Thursday, 03 December 2020


Soft opening for the Pour House in Hahei

A new chapter has started for Coromandel Brewing Company with the opening of their new brewery and bar in Hahei, called the Pour House, last week Thursday. "It really was just a soft opening," said Karen Vowles, who owns the business with her husband, Neil. "Many of the Hahei community turned up and everyone had a really good time.

"We’ll ease into things and will initially be open to the public from 4pm on Thursdays and Fridays and from 12 noon on Saturdays and Sundays."

Neil, Karen and their two sons came to New Zealand from the United Kingdom five and a half years ago. They settled in Matarangi. "It was a major change for us," Karen said. "Neil had a business outside Liverpool employing 45 people and I had an academic position. We used to holiday in New Zealand fairly often and spent quite a few Christmas days at Cathedral Cove.

"One day in Matarangi Neil got this idea to brew his own beer. Not long after that our garage was converted into a brewery. Anyone can brew beer, but to brew beer well, you need to be part scientist and part artist. The scientist ensures the quality is always consistent, the artist ensures the taste is perfect. I knew Neil was going to make a success."

And a success Coromandel Brewing Company most certainly is, with beer lovers throughout the Coromandel happy to pay a premium for a true craft beer.

But why Hahei? That’s a question Neil was happy to answer. "We were looking for a real tourist destination to set up a brewery. It just so happens that the old Grange Road Café site in Hahei became available and we jumped at the opportunity," he said. "The water quality is the same as in Matarangi, so our beer is still the same."

And is the brewery bigger than the one in Matarangi? "I love my brewing equipment, so I brought it with me from our garage in Matarangi, but we have installed two extra conditioning tanks. That means, with eight days in a week, I will be able to brew twice as much as I did in Matarangi."

Asking Neil more about conditioning tanks, he explained that it is cold storage tanks where beer is kept for a week or so to allow the yeast that was added in the brewing process to do its job. "It’s where the ‘lagering’ actually takes place," he said.

And what’s with the bar area? "That’s to keep me happy," said Karen. "I like people and I like to sell beer. I wanted a place where people can gather, have something to eat with a beer or a cup of coffee and enjoy themselves."

A fairly unique concept of, shall we say, Karen’s bar is that the kitchen is leased out. In this instance to Becks Brown and Andy Driscoll who used to operate a wood-fired pizza out catering business. "We’re going to keep the food simple, pizzas, flatbreads, toasted paninis, chips, things like that,"
said Becks. "We’ll adjust the menu as we go along, but we really want people to come here and experience good, honest food without any pretence."

And what did some of the Hahei locals who were at the opening of the brewery had to say?

Gilbert Bannan from the Mercury Bay Art Escape said Neil and Karen are great hosts. They always had time for a chat while the building work was going on and he has no doubt that the brewery will become the locals’ local. "And the beer is great too," he added.

Brian Pilkington from Cathedral Cove Macadamias was more concise. "I had a call to the bar earlier today," he said. "And as lawyers cannot resist their own call to the bar, I couldn’t resist this one either." And looking at the mischievous expression on his face, we have little doubt that there are going to be many more calls to the bar, none of which will be resisted.

PhD study finds that as many as a third of resource consent holders do not comply with consent conditions

When the Informer spoke to Dr Marie Brown about the findings of her PhD study, and her role in the Resource Management Law Association (RMLA) Roadshow currently touring New Zealand, she said she felt like a very little fish in a big pond. Her study, titled Ecological Compensation -
an evaluation of regulatory compliance in New Zealand, has opened up areas of inquiry into how to better manage ecological risk and brought the problem of non-compliance with resource consent conditions into the open.

For the purposes of Dr Brown’s doctoral research, undertaken at the University of Waikato, ecological compensation was defined as, "Positive conservation action required by resource consent and intended to compensate for residual adverse effects of development and resource use." In her study, and what is the first systematic analysis of regulatory compliance with mitigation requirements under the Resource Management Act (RMA) in New Zealand, she found that as many as one third of resource consent holders do not comply with their consent conditions.

After presenting her findings to the Judges and Commissioners Conference for the Environment Court last year, Dr Brown was invited by the principal judge, Laurie Newhook, to tour with this year’s RMLA Roadshow, "Conditions of Consent." In ten cities over July and August, the RMLA Roadshow focuses on up-skilling lawyers, planners, general council and compliance staff, consultants, NGO’s, interested members of the public and others on topical issues relating to environmental law.

