Wednesday, 27 January 2021


The general election - what happened in the Coromandel Electorate

In the general election yesterday, a total of 34,346 party votes were cast and 34,336 candidate votes in the Coromandel Electorate.

Incumbent electorate Member of Parliament, Scott Simpson attracted 20,165 votes, followed by incumbent Green Party List MP, Catherine Delahunty with 5,382 votes. The Labour Party’s Korbinian Poschl received 3,858 votes, New Zealand First’s Grant Ertel attracted 2,929 votes and the Conservative Party’s David Walkden attracted 1,037 votes. Mike Downard of Ban 1080 (373), David Olsen of ACT (140) and Hiria Pakinga of the Maori Party (151) all received under 500 votes.

Mr Simpson retained the seat with a majority of 14,784 votes.

National received 18,738 party votes, followed by Labour (5,320), New Zealand First (4,356), the Greens (3,189) and the Conservatives (1,817).

The remaining 810 party votes were shared by Ban 1080 (100), ACT (122), the Maori Party (152), Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis (123), Democrats for Social Credit (17), Focus New Zealand (6), Internet MANA (210), NZ Independent Coalition (14), the Civilian Party (6) and United Future (60).

A bigger and better Leadfoot Festival in the making

On Friday to Sunday of Waitangi Weekend next year the Leadfoot Festival is returning to Mercury Bay.

After a year off to develop new ideas and plans, Rod Millen and Shelly Campbell, the hosts of the event, are full of energy to ensure that next year’s festival will not only be better than the one they put on in 2013, but also be an opportunity to showcase Mercury Bay and the central and northern parts of the Coromandel Peninsula to the world.

"We applied earlier this year for a grant from Thames Coromandel District Council’s major event fund," said Rod, one of most New Zealand’s most famous motorsport competitors. "We were delighted when they awarded us $40,000, which will all be used towards the marketing campaign for the festival. More importantly, it was also an endorsement of what Shelly and I are trying to achieve."

The Leadfoot Festival is a hill climb event on a 1.6km asphalt track on Rod’s farm, named Leadfoot Ranch, outside Hahei. The event started in 2011 as a private gathering of friends celebrating Rod’s 60th birthday. In 2012 the event was opened to the public, with more than 3,500 people per day attending the 2013 festival.

The format of the festival is simple - 150 competitors each get six chances over a three day period, that is two chances per day, to race up Rod’s track in vehicles covering many decades. To make things more exciting, two top ten shoot-outs will be held the last day after conclusion of formal racing -
the ten fastest competitors in pre and post 1975 vehicles will get a last opportunity to show what they’re made of. The winners of the two shootouts are the overall winners.

Asking Rod and Shelly what will be different next year, Shelly answered, "First and foremost, we hope to have 8,000 people through the gates every day. We’re going to focus part our marketing efforts on Australia. They’re a market with relatively easy access to New Zealand and big into motorsport. And we’ll be promoting the festival extensively throughout New Zealand. It goes without saying that we won’t only be promoting Leadfoot, but also everything this part of the Coromandel has to offer.

"A wider selection of good quality food will be available than before and we’ll have a wine and beer garden next year. The Friday and Saturday evening we’ll have live music, no need for people to leave once racing for the day is done, and there will next year be a play area for children who come with their parents. Maybe the biggest change of all is that ticket prices will be half of what they were before. A three day pass is $95, Friday will be only $25, Saturday and Sunday only $40 per day and children 12 years and under are free.

"We really want next year’s festival to be an event everyone can attend. We want people and their families to come for the whole day, enjoy racing by some of the world’s best motorsport competitors, eat good food and, if they feel like it, stay into the evening and enjoy some really good music."

Watching the competitors showing their mettle on Rod’s track won’t be the only thing festival-goers can indulge in. Car clubs will, like in previous years, be invited to display their members’ pride and joy and a display of brand new cars in "Auto Alley" will be giving those who want to make a quick purchase or two an opportunity to view the newest models available.

