Thursday, 03 December 2020


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.

Thames Coromandel District Council announced new funding opportunity

Thames Coromandel District Council has approved $20,000 per year to be invested into a Business Growth Fund programme to support innovative and forward-looking businesses intent on growing and creating jobs for the Coromandel.

"The programme was outlined and adopted in the 2012 Ten Year Plan and has been established to assist the private sector in creating new jobs on the Coromandel," said TCDC Deputy Chief Executive Ben Day.

The funding is to be used for developing new premises or expansion of existing premises and/or related infrastructure or plant that will directly lead to the creation of new jobs on the Coromandel Peninsula.

To be eligible applicants must -

  • Be active within one of the key sectors of the Coromandel's economy - tourism and tourism-related enterprises, aquaculture, manufacturing, forestry, health, education and information technology.
  • The business must either be a new business to the Thames Coromandel District or one that is not directly competing with other locally established companies.
  • Be a Small-Medium Sized Enterprise (SME) operating in a commercial environment.
  • The business owners and/or directors must be resident in New Zealand.
  • Develop and present a business case/plan, including financial viability and proof of a sound track record, the potential tangible job growth in the business, evidence as to why the funding is needed, evidence as to how the funding will add value to existing activities and evidence as to how the funding will add value to the Coromandel.

The proposals and business concepts must be consistent with New Zealand laws and regulation.

Applications are open from the 28 July - 30 September 2014 and funding decision/s will be made by the TCDC Economic Development Committee in October 2014.

Proposed District Plan hearings to start in September

Hearings on Thames Coromandel District Council’s Proposed District Plan will begin on Tuesday 16 September.

At its first meeting, the TCDC Hearings Panel is expected to sit for three days and focus on submissions relating to the whole of the plan, forestry, transport, festivals and events, airfield height and noise.

Hearings are expected to go through until the end of March 2015.

A large number of submitters, individuals and organisations, have indicated they want to speak to their submission at a hearing. Submitters will be advised when hearings are being held that relate to matters they submitted on.

The Proposed District Plan was publicly notified on 13 December 2013 with the submission period running until 14 March 2014. During the submission period 1,236 submissions were received, covering around 7,500 submission points.

The "Summary of Decisions" sought in the submissions was then notified and further submissions were called for. 

The further submission period closed on 16 June 2014 resulting in 286 further submissions, covering 2,662 further submission points.

The District Plan Hearings Panel is made up of one elected councillor (Sandra Goudie) and two external commissioners (Mark Farnsworth and Ian Munro). 

According to TCDC, the original "Summary of Decisions" contained some omissions, so there are six submissions which are now being re-notified for further submissions. 

The submission period on these six submissions opens today (Friday 25 July) and closes at 5:00pm on 8 August.

Anyone can make a further submission on these submissions.  A copy of the submissions, the “Summary of the Decisions” requested and the further submission form are on the TCDC website and also available from all TCDC’s offices.

Town v Country at Lyon Park last week Saturday

As reported by Hayden Smith

Combative dialogue and snide remarks were exchanged well before the opening whistle of last Saturday’s Town v Country rugby fixture in Whitianga. Talk was rife of a rampant City side bustling with Senior A players set to run rings around the country bumpkins, a side comprised of the young, the old, and the very old. The scene was set for a David v Goliath tussle and all that was missing from the State-of-Origin-like affair was the introduction of the skirmish by the great Ray Warren. It truly was mate v mate and few within Mercury Bay’s lengthy confines missed the exchange, the grandstands packed to capacity.

A jovial Country side took to the field with the sound of "Wagon Wheel" still ringing loudly in their ears from the tense pre-match formalities, while the City-siders looked slick in their preparations and were always going to test the Country kids across the paddock. But it was Country who struck early. After stringing together several nice phases, a rampaging Duncan Oliver stormed over the line mid-way through the first stanza to take the Country blokes to an early lead.

The boys from the big smoke hit back soon after, however, and shouts of "shut the gate fatty" could be heard echoing across Lyon Park as Whangamata import, Eli Byles finished a nice piece of work along the short side from a City scrum to draw the two sides within two points of one-another at 7-5. Star Argentinian, Pedro Scardapane was lethal off the back of the scrum for City and seemed intent on running at every opportunity, chewing metres around the base at will, and earning himself the nickname the "metre-eater."

Buoyed by the promise of free beer, Kieran Ramage was a juggernaut for the Country boys and was always followed closely by brother Dan, together delivering valuable go-forward for boys in the alternate strip. The hard work in the engine room eventually payed off with a well-worked piece down the sideline seeing Rewi Gemmell galloping away from the City defence and, despite an unrivalled effort to chase down his opposite, debutant Osman Emer was unable to stop the Hahei speedster scoring the second try for Country.

Unwilling to rest on their laurels, Country continued to fight doggedly in defence, but it wasn’t enough to stem the heavy-hitting Town side, with Thames Valley squad member, Eden McLean bringing his side within a whisker of the lead. It was blow-for-blow football, with the lead poised to change hands at any given moment.

The half time whistle also saw a change in referee, with club custodian Chris Costello taking the helm. After laying down the law, and promising a flowing game of rugby, the opening exchanges of the second half had players wondering if Cossy had indeed forgotten his whistle, with one period of play threatening to run the entire quarter. What the wonderful turnout of players from a bygone era saw was a great spectacle, though the lack of whistle blowing had many blue in the face and gasping for air leading into oranges after the third quarter.

Scores were more or less locked up prior to the commencement of the final quarter and friendships were put on hold for a further 20 minutes, as friends became enemies and the battle entered its final hour. A scuffle between compatriots Beau Hamilton and Cody Muir ended the same way as the score at that time sat, with a slender, though deserved, lead to Country.

While a late try from Schwinky Charles narrowed the gap for City, the final nail was slammed into the proverbial coffin in the dying stages with Country celebrity Cody Hamilton crossing the chalk in overtime and taking the Country side to a deserved victory, 33-22.

Special mention must go to Mike Hamilton, who took to the field to join his three sons in battle for Country despite approaching retirement age at an alarming rate. Goodness knows how he survived the tussle without a cup of tea, though rumours are beginning to surface that he did indeed enjoy a dose of his favoured brew at halftime.

Thanks must go the all those that helped make the day a great success. And to those supporters who turned up to watch the healthy exchange, a further thank you. I’m sure all involved look forward to next years’ confrontation.

Major Event Fund recipients announced

Recipients of the 2014 first round of Thames Coromandel District Council’s Major Events Fund have been announced.

The following events have been allocated sponsorship -

Leadfoot Festival - $40,000. This is a unique weekend in Hahei bringing together a mix of classic cars, vintage motorcycles and motorsports legends.

Thunderbeach - $5,000. This is a three day Motorcycle Rally based out of Mercury Bay.

Tairua Wet ‘n Wild - $5,000. This is two days wet and wild jetski action on Tairua Harbour.

Thames Festival of Mindsports - This is a weekend of sports that challenge the mind including sudoku, chess, dungeons and dragons and much more ($5,000 from the second round of funding).

There will be another funding round later this year. For more details, see the TCDC Major Events Fund webpage.

The decision was made by the TCDC Economic Development Committee.

"The committee has made decisions on events that have the most potential to grow economic returns to the district, over time, and those most closely aligned to the intent and criteria of our event strategy," said TCDC Mayor Glenn Leach. "It was a tough series of decisions to make."


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