Sunday, 24 February 2019

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Main Whitianga channel to be shifted

The main navigation channel opposite the Whitianga Marina will be shifted east during tomorrow and Friday, 11 and 12 December.

Mat Collicott, the Whitianga harbourmaster, said the process will involve relocating 20 swing moorings. During the move, both the existing and the new channel will be impeded by moorings as they are shifted around the area.

Boaties are requested to stop when approaching the barge conducting the operations and to await the harbourmaster vessel that will pilot them through the area. Please follow directly astern of the harbourmaster vessel. The harbourmaster vessel will be standing by on VHF 78 and telephone 0274 762 651.

Boaties should refrain from using the section of the main channel where the work will be conducted during the hours of restricted visibility on the night of 11 December.

Any vessel needing to transit the main channel during this time is advised to use a powerful floodlight to detect any moorings that may still remain in the channel.  If any moorings are left in this area they will be covered in reflective tape giving a good spotlight target.

 

Bluff Road closed

An overhanging bluff about 350 meters from the Matarangi end of Bluff Road has become a high safety risk for vehicles and pedestrians.

Those who use the road as a link between Kuaotunu and Matarangi will need to use an alternative route. The road was closed yesterday and Thames Coromandel District Council said signage will be in place by the end of the week at the latest.

Barricades went in yesterday to prevent any potential injury should any part of the overhang collapse.

Investigations will need to be undertaken to figure out the best way to solve the problem and how much the options will cost ratepayers.

Once investigations are complete, options will be put before Thames Coromandel District Councillors for a decision on the best way forward. TCDC said they’ll be working as quickly as possible to collect all the information Council will need to make an informed decision.

In the meantime, Bluff Road is closed until further notice.

Proposed Cathedral Coast Walkway Stakeholders Working Group to meet this week

The Stakeholders Working Group for the proposed Cathedral Cove Walkway will meet for the first time Thursday this week to discuss immediate issues that need to be addressed around Hahei over Christmas and New Year.

Sixteen nominations were received and 14 people have so far agreed to be part of the working group. This follows a public meeting held at Hahei on Saturday 29 November providing an update on the walkway.

The members of the Stakeholders Working Group are -

  • Phil Costello and Peter Hawley representing Coastal Walkways Trust.
  • Graham Harsant representing Hahei Rural Landowners.
  • Ian Chalmers representing absentee ratepayers.
  • Peter Harrison representing the Hahei Business Association.
  • Brian Keucke and Wendy Lawrence representing Hahei  Beach Resident and Ratepayers Association.
  • Alistair Sims and Michael Wilkinson representing Lees Rd residents.
  • Sheree Webster representing Hot Water Beach.
  • Jeremy Lomas representing Pa Rd residents.
  • Bill Stead representing Grange Rd residents.

Thames Coromandel District Council is still waiting for two other nominees to confirm their participation in the group ahead of the meeting this week.

"We want to thank everyone once again for attending the public meeting," says Garry Towler, TCDC's project manager for the proposed Cathedral Coast Walkway. "The membership is reflective of all the different stakeholders in the proposed walk, with the first stage being planned from the Blow Hole at Hahei through to the Purangi Estuary.”

Also on the agenda for the first meeting will be discussion on the terms of reference for the group and setting up a regular meeting schedule.

Arts strategy planned for the Coromandel

Connecting and promoting Coromandel artists will be the focus of a workshop being developed for early next year and will lead into work on an arts strategy for the Coromandel.

Thames Coromandel District Council Chief Executive David Hammond invited Creative Waikato Chief Executive Sarah Nathan to meet last week to discuss opportunities and stronger promotion of local Coromandel artists.

This comes as Creative Waikato released its Creative Facilities Plan last week, which focused on the development of arts facilities around the Waikato.

"On the Coromandel we are really lucky to have community and public artwork throughout our District, created by some very talented local artists," says Mr Hammond.

"Ms Nathan also informed me that there are two real art hotspots in the Waikato - the Coromandel and Raglan - and Creative Waikato understands the need to capitalise on this so we can better support our local artists and also develop arts tourism.”

Creative Waikato is now planning a workshop on the Coromandel for early 2015 to meet with arts groups from around the Thames Coromandel District to discuss how it can help support and develop an arts strategy for the Coromandel.

“The timing is very good as we've also been approached by the Mercury Bay Art Escape Trust asking for Council support on an arts strategy," says Mr Hammond. "An arts strategy will get arts communities together, co-ordinating and figuring out the best way we can support them as well as providing economic opportunities.”

The Mercury Bay Art Escape Trust will approach and work with other Arts groups around the Coromandel, including representatives from Tairua, Pauanui and Whangamata, the Coromandel Arts Tour and the Thames Society of Arts to investigate the best way to start developing an overarching arts strategy for the entire Coromandel.

“The recommendation has been that right now the Mercury Bay Art Escape Trust starts by making a submission to our upcoming Long-Term Plan when it opens in early 2015," says Mr Hammond. "This is to ensure we can allocate staff resource and funding to help formulate an official policy, working with all the arts groups around the district. Any Arts Strategy needs to be developed from within the community.”

