the deer wasn’t going anywhere. Not long and that same government department arrived with a permit to farm deer. Because Bill stood his ground, our pet deer was safe."

A deer fence was put up and that made Bill think that it was a big fence for a single pet deer, so he started farming deer more seriously.

In 1993, Bill went to Martinborough and purchased two Clydesdale horses and a wagon for purposes of taking tourists around Whitianga on the wagon during the peak holiday season. The venture was a great success and gave Bill his nickname, the "Clydesdale Man."

Bill and his horses showed people the sights of Whitianga until 2010, when town became too busy for horses and a wagon to have safe passage.

"Bill taught us many things," said Andrea. "Good manners - he always wore his cowboy hat, but immediately took it off when inside, how to light a fire properly, how to ride a horse - his favourite saying was, ‘The horse will always buck straight,’ how to drive, how to box, the importance of a good, strong handshake and to always do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Bill is one of those people who achieved every single thing in life he wanted to achieve."

In addition to the more than 200 people who attended Bill’s farewell, Facebook reaction on his passing like "A fantastic, caring man," "A sweet, lovely gentleman," "A true gentleman," "A legend past, but not forgotten," "A legendary part of what this community is," "An awesome, awesome man" and
"A hard man to forget, he brought many happy memories to one and all," is testament to the level of respect Bill enjoyed in the Mercury Bay community.

After Bill’s farewell, Phil Nielsen, well-known bagpiper from Kuaotunu, led a procession of Bill’s hearse and 11 horses and their riders around the Whitianga CBD. In a way it was a community doing unto Bill as he had done unto them.

Entries for 2014 ANZ Flying Start businesss competition now open

Do you have a business idea that can do with some cash and specialist advice, or do you want to grow your business and a bit of money and help will come in handy? If so, why not consider entering the 2014 ANZ Flying Start business competition?

If your business or idea is geared for growth and can make a positive contribution to the local, national or global economy, you may just be successful.

To enter, you’ll have to submit a business plan in the template provided at If you make it through to stage two, you’ll need to submit a more detailed plan. The five entrants with the best detailed business plans will then be invited to Wellington to pitch their business or idea to a panel of experts.

Up for grabs is a prize package comprising of $30,000 cash, $5,000 worth of marketing advice, $5,000 worth of advertising in the NZBusiness Magazine and $5,000 worth of legal advice.

Coromandel MP, Scott Simpson is encouraging small businesses around the Peninsula to have a go at the competition. “We have many innovative businesses on the Coromandel and I want to see them grow.  Growing businesses mean more jobs. More jobs mean sustainable communities. And that’s good for our entire region,” he said.

Entries are open now and will close at 5:00pm on 12 August.

Good progress towards a permanent aviation programme at MBAS

The restoration of ZK-ECL, the Taylor Coot amphibian plane donated to the Mercury Bay Student Aviation Trust, a new trust established between Mercury Bay Area School and the Mercury Bay Aero Club, is going well. It’s the second aviation project students from MBAS are involved in. The first was the building of a new VANS RV12 aeroplane, which was completed last year.

"We have eight students involved in the restoration of the Coot," said Jim Evans, the driving force behind the aviation activities at MBAS and one of six members of the Mercury Bay community who act as mentors in the Coot restoration. "Two of the students have been involved in the building of the RV12. They both told me they would like to pursue a career in the aviation industry.

"The Coot itself isn’t in too bad a shape. We’ve stripped out the fuselage and are busy repairing damaged bits and pieces. We’ve also identified places where we can strengthen the plane and are busy manufacturing the components we need to achieve that.

"We haven’t looked at the engine or the instruments yet, but suspect a really good clean-up will go a long way in getting it all working again. I hope that we’ll have the plane back in the air by the middle of next year."

The restoration is overseen by Karlos Bosson, a teacher at MBAS. Karlos was also the teacher responsible for the building of the RV12.

According to Jim, the plan is for the trust to apply for some grant funding and also to sell the Coot once it’s restored and to use the money to either purchase another RV12 MBAS students can build or subsidise MBAS students who would like to learn to fly.

Good news in this regard is that the RV12 the school built last year has now been leased by the Mercury Bay Aero Club and will be made available for flying lessons and general flying by members of the club.

"I’m really glad the RV12 is going to stay in Mercury Bay," said Jim. "All the students who are now working on the Coot have already had a bit of training in the RV12 and there are certainly a few pilots among them.

"Our aim is to get the trust to such a point where an aviation programme can permanently become part of what MBAS can offer its students. I’m pretty sure we’re going to be able to achieve that."

New amenity building for Pauanui

After a decade of planning, the Pauanui Amenity Building is about to become a reality.

The location for the purpose-built GJ Gardiner building is in the middle of the Pauanui CBD. Construction is due to start at the end of July, with completion in early summer depending on the weather.

The amenity building will house the Community Library, information centre and a community meeting room. Tairua-Pauanui community Board Chair, Bob Renton is pleased the long and sometimes frustrating process is now behind them and that the building will be open to the public by Christmas.

"On behalf of the Community Board, I have to thank a number of people, especially Ken Bush - a local Pauanui builder, who has provided hundreds of his own hours on this project," said Mr Renton. "Thanks also to the Tairua-Pauanui Community Board and to all the staff at the Council for all the hard work and dedication in making this project a reality."

