Wednesday, 25 November 2020


Community meals - an open letter to the people of Whitianga from St Andrews by the Sea Community Church

The small congregation based at St Andrew’s by the Sea Community Church has a large community vision. Eleven years ago they called the current minister to lead them in community ministry. Throughout those years the parish has indeed focused on community ministry and connects with a wide range of people, both through activities led by the minister and through various activities that others are involved in as well.

There is a thriving Mainly Music weekly for pre-school families, Messy Church once a month for families with children of all ages, a Film and Friendship Club monthly, two Upright and Active sessions each week and an Op Shop open three days a week.

In the April school holidays each year, with enormous help from the community, the minister directs a three day outdoor adventure Day Camp for 300 children ages 6 - 13 and trains teen leaders to assist with this. At the 2014 camp there were 65 teen leaders and about 100 adults helping in some way to make camp happen. The minister is also the RSA Chaplain and the de facto chaplain of Whitianga Continuing Care as well.

At a Parish Vision Day on 11 May 2013 a man who was homeless at the time was present and he talked about the "invisible people" in the community, the homeless and the transients, who needed food. Others thought about the lonely and elderly and the families really struggling to make ends meet and feed their children nutritious meals. A vision was born - of providing a community meal once a week, to give lonely people an opportunity to eat with others, of delivering meals to those who could not come and encouraging those who could to come and eat together.

To the casual visitor, Whitianga looks prosperous. As one drives into the town, past the airport with a number of small private planes parked up and through the Waterways development where expensive homes and boats are very visible, it seems like this place is going ahead - and it is in many ways. Yet there is an "invisible underclass" of struggling people - elderly who have always lived here or came to retire and now cannot afford to move, young families who came for a job - builder, electrician, plumber or in forestry or the fish factory, but the job finished or became casual or part time and they cannot afford to move and there are no other jobs for them. There are solo parents who came as a couple, but the marriage or partnership failed and the parent with the children is stuck in a place with no family support and no possibility of work and an inability to afford to move elsewhere.

We decided that if we were going to offer a community meal for those who needed it, we might as well start straight away - on a Monday, the day before benefits were paid, when people had often run out of money. So the first meal was provided on Monday 13 May 2013. Ten people came to eat together that first day and more meals were delivered. Numbers kept growing. On Monday 1 July 2013 more than 100 people were fed. By October, the numbers had grown to 150 and seem to be climbing again now, in July 2014, to closer to 200 each week. A meal has been provided every Monday, including all through the Christmas and January holidays - so we are now well into the second year.

Initially all the food was provided by the church community or paid for out of church funds. The second week we paid for an advertisement in two local papers, inviting people to come and also inviting donations of food, time and money. The community responded - some businesses gave seed funding, individuals made regular contributions, others gave their time to help or vegetables from their garden, some of the other churches in our community supported us with funds and food and a freezer. The local papers kept advertising the meals, but did not charge us for that ongoing advertising. The "homeless man" who shared the vision in the first place has turned a large part of the manse garden into a community garden which supplies vegetables every week for the community meal, as well as to many families during the week.

Over the 14 months we have now been doing this, there has been more than 50 volunteers at different times who have helped prepare the food, cook it, package up the deliveries, deliver meals, serve those who come to St Andrews to eat and clean up afterwards. Many of them are people who came initially for a meal for themselves, but now come to serve others too.

There have also been other "spin-offs" as we get to know a wider and wider group of people - supporting families with clothing, bedding, toys and food parcels, going with people to WINZ appointments as advocates and support, helping people complete forms, providing emotional as well as practical support and much more involvement in the lives of struggling people in our community.

The costs for the meals for the first year were over $12,000, so roughly $1,000 per month. Initial gifts helped us to make a start and keep going but, although there are still a few people continuing to make regular donations, the funding is not secure and has really become a weekly concern. Will there be enough to pay for next week’s meat?

As the numbers increase, so do the costs. Maybe there is someone who might like to make a donation to support this project - whether that is a one off donation or a regular one? We will be very grateful for whatever is offered to support the vulnerable in our community.

The church received a Thames Coromandel Council grant last December to help pay the costs of keeping our building open for community projects - for such things as repairs to kitchen equipment, compliance with fire and kitchen regulations, purchase of consumable items such as paper towels and cleaning resources. The church is just managing to pay the extra power costs involved in using our kitchen all day every Monday and running an extra freezer. We have applied for Community Waikato funding, but do not yet know whether that will be approved. We are continuing to explore where else we might be able to look for funding. The church is really stretched to cope with any more costs.