Dr Brown’s research investigated compliance with 245 conditions related to ecological compensation across 81 case studies across New Zealand under the Resource Management Act 1991. All cases studied related to one or a bundle of consents issued by a district or regional council. Activity, applicant and condition types were compared to investigate relative compliance. Her results show that present tools and practice in New Zealand are not adequately securing the necessary benefits from ecological compensation, with 35.2 percent of requirements not being achieved.

With a background in RMA compliance, Dr Brown, now Senior Policy Analyst for the Environmental Defence Society, entered into the study with a desire to demonstrate the state of play of non-compliance, not to single out those industries where performance was low. "I didn’t want that to be the focus because it nullifies the more constructive message that compliance is predictable and we can work at the beginning of a process to limit ‘disasters’ later. Putting numbers to a situation makes them definitive, objective, citable. That’s the beauty of empirical data. Now we can say, this study shows a project is more likely to comply when these factors are included. This helps agencies dealing with risk-management and that is what I like to think is a key outcome of the study," she said.

Where compensatory actions were required before or concurrent with the consented activity, and where compensation requirements were discussed early in the process, compliance was observed to be significantly higher. The presence of an RMA bond on a condition also had a positive correlation with compliance, as did when compensation is proposed and included in the consent by the applicant and where a detailed plan is required prior to granting the consent.

Compliance varied with consent type - most compliant was energy generation with 100 per cent compliance, while consents related to agriculture exhibited the lowest overall level of compliance, with less than five per cent. Public organisations had a greater likelihood of attaining compliance, followed by private companies, then private individuals.

Throughout her doctorate, Dr Brown observed that poorly worded conditions were a major barrier to achieving outcomes. "District and Regional Plan provisions are often very weak, so there is a limit as to what agencies can control in terms of adverse effects." Without a high degree of surety, councils are risk-adverse around prosecution and this further constrains the likelihood of a good outcome. Improving fundamentals like condition wording is a straightforward means of improving outcomes.

According to Dr Brown, the RMA itself is fairly solid. The main barriers to achieving good outcomes, she said, lie in the implementation gap. "That’s things around under-resourcing of compliance and monitoring by councils and central government, lack of priority afforded to it by consent holders and political and managerial interference in processes surrounding enforcement."

Dr Brown said she had excellent engagement from land-owners and councils from all regions of New Zealand, with the majority readily acknowledging the problem of non-compliance. "The important thing to me was that the study - after careful analysis - demonstrated that this long-held assumption that councils could assume compliance would be achieved was just fatally flawed. Calling this into question opens up an important conversation as to what’s going wrong and how we can fix it."

The results of Dr Brown’s research show there is a clear need to understand the complexities of non-compliance as they apply to trade-offs that justify development at the expense of ecological values. "It may take thirty or forty years until we get it right but I’m quite confident that we can."

Easterly winds to be around until tomorrow

There will still be high winds and seas around the east coast of the Coromandel until Saturday.

The MetService wind warnings are no longer in place for the Coromandel, however the winds are still easterly and up around the 30 knots and potentially gusting up to 45 knots on Saturday.

Coastal erosion is likely to be exacerbated over the next few days along the Coromandel east coast due to the sustained easterly wave event. TCDC staff members are working on sand push ups between high and low tides in Buffalo and Brophy's Beaches in Whitianga, where coastal erosion is a higher risk.

If you need any help, the TCDC customer service phone line is manned 24/7 on 07 868 0200.

High tide times for the Whitianga area are as follows:
Friday 11th                              17:35      
Saturday 12th                          05:48      
Saturday 12th                          18:30

Colouring in competition to kick off Goldrush Rally activities

Now is the chance for you and your child to win a ride in a Rally NZ car, around Whitianga, on Friday 22 August as part of the Coromandel Gold Rush Rally of NZ celebrations.

All you have to do is have your child enter Thames Coromandel District Council’s colouring in competition by clicking here, and send in their entry by 5pm Monday 11 August to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. at TCDC or drop it in to your local TCDC area office or district library. Or pick up an entry from one of TCDC’s area offices or district libraries.

The competition is open to children aged up to 12-years-old and entries have been broken down into three categories, with a girl and boy winner selected from each category.

