Monday, 18 January 2021


Local artists can apply for funding assistance now

Teaching art to children allows Linda Brajkovich to help them open the doors to a world of creativity. 

Last year she was one of the beneficiaries of a Thames Coromandel District Council Creative Community Arts Grant which provided $500 to help pay towards canvases, paints and brushes for her after school art classes.

Applications for this year's Creative Community Grant opened today and closes 4pm on Friday, 31 October. A fund of $12,000 is available.

Linda, who is now retired and lives in Te Puru, has been providing after school art classes for children from Thames and the Thames Coast for 18 years.

"I have classes almost every day after school and the children start from around age five," said Linda. "We become friends and stay friends forever.

"With the money I received from the grant, I've been able to hold two big public exhibitions of the children's oil paintings. One exhibition was at the Goldfields Mall in Thames and the second will be at the Te Puru flower show on 8 November at the Te Puru Hall.

"I've always been creative. I used to design clothes and do screen painting and had three stores until my son got sick with leukaemia when he was two years old."

Over the next 13 years Linda then home schooled her son and two daughters.

"The children's father was also an amazing jeweller and potter and so we were always doing creative, arty things," said Linda. "You can't make a mistake with art, if you can be creative you can make something out of nothing." 

So, if like Linda, you're involved in local and creative arts, now is the time to apply for funding from the Creative Communities Arts Grant.

Hauraki Gulf at crossroads

The Hauraki Gulf Forum today released its 2014 state of the environment report.

The three-yearly assessment of the Hauraki Gulf/ Tikapa Moana notes a significant - and in some cases widening - gap between current and desired states.

But it also documents some progress within the rural, urban and marine sectors to address environmental impacts.

Stocks of popular fish species are sustainably managed, but typically at the lowest acceptable target level under fisheries legislation. Snapper numbers are thought to be at 19 per cent of original biomass and legal-sized crayfish are managed at one fifth their levels in 1945.

The Forum had identified enhancement of fisheries with improved environmental outcomes as one of its areas for focus and action following its last assessment in 2011.

The 2014 report finds already high levels of nitrogen continuing to increase in the Gulf, mainly from the intensively farmed Hauraki Plains. It also notes long term studies linking elevated nutrient levels to seasonal sags in oxygen in the Firth of Thames water column.

Auckland’s Waitemata and Tamaki estuaries frequently exceed low-level sediment quality guidelines for heavy metals coming from urban roads and buildings.

The Forum had sought active management to minimise land-based pollutants and to keep them at levels that prevent ecological damage.

It also identified a network of regenerating marine areas as part of its recipe for successful management, but progress has been slow. Marine reserves remain at 0.3 per cent of the Gulf area. Reefs in older reserves showing marked differences in health and productivity to surrounding fished areas, but efforts to initiate new reserves, such as on the northern Waiheke coast, have been strongly contested.

Forum chairman John Tregidga said there are positive signs. “Many farmers are recognising the need to work within nutrient limits”, he said. “The fishing industry has moved to address wastage and is adapting methods to avoid seabird capture, while the Ports of Auckland has introduced a large vessel transit protocol to avoid collisions with resident Bryde’s whales.”

The report documents the pattern of intensive fishing throughout the Gulf, from recreational boats, long-lining and trawling. Scallop dredging has also expanded into previously unfished beds in the past three years.

Fierce competition between sectors and an emphasis on utilisation in the short term is stalling a rebuild of fish stocks to levels associated with better economic returns and environmental health.

Monitoring shows estuaries and harbours around the Gulf are becoming muddier, suggesting land use controls are lagging behind council obligations and community expectations.

Four new marine invasive species have been reported since the 2011 report and one of them, the Mediterranean fanworm, is potentially a serious pest.

Four Bryde’s whales are known to have died from ship strike since 2011.  Significant numbers of black petrels and flesh-footed shearwaters are also dying, predominantly from drowning on commercial long lines. In both cases, these death rates appear to be more than their populations can sustain.

The report puts a measure over new central and local government policy and plans. It suggests there are technical and political challenges to meeting the requirements of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act.

The report notes aquaculture could expand significantly in the Gulf, with consequences for additional nitrogen loads, if designated fish farms are developed. Current applications for shellfish farming, which come off hold at the end of this year, would, if consented, double the area in production and alter the natural character of some parts of the Gulf.

The report documents growing contribution by tangata whenua to governance of the Hauraki Gulf/ Tikapa Moana, Te Moananui a Toi, through partnership arrangements spawned through treaty settlement processes, iwi plans and ownership interests.

The Hauraki Gulf Forum advocated for the development of a marine spatial plan for the Gulf after its 2011 assessment. The resulting Sea Change - Tai Timu Tai Pari process is now at a critical halfway stage.