Although donations of food keep coming in each week, including, occasionally, wild pork hunted down by members of one of the other churches, we need security of ongoing funding to enable this project to continue. It is making a difference in the lives of so many people. Some just need help for a little while and then tell us they can manage again by themselves. Others ask for a meal just for a particular week when a high power bill or a doctor’s account has taken all their food money.

Many of those who really appreciate a nutritious meal provided for their family are not on benefits, but have fluctuating part time work. When there is no work or their hours are cut, they are very vulnerable and children go hungry.

We would like to be able to continue knowing that we can provide a meal every week for whoever needs it. Volunteers from our church and the other churches and the community give very generously of their time and resources. We are very grateful for all those who help in any way.

If you would like to volunteer or help in some way, please contact Mary Petersen - text to 027 244 8396, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or leave a message on the church phone (07) 867 1102.

Firearms related incident at Coroglen

A section of the small Coromandel settlement of Coroglen remains cordoned off late this afternoon after an alleged firearms related incident saw armed Police flown into the area.

Senior Sergeant Rupert Friend of the Waikato District Command Centre said members of the Armed Offenders arrived by helicopter from Hamilton after calls to emergency services about 3:10pm. "We're currently interviewing affected parties to establish exactly what has occurred, but it appears two men have gone to a Tapu Road address near the local tavern and threatened the occupants with firearms. There are reports that shots have been fired and we're working to confirm if this is the case.

"As is the case in such situations, the area surrounding the address where the incident took place was cordoned off by our response staff to await the arrival of Armed Offenders Squad members."

Mr Friend said a short time later two males who had been at the property approached a Police cordon and were apprehended. "The matter was resolved without further incident and investigators are currently speaking with the two men while other officers conduct a search of the property. We're grateful the issue has been resolved without further incident and that no-one was harmed."

Whangapoua ratepayers decide on action

More than 70 people attended this afternoon a meeting organised by the Whangapoua Beach Ratepayers Association about the way Whangapoua Beach eroded during the latest storms. Some houses, especially at the southern end of the beach, are at the moment very close to the eroded areas.

Jim Dahm, a coastal scientist who has been involved in the beach for many years, had the floor first. He spoke about beach erosion in general and the specific characteristics of Whangapoua Beach. He recalled how the Ratepayers Association decided after a big storm in 2008 to apply for a resource consent to do sand scraping (also known as sand push-ups) for the length of the beach. That consent was for 20,000m² of sand to be shifted, of which only half has been used to date.

He also said that beach levels reduce significantly after a big storm, but that it doesn’t take long to rebuild and once enough sand is available on the beach, that should be used in a big push-up. After the latest storms, a few emergency push-ups was done on Whangapoua Beach under a separate resource consent available to Thames Coromandel District Council. These emergency push-ups were small as not a lot of sand was available on the beach.

He also made mention that planning policies in place at the moment in New Zealand don’t favour more permanent defensive structures, like seawalls.

The floor was next handed to Doug Arcus, a well-known barrister specialising in environmental law and a Whangapoua beachfront property owner. He proposed that application be made for the Ratepayers Association’s existing resource consent to be amended to make provision for sand scraping in an emergency, when a big push-up is needed and to do top-ups from time to time. He doesn’t foresee problems with obtaining such a resource consent.

He also spoke about obtaining a resource consent for a more permanent defensive structure, but said that would be costly and may take up to two years. His view is in line with a legal opinion the Ratepayers Association obtained from Mike Savage, another lawyer specialising in environmental law.

An opportunity was also given to a representative from a geotextile materials company to talk about a “sand bag” defensive structure.

Some good news presented to the meeting was that the earthquake commission may cover the costs of the emergency sand push-ups that were done under TCDC’s resource consent. The EQC also encourages owners of properties that may have suffered damage during the latest storms to lodge claims with them, as no claim means they cannot assist with compensation or remedial work.

The meeting adjourned with the following decisions -

To commence with substantial sand push-ups as soon as the beach has rebuilt to the extent that enough sand is available.

For Doug to commence the process to have the Ratepayers Association’s existing consent amended.

For a committee to be formed to investigate the possibility of all the ratepayers with beachfront properties to obtain a resource consent and install a more permanent defensive structure, possibly using geotextile bags.

Goldrush Rally to come right into Whitianga

An afternoon spectator Super Special Stage will bring the spectacular action of rallying right into Whitianga for the VINZ Gold Rush Rally of Coromandel on Saturday 23 August. The Super Special Stage will be run on a 1.17 kilometre tarmac course alongside the Whitianga Waterways on Joan Gaskell Drive.