Category One
Girls aged up to 5 years.
Boys aged up to 5 years.
Category Two
Girls aged 6 -9.
Boys aged 6 –9.
Category Three
Girls aged 10 – 12.
Boys aged 10-12.

All winners will need to be accompanied by an adult for their winning ride in a NZ Rally car. The tour will depart the Mercury Bay Area School for a circuit around Whitianga before arriving at Blacksmith Lane. This is where up to 80 Rally cars and crew will be on display for a pre-event rally show, which allows the public to get up close to the cars and stars before the official race starts on Saturday morning.

Rally teams will be departing from the Mercury Bay Multi-Sport Park for nine special stages covering close to 140km of competitive distance.

The nine stages are -

1 - From Ernslaw 1 (11.08km) just outside of Whitianga.

2  -  A tour down the coastline, through the 309 Road and a race against the clock for the first Service of the day back at the Mercury Bay Sports Park.

3 - 23kms of Tapu-Coroglen, starting at the Coroglen side.

4 - Another coastline tour north to Castlerock for the next stage, starting on the forestry road back to join the 309 Road for the second half of the stage.

5-6 - Another service back at the Sports Park before a repeat of this 47 kilometre loop.

7 - A spectacular tarmac publicity stage beside Whitianga Waterways.

8 - A repeat of the 11.08km Ernslaw test.

9 - The final stage is a second pass of the Whitianga spectator stage, along a section of Joan Gaskell Drive, to thrill the crowds before the finish celebrations on the finish ramp.

Some of the stages will entail road closures during racing. Public meetings are now being arranged for anyone who may be affected. TCDC, Rally organisers and Destination Coromandel will also meet separately with any businesses that may be affected by any road closures.

The public meetings are planned for:
Monday 14th July - Mercury Bay Multi-Sport Park. Time 7pm.
Tuesday 15th July - Tapu Hotel. Time 7pm.

Wednesday 16th July - Coroglen Tavern. Time 7pm.

For queries contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Better to give than to receive

Lunch last week Tuesday was bittersweet for the Mercury Bay Cancer Support Group. It was time for founder and coordinator, Jenny Edwards and treasurer, Beth Rintoul to hand over the reins. Jenny started the group 25 years ago and was five years later joined by Beth. But it was also time to warmly welcome new coordinator, Ann O’Loughlin and new treasurer, Ann Mulcahy.

We spoke to Jenny, Beth and Ann about the time that was, the time that is and the time that is to come.

"The group’s vision is to minimise the impact cancer has on patients and their families in the Mercury Bay area," said Jenny. "I started the group because I had huge appreciation for the fact that people need support in their darkest hour. I placed a notice in the local paper asking if there were other people out there feeling the same as I did. The response was quite humbling.

"It wasn’t easy in the beginning. I was very thankful when Beth joined the group and was happy to take over the money side of things. It was a big burden off my shoulders."

The group is today in sound financial shape and own quite a bit of equipment (hospital beds, wheelchairs, etc) that can be used by cancer sufferers to make their lives more comfortable. But supplying equipment isn’t all they do.

"We obviously provide emotional support, but we also do a lot of advocacy," said Jenny. "As a result of our efforts, an oncology nurse is now regularly visiting our patients. And when there’s financial hardship, we help out the best we can.

"We also sponsor night nurses. We have lovely registered nurses in our community willing to provide respite to the families of our patients whenever they need a bit of a break."

Fundraising in the early days was mostly through the sale of raffles, while a stall selling second-hand books and donations from the community are now the main sources of income.

"The raffles were for many years the responsibility of Audrey Palmer," said Beth. "She moved on a few years ago, but I’ll always remember her passion. A raffle would kick off with members from our group putting a few things in, but when Audrey was done going around the local business community, we literally had a trailer load of things. And whenever she handed a basket to a raffle winner, she would always ask them to bring the basket back, so that she could use it in the next raffle."

That last comment brought a smile to Jenny’s face and caused her to remember some amusing Daffodil Day experiences. "Daffodil Day is a big event on our calendar," she said. "It’s always the last Friday of August and is a nationwide fundraiser for the New Zealand Cancer Society. If you make a donation, you get a little plastic daffodil. We dress up in yellow flower outfits, man stalls and go personally to many of the businesses in the area. And in the evening, we hit the bars and clubs for donations.

