Thursday, 17 October 2019


Businesses uneasy with proposed increases in concession fees

Some businesses operating on parks and reserves owned or administered by Thames Coromandel District Council’s aren’t happy with the proposed increases in concession fees in TCDC’s draft 2014/2015 annual plan. According to TCDC, the increases are necessary to reflect the actual cost of administering a concession.

Darrell Bird from Dive Zone in Whitianga said the increases are excessive. “We have to apply for quite a few concessions to really just walk across the beaches and beach front areas in the Mercury Bay area. If Council adopts the annual plan as it’s drafted, our fees will jump from $1,000 per year to $2,500. That’s on top of a whole heap of other fees we now have to pay to other government agencies and regulatory bodies. It’s the tourism operators that will be hardest hit by the increase in fees. Some of them may be forced out of business. I hope Council will rethink the whole thing.”

Nina Hammond, owner of the iconic yellow Nina’s coffee caravan parked at Brophy’s Beach during summer, agrees with Darrell. “My fees will increase from $300 per year to $900. I’ll have to sell a lot of extra coffees to make up for that.” The Mercury Bay, Tairua-Pauanui and Whangamata Community Boards all made submissions against the proposed fee increases.

Some of the unhappy business owners spoke against the fee increases at the annual plan hearing that took place in Whitianga on Monday, 28 April.

Who knows where baking a carrot cake may lead to

Caleb Carter was last year a student at Mercury Bay Area School. During the holidays he helped to make pizzas at Luke’s Kitchen in Kuaotunu. This year he decided to take some time out and while he tried to figure out what to do with his life, he worked at Whitianga café, The French Fig. One of his first jobs at the café was to bake a carrot cake from a recipe owner, Erin Coats gave him. According to Erin a man came in, bought a slice of Caleb’s cake, bought a second slice and then asked if he could meet the “baker of the cake.”

As it turned out, the man was well-connected and the next moment Caleb had an offer to join the team at renowned Auckland restaurant, Baduzzi as apprentice chef. Caleb is now working at Baduzzi and will start his apprenticeship next month. All going to plan, he’ll be a fully qualified chef in a few years - and the world will be his oyster. And it all happened because he baked a carrot cake. Pictured is Caleb (left) with Baduzzi head chef Glenn File in the restuarant’s kitchen.

Take it from a long time local - winters in Whitianga are busy

Paul and Gillian Willis started out in Hamilton, where Paul began his electrical apprenticeship in 1980. The middle 80’s saw Paul and Gillian move to Auckland, but after five years it was time for a change. So in 1991 they made the move to Whitianga. “I used to holiday in Whitianga as a child,” said Paul. “My parents had a bach here and also owned a building on the corner of Lee and Albert Streets where a café called Upper Crust was in.

We were looking at opportunities to get out of Auckland and when we heard Upper Crust was on the market, we took the plunge, so from wiring homes, commercial buildings and factories, I started making coffee.”Somewhat into their ownership of the café, Paul’s parents decided to demolish the Upper Crust building and build three new shops in its place.

This was done in two stages - first a small shop on Lee Street was completed, where Envy Hair and Beauty is now, and Upper Crust moved into it, serving takeaways. Once stage two was completed, the café moved into the corner shop where Tides Café is now. In a way, things came full circle as Paul, a third generation electrician, ended up wiring the new shops with his father.

In the nine years Paul and Gillian owned Upper Crust, Paul always kept a hand in his trade, working alongside his father when time permitted and helping out friends and family. When it was time to sell the café, Paul accepted an offer from local electrician, Chris Brown to join him. When Chris decided to hang up his tools late last year, Paul was ready to take the business over. He rebranded it from CB Electrical to Willis Electrical and handed Gillian all responsibility for the paperwork. So, what has changed since Paul and Gillian arrived in Mercury Bay more than 20 years ago?

“There has been lots of change, particularly the growth in both the housing and business sector,” said Paul. The development of Whitianga Waterways would probably be the most significant change of all. We no longer have a quiet winter season. Believe it or not, winters are now really busy compared to what they were. It’s great. Good for business and good for people’s confidence. “Gillian and I had opportunities to live and work elsewhere when we sold Upper Crust and again when Chris decided to retire, but Mercury Bay is home. This is where we want to be and I can see myself helping people and businesses with their electrical needs for many years to come.”

