Thursday, 03 December 2020


Update on the turf issues at the Mercury Bay Multi-Sport Park

According to Thames Coromandel District Council, the first stage of the growing of turf at the Mercury Bay Multi-Sport Park has been completed. They are now looking at a cost effective maintenance program which will incorporate on-going drainage work for the future.

An independent turf advisor with the NZ Turf Institute has prepared a report looking at how to best manage the fields. The report will be presented to the Mercury Bay Community Board at an upcoming meeting.

According to the report, it's very common for all newly established turf to take up to a year to settle in and drain effectively. While there is drainage installed at the Sport Park fields, additional remedies are needed to allow water to filter through to the drainage system in place. The report will give the Community Board recommendations on the best way to manage this.

The available options include -

  • Ground probe aeration (air probes into the soil to help drainage).
  • Verti-draining (another kind of probe which goes into the upper soil to provide drainage).
  • Hollow core tyning (a common process on golf courses which uses a "plug" type system).
  • Sand slit draining (where a groove is cut in the ground and filled with a sand carpet over the top).

Low cost options can be approved by the Community Board, while any substantial work will be subject to TCDC's budget processes. Work will be undertaken in summer when the weather is better and will be managed around any summer sport programmes booked in at the Sport Park.

TCDC said that since the facility opened there has been -

  • A Whitianga Junior Tennis Open.
  • A Community Fun Day on 23 May where rugby, rugby league, netball and football held tournaments and games.
  • Various community groups, including Hot Water Beach Surf Lifesaving, the Fire Service, St John Ambulance, Whitianga Social Services and the Police, attended. There were also stalls and activities for the kids, including face painting and a climbing wall.
  • TCDC also said that netball, rugby, rugby league and football continue to use the Sport Park when the fields and facilities they require are available.

Upcoming events that will make use of the Sport Park include -

  • Rally NZ will use the facility as its headquarters and pit area on 23 August.
  • The Sport Park will be the registration area for the K2 cycle race on 14 November.
  • Whitianga touch rugby will be held at the Sport Park on Wednesdays during school term 4 this year and school term term 1 next year.
  • Summer netball will be played at the facility during term 4.

"We also have on-going interest from codes outside of the Coromandel who are interested in using the facility and the fields, including Auckland Rugby League," said TCDC’s Sport Park coordinator, Sue Costello.

"We are working to market the facilities and this area for team training camps, regional tournaments and events.

"We thank all the codes for supporting the Sport Park and everyone's patience and understanding during the turf embedding process in our first year of operation."

But I have to finish

John Booker, New Zealand’s bathtub racing champion, and his wife, Chrissie Reilly are back from Nanaimo on Vancouver Island in Canada where John participated in the Great International World Championship Bathtub Race. Being part of the 62km endurance race that took place on Sunday 27 July surpassed all John’s expectations. It also made him think about doing a similar thing in Mercury Bay.

"We felt very much at home in Nanaimo," said John. "Although much bigger than Whitianga, the people are just as friendly and hospitable.

"The Thursday morning before the race, I was picked up from our hotel by Jamie Garcia, a fanatical bathtub racer, who offered me the use of one of his old bathtub boats. I saw photos of the boat beforehand and knew that it was going to need a lot of love. Jamie allowed me to use his workshop to work on the boat. He was very helpful.

"While I was slaving away the Thursday, Chrissie was, of course, doing sightseeing and shopping. That evening we attended the race’s sponsors evening and realised two things - the race is a really big thing in Nanaimo, they have a week-long marine festival around it, and it was a big thing having us there. Everyone referred to us as ‘the Kiwis.’ And everyone told me I’ll get the trophy for the competitor that came from the furthest afield, but I have to finish the race.

"I remember I said to Jamie at some point that I want to finish the race in the top ten of the standard engine class. He replied ominously, ‘If you finish.’

"Chrissie was great on the Friday. She didn’t have overalls there, so she wrapped herself in bubble wrap and painted the boat. Once that was done, I could fit my Volvo Penta sponsored Hidea 8hp engine to the boat. While I worked on the engine, Chrissie went to hire a vehicle, primarily to tow the boat in the Nanaimo Marine Festival Parade the next day. I expected her to come back with a SUV or something. Not a chance. She organised a complimentary upgrade to a huge GMC 2,500 double cab, it was the only vehicle with a ‘hitch,’ just to tow a small bathtub boat. It was a sight to behold. I was happy to let Chrissie also do all the driving, wrong side of the road and all.

