Thursday, 21 March 2019

WHITIANGA WEATHER

More than 450 people farewelled Stacey Bale, one of Mercury Bay’s most-loved residents, at the Whitianga Airport on Wednesday last week. Stacey passed away on Thursday 14 February after a 17-month-long battle with cancer. She was 47 years old.

In addition to looking after several reserves in the Otama Beach area, the Otama Reserves Group (ORG) is also working on restoring the health of the wetland in the area. “In a relatively recent Environment Court decision, the Otama wetland was described as ‘degraded,’” says Paul Kington, chairman of the ORG. “We don’t really know who decides when a wetland is degraded and what the requirements are, but it was an unacceptable comment and we just couldn’t let it go.

“There’s a lot at Otama that’s still pristine. The dunes, for instance, are number two in Australasia insofar as their natural condition is concerned. Everything in nature is interconnected and if the wetland isn’t healthy, the dunes and other parts of the area will ultimately be affected.”

The ORG was established approximately two years ago and has a committee of 11 members. More than 50 people are on the group’s database.

Since it’s establishment, the ORG has focused on predator trapping and the weeding of invasive species. “All our volunteers enjoy helping out,” says Paul. “We’re receiving a lot of support from Project Kiwi as well. They’re undertaking quite a lot of their kiwi conservation work on land adjacent to the Otama wetland.”

The Otama wetland is owned by the Department of Conservation. Since the ORG has received consent from DOC to access the wetland, a trapline has been set up and the manual removal of invasive weeds has started. Saltwater paspalum is the major weed targeted at the moment.

“Spraying for weeds isn’t an option for us,” says Paul. “We do whatever we have to do by hand. Waikato Regional Council has given us some funding to drone map the wetland boundaries, identify native plant species and get a better understanding of the hydraulics of the wetland. This work is completed and a report has been provided to WRC. The results are really helping us with what we’re trying to achieve.

“In addition to the physical work we do in the wetland, we’re putting a lot of effort into our relationships with DOC, WRC, Thames-Coromandel District Council, local iwi and neighbouring landowners. It’s important that all of us are on the same page.”

Paul hasn’t had much experience with wetlands prior to the ORG gaining access to the Otama Wetland. “I’ve learned a lot about wetlands and their importance in the way nature works in a relatively short period of time,” says Paul. “They harbour a myriad of treasures. Despite the fact that the Otama wetland is apparently degraded, in my first time in the wetland, I found a bittern nesting site. Since then, we’ve discovered five pairs of fernbird, a banded rail and 15 pāteke. It’s quite astonishing. Just imagine the paradise the wetland will be once it’s restored to it’s natural glory.”

The ORG hopes to have a website up and running in the next two weeks. “The KEA Group has helped us to obtain funding from the Len Reynolds Trust to develop our website,” says Paul. “People should have a look at our website and be in touch if they want to become involved in what we do.”

Pictured are pāteke in the Otama wetland.

By Meg Tatton-Brown

The Mercury Bay Art Escape is excited about several new members artists who will participate in this year’s Open Artists Studios during the first two weekends in March, as well as the guest speaker who will formally open the Open Artists Studios on Friday evening 1 March at Hot Waves Café in Hot Water Beach.

Painter Maria Balan (pictured) is one of the Art Escape’s new member artists. Maria grew up on the Kapiti Coast and later moved to Auckland. She started to call Whitianga home in 2017.  

While living in Auckland, Maria owned a picture framing business as well as an art gallery, where she sold her own artworks as well as the works of other artists.

Maria’s relationship with the arts started at the age of 15 and continues to this day. “My passion for putting brush to canvas is still strong and I hope people can see that in my paintings,” she says. “I also like to draw using charcoal and watercolour pencils.”

Maria paints every day and sometimes has three paintings on the go at once. Her works often feature cloud formations, storms and ocean views. She also experiments with abstract designs using acrylic paint.

One of Maria’s artworks will form part of the Mercury Bay Art Escape Showcase exhibition at Hot Waves Café from 1 March until Easter Weekend this year.

Fatu Feu’u will formally open this year’s Open Artists Studios. He’s a renowned Samoan artist and was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2001 New Year’s Honours List. He has exhibited his artworks both in New Zealand and overseas. His works feature in many private art collections around the world.  

Fatu will address the issue of suicide in New Zealand in his opening address on 1 March. It’s an issue he has previously explored in some of his artwork. “Suicide is hard to talk about, but is a very immediate problem, it’s important to address,” he says.

In 2018, Fatu created a 5.2m wide and 2m tall painting he called “Amuia” - meaning a “blessing” - to draw attention to mental health and suicide in New Zealand.