Competitors will contest the special stage twice on Saturday afternoon as part of the Gold Rush Rally, which is round five of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship. It’s expected to draw a large number of spectators to see New Zealand’s best drivers tackle a challenging tarmac layout.

“Spectators will be able to get a great view of the action,” said Clerk of Course, Steve Foster. “The cars will run one at a time down, heading down one side of Joan Gaskell Drive before changing lanes and over the bridge that crosses the waterways. A tight hairpin bend, back over the bridge and another change of lanes before a sprint to the flying finish complete the short but technical stage. The course will really showcase how rally cars accelerate and corner.”

The Super Special stage will be contested twice providing an afternoon of constant action to entertain the crowds. The first run of the anticipated 60 car plus field starts at 2pm on Saturday, followed by the second run at 3.15pm which is also the final stage of the event. The rally finish will also take place on Joan Gaskell drive with cars entering a parc-ferme area following completion of the second running of the stage, before crossing the finish ramp and customary victory celebrations with podium presentation from 3.55pm.

The VINZ Gold Rush Rally of Coromandel is a new event on the national rallying calendar. “The rally is going to be a real highlight of the Coromandel’s event calendar in 2014 and being able to have two stages of the competition right in Whitianga is not only a great opportunity to showcase our town but also provide our community fantastic access to another major event,” said Thames Coromandel District Council Mayor Glenn Leach.

Entries for the August event have already started flowing in from around the country with a top quality field of teams anticipated to participate in the event.

Visit our coming events or regular events page for home information on local events in Whitianga and the wider Mercury Bay area.


Through the people the land will be nourished

Wilderland is part of what makes the Mercury Bay community unique, but they need help.

Wilderland was born in 1964 when Dan and Edith Hansen established a "spray-free," what is now called "organic," farm on 160 acres of farmland off Comers Road, south of Whitianga. Dan was a man of vision and under his guidance and with the support of Edith, a self-reliant community began to develop.

Dan and Edith gifted the Wilderland farm to The Wilderland Trust, a charitable trust, in 1992 to, in Dan’s words, "Enable the work which has commenced here to be carried on and broadened."

Wilderland residents were pioneers who used creativity and ingenuity to overcome the many obstacles they encountered. And today they have a further obstacle to overcome and they need the help of the wider Mercury Bay community to preserve their existence.

"When Wilderland started to develop into a community of people living and working together, there was no Resource Management Act or Building Code," explained Russel Mooyman, chairman of the trust. "As a result structures on our property, as on many other properties at that time, went up in ways that wouldn’t be acceptable today. So, a few years ago, Thames Coromandel District Council requested us to comply with today's regulations in order to continue doing what we were doing. At first we thought they were a bit heavy handed, but in the end they were very helpful with getting Wilderland 'legal,' including granting a resource consent for the property.

"Unfortunately the consent was accompanied by a development contribution fee of around $34,000, which TCDC by law had to charge. We applied for a waiver on the grounds that Wilderland was not a new development, but TCDC felt that was going to be unfair on other ratepayers to grant the waiver. Now, our problem is we have a lot of energy on our property, but not much cash. So, nearly two years ago we started to repay the debt at a rate of $50 per week. That wasn’t acceptable to TCDC, which we could understand.

"In order to be seen to be fair, TCDC commenced legal action against us. We’ve responded by actively starting to look for the money. We still owe about $30,000. We’re willing to borrow the money to pay TCDC, however banks aren’t keen to lend to charities like us. They wouldn't want to foreclose on us, should anything go wrong.

"We’ve started an international fundraising campaign though Indiegogo [an international donations website] a week or so ago and have so far raised just under USD8,000. But we wonder if the local community will be willing to help too? We’re happy to accept cash donations, but will also talk to anyone willing to lend us the money. We do have income and the amount we’re looking for isn’t that big. We’ll definitely be able to pay it back.

"TCDC is giving us a few more weeks to come up with the money we owe them, so we have to move on things.

"For 50 years Wilderland has been part of what makes the Mercury Bay community unique. We believe we have much more to offer in the years to come, we just need to clear this latest hurdle in our way."

Expanding on this latest statement, Russel talked more about what they were, what they are now and what they plan to be.

"Contrary to popular belief, Wilderland is not a commune," he said. "We’re a place where people come to learn and experience sustainable and collaborative living practices and to develop a stronger connection with one another and our natural environment. Living in a community is a natural part of collaborating together on the land for a common purpose.