"The parade through the Nanaimo main streets was massive, at least six blocks long with almost all 35 bathtub boats that entered the race, many floats, marching bands and a rock band on the back of a truck. And heaps of people lining the streets.

"After the parade we had to take the boat for a technical inspection, to make sure I didn’t tamper with the engine and all the safety equipment I needed was on board. The race organisers are very safety conscious, if you finish without your whistle and torch, you’re disqualified.

"The Saturday afternoon I took the boat out to sea for the first time. It was a huge learning curve. Just to get into the tub was a mission. The boats all have deep keels to survive in the ocean. That means you have to get them moving, or they sink. So, I had to start the engine, put one leg in the boat, put the engine in gear, hop along the boat and jump in when it had enough speed to carry my bodyweight.

"The Saturday evening was amazing. We had a rooftop dinner with a few selected guests and watched the best fireworks display we had ever seen.

"Sunday morning first thing was roll call and a compulsory safety briefing. The mayor of Nanaimo, whom I first met at the sponsors evening on the Thursday, took roll call and of course had to say the furthest afield trophy is mine, but I have to finish. As if I haven’t heard that before.

"I also met my support boat crew at the briefing. Each bathtub boat must have a support boat. What happened with me was that this retired chap, Gordon, heard a Kiwi was going to participate in the race. His daughter lives in Christchurch. So he basically told his neighbour, Scotty, who owns a boat, they’re going to be my support team. And they were just awesome.

"The race was something else. It was very choppy at the start with 35 bathtub boats milling around. It was actually a calm day and once the field started to spread out, I was going quite well. But about halfway my engine cut out. I had to get out or the boat was going to go down like a rock. Fortunately my support boat was close by and picked me up. I manage to restart the engine just about when the tub was full of water. I then had to bucket the water out before I could get back in. I lost about four places with all that going on, but fortunately picked up a few on my way to the finish.

"The finish was also a bit of an experience. I pulled up on shore so fast that I tumbled forward out of the boat, head first onto the sand. Then I had to run more than 100m and up a gangplank to a stage where I had to ring a bell. After 90 minutes in a bathtub, the running was no joke. But ringing that bell was important, as it meant that I finished.

"I ultimately came eighth in my class and 19th overall. And I did win that trophy for competitor that came from the furthest afield."

Looking forward, John would like to go back to Nanaimo, maybe with three or four other Whitianga bathtubbers and maybe even shipping a container with their own boats to Canada. "We can always leave the boats there for whoever represents New Zealand next," he said.

John also thinks Whitianga can host its own bathtub racing endurance event. "Five times around a circuit of, say, 10km past Buffalo Beach, Cooks Beach and Simpsons Beach will make for some spectacular racing and viewing. And of course there will have to be a sprint finish and the ringing of a bell on a stage," he said.

"And if we can combine the race with something like the Dive Zone Dive Festival at the end of November, we may just end up having our own marine festival. Who knows we may even be able to pull off a parade down Albert Street."

Darrell Bird from Dive Zone in Whitianga said they are keen to work with John to see where his idea may lead. Asking Glenn Leach, Thames Coromandel District Council mayor what he thought about John’s idea, he said, "We would absolutely be interested in supporting an event like this. We'll get our team to start discussing with John how this opportunity can come about and to look at how we can support this. We also have a Major Event Fund and this has the potential to be an iconic event to bring more people to the Coromandel."

Now who would have thought - combine a bathtub with a city in Canada and you have the potential for a new major event in Mercury Bay.

Peninsula First XV through to Coulter Cup Final

The Peninsula First XV rugby team secured a spot in the final of the 2014 Thames Valley Rugby Union First XV Coulter Cup competition by beating the Paeroa College First XV team last week Saturday in Whitianga.