New Art Escape administrator appointed

Marion Manson (pictured) has been appointed as the new administrator of the Mercury Bay Art Escape. Chairman of the Mercury Bay Art Escape Trust, Stuart Christie said they’ve had a very good response when they advertised the position with some excellent candidates applying.

Marion is a textile artist and has a professional background in the development, management and curation of art exhibitions in galleries and other venues, including Hamilton’s ArtsPost Galleries and Shop. She’s been a part-time resident of Cooks Beach for more than 13 years and is already known to a number of Mercury Bay artists.
Marion will split her time between Mercury Bay and Hamilton. She’ll be employed by the Art Escape Trust on a part-time basis, as was the case with Charlotte Giblin, her predecessor. Marion’s focus will be the annual Open Studio Tour of the Art Escape, the Arts and Craft Fair to be held in Whitianga in August, the Trust’s scholarships, the development of artists and fundraising.

Stuart said that Marion’s transition into her role should be complete in about a month. The administrator position became available when Charlotte decided to pursue her own career as artist in Mercury Bay.

Fundraising for X-ray machine screaming ahead

According to Malcolm Brown, chairman of the Whitianga Lions’ Project Committee, as at Sunday, 20 April the Mercury Bay X-ray machine fund stood at $167,000. Included in that amount is $546.90 raised by Alastair and Harriette Brickell of Stargazers Astronomy Tours during the lunar eclipse of 15 April. Members of the public were invited to witness the eclipse with Alastair and Harriette from their observatory in exchange for a donation to the X-ray machine. Despite the cloudy weather, 30 or so people turned up at the observatory and were later rewarded with glimpses of the eclipsed moon.

Not included in the amount of the X-ray machine fund is the more than $6,000 raised by the Mercury Bay Lionesses at their Quilt and Craft Show that was held during Easter weekend. Around half of the money was raised through a variety of raffles, won by (as the winners’ names appeared on their raffle tickets) Robin J, Ann McDonald, Cecily Woodbury, Karen Paget, Megan Fox, Mary Jackson, May Walker, D Knutsen, Andrea Skipper and Murray.

Pictured are some of the Lionesses at the Quilt and Craft Show with the members of the Lions’ Project Committee and Graham Bell, part time Whitianga local and presenter of Police Ten 7 (in the check shirt), who drew the raffle winners.

Colenso Cafe really just history continuing

On Tuesday last week Andy and Ruth Pettit handed over the keys of their iconic Colenso Café to Gary and Judy Inglis, the new owners, and it was business as usual. Gary and Judy are no strangers on the Mercury Bay hospitality scene, having owned Smitty’s Sports Bar and Grill in Whitianga for many years. How come then have they sold Smitty’s and bought something similar? “The two businesses are actually quite different,” answered Judy. “We wanted to get away from the Smitty’s hours, especially the
long nights. We didn’t have Smitty’s on the market for long before it sold. We were somewhat taken by surprise and really didn’t have an idea what we were going to do next.

We certainly didn’t plan to retire. “Friends told us about Colenso. We immediately thought it could work. It’s a very good business and it’s well run. It’s the sort of business we could just walk into and continue as if nothing really happened. The hours are better and there’s an opportunity for our daughter, who’s working as a chef on a super yacht at the moment, to join us later this year.”

And the extra pair of hands in the kitchen really is one of only two things that will be different. The other is a new back-office system, one Gary and Judy are more familiar with. Other than that, it’s the same good food, the same range of artworks and gifts and still local ownership. It’s really just history continuing.

The new local who met the Duchess

With the Duke and the Duchess of Cambridge and their son, Prince George visiting New Zealand the past few weeks, the question inevitably was asked, “Was there someone in Mercury Bay who met one, or all, of the royals?” And the answer is yes. Anna Geard, a counsellor who until recently worked at Rainbow Place and now living in Whitianga, met Kate, the Duchess, in Hamilton on 12 April.

Rainbow Place is the children’s service of Hospice Waikato in Hamilton. It’s a centre providing support for children with a life limiting or life threatening illness and children experiencing grief and loss through the serious illness or death of a loved one. “Kate is the patron of children’s hospices in the United Kingdom,” said Anna. “She wanted to visit a similar children’s service in New Zealand and take some ideas with her back home. Rainbow Place was fortunate to be chosen as the children’s service for her to visit in New Zealand.

