Thursday, 03 December 2020


High Court found TCDCs Freedom Camping Bylaw lacking

NZMCA President Bruce Stanger is hailing the long-awaited High Court judgement over the Thames Coromandel District Council’s consolidated freedom camping bylaws as “a tremendous result” for the organisation.

Delighted that Justice Cooper’s decision has upheld the vast majority of the NZMCA’s concerns with the legality of TCDC’s consolidated freedom camping by-laws, Mr Stanger says the key aspects of the judgement include -

The amendments TCDC made to its Freedom Camping by-law in 2013 were unlawful.

TCDC’s use of Parking Control and Public Places by-laws as an integral part of the council’s consolidated freedom camping by-laws were illegal.

As a result, Justice Cooper has ordered that the Council’s 2013 amendments be “severed from the Freedom Camping bylaw and quashed.” He has directed the council to revoke clauses of their Parking Control and Public Places bylaws as part of their consolidated freedom camping bylaw and finally to not enforce these by-laws any longer.

“That’s great news for our members who were only ever interested in responsible freedom camping,” said Mr Stanger.

“This decision means they now know that they can no longer be served with unlawful infringement notices, which vindicates the Association’s stance in taking this High Court action.

“With Justice Cooper having ordered that the illegal clauses now be removed from TCDC’s bylaws we can have confidence that the remaining bylaw will meet the requirements of the Act.”

TCDC is busy reviewing its Freedom Camping bylaw. Public submissions on a draft bylaw closed a month ago.

Continuing Care concerns

The beginning of this month Oceania Group, the owners of Whitianga Continuing Care, announced to their Whitianga staff that a roster review was to be undertaken and once input from all staff members have been considered, a new staffing structure will become operational.

According to a proposal put forward by Oceania more part time staff will be utilised at the facility, thereby reducing overtime, absence will be reduced and efficiencies in cleaning and kitchen processes will enhance the living environment of Continuing Care residents.

Many people expressed concern to The Informer that Oceania’s proposal will mean an overall cut to staff hours and a drop in the standard of service provided by the facility. Mike Brown, a Whitianga local whose mother is resident in Continuing Care, and another prominent local who are at the moment a Continuing Care resident, and who requested to remain anonymous, were happy to put their concerns on paper. We presented their concerns to Oceania for comment.

Mike summarised his concerns as follows -

What are the factors that create the change? In our experience some of the key factors are –

  • Head office pressure for continuing additional shareholder profit.
  • The ability of the local manager to balance the demand for profit against providing a happy staff environment, which promotes a caring and safe environment for the residents.
  • Pressure to relax good and safe clinical standards for the treatment of the residents to increase profitability.

What do the residents families want for their loved ones?

  • A clean and safe environment.
  • A homely environment with responsive and caring staff looking after them.
  • A well-managed facility compliant with the published goals and standards in the facility’s promotional literature and compliant with the standards set out by the District Health Board and the Health and Disability Act.
  • Good communication from staff to the residents’ families, especially when issues arise.

In the past the care provided by Continuing Care staff has been exemplary.

The latest proposal from Oceania is asking staff to provide the same level of care with considerably reduced hours of work and all staff members are concerned about the care levels they will be able to provide to the residents in the future.

Staff concerns about the new staffing roster as communicated to the residents’ families are many and are summarised under the following generic categories –

  • Reduced hygiene of residents.
  • Concerns over the health and safety of residents and staff.
  • Concerns over staff burnout and stress.
  • Concerns over clinical safety and maintaining standards.
  • Concerns over time to complete compliance paperwork.

Recently residents’ families have started to look more carefully at the cleanliness of the facility and were disgusted to find that the same mop heads used to clean the bathrooms and toilets in the residents’ rooms were not sanitised between rooms. How does this comply with the infection control requirements of a hospital care facility?

We believe Oceania documentation claims a wage to revenue ratio of 65 per cent. We crunched the numbers as the revenue the facility receives is shown in the invoices to the families and the hourly rates of staff members have been given to us. Our wage to revenue analysis showed this to be in the range of 30 to 40 per cent of revenue.

As family of the residents and Oceania’s clients, we are still waiting to be informed formally from Oceania Group as to how these staff cuts will affect our loved ones for the better as claimed. We would like to ask Oceania when they propose to let the people funding their facility know how these changes will maintain previous standards.

To us reducing staffing hours for staff already struggling to complete shifts makes no sense.

