Tuesday, 18 February 2020


Mercury Bay authors and publisher at Auckland Independent Book Festival

New Zealand’s largest independent book festival is all set to go in Devonport on Saturday 16 August.

The Auckland Independent Book Festival is in response to major changes in New Zealand publishing in the last two or three years, in particular the withdrawal or reduction of services of major international publishers and the disappearance of several better known New Zealand companies. New publishing techniques, such as e-books, have played a major part in this changing landscape.

At the same time, new digital advances have made independent publishing much more economically viable. Far from a publishing desert being created, the new era has seen a flowering of new, smaller companies, and the rapid rise of skilled author-publishers.

More than 100 author-publishers, editors, publishers and illustrators from all over New Zealand have reserved tables at the festival.

Ian Meredith of Aries Publishing Ltd is a small publishing company, based in Whitianga. Ian will be bringing a directory he produces, “The Directory of Residential Camps,” to the festival. This is resource, which is distributed nationally and is for groups seeking accommodation and activities. Ian has also published three books with Coromandel Peninsula based authors.

Jan Hill lives at Whenuakite and her book, “When Chocolate fish are Flying,” is a poetry book richly illustrated by Lynda Vugler, who lives in Hahei. Jan’s poetry and Lynda’s illustrations are “set in a valley somewhere between the Coromandel Peninsula and the reader’s imagination.”

Ginney Deavoll’s book, “A Coast to Coast of the South Island. The Long Way,” is an encounter of her and her partner, Tyrell Browne’s paddling from Te Wae Wae Bay just west of Invercargill to Jackson’s Bay on the West Coast, mountain biking to Otira, then tramping to Farewell spit. The journey took three months and was 2,000km long. Ginney, based in Hahei, is an accomplished artist who has illustrated the book with her artistic impressions of the journey.

The event is free to the public and there is easy access for wheelchairs. A festival atmosphere will be created inside the St Pauls Chess Centre venue by a number of raffles with excellent prizes and a succession of varied speakers from the literary world.

News from the Whitianga Bike Park

Ray Hewlett, one of the founders and keepers of the Whitianga Bike Park, talks about the park.

After a less than warm and sunny holiday period it was good to see members of the public still able to make use of the cycle tracks and jumps at the Whitianga Bike Park when a few hours of fine weather presented itself.

Whilst we can’t get away from a bit of mud here and there, it’s great to see families having fun together - if not cycling, then enjoying the bush walks, petonque, frisbee golf and other entertainment areas that have been created.

It is a big job keeping up with presenting the different aspects of the park to the best of our abilities. Noel Hewlett (my brother) and I take pleasure in doing so, but when there’s storm damage, ti-tree and other obstructions being blown across the tracks, extra hours are required to clean up and we run out of time and energy. We appreciate help from every source we can get and many members of the community, when they had time to spare, helped in building some tracks and bridges, carting shells and levelling rough areas. This enables us to mow and improve the flowerbeds, etc. We know that they take pride in their work.

We would like to think there are more volunteers who may be able to give some time to help maintain the Bike Park’s standards and I am sure that those who have come to see it will agree it is an enjoyable place to be. The Lions Club arboretum of native trees is a special place to walk around, as is the stand of kauri trees.

We would like to thank those businesses and organisations that have helped in any way to keep the Park looking good. While some folk may think that being a Council-owned property we are getting a lot of input from them financially for maintenance, it is only the donation box that helps the facility to continue and to be available to the public free of charge.

All help and donations are much appreciated.

A local travel agent for 20 years

This is Jody Simpson’s 20th year with Monett Johnston who owns United Travel in Whitianga. It’s 20 years that have seen a lot of changes in the travel industry.

We caught up with Jody and Monett about experiences in the years they’ve been working together.

"I grew up in Paeroa and studied travel for two years in Hamilton," said Jody. "I then worked in travel wholesale in Auckland for two years, but really wanted to do retail. I wanted to be at the coal face, working with customers. The problem was that it was really difficult getting a job with a travel agency without experience. But Monett was happy to give me a chance. When I arrived in Whitianga, it was only the two of us. She taught me everything I know.

"In fact, I was here only three months and off she went on an educational trip to South Africa for a few weeks. Talk about being in at the deep end."

That was the time when computers slowly moved into fashion and the internet, as it’s being used today, was only a pipe dream. "We used to get all these thick books from the airlines with their fares in them," said Monett. We had to calculate exactly what a client would pay on every segment of their journey and add it all up. And if we got it wrong, we had to pay the difference.