Competitors in next year’s festival will only be named towards the end of this year, when the international racing calendar has been finalised. "There will be some big names among them," said Rod.

Entering Leadfoot Ranch, there’s a sign saying, "Minimum Speed 200mph." There aren’t many opportunities around where people do their absolute best to meet the obligation imposed on them by a sign like that. Next year the Leadfoot Festival will be one such opportunity. Tickets are on-sale now at

Beware of pushy door to door sales assistants

Whitianga residents are being warned of pushy sales assistants who are targeting elderly residents in particular to buy expensive goods and other items, including sexual enhancement drugs, using sexually explicit and other inappropriate sales techniques.

The Informer has been alerted to a number of accounts where older people have been heavily marketed to by sales assistants. The goods include a branded sexual enhancement drug with offers of a "pay later" scheme.

Social agency workers say one resident reported cancelling a contract with a pushy salesperson, only to experience the salesperson returning and staying at her home for two hours after making her sign another contract with another deposit of $2,000.

"She had welcomed her with the words, ‘Don’t try to sell me anything else. I have made up my mind. I want to cancel my order’," said Jenny Wolf, manager of Whitianga Social Services.

"I believe this has been a traumatic experience for this person, who has at the end handled the situation like a trooper. Sadly, without support older people are very vulnerable in these grossly abusive situations."

Ms Wolf said she is hearing other reports of sales assistants using very determined and persistent sales manners toward older people, including "badgering and sales talk" that some people find difficult to refuse.

"One older person was sold a $16,000 chair and his family reversed this on his behalf. Another person made a purchase of a bed under significant pressure, managed to reverse this - and was promptly talked into purchasing another costly product.

"One person [was contacted by] a female salesperson that seemed to flaunt her sexuality - stating something like, ‘Bet you’ve never had someone so good looking offer to sell you something.’"

While all customers have reported receiving an extensive written contract with a ten day option clause to back out, there is concern over the hard sell that these sales people do, particularly to older vulnerable people.

There are reports of similar hard sells also occurring in Waihi.

The Commerce Commission says door-to-door and telemarketing sales are becoming an increasingly common way to market and sell goods and services in New Zealand. Under new rules that fall under the Fair Trading Act, these types of sales are called uninvited direct sales and the rules offer extra protection to consumers when approached by uninvited sales people at their home or workplace, or by telephone.

Under the Fair Trading Act, a consumer has a right to cancel an uninvited direct sales agreement within five working days of receiving a copy of the agreement. If the consumer cancels the agreement, the supplier must immediately repay all money the consumer has already paid under the agreement and arrange to collect (or ask the consumer to return) any goods they have already supplied at their own expense.

Rally NZ to return to Mercury Bay in 2015

Rally NZ has confirmed that they will be back for another event in July 2015.

"They were so pleased with their first ever VINZ Coromandel Goldrush Rally which was held in August this year that they have come back quickly to cement a date in June 2015," said Thames Coromandel District Council Mayor, Glenn Leach.

Another event is also being discussed with Rally NZ organisers, which could be similar to Wanaka's historical "Race to the Sky" event.

"This proposed new event will be an iconic hill climb called 'Race the Ridge' and will be based in Whitianga,” said Mr Leach. The “Race the Ridge” will take place on the Ernslaw One forestry block segment that was used for the Goldrush Rally.

"All of the Goldrush Rally competitors were hugely complimentary of the district and more specifically Whitianga, the event and its organisation and this is only possible by the large amount of support that we received," said Rally NZ Chairman of Directors, Peter Johnston.

Tsunami siren test next week

The Coromandel's tsunami sirens will be tested on Friday 26 September at 12:00pm.

A continuous siren tone will sound on the Firth of Thames, Cooks Beach, Coromandel, Hahei, Kuaotunu, Matarangi, Pauanui, Port Charles, Tairua, Tapu, Thames, Turua, Whangapoua, Whangamata, and Whitianga. The sirens will sound for approximately two minutes.

There is no need to evacuate for the test.

In a real event -

When you hear a single tone siren for ten minutes or more, listen to your local radio station for more information.