"Dan Hansen wrote in 1994,
‘The people taking part may appear to live in a community, but that is just an incidental, natural, practical, spontaneous occurrence. Such a community is in no sense divisive, exclusive or separate from humanity. It exists within and acts for humanity - is just a microcosm of mankind.’

"We have about 130 people coming to visit us every year, from New Zealand and around the world. Most stay for two to three weeks, some stay for a few months, a few of us stay longer. Some people visit us regularly. Some people come to learn, others to teach, many to do both.

"We produce a variety of certified organic fruit and vegetables and our ‘Wilderland Honey’ brand is well-known. What we don’t use ourselves, we sell through local markets and our roadside shop next to State Highway 25 [10km south of Whitianga]. We also sell preserves, herbal remedies, dried fruit and other products we make onsite.

"Dan Hansen used to say Wilderland was built on hard work, coupled with frugal living. We would like to think he’ll be proud of the way we’re continuing his good work today.

"Looking forward, we’re planning to build a new ‘visitors house.’ It will be a comfortable building with a large open space for group activities and bedrooms sleeping 12 people. To build it we’ll use as many materials as we can from our property. For example, the poles will come from our trees and clay from our land to make earth walls. We're hoping the visitor house will be an inspiring eco-building to enhance the Wilderland experience. Our regular visitors will enjoy their stay there and also student groups and other special interest groups can book the space for shared sustainability experiences. That would provide us with another source of income and a broader sector of society will be able to connect with Wilderland.

"There is a Maori proverb, ‘Ma te whenua ka ora te tangata. Ma te tangata ka ora te whenua.’ Translated it says, "Through the land the people will be nourished. Through the people the land will be nourished.’ We're looking forward to many more years of learning and teaching in Mercury Bay."

For more information on how to help The Wilderland Trust, visit their website

Waikato Regional Council work on the Coromandel the past year

Waikato Regional Council said today they have supported a big conservation effort on the Coromandel their last financial year, with help for nearly 22 kilometres of fencing to protect the environment. This included new projects or the completion of projects started in previous years.

Their contribution included -

Help for completing nearly 13 kilometres of stream fencing and three kilometres of coastal fencing.

Support for landowners planting more than 20,000 native plants.

5,000 native plants being planted by the council on other restoration projects.

Nearly 500 Poplar poles being planted to help prevent erosion.

“This has been a fantastic effort by staff in collaboration with landowners and others on the Peninsula,” said WRC Hauraki-Coromandel manager Julie Beaufill.

“The work has helped fence off erosion-prone areas and protect wetlands, native bush and coastal areas from stock grazing.

“The council has also advised and assisted with the restoring of natural areas through planting natives or through planting exotic trees specifically designed to help prevent erosion.”

The $160,000 worth of WRC’s own activities and support for the work of landowners was drawn from WRC’s Peninsula Project budget for catchment new works. Under the Peninsula Project, WRC will pay up to 35 per cent of the costs of qualifying environmental protection work by landowners.

Ms Beaufill said feedback from landowners was that this funding was a great motivator for people to get work done.

An example of work done as part of the Peninsula Project is a property in the Tairua catchment area that completed 1,460 metres of stream fencing and planted 2,000 native plants.

TCDC to more aggressively manage coastal erosion

Thames Coromandel District Council is now investigating how they can better plan and pay to protect the Coromandel coastline that's currently at risk from erosion.

The increased frequency and severity of storms is resulting in major erosion along several areas of the coastline which is putting public reserves, infrastructure and private properties at risk.

"We're investing more money and time in coastal protection methods," said Mayor Glenn Leach.

Wide reserve areas that were put aside years ago are almost gone. According to TCDC, there's a need now for backstops and then from there look at other softer methods once those backstops are in place.

"We have to draw a line," said Mr Leach. "Over the decades we've had numerous reports and consultants giving us advice on how to manage coastal erosion. But while we understand the need for planning, we also need action. Protection works need to be done sooner rather than later because every time we wait, we're losing more of our coastline, more of our land and potentially putting infrastructure like roads in jeopardy.

"This means more direct action rather than a managed retreat. So whether that's building hard or soft wall structures along the coast, continuing with on-going dune planting and temporary sand push-up work, this is what we'll be doing to protect land and infrastructure.

"We have to remember that beyond roads are the houses themselves. While scientists debate, trial things and postulate solutions, the real-life situation demands that we draw a line of action before we start losing any houses.”