“This 2014 state of the environment assessment shows we are at a crossroads,” said Forum chairman John Tregidga. “Ongoing engagement and commitments from all parties are needed if we are to protect and enhance the special qualities of the Hauraki Gulf.”

Sea Change - Tai Timu Tai Pari deems the Hauraki Gulf to be all the water surrounding the Coromandel Peninsula, including the wider Mercury Bay area.

Road crashes close Coromandel roads

The Police are currently in attendance at a serious motor vehicle collision on State Highway 25 north of Thames.

The collision between a motorcycle and a car has resulted in one person passing away and two further persons receiving minor injuries.

No details of the parties involved in the incident have been released at this time.

The State Highway is expected to be closed to traffic for about the next two hours.  

The Police further advise that a collision has also occurred on the 309 Road which is now blocked.

Accordingly, the only alternative route to the north western coast of the Coromandel is the route via Tairua, Whitianga and Matarangi.

The Police advised motorists to be patient as delays are inevitable at this time.

Luke Reilly on Luke’s Kitchen, his new gallery next door and Tom Batchelor and The River Jesters live this weekend

From Kuaotunu locals to the thousands of contributors on the world’s largest travel website, Luke Reilly has earned many fans with his simple recipe for business success.

By combining tasty, fresh pizza with a relaxed surf vibe overlooking Kuaoutunu’s Black Jack reef, Luke’s Kitchen has created a must-do destination on the Coromandel and is the social saviour for locals in the hibernation months at Kuaotunu.

Luke is gearing up for a busy summer with his recent purchase of the gallery next door, which he’s transforming into a funky coffee and juice bar with healthy grab-and-run food that people can take to the beach.

The gallery café formally re-opens on Labour Weekend, but this Friday night it will host the psychedelic rock and blues band of former X Factor contestant Tom Batchelor, who approached Luke to play at the new venue with his band The River Jesters.

"They approached me to come and play and I said ‘yeah, why not?’ It breaks up the winter and keeps the locals entertained. It’s a real winter social hangout here, we get kids coming down after school on a Friday and we put on little events to keep it fresh and keep people interested in the place. It mixes it up and if it’s a busy night, it breaks up the winter a little bit.

"I’ve had tonnes of bands approaching me to play in the gallery over summer, so I’m hoping to get some small gigs going in the summertime at the gallery. During the day we’ll have local art on display and a few big tables and couches for everyone to share, so anyone can walk in anytime and feel at home."

The relaxed holiday vibe is part of what makes Luke’s Kitchen such a hit with visitors. It is in the top three restaurants on the Coromandel as voted by customers on Tripadvisor and Luke says he’s blown away when a single Facebook post reaches between 2,000 and 5,000 people around the world.

It all started five years ago with a small portable kitchen that Paul, Luke’s dad, brought and positioned on the corner of Black Jack Road where he used to run his mechanic business.

"Dad pretty much said here you go it’s yours," Luke said.

Luke was born and raised on the exact corner of Kuaotunu where the kitchen now is. He originally began his studies to be a chef at the age of 18. Unsure of the career path he was taking, he wanted a job where he could work at night time to free up time to go surfing all day. Once qualified, he spent many years travelling and building his skills as a chef. He returned after a phone call from Paul sharing a vision to bring Luke home and create a space for locals to come.

At the age now of 26, Luke is still in disbelief at how far the kitchen has come along and how it has impacted not just himself and his family but the local community of Kuaotunu. "I have been so lucky to have a whole community behind me, I’ve received so much help and local support through the journey of Luke’s Kitchen.

"It’s been super cool to have such great staff, they really are the core of this place, without them Luke’s Kitchen would not be who we are today. We believe in ‘work hard but play hard!’ Keeping it light hearted and fun. I think the atmosphere that our staff creates is very visible to our customers and this adds to the whole vibe of what Luke’s Kitchen is all about."

The 26-year-old enjoys interacting with customers via social media where he seeks feedback on different beers for sale or shares secrets on making great pizza. And for a break from it all he goes surfing.

The River Jesters are a four piece psychedelic rock band formed by Tom Batchelor and guitarist Michael Morris who met on the streets of Dunedin.
The band plays from 5:30pm onward on Friday 26 September and tickets can be bought at Luke’s Kitchen or the gallery.

Visit our Coming Events or Regular Events pages for more things to do in and around Whitianga and the wider Mercury Bay area.

New Thames Coromandel District Freedom Camping Bylaw by Labour Weekend

Thames Coromandel District Councillors deliberated on submissions to TCDC’s draft Freedom Camping Bylaw yesterday and will look to adopt a revised draft bylaw at its meeting on 22 October.

In the past few months TCDC had a draft Freedom Bylaw out for public consultation. They had over 120 submissions and submitters were given the opportunity to speak to Council at a hearing last month.