Thames Coromandel District Councillor Diane Connors will be leading the development of an Arts Strategy with support from TCDC’s Economic Development Programme Manager Ben Dunbar-Smith and Community Development Officer Marlene Perry.

“My focus is on ensuring Council has some over-arching strategy to support a wide variety of arts in the Coromandel," says Ms Connors.

"I strongly believe that creativity adds to the quality of life - whether you participate or share the experience of it. We have such a wealth of talent living in our communities, including some internationally renowned artists, from singer/songwriters to sculptors, painters, potters, actors, dancers and body artists. I want us to not only acknowledge what we have, but nurture it, celebrate it and showcase it.

"There are both economic and social benefits to a vibrant arts sector and I envisage that an Arts Strategy will help council to identify how we can strengthen and support the arts on the Coromandel Peninsula. My passion is to encourage more events and encourage more outdoor art pieces.”

New approach from TCDC to development contributions

New government legislation means Thames Coromandel District Council now has a new approach to development contributions.

TCDC is no longer collecting development contributions toward new infrastructure projects for harbour facilities, solid waste, libraries, swimming pools, airfields or cemeteries. This is part of an amended draft Development Contributions Policy.

If adopted by Council, the new policy will not take effect until 1 July 2015. Public consultation will begin in March 2015 at the same time as TCDC's Long Term Plan consultation.

Although the government changed its development contributions legislation for new projects, projects already underway will continue to be funded from development contributions.

The new legislation requires a small change to the process. Development contributions will now be calculated on the charges that apply at the time a consent is lodged, not granted.

The legislation now includes provisions allowing for private developer agreements.

TCDC's current Development Contributions Policy already allows for these, but the Local Government Act 2002 now includes some specific requirements about the content of these agreements and the process that must be followed.

Either councils or developers can propose agreements and, if a council does not wish to enter into an agreement, it must provide a written response setting out reasons for this.Development contributions are collected on new developments to cover the cost of the things that have to be built or otherwise provided to supply services to new developments on the Coromandel.

The concept is that existing ratepayers shouldn't have to pay for infrastructure needed for new developments and that it's fairer if those costs are covered by the new development that needs it.

Serious concerns raised at Cathedral Coast Walkway meeting in Hahei last weekend

On my count, more than 140 people attended the public meeting last week Saturday at the Hahei Community Centre about the proposed Cathedral Coast Walkway. When I arrived at the meeting, I thought it would from a reporting perspective fairly standard - just say what happened.

But it became soon clear to me that I would have to write something closer to an opinion piece than a report. And I won’t be honest if I say that I left the meeting unperturbed.

Things started off with Thames Coromandel District Council Great Walks project manager Garry Towler and Department of Conservation "track builder" John Gaukrodger giving an overview of where things are at.

They said the proposed walkway is planned from Hot Water Beach to Ferry Landing with stages 1A and 1B to kick off as soon as external funding of $3.2 million has been secured. The two stages will, in essence, link the blowhole at the Te Pupuha Recreation Reserve (just south of Hahei) with Cathedral Cove and Cathedral Cove with the Purangi Estuary. The route has been surveyed and included in the costs are six cantilevered structures to be placed, according to the information sheet handed out to all those who attended the meeting, "… along some of the most breath-taking viewing spots along the walk."

They also said a pay and display parking facility will be constructed on the old wastewater treatment plant at Pa Road (the residential street in Hahei giving access to the current walkway to the Te Pupuha Recreation reserve) before December 2015 and negotiations are underway for a pay and display parking facility centrally located on private land off Lees Road (the road leading to the Purangi Estuary).

A track will be built from the Lees Road car park to link in with the existing Cathedral Cove track. The last part of stage 1B of the proposed walk will be on a track that will follow Lees Road to the Stella Evered Memorial Park adjacent to the Purangi Estuary. The Lees Road car park will be sealed and so will Lees Road up to the car park.

The proposed Cathedral Coast Walkway will ultimately be part of the Coromandel Great Walks which, according to the information sheet, "… will eventually link the whole [Thames Coromandel] district through a variety of great walks around the coastline and across the spine of the Coromandel."

Garry said that he hoped the meeting would conclude with a few people putting their hands up to be part of a working group that would help them to work through the issues the community may have.

Following this introduction the floor was opened for questions and two things became clear to me. The first is that no one questions the benefit of a Great Walks project for Mercury Bay and the Coromandel as a whole. But, and that is the second thing, there is great doubt that Hahei is the right place for the first walk to be constructed.

Everyone was in agreement that the proposed walkway will bring greater numbers of visitors to Hahei, an area that is already stretched to the limit during summer.

A number of Pa Road residents expressed concerns about tourists choosing not to park in the new pay and display car park at the old wastewater treatment plant, potentially making access to their own properties more difficult. A comment from Gary that proper signage and road markings may address the issue didn’t wash, with one Pa Road resident saying that such measures will force her family and friends to park in the pay and display car park instead of in front of her property.

The Lees Road residents are also concerned about the effect of increased traffic to and from the Stella Evered Memorial Park. According to John, the track along the road will be built such a distance away that the road can be widened, but Gary said widening isn’t on the cards at the moment.