"The first computerised system we could use was called MAARS. It did away with all those thick books. Then, of course, came the internet and that made the MAARS system look very old. The internet gave us a lot of freedom. With the push of a few buttons we can now see what all the airlines have to offer."

An important part of a travel agent’s job is gaining first-hand experience of the places and attractions they recommend to their clients. "I send each of the people working for me on at least one educational trip per year," said Monett. "That’s in addition to a lot of online learning we all do. The personal touch, I think, is why people will always continue to use travel agencies. We know and can recommend things you’ll never find on the internet."

Jody has travelled to more than 40 countries to date. Her favourites are Sri Lanka and the Greek Islands. "Sri Lanka is just so different," she said. "The people are lovely and the culture so interesting. In Greece the lifestyle is laidback and the sunshine is endless.

"And I’ve been to the Dubai recently, where I stayed in the $1,000 a night Armani Hotel. It was a pretty neat experience too."

There were many stand out incidents. "There are two I specifically remember," said Jody. "Once on a cruise ship, as I was about to go up a set of stairs,
this man came to me and asked, ‘Are these stairs going up?’ I was speechless.

"And then there was this family from Australia who holidayed in Matarangi a few summers ago when it was raining a lot. They just walked into the office one day and said they want some sunshine. Four days later they were on a plane to Florida. They wanted to fly in the best way possible and stay in the best hotels I could find. Believe it or not, just like that they spent $40,000."

Jody said her ideal holiday right now will be a cruise from Hawaii to Tahiti and New Zealand with her six year old daughter. "But when my daughter is older, an African safari is the one thing we’ll definitely do." And then she started to explain why, revealing all these secrets only travel agents know. Things you’ll never find on the internet.

Z Nail Gang to premiere in Whitianga

Z Nail Gang, the movie based on the successful Kuaotunu anti-mining protests in the 80’s will premiere in Whitianga next week Thursday, 14 August. 

It’s the story of a New Zealand Coastal town community living peacefully on the sheltered side of a treasured mountain and enjoying life at a leisurely pace. It all comes to an abrupt end, though, when a multi-national corporation announces that they’re going to explore for gold. The tightly-woven community is torn between those who welcome the promise of prosperity and those who are opposed to the mining of their mountain. One thing is for sure, unless they can come together as a unified front, they'll lose what's most precious to them - their community and the land it dwells on.

The movie seamlessly weaves heart-warming characters into a community and environmental themes into a comedy, all the way through portraying a single message - some things really are worth more than gold. Prominent in the story is a family similar to that of Mercury Bay locals Mark Tugendhaft and Nedilka Radojkovich and their boys Brani and Stefan, who were deeply involved in the Kuaotunu protests.

The movie was directed and produced by Anton Steel and Kylie DellaBarca-Steel from the Bay of Plenty. Anton is friends with Brani and started thinking about the movie when Brani told him about the protests on a drive to the Central North Island ski-fields about five years ago.

 The world premiere of Z Nail Gang took place on Thursday 31 July in Te Puke.

Mark said the movie is a perfect portrayal of their battle. “But people need to remember Kuaotunu was only one of a number of Coromandel communities that took on big business,” he said. “It’s because of the Coromandel that mining was kept out of our national parks and off the conservation estate. Let’s just hope that our good work will never be undone.

“The movie is sweet and sour. It’s funny and touching. My only criticism is that the actor who plays me is far more polite than what I was.” 

Reviews the movie has received to date include, “Moving, inspirational, funny,” “Staunch kiwiana, fun and strong, very cool,” “Thought provoking,” “A great home-grown movie, with current storyline and great humour as well.”

The movie will screen on Thursday in both theatres of Mercury Twin Cinemas in Whitianga. The doors will open at 5:30pm, with the VIP guests, including many of the people pivotal in the Kuaotunu protests, arriving at 6:00pm.

Salt Restaurant and Bar and New World Whitianga will be putting on “a free drink and nibbles” afterwards.     

The premiere will be a formal affair, an opportunity to dress up. Tickets cost $25 each and are available from The Lost Spring Information Centre in Whitianga, Kuaotunu Store and Luke’s Kitchen in Kuaotunu.  Z Nail gang is scheduled to screen to the public in Whitianga, so if you can’t make it to the premiere, make sure you catch it soon after. After all, it’s a movie about gold in the hearts of a Mercury Bay community.

Grahams Creek working party sets project principles

A multi-stakeholder working group set up to help manage ongoing flooding issues at Graham’s Creek in the Tairua area has established a set of project principles, including looking to achieve minimum cost.