At yesterday's deliberations Council did decide on some changes to the proposed draft bylaw that included -

  • Removing the proposed restriction that would prohibit freedom camping in restricted areas during summer and holiday weekends.
  • Extending the proposed departure time from 8am to 9am.
  • Extending the number of nights freedom campers can stay in a restricted area to 2 consecutive nights.
  • Having designating areas for freedom camping within all restricted areas.
  • Some changes to proposed areas where freedom camping is prohibited or restricted.

TCDC agreed to keep the proposed district-wide restriction that all freedom campers must be certified self-contained.

The deliberations decisions report can be viewed here.

Earlier this year a judicial review of TCDC’s current Freedom Camping Bylaw was sought by the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association (NZMCA). The High Court decision was released late last month and found that the TCDC Bylaw is legal, but two clauses in its Public Places Bylaw and Parking Control Bylaw should be revoked. Council formally revoked these yesterday.

"During the legal proceedings we were already a long-way down the track in reviewing the Bylaw to make it more permissive and revoking the two inconsistent bylaw clauses," said Thames-Coromandel Chief Executive David Hammond.

"We are wanting to work more proactively with the NZMCA to ensure that people visiting the Coromandel in certified self-contained vehicles are catered for and are considerate of our beautiful Coromandel environment. People in uncertified non self-contained vehicles will be encouraged to use commercial campsites."

We will be working on signage and developing easy to use information for the public, including freedom campers, on the freedom camping rules and also places where freedom camping is encouraged. When this is ready we'll have information available in our areas offices, i-Sites and visitor centres and update our website.”

Attempted armed robbery in Tairua

Police are searching for a man believed to have been involved in an attempted armed robbery of the Black Bull liquor store on Tairua’s main road this evening.

Police said the attempted robbery occurred at around 8.12pm and ten units have been called to the scene.

No one has been injured and according to the store’s owner, the robber did not succeed in getting away with anything.

About the election and our electorate MP

Voters of the Coromandel Electorate returned Scott Simpson to Wellington as their Member of Parliament at the general election held on Saturday last week. This will be Mr Simpson’s second term as a National Party MP.

Joining Mr Simpson from the Coromandel is Catherine Delahunty, who will be returning to Wellington for a third term as a list MP for the Green Party.

The National Party was returned for a third term in government by the voters of New Zealand.

In what follows we’ll briefly look at the way the people of the Coromandel Electorate voted in this election compared to the 2011 election and also Mr Simpson’s close connection with Mercury Bay and the things he thinks, at this stage, a National Party government will mean for the Coromandel during the next three years.

Ms Delahunty’s impressions of Saturday’s election can be found in a separate feature on our website..

A total of 34,346 people voted in the Coromandel Electorate in Saturday’s election. That’s approximately 72 per cent of the 47,500 people enrolled to vote in the electorate. Nationally just under 73.5 per cent of enrolled voters voted in the election.

Mr Simpson received 20,165 (58.7 per cent) of the votes cast, Ms Delahunty 5,382 (15.7 per cent), Korbinian Poschl from the Labour Party 3,858 (11.2 per cent) and Grant Ertel from New Zealand First 2,929 (8.5 per cent). The rest of the votes went to candidates from the Conservative Party (1,037), the Maori Party (151), ACT New Zealand (140), and Ban 1080 (373).

In the 2011 general election, a total of 34,850 people voted in the Coromandel Electorate, with Mr Simpson receiving 53.7 per cent of the votes and Ms Delahunty 16.4 per cent. In that election New Zealand First received 6.1 per cent of the votes cast.

In the party vote in Saturday’s election, the National Party received 18,738 (54.6 per cent) of the votes in the Coromandel Electorate, the Labour Party 5,320 (15.5 per cent), New Zealand First 4,356 (12.7 per cent) and the Green Party 3,189 (9.3 per cent). The rest of the votes were split between the Conservative Party (1,817), Ban 1080 (100), the Maori Party (152), the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party (123), Democrats for Social Credit (17), Focus New Zealand (6), Internet MANA (210), the NZ Independent Coalition (14), the Civilian Party (6) and United Future (60).

In the 2011 election, the National party received 51.7 per cent of the party vote in the Coromandel Electorate, the Labour Party 17.9 per cent, the Green Party 11.2 per cent and New Zealand First 10.9 per cent.

Although Mr Simpson grew up and lived and worked in Auckland (he moved to Thames when he was selected to contest the Coromandel Electorate seat for the National party in the 2011 election), his connection with Mercury Bay is very deep.

"My great-grandfather arrived in Kuaotunu in the middle 1800’s," he said. "It was the days of big families. My grandfather was one of eight children and my father was one of eight as well. My grandmother was a Smith from Whangapoua. My grandparents farmed north of Simpsons Beach and later retired to a house, which is at the moment being turned into a café, on The Esplanade in Whitianga.