"One year one of our patients said there was no way he was going to allow a few women to trawl alone around the bars and clubs. So, he, a cancer sufferer, came with us. Of course nothing happened, but when we came to his house, he pulled this alkathene pipe from his sleeve, saying, ‘I guess I won’t need this now.’ We were in stitches.

"And another time some younger women helped us on Daffodil Day. They visited the bars and clubs that night with a lei made from some of the plastic daffodils. Anyone who made a decent donation could wear the lei for a few minutes. The more you gave, the longer you could wear it. It worked like a charm.

"The Cancer Society does a lot. They pay for the oncology nurse visiting our patients, they help to fund the Lions Cancer Lodge in Hamilton for patients undergoing radiation treatment and they pay for a huge amount of research. We here in Mercury Bay benefit from every dollar they receive."

Looking forward, Ann said, "Through Jenny and Beth’s work the Mercury Bay Cancer Support Group have such a good standing in the community. A local group of quilters make quilts for all our patients, we never have to ask for book donations for our book stall, it just happens, when it’s daffodil day, people just open their wallets, Whitianga Social Services and their volunteers have no issue transporting our patients to Waikato Hospital as and when needed, our equipment is stored free of charge and every now and again we get a cheque from the Mercury Bay Lionesses or another charity.

"It’s as if Jenny and Beth showed the whole community that it’s better to give than to receive. We’re twelve members now. Our foundation is solid. The good work will continue."

Would you like to get more involved in our community? Follow this link to learn more about Mercury Bay's various Clubs and Groups

Storm may cause surface flooding

The easterly winds have arrived on the Coromandel and the weather event is expected to last over five or six high tides.

What does thismean?

More than anything, it means you need to be very careful when driving. If you don't need to drive around on the east coast of the Coromandel after dinner tonight, don't. Play safe and enjoy a night in. Make sure you're ready for any possible power cuts due to debris hitting power lines.

The wind is likely to batter the east coast the most and in some places push the water past spring tide levels. The west coast of the Peninsula is not expected to have the same degree of wind-caused water levels, but may get close.

Waves are likely to remain higher than normal right through until Friday and at high tides that typically means some of the low lying coastal areas will get surface flooding.

It is being called "a sustained easterly wind event" because it's not a storm. Technically, the storm is away from the country, but the low pressure is causing the wind and that's the bit we're going to feel more than anything.

High tide times for Mercury Bay are as follows:
Tuesday 14:49
Wednesday 03:00 and 15:44
Thursday 03:55 and 16:40                               

If life or property is in danger dial 111.

If the weather is causing you or your neighbourhood any issues, please contact Thames Coromandel District Council’s customer service line on 07 868 0200. This is manned 24/7.

Click here for our Whitianga weather forecast.

Tenth Scallop Festival shaping up to be the best one yet

Most of the arrangements are in place for the tenth Whitianga Scallop Festival on 6 September this year.

Testimony to the popularity of the festival on the New Zealand seafood events calendar is the fact that many of last year’s performers have committed to appear this year again. There’s Coral Pitcher, Tim Armstrong, The Great Brain Robbers, Ed Jackson and, of course, the larger than life Vegas Brown and his band.

Kara Gordon wasn’t part of last year’s festival, but will be on stage this year. He’s no stranger to Mercury Bay, regularly performing at Whitianga Hotel and other venues around the area. He’s called all sorts of things at his gigs - musical genius, part man - part guitar, even a mystic performing straight from his soul. Simply put, he’s very good.

The Best Dressed Competition is back, but on its own stage this year. Get your friends and family to get with you into the spirit of things and stand a chance to win a prize package made up of holiday accommodation from Bachcare, a bar fridge from The Warehouse, |scenic tours from Ocean Leopard Tours and Cathedral Cove Kayaks, petrol and coffee vouchers from Z and The French Fig and a Lost Spring All Day package.

Also back is the Vote and Win Competition with accommodation from Hot water Beach Holiday Park, a BBQ from The Warehouse, petrol and coffee vouchers from Z and The French Fig, a scenic tour from the Glass Bottom Boat and a Lost Spring All Day package up for grabs.