The working group is made up of technical staff from Waikato Regional Council and Thames Coromandel District Council, regional councillors Stuart Husband and Clyde Graf and Tairua-Pauanui Community Board chairman Bob Renton, as well as six landowner representatives.

Besides looking to achieve minimum cost, a group workshop held recently decided that principles that would guide decision-making include -

  • The need to meet timeframes for council funding and agreements.
  • Achieving the highest level of flood protection for the greatest number of properties possible, that is cost effective and technically viable.
  • Providing for aesthetic values as much as possible.
  • Maximising ecological enhancement opportunities.
  • Taking an integrated catchment approach to the issues.
  • Providing for future planning and needs.
  • Being acceptable to the floodway landowner.

Meanwhile, TCDC is currently looking at design options for the causeway as part of the flood management approach and will have these reviewed by an independent engineer.

Mr Graf said input into the working group from local representatives was vital and valuable.

“Some great ideas for making this a project more than just ‘plain old stop banks’ will hopefully add features and solutions that don't end up being an eye-sore,” he said. 

“A guided walk by Derek Boyd around the creek and floodplain with the working group had helped focus ideas on ways to try to reduce the cost of the project, with local knowledge paying dividends. This is a project that may not be music to everyone's ears, but we are doing our best to try to produce a tune that can resonate with most.”

The working group’s establishment follows WRC’s decision to budget up to $600,000 for flood protection works this financial year and TCDC’s commitment in its 2014-2015 Annual Plan to upgrade the Manaia Road causeway bridge. One of the conditions attached to the funding is that a joint working group refines and confirms the works programme.

TCDC to hold rates rebate clinics

Thames Coromandel District Council is now taking applications for the 2014/2015 rates rebate year.

The TCDC Tairua-Pauanui office is holding two rates rebates clinics for anyone needing help applying or processing their rates rebate applications. The application form  can be downloaded from here or can be picked up from any of the TCDC offices. The closing date for applications is 30 June 2015.

The Rates Rebates Clinics are on -

Thursday 14 August 2014
9:30 am - 11:30 am
Pauanui Library

Thursday,14 August 2014
1:30 pm - 4:30 pm
Tairua Library, 2 Manaia Road

The Rates Rebate Scheme was established in 1973 to provide assistance to low-income homeowners on the cost of their rates. The Government increased the rates rebate thresholds for the 2014/15 rating year following a review that was recently completed.

The following changes came into effect from 1 July 2014 -

  • Maximum rebate has increased from $595 to $605.
  • Income threshold has increased from $23,870 to $24,250.

The additional income allowance for dependants will remain at $500 per dependant.

This means the income threshold for a full rates rebate for the 2014/15 year is $24,250 and is increased by $500 for each dependant in the household.

Although a ratepayer's income might exceed the income threshold, a rates rebate could still be available, depending on the rates amount and number of dependants.

The story of Lyon Park

In The Informer of 22 July 2014, Craig Fussy, a Whitianga resident for many years, expressed his concern about the possible intention of Thames Coromandel District Council to use Lyon Park during the summer months for overflow trailer boat parking.

Craig’s piece generated some reaction, including comments from Karen Campbell and a cartoon from Peter Grant, both long-time Whitianga residents with detailed knowledge of the history of Lyon Park. Both of them are supportive of Craig’s view that the park should never be used for parking of any kind.

We spoke to Karen and Peter about the history of Lyon Park.

It all began in February 1939 when the Mercury Bay Centennial Committee was formed to find a piece of land in Whitianga big enough for all types of sport to be played on in celebration of the centenary of the Dominion of New Zealand.

The committee first looked at a property near the old dairy factory (now the Mercury Bay Museum), but that was too expensive. At their fourth meeting on 2 June 1939, the committee discussed a 1.678ha waterfront property owned by Thomas Lyon next to the tennis courts.

Mr Lyon was a farmer, secretary of the Mercury Bay Dairy Company, lay preacher and actively involved in community affairs.

The minutes of the committee’s following meeting on 23 June 1939 read, "Mr Morrison [a committee member] proposed that Mr Lyon be given heartfelt thanks for the gift of the land."

As it turned out, Mr Lyon had indeed decided to gift the waterfront property to the people of Mercury Bay, not only as part of the New Zealand centennial celebrations, but also in memory of his deceased daughter Isabella (or "Belle" as she was more commonly known). The deed of gift was signed on 20 April 1940 and in its preamble it said, "Whereas the donor (as a public spirited resident of Whitianga), to provide facilities for recreation and sports and advance the welfare of the community and for the further purpose of commemorating his deceased daughter, has executed a Memorandum of Transfer…"

The land was named "The Mercury Bay Centennial and Lyon Park" and was administered by the then Coromandel County Council, who appointed the Centennial Committee to look after the park.