"Work for young people was scarce in Mercury Bay when my father had to start looking after himself and he went to Auckland, where he met my mother. We often went to visit my grandparents in Whitianga when I was a child."

Mr Simpson bought his own property in Kuaotunu more than 30 years ago where he regularly holidayed with his family while living in Auckland.

Nothing says more about the prominence of the Simpson family in Mercury Bay than a photo in Mr Simpson’s electoral office in Thames of a rugby team made up of Simpson family members who played against "The Rest" in a game on 12 September 1953. The Simpson team (of which Mr Simpson’s father was a member) beat "The Rest" 12-11.

"‘The Rest’ was a Mercury Bay team who earlier beat Thames," Mr Simpson said. "That same Thames team beat Auckland and that Auckland team apparently beat the All Blacks. So it was said that the Simpson team was better than the All Blacks."

Talking about his foray into politics, Mr Simpson said, "I was always interested in politics. I joined the National Party at a young age and was involved in every election campaign in New Zealand since 1975. I served as a volunteer at all levels of the National Party throughout the years, including as a member of the party’s board.

"The Coromandel Electorate is, for me, a perfect fit. It’s by far the most beautiful electorate in New Zealand and its diverse communities, each with its own challenges and opportunities, makes it a real pleasure to represent."

Mr Simpson said New Zealanders can expect three more years of stable government with the National Party remaining in power. On the Coromandel, the rural broadband network will be expanded and ultra-fast broadband will come to a number of towns, including Whitianga. He’s also excited about the creation of a "recreational fishing reserve" in the Hauraki Gulf, something he believes will be of great benefit in the future. He will keep an eye on the ageing population in the Coromandel Electorate as a whole and will actively participate in finding solutions for the challenges that will bring. He will keenly advocate within the government for all things that will benefit the communities of the Coromandel. A medical centre for Mercury Bay is something falling into this category.

Mr Simpson also believes a solution for New Chums Beach has to be found. "My mother’s family used to own the land surrounding New Chums," he said. "When they sold, they retained about five acres across which people now have to walk to get to the beach. That five acres was later put into a trust for the 150 or so Smith family descendants, including me. The land is now protected as QEII Trust land and I believe that’s what needs to happen with all the land surrounding the beach. The problem is just that with the more noise being made about the beach, the more valuable the surrounding land becomes."

Mr Simpson said he nevertheless remains hopeful that a workable solution everyone can live with can be found in the foreseeable future.

Visit our homepage for more breaking local news - The Mercury Bay Informer covering Whangapoua to Pauanui, including Whitianga, Hot Water Beach and Tairua.

The morning after - Catherine Delahunty Green Party list MP and Coromandel Electorate candidate on the election

The 2014 election is a swing to the right generally and basically feels like the campaign never really happened and we are back where we were before the campaign started. The Greens have done well to hold on and hopefully keep our 14 MPs after the special votes are counted.

The campaign nationally was bizarre and exciting with some huge political issues raised, but basically ignored by voters who chose to see the dirty politics and spying as a sideshow to the election. The timing was problematic and the Government succeeded in characterising serious attacks as conspiracy theories. The interesting statistic for me was that 67 per cent of people identified inequality as a hugely important issue but did not vote to address inequality.

Locally the result frustrated me as it’s the second time I have had a strong personal vote and a weaker party vote, despite the Green team working incredibly hard for the party vote. Everyone expected National to hold the Coromandel seat with ease, but it is interesting how much support NZ First received in the party vote, even though their campaign on the ground was not highly visible.

I must say I enjoyed the campaign because of the great people I worked with and the opportunity to engage locally, there is nothing better than standing in the Coromandel.

We will be back to work very soon,
I expect, and we will miss some great MPs in the House. Hone Harawira brought some powerful and challenging issues to Parliament and I personally enjoyed working with him. He has stood for the dispossessed with great energy. I will miss great women like Maryann Street and Carol Beaumont. I am very concerned about ACT holding one seat, but being a convenient opportunity for National to do more damage to the public education system. I have been on the platform with David Seymour and he wants to completely privatise schools. It is dreadful to contemplate the next attack on the Resource Management Act which is a big issue for the Coromandel and the legislation to strip working people of a right to tea breaks is just so incredibly wrong on some many levels.

In terms of the bigger picture, the Government will continue to basically deny climate change and attempt to negotiate the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement in secret. None of this helps us face the future and build a cleaner environment, a fairer society and a smarter economy. However, I am so grateful to the Coromandel electorate Green team and the people who did support us. It’s raining again, but I am preparing to go out and support a rally on climate change. I will be back in Karangahake soon, challenging mining on conservation land. The work for a Green future goes on!


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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.