“Over the past two years I have been working with a boy whom has experienced a sudden and traumatic bereavement. Part of what I did with him was sand-play therapy.  It’s a form of therapy that is used in counselling to help a person process and express thoughts and feelings that are difficult to put into words. As Kate was keen to hear experiences from those we work with themselves, my colleagues and I felt he had something special to share with Kate. I asked him if he would be open to doing this with my support and he was. On the day, I introduced him to her and he shared a piece of work he had done in the sand tray around his journey through grief, the ups and downs from the very beginning until now.

Kate was very interested in and sensitive to what he had to say. She came across genuine and down to earth. She was just fantastic. “Kate met with some other children and young people as well in the centre’s art therapy, play therapy and teen spaces and then it was time for an amazing Mad Hatters tea party. Many of the Rainbow place kids and their families were there. That was something I will remember forever. The families have been through so much. Kate spent time talking to everyone and really listening to their stories. The children and their families had a fantastic and memorable time.”

So, what brings Anna to Whitianga? “I had an opportunity last year to reassess what I want from life. I’ve been working as a counsellor in high-end agency work for the past eight years and I decided I needed a lifestyle change. I wanted to live by the ocean in a smaller community. I have family here in Whitianga and have spent a lot of time in this area as a child and especially over the past three years. This is where I want to be at this time in my life. I would like to get a counselling practice off the ground, working with all ages, especially children and youth and their families as this is my area of expertise. And I would love to teach lots of yoga, for adults and kids, that’s something I’m passionate about.”

Probing about her passion for yoga, Anna revealed that she’s previously taught yoga at studios in Auckland and Hamilton and at a kindergarten, to kids aged three to five. “They loved it,” she said. She has also had lots of sports teams, including Chiefs rugby players, in her yoga classes, “And they loved it too.”

That’s it then, meet Anna Geard - new Whitianga resident, counsellor and yoga teacher. And someone who had the privilege to meet Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, the mother of George, the future King of England.

A Targa Rally like no other coming to Mercury Bay

The Targa Rally will be returning to Mercury Bay on 16 and 17 May. This year is the 20th anniversary of the first Targa event in New Zealand and to celebrate it, two rallies will be held, Targa New Zealand in the South Island and Targa North Island. The North island event is a combination of two previous Targa events, Targa Bambina and Targa Rotorua. Mercury Bay used to be a regular feature on the Targa Bambina Rally.

The Targa North Island will depart Auckland on Friday, 16 May and will bring some spectacular racing during two special stages to the wider Mercury Bay area. Special Stage 7 will cover a distance of 10.54km on State Highway 25 across the Whangapoua Hill on 16 May. The stage will start
at 3:35pm at the Coromandel Town side of the hill and will finish at Te Rerenga. The road will be closed from 2:30pm to 5:30pm.

Special Stage 8 is something everyone involved in the Targa Rally has been waiting for. The stage, also on State Highway 25, will take place on Saturday 17 May from Whenuakite to Tairua across the Tairua Hill, a distance of 12.17km. It’s the first time this road will form part of the Targa Rally and is, according to many of the participants in the event, one of the most challenging tarmac roads in New Zealand. Many of them have dreamed of it one day being a Targa stage. The road will be closed from 6:45am to 10:00am, with the first cars setting off at 8:00am.

Rally director, Peter Martin said about the Tairua Hill special stage, “This is a real coup for us and a vindication both of our systems and the work we have put in with local residents, Council and the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA). The key has been to minimise the disruption and after monitoring our [last three] events here, NZTA has agreed to the closure this year.” According to the rally organisers, the best viewing of both stages will be had by simply walking into the special stage areas from both ends. Whitianga will host the rally’s overnight stop on 16 May. Competitors’ cars will be serviced at the Mercury Bay Multi-Sport Park in Whitianga upon their arrival in town, whereafter they will be parked overnight at the Lee Street car park.

Participants in the Targa Tour, a non-competitive “tag-along” event for owners of late model exotic or older classic cars, will arrive at the Lee Street car park from 4:30pm for a charity car wash. They will be joined by the rally competitors as soon as the servicing of their cars at the Multi-Sport Park are finished. Members of the public are welcome to check out the cars and talk to competitors both at the Multi-Sport Park and the Lee Street car park. A third special stage of the rally on the Coromandel will be held at Whiritoa later on Saturday, 17 May. The rally will finish in Rotorua on
Sunday, 18 May.



Should the voting age be lowered to 16 years of age?

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.