Monday, 16 September 2019


Screening of locally made short films last week

About a month ago, well-known documentary maker James Muir from Coromandel Town presented two short film making workshops in Whitianga. The workshops were attended by students and adults from Mercury Bay and Auckland.

At the first workshop James taught the participants how to shoot video footage and at the second workshop he showed them how to edit the footage. He then sent them away to create their own three minute films. Last Thursday evening 8 May, the films the participants made were screened at the Monkey House Theatre in Whitianga.

The event was well-attended and everyone thoroughly enjoyed the films, covering topics such as the Whitianga skate park, the sea and the beach, the Swim the Beaches fundraiser for the Mercury Bay X-ray machine, tramp skating, a day at Otama Beach, the impact of pesticides on bees and putting a restored fishing vessel to sea. Some of James’s films were also screened.

James was brought to Whitianga by Paula Davies from Creative Mercury Bay.

See Atawhai Charteris's short film on tramp skating below.


A good weekend for Mercury Bay Senior and Peninsula First XV rugby

The Mercury Bay Senior A rugby team had a very good 34 - 19 win against Ngatea on Saturday 10 May. The team is playing Waihi in Whitianga next Saturday, 17 May. Kick-off is at 2:00pm.

The Peninsula First XV rugby team won Hauraki Plains College 22-0 in the first game of the Thames-Valley First XV season on Saturday 10 May in Ngatea. The team is made up of players from Mercury Bay, Coromandel Town and Manaia. According to assistant coach, Greg Relph it’s the first time an Upper-Coromandel team kept HPC scoreless on their own turf.

A good weekend for Mercury Bay Senior and Peninsula First XV rugby

The Mercury Bay Senior A rugby team had a very good 34 - 19 win against Ngatea on Saturday 10 May. The team is playing Waihi in Whitianga next Saturday, 17 May. Kick-off is at 2:00pm.

The Peninsula First XV rugby team won Hauraki Plains College 22-0 in the first game of the Thames-Valley First XV season on Saturday 10 May in Ngatea. The team is made up of players from Mercury Bay, Coromandel Town and Manaia. According to assistant coach, Greg Relph it’s the first time an Upper-Coromandel team kept HPC scoreless on their own turf.

MBAS principal back from overseas marketing trip

Mercury Bay Area School principal, John Wright has recently returned from a trip to Europe, marketing the school to the international student community. Mr Wright attended education fairs and met with agencies representing the school in Germany, Norway, Sweden, Austria and Italy. On his way back, he attended a two-day conference in Singapore with the title, "21st Century School Reformation - Rethink, Reinvent, Revolutionise."

Mr Wright said it was easy to represent MBAS. "Our course diversity, our emphasis on really positive learning relationships, our resourcing, the safe home stays we offer, our small community, our quality facilities in every learning area and the fact that we are working with five-year-olds through to 19 year olds made me realise once again just how unique we are as a school and an area school in particular."

Wherever Mr Wright went, there was a lot of interest in MBAS’s marine academy and outdoor education focus and many questions were asked about the school’s aeroplane build last year and the restoration of the Coot amphibian plane students of the school are involved in at the moment.

Mr Wright said the conference in Singapore reinforced his view that MBAS is on the right track with his and his staff’s forward-looking approach to education.