The Coromandel boys (made of players from Mercury Bay Area School, Coromandel Town and Manaia) had a hefty breeze from behind in the first half, scoring four tries with two conversions from second-five Jayden Tegg. Paeroa was unable put any points on the board during the first half. The halftime score, 24-0.

The going was much tougher for the Peninsula team the second half playing into the wind. Paeroa scored first with an unconverted try, which was soon after answered with an unconverted try by the Coromandel boys.

The final score, 29-5.

For the Peninsula team captain JJ Parr (halfback) scored two tries and Ricky Cressey-Hamilton, Marcus Save and Pukengia Moanaroa one each.

Coach Mike Smith is impressed with the way the team came together as a unit during the season. “It’s the first season the boys played as a combined team from the northern Coromandel,” he said. “Training was more difficult with more travelling, but I’m amazed at the way the team gelled. There are a number of Year 13 boys in the team and their maturity definitely showed.

“It’s a well-disciplined team and if they win the final, I’ll be the first to say that they deserve it.”

Waihi College beat Thames High School in Waihi on Saturday to secure the other final spot. The final will be played at the Paeroa Domain this Saturday 16 August. The kick-off time is to be confirmed.

Kauri 2000 to celebrate planting of 40,000 kauri

The Kauri 2000 Trust will be celebrating the achievement of having planted 40,000 kauri on the Coromandel Peninsula since 1999 on 20 August. The trust’s founder, Cliff Heraud, said that the success of the trust has gone far beyond what he ever imagined. “My dream in 1999 was to plant 2000 trees as a living commemoration to greet the new millennium. To be reaching this milestone of getting 40,000 kauri in the ground, forming new kauri forests on the Peninsula, is wonderful.” 

The trust’s chair, Alison Henry, said, “The trustees, past and present, are to be congratulated for the professional manner in which the trust was set up and continues to operate. It’s a significant commitment - every year the trust selects and prepares planting sites, orders the kauri seedlings and ensures the trees we have planted in previous years are well-maintained. Most of our planting is done on public land administered by the Department of Conservation, with whom the trust has a signed Memorandum of Agreement, or on council reserves.”

Mrs Henry also recognised the support Kauri 2000 enjoys from people from all walks of life and throughout New Zealand, from hard-working and willing volunteers to supporters who generously donate funds to support the trust’s work. “Particularly special thanks are due to our long term benefactors Gayle and Charlie Pancerzewski. Their support has been a critical factor in reaching our 40,000th milestone, as has the support of our keystone sponsor BNZ Markets,” she said. “Every year the BNZ team heads into the hills with spades in hand and all these relationships have become very strong over the years.”

Students from Mercury Bay Area School, Coromandel Area School, Paeroa’s Miller Avenue School, Tairua School and local language schools are also planting their own kauri forests for the future. "It is truly heartening to be part of this community of kauri lovers who support what the trust is doing in so many different ways,” Mrs Henry said.

The trust has taken a leading role in establishing the Coromandel Kauri Dieback Forum, a network of local organisations and concerned individuals who will work in a practical way to protect kauri in their own communities, complementing the reach and resources of the national Kauri Dieback Management Programme. The inaugural meetings of the forum are being held on 30 and 31 August in Whangamata, Thames, Coromandel Town and Whitianga.

The Kauri 2000 trustees are proud to be reaching the 40,000 milestone. “To have 40,000 young kauri growing on our Peninsula deserves a celebration,” Mrs Henry said. On 20 August the trustees will be joined by trust founder Cliff Heraud, patron Dame Cath Tizard, Associate Minister for Conservation Nicky Wagner and a number of supporters and volunteers for a ceremonial planting of young kauri trees in Coromandel town near one of Kauri 2000’s largest planting sites. The trust now has a new milestone of 50,000 kauri in its sights.

Mercury Bay authors and publisher at Auckland Independent Book Festival

New Zealand’s largest independent book festival is all set to go in Devonport on Saturday 16 August.

The Auckland Independent Book Festival is in response to major changes in New Zealand publishing in the last two or three years, in particular the withdrawal or reduction of services of major international publishers and the disappearance of several better known New Zealand companies. New publishing techniques, such as e-books, have played a major part in this changing landscape.