The traditional sod turning ceremony will take place at the site on 23 July at 10:00am.

First aerial poison drop on Great Mercury island completed

The first bait application to remove rats and feral cats from Great Mercury Island/Ahuahu has been safely and successfully completed.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) and the owners of Great Mercury Island - Sir Michael Fay and David Richwhite - are working together to remove these predators from Great Mercury to make the island a pest free sanctuary for native wildlife. 

“The level of community support for this project has been amazing” said DOC Project Manager, Pete Corson.  “The work to sustain a pest-free Great Mercury Island begins now and it is up to all of us to make sure the island remains pest free.  The message is simple.  Check your boats and gear for stowaway pests, tell everyone Great Mercury Island is pest free and enjoy a pest free Great Mercury Island.   Thank you all for your continued support,” said Mr Corson.

Removing the rats and feral cats from the island involves precisely targeted aerial applications of bait using specially designed buckets carried by helicopter. The helicopter pilots use satellite navigation (GPS) technology to ensure the bait is spread only where intended.

After three years of careful planning, helicopters have completed the first bait application on Great Mercury. A second, and final bait application, is scheduled to be carried out on Great Mercury from three weeks’ time, weather permitting.

Removing rats and feral cats from Great Mercury will make the island safe for resident populations of native birds including kaka, kakariki, and little blue penguins, plus native geckos, skinks and insects. It will also enable DOC to move endangered native wildlife onto Great Mercury in the future. 

The rats on Great Mercury also pose a threat to native wildlife on six other islands in the Great Mercury Group. That’s because several of these islands are within a rat’s swimming distance and rats could spread from island to island. 

These other islands - Red Mercury, Green Island, Atiu/Middle island, Kawhitu/Stanley Island Moturehu/Double Island and Korapuki - are all pest free nature reserves managed by DOC. The islands are nesting sites for seabird species of international importance, such as Pycroft's petrel.

DOC has used aerial applications of bait to safely and successfully remove pests from more than 60 islands. This includes Tiritiri Matangi, Little Barrier/Hauturu, Motuihe, Rangitoto and Motutapu in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. These islands now provide safe pest free havens for endangered native wildlife.

 For example Motutapu - 30 minutes by ferry from downtown Auckland - was declared pest free in August 2011. It now provides a safe home for 21 critically endangered takahē. There are only 260 takahē in total.

Pest free Motutapu is also helping secure the survival of Coromandel brown kiwi. Coromandel brown kiwi have been moved to Motutapu to establish a breeding population.  In the future Coromandel brown kiwi from Motutapu will be returned to the Coromandel boosting the number and genetic diversity of this rare kiwi.


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About The Lost Spring cafe manager, Bastille Day and salmon

Considering what is a good time to publish a story about a local French family, this week stood out. Yesterday (14 July) was Bastille Day and dad Sam, the new manager at and head chef of The Lost Spring Café, is about to enter the second annual Ōra King Awards.

Meet the Gosling family - there are also mum Severine, eleven-year-old Morgane and nine-year-old Mathis.

"We arrived in New Zealand in November 2011," said Sam, a trained French chef. "Severine and I used to own a restaurant in the mountains inland from the French Riviera. I was in the kitchen, Severine was front of house. We’ve had many guests from New Zealand. They were always so positive about their piece of the South Pacific. More out of curiosity than anything else we had a look on the internet and saw a big, beautiful country, but with only four million people. We were hooked.

"So, I sent a few CV’s out. And it wasn’t long before the emails started coming back. I ultimately accepted a job as head chef at Oreti Village in Pukawa at the south end of Lake Taupo. We wanted to go to a smaller place and it really worked for us."

"And just when we thought life couldn’t get any better, we visited Whitianga one weekend the end of last year and madly, completely fell in love with Mercury Bay.

"We went back to Pukawa and checked on the internet if there were any jobs going in Whitianga. It was such a pleasant surprise to see The Lost Spring was looking for someone to manage their café. I immediately contacted them, one thing lead to another and we permanently arrived in Whitianga the beginning of February, just in time for Morgane and Mathis to start their year at Mercury Bay Area School."

Sam said the outdoor lifestyle is the one thing that really attracted them to Mercury Bay. "And it’s a privilege to work at The Lost Spring," he added. "The pools and spa bring a lot of people to the area. I really want the café to add to the overall guest experience we offer."

Talking about the café menu, it’s difficult for Sam to hide his excitement. "It’s great to bring a bit of French technique to the great local produce I have available to work with," he said. And a good example of what he means is his entry into the Ōra King Awards - a competition where diners can nominate their favourite Ōra King salmon dish from anywhere in the world online (and go into the draw to win a $200 voucher at any restaurant serving Ōra King salmon). "I guess I want to create bit of Kiwiana," said Sam. "So, on The Lost Spring menu from this week will be an Ōra King salmon fillet seasoned with horopito pepper and served with a kina veloute, watercress pesto and pikopiko, the edible tip of an indigenous fern."

There’s little doubt that Sam and his family’s future is in Mercury Bay. "We’re here to stay," he said. "Morgane and Mathis love it at MBAS and Severine is very happy. We became New Zealand residents last year, the next step is citizenship. Not even on Bastille Day do we want to go back to France.

"All that’s missing is my salmon and watercress dish not yet having been named the Best Ōra King Dish of 2014."


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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.