Wednesday, 25 November 2020


Day one of the Targa North Island Rally

Subaru ace Leigh Hopper and co-driver Simon Kirkpatrick head the field in both the Allcomers 4WD and overall categories after the first day of competition in this year's three-day Targa North Island tarmac motor rally. The Orewa pair won three of the day's six completed stages and take a 28 second lead in both categories over Auckland Mitsubishi Evo pair Jason Gill and Mark Robinson, with Patumahoe's Glenn Inkster and his co-driver Spencer Winn a further 43 seconds back in their Mitsubishi Evo.

"Yeah it's been a great day," said Hopper at day's end in Whitianga. "The car's hasn't missed a beat. The driver has been a bit on the edge at times, but nothing too hairy because the co-driver has been keeping him honest!"

Last year's Targa New Zealand event winners Martin Dippie and Jona Grant from Dunedin dominated the Modern 2WD category, topping the time sheets in all six stages to take a minute-and-a-half advantage over fellow Porsche pair Richard Krogh and Glenn Sharratt into the second day of competition on the Coromandel Peninsula and into the Waikato.

Husband and wife Ross and Carmel Graham (Holden Torana A9X V8) caused an upset, meanwhile, in the Metalman Classic 2WD class by turning the tables on long-time class pace-setters, Barry Kirk-Burnnand and Dave O'Carroll (BMW M3), and Barry's son Carl and his co-driver Sam Gordon (BMW 325i). The Grahams claimed their first class scalp in the day's first stage, Koheroa east of Pukekohe, and went on to top the class time sheets in three of the other stages and equal the time set by the winners of a fourth, another husband and wife pairing, Tony and Jo Butler in their Holden-based Cheetah V8.

Event stalwart Clark Proctor and his co-driver, Sue O'Neill, had a day to forget in Proctor's hi-tech Nissan GT-R35, being slowed by a blown intercooler hose in the second stage then struggling with handling issues later on.

Targa newcomers Ian Power and Shamus Kay had a good start to their day, setting the third quickest Metalman Classic 2WD time through the first stage in their BMW 320i only to overshoot a corner at the end of the second stage and end up in a ditch, where they were joined a few minutes later by the Nissan Skyline of Greg and Jackson Fowles.

The Targa North Island event has been organised with the support of sponsors Ecolight, Federal Motorsport Tyres, Global Security, Gull, Instra Corporation,  Kids In Cars, Metalman, NZ Classic Car Magazine, Race Brakes, TeamTalk, TrackIt, VTNZ and Woolrest Biomag.

Destination Coromandel to take over management of Whitianga iSITE

A new model for visitor information centres (VIC) was announced early last year by Thames Coromandel District Council which would see the Thames and Whitianga centres coming under the governance of Destination Coromandel. The changes were due to commence 1 July 2015, however with a change in direction by the Mercury Bay Business Association, the hand-over for the Whitianga i-SITE Visitor Centre was moved forward to the 1 July 2014.

Former chairman John Sandford said "Destination Coromandel was in full support of the new direction which was seen as a pragmatic approach that will benefit the Coromandel going forward.

The Mercury Bay Business Association said handing over the Whitianga i-SITE to Destination Coromandel is a positive move that will ensure the i-SITE staff and visitor services have a secure future in Mercury Bay, as well as tapping into a wider network of marketing opportunities that their membership could not sustain long term.

Destination Coromandel is working alongside the Mercury Bay Business Association to ensure a smooth transition for both the MBBA and the Information Centre. Destination Coromandel is committed to taking all existing staff on board.

From a Destination Coromandel perspective, Manager Hadley Dryden says "The visitor centre complements the marketing arm of Destination Coromandel and allows us to deliver “The Coromandel good for your soul” message at ground level. We see this as a very exciting time for both Destination Coromandel and the Coromandel, in helping us work towards our vision of becoming New Zealand's number one rated visitor destination in our key markets - and providing a visitor experience that is good for your soul.”

The touching story of Luana Tupou

First Luana Tupou, the newly appointed site manager at Z Whitianga, tells you her family call her "Spare Parts." Initially you may think that’s a touch rude, but then she tells you her twin sister, Arna, calls her "Lifesaver." And then it all starts to make sense.