At the same time, new digital advances have made independent publishing much more economically viable. Far from a publishing desert being created, the new era has seen a flowering of new, smaller companies, and the rapid rise of skilled author-publishers.

More than 100 author-publishers, editors, publishers and illustrators from all over New Zealand have reserved tables at the festival.

Ian Meredith of Aries Publishing Ltd is a small publishing company, based in Whitianga. Ian will be bringing a directory he produces, “The Directory of Residential Camps,” to the festival. This is resource, which is distributed nationally and is for groups seeking accommodation and activities. Ian has also published three books with Coromandel Peninsula based authors.

Jan Hill lives at Whenuakite and her book, “When Chocolate fish are Flying,” is a poetry book richly illustrated by Lynda Vugler, who lives in Hahei. Jan’s poetry and Lynda’s illustrations are “set in a valley somewhere between the Coromandel Peninsula and the reader’s imagination.”

Ginney Deavoll’s book, “A Coast to Coast of the South Island. The Long Way,” is an encounter of her and her partner, Tyrell Browne’s paddling from Te Wae Wae Bay just west of Invercargill to Jackson’s Bay on the West Coast, mountain biking to Otira, then tramping to Farewell spit. The journey took three months and was 2,000km long. Ginney, based in Hahei, is an accomplished artist who has illustrated the book with her artistic impressions of the journey.

The event is free to the public and there is easy access for wheelchairs. A festival atmosphere will be created inside the St Pauls Chess Centre venue by a number of raffles with excellent prizes and a succession of varied speakers from the literary world.

News from the Whitianga Bike Park

Ray Hewlett, one of the founders and keepers of the Whitianga Bike Park, talks about the park.

After a less than warm and sunny holiday period it was good to see members of the public still able to make use of the cycle tracks and jumps at the Whitianga Bike Park when a few hours of fine weather presented itself.

Whilst we can’t get away from a bit of mud here and there, it’s great to see families having fun together - if not cycling, then enjoying the bush walks, petonque, frisbee golf and other entertainment areas that have been created.

It is a big job keeping up with presenting the different aspects of the park to the best of our abilities. Noel Hewlett (my brother) and I take pleasure in doing so, but when there’s storm damage, ti-tree and other obstructions being blown across the tracks, extra hours are required to clean up and we run out of time and energy. We appreciate help from every source we can get and many members of the community, when they had time to spare, helped in building some tracks and bridges, carting shells and levelling rough areas. This enables us to mow and improve the flowerbeds, etc. We know that they take pride in their work.

We would like to think there are more volunteers who may be able to give some time to help maintain the Bike Park’s standards and I am sure that those who have come to see it will agree it is an enjoyable place to be. The Lions Club arboretum of native trees is a special place to walk around, as is the stand of kauri trees.

We would like to thank those businesses and organisations that have helped in any way to keep the Park looking good. While some folk may think that being a Council-owned property we are getting a lot of input from them financially for maintenance, it is only the donation box that helps the facility to continue and to be available to the public free of charge.

All help and donations are much appreciated.

A local travel agent for 20 years

This is Jody Simpson’s 20th year with Monett Johnston who owns United Travel in Whitianga. It’s 20 years that have seen a lot of changes in the travel industry.

We caught up with Jody and Monett about experiences in the years they’ve been working together.

"I grew up in Paeroa and studied travel for two years in Hamilton," said Jody. "I then worked in travel wholesale in Auckland for two years, but really wanted to do retail. I wanted to be at the coal face, working with customers. The problem was that it was really difficult getting a job with a travel agency without experience. But Monett was happy to give me a chance. When I arrived in Whitianga, it was only the two of us. She taught me everything I know.

"In fact, I was here only three months and off she went on an educational trip to South Africa for a few weeks. Talk about being in at the deep end."

That was the time when computers slowly moved into fashion and the internet, as it’s being used today, was only a pipe dream. "We used to get all these thick books from the airlines with their fares in them," said Monett. We had to calculate exactly what a client would pay on every segment of their journey and add it all up. And if we got it wrong, we had to pay the difference.

"The first computerised system we could use was called MAARS. It did away with all those thick books. Then, of course, came the internet and that made the MAARS system look very old. The internet gave us a lot of freedom. With the push of a few buttons we can now see what all the airlines have to offer."