However, if you are near the coast and feel an earthquake (you'll have difficulty walking in a straight line), don't wait to hear a siren. Go immediately for higher ground. Do not go to the beach to have a look.

To get emergency alerts sent to your mobile phone, text "follow TC_DC" to 8987.

To learn more about tsunami check see the Thames Valley emergency website at

The royal albatross Annemieke Kregting looked after

Few people are more dedicated to the welfare of birds than Kuaotunu’s Annamieke Kregting.

A vet nurse with 23 years’ experience, she is not only caring for sick and injured wild birds free of charge, but funding much of the expense to keep the birds fed while they are in her care.

So when a royal albatross, the giant of the ocean’s seabird species, was brought in a box by a visitor to Waitaia Beach just up the road from her home in Kuaotunu a few days ago, there were no more capable hands than Annamieke’s for this majestic creature to have landed in.

The bird had a broken wing and was given the love and best care possible by Annamieke for three days before being euthanized on the advice of avian specialist vets at Auckland Zoo. With fundraising and work by other volunteers in Whitianga, it is hoped the bird will be on permanent display as an educational feature at the Mercury Bay Museum, ensuring its death was not in vain.

The southern royal albatross, or toroa as they are known in Maori, is among two New Zealand species that are the largest of all seabirds in the world. Reaching a wingspan of up to 3.3 metres, these birds fly an estimated 190,000 kilometres a year.

Annamieke’s albatross had a wingspan of more than 3m and she believes it was a southern albatross, which means it breeds on the sub Antarctic Auckland and Campbell Islands - among the world's most important seabird sanctuaries - and had travelled a long way.

"It does happen from time to time, they come from the sub-Antarctic and it was probably injured and unable to fly for some time. It would have ended up on the water and the tide would have brought him in," she said.

Annemieke has nurtured many sick and injured birds back to health, but after taking the albatross to the supportive team at Peninsula Vet Clinic in Whitianga for help in handling the bird - which she said had a ferocious bite - she contacted expert avian vets at Auckland Zoo.

She was told that while it was possible to operate on the injured wing, the albatross would never be able to fly again. These are birds that spend 85 percent of their life at sea and eat 1kg of fish per day. It was recommended that the best course of action was to euthanize.

"Bird rescue was a big part of the job I did and you never stop learning because every species is so different. It’s interesting and I really hope the display at the museum goes ahead because I will be so stoked to see this enormous great bird greeting you. It will be a real asset to Mercury Bay," Annmieke said.

Annamieke is preparing for a busy summer looking after injured birds as a volunteer. She has a paid job as a relief cook at Whitianga Continuing Care and also works part-time at the Kuaotunu Store, which helps pay for the costs of fish that she buys to feed injured birds in her care.

"The team at Peninsula Vet Clinic has been amazing and they are always very helpful. I refer people to them if I’m away for any reason," she said. "Other people in the community are really good at donating cages for the birds, old towels and frozen fish, which I need a lot of."

And while she loves what she does to help wildlife, she is looking ahead toward summer with a slight feeling of anxiety. "I might have to quit my job," she said. "I realise it’s going to get busier coming into summer as the penguins start arriving and I don’t know what to do about this, because I am only one person on my own."

She said one bird can eat $10 worth of fish every day and any donations of fresh or frozen fish are greatly appreciated. Residents were so helpful when she called out via social media networks for assistance to transport the albatross to Auckland, however once the decision was made to euthanize, this was no longer needed.

Are there fishing companies that might be able to supply fish? If anyone would like to donate fish or other help to Annamieke, please contact The Informer or Annemieke directly.

DOC says one of the major threats to albatrosses is fishing practices as the bird looks for food by following fishing vessels as an easy source of food. The Department is responsible for the care and management of New Zealand's albatrosses and is working closely with the fishing industry and with international researchers to tackle the threats facing these ocean wanderers.

DOC says fishermen do not want to catch seabirds and in New Zealand money collected as a levy from the fishing industry is being used to develop new ways of preventing them from getting caught.