Early in 2011 Arna was diagnosed with aggressive forms of lymphoma and leukaemia. Her doctor told her chemotherapy had to start immediately or she would only have a few weeks more to live. "We were 38-years-old then," said Luana. "I remember thinking to myself, ‘We’re too young for something like this to happen to one of us.
And it should be me. Arna has kids, I don’t.’ Arna and her family lived in Tauranga at that time and I was in Hamilton.

"Our family really stood by Arna during her illness. Five of us, mum, our older sister, Arna’s husband, her father in law and me, shaved all our hair and took turns to stay with her in hospital. I even got a job as orderly at the hospital so I could be as close to Arna as possible."

After a few cycles of chemo, Arna was given more bad news - the treatment wasn’t working. She was told her only option was a bone marrow transplant (also known as a stem cell transplant) from a perfect match. "As a twin sister, I was thought to be the obvious choice," continued Luana. "But the doctors wanted to be absolutely sure. The risk of Arna’s body rejecting the transplant had to be eliminated as much as possible. We were three siblings who were tested. I cleaned up on my act a bit, no smoking and drinking, and when the news came that I was a perfect match, I was ecstatic. It was one of the best days of my life.

"The transplant process was very tough on Arna. The doctors had to kill all her diseased blood cells. That could only be done with more heavy doses of chemo and full body radiation. The day of the transplant I had to lie down for 13 hours with all these tubes coming in and out of my body filtering out my healthy red blood cells. Arna later told me when they started to feed my healthy cells into her body, it felt like she was given magic juice.

"The treatment certainly worked as Arna was sent home ten days later. And a bit more than a year after that the doctors gave her the all clear."

Luana moved to Whitianga the beginning of last year and she loves it here. She tries to get to Arna and her family in Tauranga as much as possible. "Arna’s illness was very tough on us all," she said. "But in the end it all worked out well. For me every day is now a good day, knowing my twin sister is OK and that she can be with her husband and kids."

The Targa Rally coming to Mercury Bay this weekend

Two-time Targa Rotorua event winner Leigh Hopper and co-driver Simon Kirkpatrick head a diverse 100-strong line-up of competitors and cars for the new three-day Targa North Island tarmac motor rally this weekend. The Auckland-Whitianga-Rotorua event starts at in the Bombay Hills at 8.35am on Friday and ends in Rotorua on Sunday 18 May at 4.10pm. In-between, the 74 competition and 26 associated Targa Tour cars will cover 457kms of closed special stages and 840 kms of touring kilometres.

Having enjoyed the extra stage time and challenge of last year's two-and-a-half-day Targa Rotorua event, Hopper said he thinks a three-day event is the perfect build-up for the six-day “main event” in the South Island later this year. "With three days you've got the intensity of the shorter sprint events, but the strategy in terms of having to pace yourself and keep on top of the car is important when you are racing over five or six days."

Without the detailed corner-to-corner pace notes of a typical gravel event, a Targa rally places a far greater onus on the driver to be able to “read” the road, a skill Hopper prides himself in and believes is one of the cornerstones of the on-going appeal of local Targa events.

The weekend’s rally will also see the motorsport event debut of TV sports show The Crowd Goes Wild reporter/presenters Hayley Holt and Chris Key who will join the concurrent, but non-competitive, Targa Tour in their show's promo vehicle, an Isuzu D-Max double-cab ute. "This is one of the most exciting things I have done in a long time," said confirmed petrolhead Holt. "I've always wanted to do a Targa and though I'd love to do it in a competition car, the Tour is probably the best place for Chris and I to start."

Set to again provide a different perspective on the event's tight and twisty hill stages is top New Zealand drifter Cam Vernon who impressed competitors and spectators alike with his extreme sideways skills on the last Targa Bambina event. This time Vernon will drift his newly acquired 6.7 litre V8-engined Nissan S15 through four stages, the Coromandel one from just outside Coromandel township to Te Rerenga on Friday, the Pumpkin Hill and Whiritoa stages south of Whitianga on Saturday morning and the Hamurana stage which skirts the northern side of Lake Rotorua on Sunday.

The rally has been organised with the support of sponsors Ecolight, Federal motorsport tyres, Global Security, Gull, Instra Corporation, Kids In Cars, Metalman, NZ Classic Car magazine, Race Brakes, TeamTalk, TrackIt, VTNZ and Woolrest Biomag.