An important part of a travel agent’s job is gaining first-hand experience of the places and attractions they recommend to their clients. "I send each of the people working for me on at least one educational trip per year," said Monett. "That’s in addition to a lot of online learning we all do. The personal touch, I think, is why people will always continue to use travel agencies. We know and can recommend things you’ll never find on the internet."

Jody has travelled to more than 40 countries to date. Her favourites are Sri Lanka and the Greek Islands. "Sri Lanka is just so different," she said. "The people are lovely and the culture so interesting. In Greece the lifestyle is laidback and the sunshine is endless.

"And I’ve been to the Dubai recently, where I stayed in the $1,000 a night Armani Hotel. It was a pretty neat experience too."

There were many stand out incidents. "There are two I specifically remember," said Jody. "Once on a cruise ship, as I was about to go up a set of stairs,
this man came to me and asked, ‘Are these stairs going up?’ I was speechless.

"And then there was this family from Australia who holidayed in Matarangi a few summers ago when it was raining a lot. They just walked into the office one day and said they want some sunshine. Four days later they were on a plane to Florida. They wanted to fly in the best way possible and stay in the best hotels I could find. Believe it or not, just like that they spent $40,000."

Jody said her ideal holiday right now will be a cruise from Hawaii to Tahiti and New Zealand with her six year old daughter. "But when my daughter is older, an African safari is the one thing we’ll definitely do." And then she started to explain why, revealing all these secrets only travel agents know. Things you’ll never find on the internet.

Z Nail Gang to premiere in Whitianga

Z Nail Gang, the movie based on the successful Kuaotunu anti-mining protests in the 80’s will premiere in Whitianga next week Thursday, 14 August. 

It’s the story of a New Zealand Coastal town community living peacefully on the sheltered side of a treasured mountain and enjoying life at a leisurely pace. It all comes to an abrupt end, though, when a multi-national corporation announces that they’re going to explore for gold. The tightly-woven community is torn between those who welcome the promise of prosperity and those who are opposed to the mining of their mountain. One thing is for sure, unless they can come together as a unified front, they'll lose what's most precious to them - their community and the land it dwells on.

The movie seamlessly weaves heart-warming characters into a community and environmental themes into a comedy, all the way through portraying a single message - some things really are worth more than gold. Prominent in the story is a family similar to that of Mercury Bay locals Mark Tugendhaft and Nedilka Radojkovich and their boys Brani and Stefan, who were deeply involved in the Kuaotunu protests.

The movie was directed and produced by Anton Steel and Kylie DellaBarca-Steel from the Bay of Plenty. Anton is friends with Brani and started thinking about the movie when Brani told him about the protests on a drive to the Central North Island ski-fields about five years ago.

 The world premiere of Z Nail Gang took place on Thursday 31 July in Te Puke.

Mark said the movie is a perfect portrayal of their battle. “But people need to remember Kuaotunu was only one of a number of Coromandel communities that took on big business,” he said. “It’s because of the Coromandel that mining was kept out of our national parks and off the conservation estate. Let’s just hope that our good work will never be undone.

“The movie is sweet and sour. It’s funny and touching. My only criticism is that the actor who plays me is far more polite than what I was.” 

Reviews the movie has received to date include, “Moving, inspirational, funny,” “Staunch kiwiana, fun and strong, very cool,” “Thought provoking,” “A great home-grown movie, with current storyline and great humour as well.”

The movie will screen on Thursday in both theatres of Mercury Twin Cinemas in Whitianga. The doors will open at 5:30pm, with the VIP guests, including many of the people pivotal in the Kuaotunu protests, arriving at 6:00pm.

Salt Restaurant and Bar and New World Whitianga will be putting on “a free drink and nibbles” afterwards.     

The premiere will be a formal affair, an opportunity to dress up. Tickets cost $25 each and are available from The Lost Spring Information Centre in Whitianga, Kuaotunu Store and Luke’s Kitchen in Kuaotunu.  Z Nail gang is scheduled to screen to the public in Whitianga, so if you can’t make it to the premiere, make sure you catch it soon after. After all, it’s a movie about gold in the hearts of a Mercury Bay community.


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