TCDC’s approach will mean where there is enough reserve width and a lower wave energy environment, the preference will be to undertake dune planting and beach push-ups. But where the reserve is mainly gone in front of roads and houses and the wave energy is aggressive, they are committed to building walled protection as a backstop. They say this is about matching the method to the realities of the sea.

One of the ways TCDC will be looking to pay to manage coastal erosion is through their upcoming 2015 -2025 Long Term Plan. This could see coastal and hazard activity becoming district-funded, which would be targeted out of everyone's rates.

"Our first funding priority has to be to essential community infrastructure, but we won't abandon private homeowners’ issues," said Mr Leach.

"While we can't commit to funding for private landowners, we already have successful partnerships in place with private owners where we helped them to design and fund their own protection. My council is seeing this as a whole of District issue. You don't have to go too far back to see similar issues of protection needed on the Thames coast too. Just because we have erosion issues in Mercury Bay, Pauanui, Tairua and Whangamata is no guarantee that we won't see more on the western seaboard in future also."

Waikato Regional Council reacted to TCDC’s announcement that they will more actively become involved in the management of coastal erosion.  

“For our part, we recognize the frustration of Coromandel communities over the fact that there are no easy, comprehensive solutions to coastal erosion issues generally,” said WRC chairperson, Paula Southgate.

“Hard structures, such as sea walls, can have a role but they can also create problems by contributing to erosion elsewhere and affect the look and use of the beach. Other solutions, such as beach scraping to replenish eroded dunes, have their limitations.

“So it will be important for us all to keep working together closely to address the complexity of the issues involved in protecting our communities and the precious beaches of our region.

“During the consideration of our Long Term Plan we will be looking at what further role we may play in managing coastal hazard risks in our coastal communities.”


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A gift from the angels

Walking into the Frying Scotsman in Cooks Beach to buy some fish and chips, you expect, well, to be helped by a man with a Scottish accent. And yes, you’ll get the Scottish accent, but from a woman - and she’s not the wife of the man you expected.

No, Ellen Batty, originally from Glasgow, is "the frying Scotsman." It’s her shop. She’s the boss. So, how did she end up in the big metropolis that’s Cooks Beach?

"We, as a family, moved to New Zealand in 1986," said Ellen. "We ended up in the Kapiti Coast and I ended up in real estate. Life moved on, the kids started to do their own thing and then it was just me. Three years ago I went back to Scotland for a while and I just knew it was time for something else.

"Now don’t make a mistake, I enjoyed the real estate industry. It was good for me. But sometimes, as they say, a change is as good as a holiday.

"Raewyn Slikas from Cooks Beach Liquor also used to work in real estate in the Kapiti Coast. We became friends and stayed in touch when she moved to Cooks Beach a few years ago. I came to visit her in February last year and just fell in love with the area. Later in the year I came to visit again and noticed The Frying Scotsman was on the market. I started talking to Hendry Tainsh, who also happens to be from Scotland and who started the shop, and next moment we had a deal.

"And then things just fell in place. There really wasn’t any obstacle in the way of getting here before things got busy last summer. I took the business over on 16 December last year.

"Looking back over the past seven months or so, I often wondered, what really brought me to Cooks Beach? And I honestly don’t know. All I can say it’s a gift from the angels. I’m just so happy here. The area is lovely. The people are lovely. I really cannot ask for more."

About the business, Ellen said Hendry was really good showing her all the ropes. "It was a good little business, when I bought it. I didn’t change things and I think people like that. Hendry used to put out quality food and I hope I’m doing that too. I don’t mind people bringing in their own fish. I’m happy to batter and fry it for them. Hendry was good to his staff. They were happy to stay with me and I hope I’m good to them too. I’m a people person, I just love talking. I honestly cannot see myself doing anything different from what I’m doing now."

And there’s a bit more to Ellen’s story too. As it turned out, she grew up in Glasgow’s East End. And so did Hendry. They didn’t know each other then,
but they both know people who know the same people. "It’s a small world indeed," Ellen said. And to make it even smaller, Ellen ended up living in Scott Drive, next to Hendry and his family.

Inevitably the question needs to be asked, shouldn’t Ellen change the shop’s name to "The Frying Scotswoman" or "Scotslady" or something like that? "No chance. In Scotland, like in New Zealand, a woman can do a job just as well as a man can," answered the lady from Scotland who bought a business in Cooks Beach from a man from Scotland and who ended up living next to the man from Scotland in a street with a name resembling the country they’re both originally from.


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