The rally will arrive in Whitianga on Friday afternoon where the vehicles will be serviced at the Mercury Bay Multi-Sport Park in Moewai Park. The Lee Street car park will be the overnight Parc Ferme where the rally vehicles will arrive from 5:00pm. The Targa Tour vehicles will arrive in Lee Street from 4:30pm for a charity car wash until 6:00pm.

International bands returning to Whitianga

Anniversary weekend next year will see three well-known international bands perform at a concert at the Whitianga Waterways arena in Whitianga. The concert is the result of negotiations between Peter Abrahamson, the manager of Whitianga Waterways, and Amanda Calvert of Greenstone Entertainment, an internationally recognized concert promoter known for hosting concerts in breath-taking locations around New Zealand.

Greenstone Entertainment has brought to New Zealand in recent years some of the world’s most famous artists, including Pat Benatar, Creedence Clearwater Revival, 10cc, America, Bachman Turner, Dr Hook, Starship and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

"The concert in Whitianga will be held on Saturday, 25 January," said Peter. "It’s one of three concerts the international bands will perform at. The other two will be at Gibbston Valley Winery outside Queenstown and at the Taupo Amphitheatre.

"We cannot name the bands yet, but they are top class, it will be a great line-up.

"I personally think that it’s fantastic that we could secure an international concert for Whitianga again. The last one in 2012, when we had Little River Band and the Doobie Brothers here, attracted more than 12,000 people to town. We hope this time around that we’ll get more than 15,000.

"Events, whether it’s the Scallop Festival or fishing tournaments or something else, are what make Whitianga and our whole area tick. We really are the perfect location for international concerts, a great setting and close to Auckland and Hamilton. We are looking at a long term relationship with Greenestone Entertainment and are sure more concerts will follow."

Peter expects that the names of the bands that will perform at the concert will be announced in the coming weeks.

Screening of locally made short films last week

About a month ago, well-known documentary maker James Muir from Coromandel Town presented two short film making workshops in Whitianga. The workshops were attended by students and adults from Mercury Bay and Auckland.

At the first workshop James taught the participants how to shoot video footage and at the second workshop he showed them how to edit the footage. He then sent them away to create their own three minute films. Last Thursday evening 8 May, the films the participants made were screened at the Monkey House Theatre in Whitianga.

The event was well-attended and everyone thoroughly enjoyed the films, covering topics such as the Whitianga skate park, the sea and the beach, the Swim the Beaches fundraiser for the Mercury Bay X-ray machine, tramp skating, a day at Otama Beach, the impact of pesticides on bees and putting a restored fishing vessel to sea. Some of James’s films were also screened.

James was brought to Whitianga by Paula Davies from Creative Mercury Bay.

See Atawhai Charteris's short film on tramp skating below.


A good weekend for Mercury Bay Senior and Peninsula First XV rugby

The Mercury Bay Senior A rugby team had a very good 34 - 19 win against Ngatea on Saturday 10 May. The team is playing Waihi in Whitianga next Saturday, 17 May. Kick-off is at 2:00pm.

The Peninsula First XV rugby team won Hauraki Plains College 22-0 in the first game of the Thames-Valley First XV season on Saturday 10 May in Ngatea. The team is made up of players from Mercury Bay, Coromandel Town and Manaia. According to assistant coach, Greg Relph it’s the first time an Upper-Coromandel team kept HPC scoreless on their own turf.

A good weekend for Mercury Bay Senior and Peninsula First XV rugby

The Mercury Bay Senior A rugby team had a very good 34 - 19 win against Ngatea on Saturday 10 May. The team is playing Waihi in Whitianga next Saturday, 17 May. Kick-off is at 2:00pm.

The Peninsula First XV rugby team won Hauraki Plains College 22-0 in the first game of the Thames-Valley First XV season on Saturday 10 May in Ngatea. The team is made up of players from Mercury Bay, Coromandel Town and Manaia. According to assistant coach, Greg Relph it’s the first time an Upper-Coromandel team kept HPC scoreless on their own turf.


Latest business rest of site

The Glass House Emporium

Whitianga’s locally owned and operated variety store. Smashing prices.


Are you in favour of the installation of water meters at private residences in the Thames-Coromandel District?

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.