Fatu draws some of his artistic inspiration from the motifs and iconography of ancient Polynesian art forms, including carving, bark cloth, tattoo and woven work. Using this symbolism, he alters it to fit into a modern context. Aside from painting, Fatu also enjoys wood carving, and print and medallion making.

As a Pacific Island artist working in New Zealand, Fatu continues to weave together the Pacific and European cultures, celebrating the stories and traditions of his people.

Each year the list of artists participating in the Mercury Bay Art Escape Open Artists Studios evolves. Visitors are encouraged to check out the free Art escape 2019 Art Guide and the Mercury Bay Art Escape website (www.mercurybayartescape.com) for all the details of this year’s participating artists.

The other new Art Escape members artists who will participate in this year’s Open Artists Studios are silk painter Gaylene Lonergan (Opito Bay), painter Warwick Lidgard (Rings Beach), fine ink artist Roimata Taimana (Kuaotunu), mixed media artist and photographer Tracey Walker (Pumpkin Hill) and watercolour and pastel artist Debbie Emslie (Tairua).

By Stephan Bosman

Thames-Coromandel District Council mayor, Sandra Goudie, formally opened the new Whitianga Community Menz Shed on Thursday last week. The shed is situated on South Highway in the Moewai Park industrial area. The opening was attended by more than 40 people, among them Keith Dixon, the MENZSHED New Zealand coordinator for the Waikato and the Bay of Plenty.

Although the Whitianga Community Menz Shed was a Whitianga Lions initiative, the shed is now a stand-alone organisation with 35 paid-up members and a committee of seven. The shed is affiliated with MENZSHED New Zealand.

Kicking the formalities off on Thursday, Ernie Pitchfork, the Whitianga Lions president and a retired lawyer, said he never learned to do any DIY and when he relocated to New Zealand from the UK more than 20 years ago, he was amazed by the level of Kiwi ingenuity he witnessed everywhere he went.

“I started reading about menz sheds and was impressed with not only the opportunity the sheds offer to people to learn new skills, but also the health benefits they bring to people who may otherwise become lonely,” Ernie said. “I was surprised to learn that the concept originated in Australia as ‘shed’ is quite a difficult word to spell.

“When I became Lions president, I wanted to make the establishment of a menz shed in Whitianga a priority. Fortunately Malcolm Brown, the Whitianga Lion who spearheaded the Whitianga x-ray machine in 2014, was happy to take on a new challenge and he once again did a fantastic job.”

When it was his turn to say a few words, Malcolm Brown thanked Richard Vetter, the owner of Peninsula Roofing and Scaffolding, for making the workshop space available where the shed has been established. “Richard started his business in this workshop where we are today,” Malcolm said. “When his business outgrew the workshop, he kept the workshop as his personal ‘play area,’ but became so busy that he never got the chance to use it. When he heard that we were looking for premises to establish a menz shed, he didn’t hesitate to offer us the workshop. He’s generosity is astonishing.”

Malcolm also thanked all the people who donated equipment to the shed. “We’re fully equipped and didn’t have to buy one single thing,” he said. “Here and there we had to replace a part or two, but that was all.”

Before Sandra Goudie formally declared the shed open, she complimented the Whitianga Lions on making another idea a reality. “The Lions are a wonderful asset to the Mercury Bay community and the Whitianga Community Menz Shed is undoubtedly going to do many great things in the years to come,” she said.

The Whitianga Menz Shed is the fourth menz shed on the Coromandel Peninsula. Former Whitianga resident, Warren Sly, was instrumental in the opening of the Thames Community Menz Shed in November last year. The two other sheds are in Pauanui and Whangamata.

Pictured are the Whitianga Community Menz Shed committee members and special guests who attended the opening of the shed on Thursday. From the left - Jack Skinner (committee member), Richard Vetter (owner of the menz shed premises), Ernie Pitchfork (Whitianga Lions president), Malcolm Brown (committee member), Sandra Goudie (Thames-Coromandel District Council mayor), committee members Grant Dunningham (Whitianga Community Menz Shed Member Number 1), Brian Mearns, Des Bristow, Trevor Smedley and Steve Mannington, and Keith Dixon (MENZSHED New Zealand coordinator).

The Mercury Bay Art Escape Open Artists Studios offers art lovers the opportunity to explore the creative nature of the Coromandel, from Tairua to Opito Bay, to gain a unique perspective, meet the participating artists, admire their studios and understand something of the relationship each artist has with the Peninsula’s beautiful coast. This year the Open Artists Studios will form part of a full “Ten Days of Art” during the first 10 days of March.

We were inundated with entries into our Valentine’s Day competition we published in last week’s Informer. Readers could enter by telling us which Coromandel beach is their favourite to enjoy in the company of their loved one. In a nutshell, we were asking our readers to nominate the Peninsula’s most romantic beach.

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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.