Bittersweet Inter-Pacific Spearfishing Championships for Mercury Bay locals

The New Zealand men and women’s spearfishing teams are back from the Tahitian island of Raiatea where they participated in the Inter-Pacific Spearfishing Championships during April. Manager of the men’s team, Herb Herbert and team members Callum Relph and Rowan Virbickas live in Mercury Bay. Another team member, Todd Herbert grew up in Mercury Bay, but is now serving an electrician apprenticeship in Queenstown.
The team suffered a setback their very first day in Tahiti with Rowan injuring his leg to such an extent that he wasn’t able to participate in the competition. Kolt Johnston from Auckland was flown in and was a worthy substitute, helping the team to come third overall, behind Tahiti and New Caledonia. The women’s team came second, behind Tahiti.
In the men’s competition each team consisted of two pairs diving together. Callum dived with Todd. Kolt dived with the other team member, Jackson Shields from Auckland.
The team’s schedule was very full while in Tahiti. That is not including Rowan who had to spend most of the time in his room with his leg in the air. “We used the first week and a half to scout the four zones around Raiatea set aside for the competition,” said Callum. “We were going to dive in only two zones, but didn’t know which two. We dived for nine out of our first twelve days for more than eight hours every day. At the end of each day of diving, we would shoot a few fish for dinner. The chef of the resort we stayed in was unbelievable - every night we would give him the fish we shot and night after night he cooked it in this amazing variety of ways.”
The competition itself was a big event on Raiatea, not a traditional tourist destination. The opening ceremony was attended by Tahiti’s Minister of Sport and the local Mayor. It was broadcasted on local television. “All the local people were really excited to have an international event on their island,” said Callum. “I was amazed at how popular New Zealand is among the locals. They support the All Blacks and just wanted to know what they had to do to get hold of one of the New Zealand hats and t-shirts we took with us.
“The competition itself was held over two days, with six hours of diving every day. Todd and I had a very good first day, after which our men’s team was second. Kolt and Jackson had a good second day, but it wasn’t good enough to prevent the New Caledonians from taking second spot. We beat the Aussies, though.”
Asking Callum what the difference is between spearfishing in New Zealand waters and the tropics, he said, “Depth first and foremost. We free-dived every day to about 35m. In New Zealand, we normally would go to 15m. The water is also much warmer, the visibility is much better, in fact the water is crystal clear, and there’s a much bigger variety of fish.”
Asking Rowan if he’s injury would put him off competing again, he said, “Look, I was like someone who was given a really, really bad Christmas gift. But all it did was to motivate me to get back out there and try to represent New Zealand again. 
We’ve heard next year’s championships may be in New Caledonia. I suspect it’s going to be tougher to make the team with more divers trying out, but I’m going to give it everything I have.”
To which Callum added, “Count me in too.”

TCDC mayor talking about a unitary authority

The Waikato Property Council has recently published a proposed submission to the Local Government Commission in terms of which the Waikato region is to be divided into three unitary authorities, including the Thames Coromandel and Hauraki districts becoming a wider Coromandel council.
Thames Coromandel District Council mayor, Glenn Leach was invited to address the Waikato Property Council last week Wednesday 30 April. Mr Leach was the only elected member throughout the Waikato invited to the meeting.
Mr Leach told the meeting that TCDC will be supportive of a Thames-Valley unitary authority. He said Council looked at the direction central government was taking and knew they had to prepare for the possibility of a wider group of Waikato councils amalgamating and absorbing the functions of Waikato Regional Council. As a result, more decision making powers have been transferred to local community boards. Mr Leach also said that what they’ve done is working and other areas, including New South Wales, are now looking at implementing similar models.
In a follow up meeting with The Informer, Mr Leach spoke about WRC really being, what he called, “a third layer of bureaucracy” which is disconnected from the people of the Coromandel. “A good example is the Moanataiari subdivision in Thames,” he said. “WRC and the Ministry for the Environment took the position that millions of dollars’ worth of earthworks had to be done to mitigate a virtually negligible health risk because of contaminated soil. We stood up against them and won. The affected people were all WRC ratepayers and WRC did not go in and bat for them.
“I must say WRC has done much work since last year’s local body elections to get closer to the people of the Coromandel, but it’s too little too late.”
Mr Leach also spoke about the Waikato Mayoral Forum, an informal body made up of the mayors of all the Waikato area councils and the chairperson of WRC. “The Mayoral Forum really needs to talk about reorganisation of councils, but all they’re interested in is collaboration. They want councils to work together to save money. That’s fine, but you don’t need a forum for that to happen. Our joint refuse removal agreement with Hauraki District and Matamata Piako District Councils is a good example of that. The Mayoral Forum has recently spent more than $200,000 on someone to tell them that Waipa District, Waikato District and Hamilton City Councils have to manage their water together. A Form 2 student would’ve been able to work that out. It was a total waste of money.
“When I wanted to put discussions about reorganisation on the agenda at the Forum, I couldn’t even find a seconder. That really forced us to employ Morrison Low, a firm of local government experts, to tell us what the workable unitary authority options for the Coromandel are. They will report back to us later this year. I personally think we should also look at the Waihou and Piako Rivers catchment area, which is a larger area than just the Thames-Valley and we shouldn’t just focus on going south and west, there may be workable options down the coast towards the Bay of Plenty as well.   
“But one thing is sure, whatever is going to happen, our local democracy must stay.”
The Waikato Property Council will now attempt to get backing for its proposal through a public petition. If enough support is mustered, the proposal will be presented to the Local Government Commission.           