The prominent local who is at the moment a Continuing Care resident summarised his concerns as follows -

It has come to our notice (and tangata whenua) that moves are afoot to restructure and downsize the level of care being provided at the Oceania Continuing Care Facility in Whitianga.

This is not the type of "hard-nosed" culture being forced upon the Continuing Care facility anyone in Whitianga wants to see or condone.

This is a community facility, originally set up for the nurture, care and health of our senior citizens of this close knit town. By the business and care manager’s own admission on first impression here, I quote, "I was immediately impressed with Continuing Care, its staff and with Whitianga and the Mercury Bay area (Craig Scaman 4 March 2014).

So why are there moves to change our culture here and the excellent standard of care being provided by very caring, qualified and competent nursing staff?

If this draconian restructure result in shorter staff numbers or resignations because of higher and unreasonable workloads, then it is obvious that the standard of care here is seriously compromised. Vulnerable senior citizens and tangata whenua are at great risk and families suffer accordingly. This is not acceptable, nor in accord with the caring culture established in this facility originally.

The only conclusion that can be made is that offshore investors and profit margins are dictating such moves in this scenario.

As a long time concerned local who has had an ongoing association with this facility over 12 years, through four family members being cared for here as well as providing musical entertainment and through ministry, we are qualified to comment.

This letter is written to highlight the serious nature and implications of such a scenario on our care facility.

Craig Scaman, business and care manager at Continuing Care, responded to the written concerns as follows -

We appreciate this is a very emotive issue for many staff, residents and families. We are undertaking a roster review for a number of reasons.

We wish to look at skill mix in order to provide improved consistency of care over each day of the week and we are working with staff reviewing work schedules and position descriptions to assess how we can do things better, ie activities, cleaning and care delivery.

In order to do this, we have gone out to all staff and asked for proposals as to how they see task allocations, hours of work and how these can best benefit our residents.

Involving all staff during consultation in looking at quality improvements does take time and we appreciate this can be unsettling for many involved. This isn't an opportunity to make cuts to hours. Oceania is and has been reviewing all rosters at all facilities in looking to improve service delivery, indeed certain roles have benefitted from increased hours at other facilities when shortfalls in service have been identified.

At this stage the roster review is very much in proposal form, a starting point from which meaningful discussion can take place. Any changes will be made in line with the Ministry of Health safe staffing guidelines to ensure the best possible outcome for all involved.

With regard to Mr Brown’s comment about mop heads, we continue to use separate mop heads for rooms and bathrooms, as has always been the case.

Continuing Care is an essential facility in Whitianga and the wider Mercury Bay area. It’s a unique facility with a rich history and it’s important that all stakeholders - residents and their families, staff and owners - are happy. We will in a later issue of The Informer look in more detail into the history of the facility and its place in the Mercury Bay community.

Are you interested in getting more involved in the local community? Visit this link to learn about clubs and groups in and around Whitianga.


Scalloping with Captain Karl

The alarm went off at 3:00am. It just felt wrong. Brain fog clouded my consciousness as I layered up in preparation for a day on the ol’ briney with scallop fisherman, Captain Karl Aislabie.

His boat, the Kataraina, wasn’t hanging around if I didn’t make it to the wharf on time, so I grabbed a banana, slammed the door behind me and headed for Whitianga. Outside, it was freezing.

Karl only eats about a dozen scallops a year. That seemed difficult to comprehend for a lover of the tiny and tasty little morsels. "By the end of the day you’ll see why," he chuckled.

As romantic as the ocean is, a commercial fishing boat is a workplace and safety is top priority. Captain Karl explained how to operate the emergency position-indicating radio beacon and indicated the location of the life raft and survival suits.

The big steel thing on the back is the dredge, the business end, and that was a no go zone. The pointy end is the bow, a go zone, as long as I wasn’t intending to jettison myself over and out of my "day in the life of a scallop fisherman."

Kataraina’s lines were cast off. In darkness we headed out of Mercury Bay, following the navigation lights of Una-rae, skippered by Karl’s son-in-law. Behind us was Kuranui, owned by Karl’s brother’s wife’s brother (no tongue twister intended).

The stars of Orion were bright in the sky and the moon illuminated the gentle roll of the sea. We passed the rocky outcrops of The Twins (Motumanga) and went around the headland to Otama Beach on the Coromandel’s northeast coast.

Cruising at nine knots, it took two hours to reach the fishing ground. Karl released the heavy brake on the hydraulic winch, and the steel cable unspooled, dropping the heavy eight-foot dredge to the sea floor.