The land had a deep drain running through it and was full of flax and it was clear to all that a great fundraising and volunteer effort was going to be needed to get the land to such a state that it could be used for sporting activities.

World War II prevented anything to be done, however, as everyone put their energy into New Zealand’s effort in the war.

In 1947 the Centennial Committee reconvened and work to transform Lyon Park into a proper sporting facility started. It was a major volunteer effort from the entire community. In addition to the raising of money, many volunteers helped to pipe the drain, fence the park, grade and level the playing field and sort out adjacent drainage issues. April 1948 was a big month when the first order for 75lbs of grass seed and 5lbs of white clover was placed.

In the years that followed the community raised more money and volunteered many more hours to build buildings and a memorial gate and to maintain the park.

The Mercury Bay Tennis Club transferred the 1,467m² of land the tennis courts are on to the County Council in 1960.That was done on condition that, in the words of Amy Lee, a life member of the club, "… the Tennis Club continue to have free use of the land, providing the Tennis Club at their cost maintain and keep the facility in good condition."

With the transfer of the tennis court land competed, the park became known as Lyon Park.

In 1966, after 27 years of hard work to turn a rough piece of land into what Lyon Park is today, the Centennial Committee disbanded and the County Council took over the administration of the park.

In later years a lease for the park was signed with the Mercury Bay Rugby and Sports Club. That was followed by negotiations to transfer that part of the park closest to the water to the Whitianga Marina Society to, according to the minutes of a Mercury Bay Community Board meeting in 1991, "… hold some 100 cars which can cater for associated marina parking in peak times, leaving this available for the Mercury Bay Rugby & Sports Club during their sports season. The benefit of a green area was felt to be substantial."

According to Mr Fussey, this area of car parking is now the access way to the Whitianga Coastguard shed.

At the same Community Board meeting, the following was resolved, "That the Mercury Bay Community Board confirm that it will retain no less than that area of Lyon Park occupied by the Rugby Club and used as a sports field as public open space for recreational use, in perpetuity."

The Rugby Club lease is up for renewal and, according to Sam Marshall, Mercury Bay Area Office manager of Thames Coromandel District Council, one of the points of negotiation is the possibility of Lyon Park to be used "… as temporary trailer boat parking over peak periods as demand for marine facility infrastructure grows." Mr Marshall also added that, "The area is zoned reserve and there is strong regulation around what can be done on a public reserve. Lyon Park is a green belt and will remain so now and in the future."

Craig, Karen and Peter are of the view that parking of any kind that’s not related to activities on Lyon Park will be in breach of the deed of gift Mr Lyon signed in 1940. They’re also concerned that once the door for temporary parking is open, there won’t be turning back and Lyon park will eventually become a permanent car park.

There are all kinds of questions here. Can TCDC insist on the Rugby Club agreeing to a "trailer boat parking" clause before they sign a new lease?
Is parking on Lyon Park in line with Mr Lyon’s wishes? Is Craig, Karen and Peter’s concern about a permanent car park justified?

We’ll keep an eye on things. In the meantime, let us know what you think. Vote in our online poll at www.theinformer.co.nz or email or Facebook us or send us a letter.

Man on charges after Coroglen incident yesterday

According to a press release issued by the New Zealand Police earlier today, a property in Coroglen remains cordoned off today as Waikato Police conduct a scene examination following an armed incident yesterday. Detective Sergeant Martyn Hughes of the Thames-Coromandel CIB said the Tapu Road property located close to The Coroglen Tavern is currently being forensically examined by Police staff. "In addition, a vehicle involved in the incident is also being examined, while a male from the property is currently being interviewed and our investigators are conducting an area canvas of local residents."

Two men were arrested during the incident which unfolded shortly after 3:00pm. One was released overnight without charge while a 41-year-old man has been charged with an earlier aggravated robbery and will appear in the Hamilton District Court today. Mr Hughes said it may be several days before the Police are able to confirm just what occurred yesterday.

"We can confirm a number of shots were fired during the incident though no one was injured. Local Police staff established cordons in and around the area and awaited the arrival by helicopter from Hamilton of members of the Waikato Armed Offenders Squad.

“We are grateful for the support of the other emergency services and the local community and thankful the matter was resolved without further incident."


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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.