So what happens now

Last Sunday 4 May, the Whitianga Lions’ Project Committee handed a cheque of $230,000 to the Mercury Bay Community Radiology and Health Trust (Trust), which will own and operate the Mercury Bay X-ray machine. The Informer spoke to Malcolm Brown and Chris Rendle, both members of the Lions’ Project Committee and trustees of the Trust, about the work that has been done to date regarding the machine and what the community can expect going forward.

The most exciting bit of news is probably that the trustees of the Trust will be meeting with a representative of Carestream Health in Whitianga on Thursday 8 May to order the machine.

"The X-ray machine will, through the Trust, be wholly owned by the community and will be available to all doctors. The cost of the X-rays the machine will take will typically be covered by the Waikato District Health Board or ACC," said Malcolm.

The Lions have also finalised where the machine will go - in the Health Factory on the corner of Coghill and Isabella Streets, Whitianga. "The Coghill Street location was chosen because of the concrete floor of the premises, the availability of three phase power and the relatively inexpensive cost of the internal fit-out of the premises," explained Malcolm. "We looked at a number of other sites, but all were unsuitable - either for access, parking or construction reasons. As the X-rays are taken by a radiographer who will be employed by or contracted to the Trust, we chose a location that is very close to all the doctors’ surgeries in Whitianga and easily accessible to St John Ambulance."

The design of the premises has been completed and submitted to Thames Coromandel District Council for resource and building consents. Tenders for construction are due by Monday 12 May and building work should commence no later than 1 June. Chris and Malcolm are hopeful that the machine will be up and running by September.

It is expected that both Whitianga medical practices and possibly doctors from neighbouring areas will support the machine. "From a practical perspective, we understand a patient’s doctor will request the DHB, or ACC in case of an accident, to have an X-ray taken," said Malcolm. "The DHB or ACC will then send their approval through to the Trust’s radiographer, who will take the X-ray. A digital image of the X-ray will then be sent to a firm of radiologists who will let the doctor who ordered the X-ray know what their findings are. The patient’s doctor will thereafter decide what the next step is. If it involves specialist treatment, travel to Thames or Waikato Hospitals may still be necessary."

Apart from ordering the machine, on the Trust’s to-do list for the next few months are finalising agreements with the DHB, ACC and the firm of radiologists who will read the X-rays, advertising for and interviewing radiographers, overseeing the fit-out of the premises where the machine will go and updating the local doctors on progress.

Mike Brown, another Whitianga Lion who assumed the role of project engineer on request from the Lions’ Project Committee, will be responsible for the day-to-day management of the fit-out work that needs to be done to get the machine operational.

Day Camp once again a great success

The 14th Mercury Bay Day Camp that was held for three days last week on Graham and Selma Morcom’s farm outside Cooks Beach was, once again, a great success.

According to camp director, Rev Mary Petersen from St Andrews by the Sea Community Church, 65 teen leaders and more than 100 adult leaders, the most ever, signed up to help. A large group of parents of children who attended the camp were also happy to help every day.

The 300 six- to 13-year-old children who attended the camp had the opportunity to participate in 20 activities, including archery, clay bird shooting, a confidence course, hut building, a craft corner, kayaking, mud- and waterslides, a 220m flying fox and a vertical bungy trampoline. Two new activities were introduced this year - a mystery trailer ride and sack sliding. Rev Petersen said the children really enjoyed both activities. During the mystery trailer ride children did things they wouldn’t normally do at home, like gumboot throwing and building a pyramid out of tyres.

The teen leaders all received a certificate and subway voucher. Two of them, Emma Smith and Natalyha Surgison, received an additional $50 each for having been nominated the most encouraging of all the leaders. 

This was Emma’s third year as a teen leader. She’s a Year 11 student at MBAS and used to attend the camp when she was younger. “I’m really privileged that I have had the opportunity for a few years now to be a leader. This year’s camp was just so good. Everything ran smoothly and the kids were great.” 
Natalyha is a Year 12 student at Hamilton Girls High School. She used to live in Mercury Bay and, like Emma, attended the camp when she was younger. This was her first year as a teen leader. She said, “I have really enjoyed it being a teen leader at this year’s Day Camp. It was a neat experience, especially getting to know the other leaders and the kids better.”

Rev Petersen said planning for next year’s camp will start in the next few weeks.



With the squad that was announced last month, do you believe the All Blacks have what it takes to win the 2019 Rugby World Cup?

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.