We towed for about 15 minutes before the dredge was pulled up and emptied onto a wooden platform mounted across the stern. Amidst the sounds of the winch groaning and the tang of metal contacting metal, scallops, starfish and other sea critters were shaken out of the dredge and onto the table.

Karl and his deck hand, Bruce Hunter were super fast sorters. I pulled on a pair of big, yellow fishermen’s gloves to lend a hand picking the pile. We sorted the scallops into Kataraina’s red bins, throwing the by-catch back into the water.

Gulls wheeled overhead alert to the opportunity of a quick meal. Una-rae and another boat in the fleet, Unity, worked the area too. The fleet fish as a team, not like the cat and mouse games on reality TV - where fishermen battle the elements and each other to bring in the catch.

There were very few undersized scallops that came aboard. Anything borderline was measured against devices mounted on the edge of the sorting table - 90mm is the minimum-take size. Any rubbish that came up (old fishing lines, plastic, etcetera) was separated out so it could be disposed of on-shore.

After 27 tows, and six long and cold hours dredging, Kataraina’s work was done. We had filled our 30 bins of scallops and it was time to head in. Hallelujah. I was exhausted.

Never had a truer word been spoken, when Karl had said I would understand why he rarely ate scallops. Scalloping is hard graft. By 11:00am my fingers were hurting and I had been ready to go home. I couldn’t imagine having to repeat the day.

Karl and Bruce were in good humour and cooked up some homemade sausages that we (ravenously) ate with bread and sauce.

When we got back to the wharf, it was 4:00pm and Whangamata Seafood’s truck was waiting to unload us. We had 692 kgs of fresh Coromandel scallops on board.

Commercial fishermen like Karl and Bruce work hard so that people like us can buy scallops from the supermarket. Go them! The goal, Karl said, "Is to be here for the long term. We always leave enough fish on the ground to reseed."

Coromandel dark horse in Goldrush Rally

Coromandel’s Alex Kelsey could be the dark horse of the VINZ Goldrush Rally of Coromandel.

His home built special, which looks like a small Peugeot hatchback, has the potential to upset the frontrunners on the nine stage 133km event, which is based out of Whitianga.

Dubbed MC2 (for Mad Creation 2), the car has a space frame chassis designed and built by Kelsey and some friends, clothed in a locally made fibreglass body that has more than a passing resemblance to a small Peugeot, "because it looks sexy."

All the major components have been chosen to fit into the compact package. Power comes from a 3.5 litre Renault V6 engine which is used in European single seater racing. Its wail on full song is unmistakeable.

Power is fed to all four wheels by a French sourced Sadev six-speed gearbox and four-wheel-drive transmission. Kelsey has made steering wheel mounted paddle shifters to make life a little easier in the cockpit while racing through a special stage.

The self-designed suspension includes wheels that were surplus to the requirements of the Ford works rally team and brakes which were original used by the Subaru World Rally Team.

The car has taken over two years to design and build when 22 year old Kelsey has not been doing engineering development work or helping at his parents quarrying business.

"I am really looking forward to the rally," said Kelsey. "We’ve had a few teething problems on the two events we’ve done so far. But I think we’ve got everything sorted out now."

An electrical fault side-lined them at the Queen’s Birthday Weekend’s Hawkes Bay Rally and then four weeks later a front suspension arm broke at the Wairarapa Rally.

But in both brief outings, the car showed it was competitive with the leading Subarus and Mitsubishis.

Kelsey he acknowledges he has a slight advantage over some of the other leading drivers, having driven the 309 Road which will be used for three stages on numerous occasions. And last year he competed in a rally sprint on the first part of what will be stages one and eight of the event.

"But I’ve never driven over the Tapu - Coroglen road," said Kelsey. "I’ve never had a reason to."

Argyle and Eyre fastest in Goldrush Rally of Coromandel

Stage 9, the final stage, of the Goldrush Rally of Coromandel has just finished with Geoff Argyle and Joelle Eyre in a Mitsubishi Lancer EVO8 achieving the fastest overall time.

Argyle and Eyre finished in a total time of 1:40:49.5, more than a minute ahead of the second fastest team of Phil Campbell and Venita Fabbro in a Mitsubishi EVO Lancer 9, who achieved a time of 1:41:53.4.

The third fastest time was a tight battle with Carl Davies and Tracey Millar finishing in a time of 1:42:03.8, only 1.2 seconds ahead of fourth placed Nigel Adams and Tanya Gwynne’s time of 1:42:05.0.