More about how to reduce the potential harm to these endangered birds can be found on the DOC website at

Round two of Major Event Sponsorship fund now open for applications

If you are planning to establish a major event on the Coromandel then you may be eligible for funding support.

Applications are now being accepted for sponsorship in round two of the major event fund of Thames Coromandel District Council and a total of $45,000 has been made available.

Events play a big role in the social calendar of Coromandel Peninsula communities, they encourage non-resident families to visit, attract tourists and they have an important economic benefit.  TCDC said it is for these reasons they will support quality events, especially those that have potential to become iconic Coromandel events like the Scallop Festival and Beach Hop.

Earlier this year, round one resulted in allocations to Leadfoot Festival, Thunderbeach, Thames Festival of Mindsports and Tairua Wet n Wild, all unique local events. 

Applications for round two close on 15 October. More information and the application form can be found here.

Opportunity for students to go to Everest

Last week Wednesday John Gully, the founder and managing director of a company called Everest Treks, addressed more than 20 Mercury Bay Area School students about Youth to Everest, a division of his business aimed at improving the lives of the people of the Everest region of Nepal.

John is based in Nelson and was brought to Mercury Bay by Gary Hindz (of Hot Water Beach Surf Lifesaving fame). Youth to Everest is a philanthropic programme and fully accredited to the Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award. It offers a unique insight into the daily life of the Sherpa people living in the Everest region.

Under the programme, a group of young people travel to the Everest region for two weeks every year, where they become involved in specific projects, including teaching and conservation. The next trip to Nepal will be in April next year.

Gary, who is part of the Youth to Everest leadership team, was introduced to the programme in 2011 by Chelsea Johnson, a member of his extended family and previous Mercury Bay Area School student. Chelsea also attended John’s address on Wednesday.

For John, who spends up to four months every year in Nepal, the Youth to Everest concept started in 1988 when he took a group of students with him as support for a mountain climbing expedition of which he was the manager. "The students were offended with the amount of rubbish around the Everest base camp," he said. "So, in 1990 I took another group of students to the mountain and we cleaned up more than 5 tons of rubbish."

John met Gary when he and Chelsea attended an information session on the programme in Hamilton. "In walked this scruffy looking fellow and I knew we were going to get on just fine," said John. "The programme is intense and strong leadership is necessary. On a trip to the Everest region, we cannot have discipline issues. Gary is not scared to get his hands dirty making sure everything goes according to plan and everyone stays in line.

"For all the students participating, it’s emotionally, physically and spiritually a massive challenge. It’s a big ask from our leaders to make sure everyone gets the most out of the experience."

Asking Chelsea why she decided to go to Nepal, she said, "I was somewhat lost when I was in Year 11 and 12. I had no idea where I was heading in life. My family was really supportive when I said in 2011 that I wanted to go with John and a group of students to Everest in 2012. Gary decided to go with me, which I really appreciated."

After Chelsea returned from Nepal, she enrolled in a pre-nursing course in Christchurch and is now in her second year of formal nursing studies at Wintec in Hamilton. "Seeing the way people live in Nepal and how privileged we are in New Zealand, completely changed the way I look at things," she said.

Both John and Gary agree that Chelsea isn’t unique in the way a trip to the Everest region affected her. "It’s subsistence living over there," John said. "It’s people with very little. Time and time again, when a group of students has to say goodbye to the people of Nepal, they become really emotional. Just the thought of the life they have in New Zealand makes them want to give more of themselves."

This is certainly not an idle statement as many students return for a second trip with John to Nepal. "We even had a student who went on to become a doctor going with us back to the Everest region a few years ago," John said.

The trip costs more than $7,500, but, said Chelsea, that shouldn’t deter students from going. "I did a lot of student work and saved every penny. I didn’t spend anything. And I did a lot of fundraising. I had all the money together in less than six months. In the end, it was all worth it. I really can say the direction I now have in life I owe to the people of Nepal."


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Should there a total ban on backyard fireworks on the Coromandel?

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.