New is the Cathedral Cove Macadamias "Nominate your Choice" Competition. Help Cathedral Cove Macadamias decide what dish they should cook in their quest to win the Best Stall Competition for a tenth year in a row (yes, they’re unbeaten). You can nominate one of three dishes - spicy macadamia scallop and fish balls, macadamia garlic butter scallops and chili macadamia crumbed scallops. Go to to nominate your favourite and be in to win two nights’ accommodation at Flaxmill Bay Cottages the weekend of the festival, two adult passes to the festival, complimentary scallop dishes from Cathedral Cove Macadamias and complimentary wine from Mills Reef and Tohu Wines. You can nominate your favourite right now.

Outside the festival grounds, the Best Dressed Shop Window Competition will again be on, but, unlike other years, the winner will only be chosen the week after the festival. Morning tea for the winning business owner and their staff are up for grabs. And there’s a slight rumour, which may soon be confirmed, that Guggemusik, the very popular Swiss-style carnival band from Auckland, will be roaming the Whitianga streets, just to ensure everyone remains in Scallop Festival-mode on the day of the festival.

Many favourite stall holders are back as well, including community groups like the Whitianga Coastguard, Hot Water Beach Surf Life Saving, the Mercury Bay Game Fishing Club, the Whitianga Lions, Mercury Bay Area School and the Mercury Bay Squash Club.

And don’t forget, this year there will be three top chefs on the live cooking stage – do the names Ray McVinnie, Josh Emett and Julie Biuso ring any bells?

With sponsorship from Boundary Road Brewery, New World Whitianga, Aggreko, Salt Restaurant and Bar, Powerco and Mills Reef and support from 100% Whitianga, Pub Charity, Destination Coromandel and The Lost Spring, the tenth anniversary of the Scallop festival will be truly memorable.

Ticket sales are way up on last year. Don’t miss out! You can get your tickets from Dive Zone in Blacksmith Lane Whitianga or online at or

Three MBAS students and their teacher

For the first time high school surfers will have three opportunities to prove that they belong in the Coromandel surfing team. Previously one qualifying event was held. The first competition this year took place two weekends ago in Whangamata where students from Mercury Bay Area School placed well in most of the events.

We caught up with three of the school’s six competitive surfers and teacher Jamie Hutt, who took responsibility for the students’ endeavours on the Coromandel surfing scene and who’s somewhat attached to his surfboard himself. It was an enlightening discussion.

Jack Lockhart, an Under 16 competitor, started surfing only three years ago and he’s completely hooked. In fact, a while ago he took three weeks off school and went to Bali with Timu Malbacher, another MBAS competitive surfer, and his family. "All we did was surfing," Jack said. "That was totally awesome." Asking him what his life ambition is, he didn’t hesitate to say, "I want to become a pro surfer." And then, after a few moments of thought, he said something quite profound, "Surfing is my life. Whenever I come out of the water, I’m a better person than when I went in."

Atawhai Charteris is also competing in the Under 16 category. He started surfing when he was seven years old. He also would like to become a pro surfer and, like Jack, is a deep thinker about his passion for the waves. "I’m beyond the point of no return. I live and breathe surfing. It’s who I am, it’s what defines me."

Competing in the Under 14 category, James Scott is the youngest of the trio we spoke to. He also started surfing when he was seven years old. He’s no less eloquent than Jack and Atawhai. "First step is to get to the New Zealand National Championships. And then nothing is going to stop me to turn pro. The water is my home," he said. James has already had the privilege to surf at some of the world’s best spots, including Rincon in California and Bell’s Beach in Australia.

Asking the three surfers if they would like their future wives to be surfers too, the answers were, surprisingly, varied.

James was fairly adamant that his future soul mate will have to love the waves as much as he does. Jack thought it will be better for him to have someone who’s happy to sit on the beach and take photos of him in the water. Atawhai was more contemplative. "It will be good if she can surf, but ultimately she has to be happy. And then I’ll be happy."

That left Jamie who, it turned out, is a global surfer - Europe, Indonesia, South America and Australia. "And wherever I go, I drag my surfboard, my skateboard and my spear gun with me," he said. And then he hastily added, "And my wife too, of course."

Asking Jamie if he thinks surfing has potential as a sport at MBAS, he didn’t hesitate to say yes. "We have some really good surfers here. If we keep on supporting and developing them, some champions are going to come out of the school."

The second Coromandel Secondary Schools surfing competition will be held on 20 August in Mercury Bay (either Hot Water Beach or Whangapoua). The third competition will take place at Waihi Beach on 10 August.


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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.