Richard and Sara Mason, who have already won the New Zealand Rally series (of which the Goldrush Rally is a part) had to withdraw during stage 6 after their Subaru Imprezza WRX STi suffered a snapped rear toe link.

The Mercury Bay community showed tremendous support for the rally with scores of people attending last night’s street party in Blacksmith Lane, Whitianga and today lining Joan Gaskell Drive in town watching the rally's two 1.17km super stages (stages 7 and 9).

Rally organisers said it’s most likely that the rally will return to Mercury Bay next year.

TCDC parking rules out for review

Thames Coromandel District Council staff and Council’s Community Boards have together worked on a revised draft parking control bylaw which is now available for Coromandel communities to provide feedback on.

The parking control bylaw manages things like how long people can park in certain areas, bus stops and loading zones, pay and display parking and mobility parking. TCDC said they’ve tried to make the bylaw easier to understand and to ensure parking is available around the Coromandel and that there is fair access for everyone.

A significant change from the current bylaw is that the rules about freedom camping parking have been moved into a freedom camping bylaw (the submission period on which has recently closed).

More information about the draft parking bylaw is available on the TCDC website, click here.

Whitianga Shar Pei dog classified as dangerous

An incident in Whitianga's Cook Drive has led to a Shar Pei dog (pictured) being classified as dangerous and two people receiving infringements.

Thames Coromandel District Council's Animal Control Officers were called to investigate a complaint where an altercation between two groups of people resulted in a Whitianga man being bitten by the Shar Pei dog and receiving a 60mm rip to his leg.

Interviews have established that the person in charge of the dog at the time, who was not the registered owner, failed to control the dog. When police and Animal Control Officers visited the owner's property to discuss the incident, the man ran off, but was quickly apprehended and arrested on unrelated charges.

The person in charge of the dog at the time of the incident will receive an infringement for failing to control the dog and the owner will receive an infringement for failing to microchip the dog.

The photo of the dog has been released to inform the public that this dog living nearby to New World in Whitianga must not be in a public place unless muzzled and on a lead.

The dog was registered and there are no previous formal complaints on Council records about the dog. Animal Control Officers have checked the behaviour of the Shar Pei dog and are convinced that due to its aggressive nature the dog poses a risk to public safety and must be classified as dangerous.

The dog also needs to be kept within a secure area on the property it is living so that it is not necessary to enter the fenced area to access at least one door of the dwelling on the property.

Thames-Coromandel District Council Compliance and Bylaws Team Leader Steve Hart said, "Anyone who observes the dog out in a public place without it being on a lead or muzzled should immediately contact Animal Control 24/7 on (07) 868 0200."

Shar Pei dogs, also known as the Chinese Fighting Dog, is a powerful dog that was commonly used in China as a pit fighter. Since being introduced into the western world, the dog has become more domesticated but it remains a powerful breed with a strong jaw that can be less than hospitable if not properly trained.

Goldrush Rally road closures

With the Goldrush Rally of Coromandel this weekend in Whitianga, some roads around the Mercury Bay area will be closed for some periods of time. This is what you need to know about the closures -

Blacksmith Lane, Whitianga will be closed starting at the intersection with Albert Street and finishing 250m from Albert Street. Period of proposed closure - 3:00pm Friday 22 August to 8:00pm 22 August.

Tapu-Coroglen Road will be closed starting at the 3.9kms from State Highway 25 (Tapu end) and finishing at State Highway 25 (Coroglen end). Period of proposed closure - 7:50am Saturday 23 August to 3:50pm 23 August.

The 309 Road will be closed starting at 1.3kms from State Highway 25 (Coromandel end) and finishing at 4.5kms from State Highway 25 (Coromandel end). Period of proposed closure - 6:30am Saturday 23 August to 9:30am 23 August.

The 309 Road will also be closed starting at 4kms from State Highway 25 (Coromandel end), and finishing at 21kms from State Highway 25 (Coromandel end). Period of proposed closure - 6:30am Saturday 23 August to 4:00pm 23rd August.

Joan Gaskell Drive, Whitianga will be closed starting at State Highway 25, and finishing 1.2km from State Highway 25. Period of proposed closure - 1:00pm Saturday 23 August to 6:00pm 23 August.

During the proposed periods of closure the following provision will be made for ordinary traffic traffic which would otherwise use the roads -

Tapu-Coroglen Road and the 309 Road -
Detour via State Highway 25 or State Highway 25A (Kopu-Hikuai).

Joan Gaskell Drive -
Detour via State Highway 25, Buffalo Beach Road and Albert Street to enter/exit Whitianga.


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