A comment from one of the attendees that a few walks maybe should be built at other locations in order for the existing issues in Hahei to be sorted out first was met with enthusiastic applause.

When Garry was asked what he would do if it became very clear that the Hahei Community doesn’t want the proposed walkway, at least not in the immediate future, he said he’ll be happy to ask the Mercury Bay Community Board to consider recommending to Council that the Hahei ratepayers hold a referendum on the issue. However, he said, if external funding is to be obtained next year (from the likes of the Lotteries Commission), an application has to be lodged before the end of this year and work on that will have to continue.

This is why I left the meeting perturbed - answering more questions, Garry said planning the Cathedral Coast Walkway started more than a year ago and to date about $100,000 has been spent (not clarifying if that incudes staff time or not). Now I think the project - not the Great Walks as such, but the proposed stages 1A and 1B - is in real danger of falling over. It seems as if a working group will be formed, and good on the people from Hahei for participating in that, made up of representatives from Lees Road, Pa Road, Hahei Beach Road, the Hahei Business Association, the Hahei Ratepayers Association, Hahei absentee ratepayers and Coastal Walkways. But those representatives will put their constituents’ views forward. And if what was raised at the meeting is an indication of those views, then the plan to build car parks at the old wastewater treatment plant and Lees Road to cope with the extra influx of people the proposed walkway is going to bring, isn’t going to cut the mustard.

The meeting last Saturday really should have been held a year ago and the $100,000 spent so far would have gone a long way, thinking out loud, in the planning (and even construction) of a walkway from the Purangi Estuary to Ferry Landing or from Ferry Landing to Wharekaho or, maybe a bit more ambitious, from Wharekaho to Kuaotunu to Matarangi to Whangapoua or New Chums Beach.

A lesson is to be learned here. We need the Great Walks in Mercury Bay, we absolutely do. The idea is great and the benefits will be enormous, but talk to the affected ratepayers first. Make sure everyone is singing from the same song sheet. And the great idea, which we absolutely need, will absolutely happen.

Information session on Graham's Creek flood protection works to be held this weekend

An information session will be held by staff from Thames Coromandel District Council and Waikato Regional Council in the Tairua Hall annex between 10:00am and 1:00pm this Saturday 6 December about the proposed Graham’s Creek flood protection works due to be carried out by the two councils. WRC’s Thames Coromandel constituency councillor Clyde Graf will also be in attendance for the three hours and will stay on for an extra 30 minutes to discuss any issues people may have.

The event comes after TCDC last month approved an extra $300,000 to extend the bridge on the Manaia Road causeway, which will be an important element of flood mitigation work at Graham’s Creek.

The funding will come from Tairua's stormwater depreciation reserves and a loan. The extension by 16 metres will help keep the road open during flooding and allow floodwaters to drain more easily when combined with floodway improvement works to be done by WRC.

For many years, property owners in the Graham’s Creek catchment, which is upstream of the Manaia Road causeway, have experienced flooding.

To address the problem both TCDC and WRC have been working with the community to find a workable solution. TCDC set aside $620,000 in its 2014-2015 Annual Plan towards upgrading the Manaia Road causeway bridge. WRC set aside $600,000 in its 2014-2015 Annual Plan towards floodway improvement works around Graham's Creek, which include stopbanks, re-contouring the floodplain to form a floodway and creek channel works.

Both pieces of work need to be done in tandem for a successful outcome.

In June 2014 a joint working group was set up to help refine and finalise the work programme. Made up of affected residents, elected members, as well as staff from both TCDC and WRC, the group held four separate workshops and came up with a preferred solution which included a two-way causeway bridge (rather than a one-lane as previously indicated). 

Construction of the WRC flood mitigation measures and the construction of the bridge are due to start in the middle of next year once resource consents are obtained.

New Freedom Camping Bylaw in effect

Thames Coromandel District Council says they welcome campers to the Coromandel, but as of midday yesterday their new Freedom Camping Bylaw is in place and will be enforced district wide.

TCDC has undertaken a review of their bylaw and the adopted 2014 bylaw states all freedom campers must be in a certified self-contained vehicle. If anyone is camping in their car, a tent, or in a vehicle that doesn't have a certified self-contained toilet on board, they still need to be going to either a commercial or DOC campsite.

"We are freedom-camping friendly, but need to balance this with protecting our environment. Our special environment is why people want to come here in the first place," says TCDC mayor Glenn Leach.

As part of the new bylaw, TCDC also needed to look at areas where it is considered necessary to restrict freedom camping. The Community Boards around the Thames Coromandel district finalised areas that are prohibited and restricted for reasons under the Freedom Camping Act. Within these restricted areas there are some designated areas which will allow freedom camping, but with limitations on numbers of vehicles and limits to how many days.

TCDC says they are also working with the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association on developing a "Camping Pack" which will be sold in i-Sites from mid-December. The packs will have all the information needed for a safe and happy trip to the Coromandel, as well as a few added extras such as a TCDC rubbish bag, postcards of the Coromandel and a drink bottle.

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