Thursday, 17 January 2019

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Matarangi tennis courts to remain for public use

Three of the five tennis courts at Matarangi have now been vested into Thames Coromandel District Council ownership.

The three courts are on a corner site between Matarangi Rd and Matai Drive and are currently managed and maintained by TCDC with support from the Matarangi Ratepayers Association.

"There's been a historical issue with these tennis courts dating back to early stages of development at Matarangi," said TCDC Mercury Bay Area Office Manager, Sam Marshall. "It appears that these sites should have been vested in Council but weren't. There's also been concern that the land could be sold or developed and therefore lost as a community asset and public reserve."

Following discussions between TCDC, the Matarangi Ratepayers Association and the current owners of the courts Burfoot Limited (who assumed the role of developer of Matarangi township), the vesting of the three courts into Council ownership is on a no-payment basis. The two remaining sites will be retained by the Burfoot Limited. There is also no expectation of development contributions.

"We've been offered these courts on no commitment. Burfoot Limited will no longer have to pay the rates on these three sites, which Council will now pick up," said Mr Marshall.

The rates are approximately $5,000 per annum.

"I want to congratulate the Matarangi Ratepayers Association, Council staff and Burfoot Limited for working together to preserve the courts for the public," said Mercury Bay Community Board chairman Paul Kelly.

"We don't have many other public tennis courts in Matarangi. The Pines courts are private, along with the ones by the Matarangi Store, so this outcome of having some public courts available is fantastic.”

Mercury Bay Community Board grants announced

The Mercury Bay Community Board confirmed at their meeting in Whitianga yesterday the recipients of grant funding they have available for local community groups and organisations.

A list of the 28 recipients can be accessed by clicking on the photos accompanying this feature.

The Community Board was also yesterday informed that the Whitianga Lions will not be hosting a fireworks display in Whitianga around the time of Guy Fawkes this year. The Board used to contribute $7,500 to the fireworks every year. The Board decided yesterday to allocate $5,000 of the fireworks money to the Mercury Bay Community Swimming Pool Trust. The Swimming Pool Trust will also receive $2,000 under the grant funding confirmed yesterday.

Murray McLean, Thames Coromandel District Councillor and Mercury Bay Community Board member, said yesterday he's uneasy with the concept of distributing part of the rates paid by ratepayers to community groups and organisations. He, in essence, would like to see lower rates and ratepayers deciding on their own accord if they want to support community groups and organisations.

Learn more about Community Clubs and Groups operating in and around Whitianga and the wider Mercury Bay area.

Mercury Bay Community Board grants announced

The Mercury Bay Community Board confirmed at their meeting in Whitianga yesterday the recipients of grant funding they have available for local community groups and organisations.

A list of the 28 recipients can be accessed by clicking on the photos accompanying this feature.

The Community Board was also yesterday informed that the Whitianga Lions will not be hosting a fireworks display in Whitianga around the time of Guy Fawkes this year. The Board used to contribute $7,500 to the fireworks every year. The Board decided yesterday to allocate $5,000 of the fireworks money to the Mercury Bay Community Swimming Pool Trust. The Swimming Pool Trust will also receive $2,000 under the grant funding confirmed yesterday.

Murray McLean, Thames Coromandel District Councillor and Mercury Bay Community Board member, said yesterday he's uneasy with the concept of distributing part of the rates paid by ratepayers to community groups and organisations. He, in essence, would like to see lower rates and ratepayers deciding on their own accord if they want to support community groups and organisations.

Learn more about Community Clubs and Groups operating in and around Whitianga and the wider Mercury Bay area.

Mercury Bay Community Board grants announced

The Mercury Bay Community Board confirmed at their meeting in Whitianga yesterday the recipients of grant funding they have available for local community groups and organisations.

A list of the 28 recipients can be accessed by clicking on the photos accompanying this feature.

The Community Board was also yesterday informed that the Whitianga Lions will not be hosting a fireworks display in Whitianga around the time of Guy Fawkes this year. The Board used to contribute $7,500 to the fireworks every year. The Board decided yesterday to allocate $5,000 of the fireworks money to the Mercury Bay Community Swimming Pool Trust. The Swimming Pool Trust will also receive $2,000 under the grant funding confirmed yesterday.

Murray McLean, Thames Coromandel District Councillor and Mercury Bay Community Board member, said yesterday he's uneasy with the concept of distributing part of the rates paid by ratepayers to community groups and organisations. He, in essence, would like to see lower rates and ratepayers deciding on their own accord if they want to support community groups and organisations.

Learn more about Community Clubs and Groups operating in and around Whitianga and the wider Mercury Bay area.

Those were the days

Last week Wednesday, Walter Russell had his first official engagement as Mercury Bay’s newest recipient of a Queen’s Service Medal. He was invited to address an afternoon tea audience at St Andrews by the Sea Community Church on "Growing up in the Bay."

It was a memorable afternoon for the more than 60 people who attended, many of them ending up sharing their own stories of what life in Mercury Bay was like 40 and 50 years ago. Indeed when Walter got up, he said, "I thought this was going to be walk in the park, but seeing so many friends who grew up with me here, I’ll have to be on the money."

We caught up with Walter afterwards to canvass a few of the topics and incidents he addressed in a bit more detail. It wasn’t only interesting, but outright hilarious.

Walter arrived with his family in Whitianga in 1941, when he was only two years old. At age five he was sent to the old Whitianga Primary School (down School Lane next to The Lost Spring), something he didn’t really like. "There was too much to do," he said. "Fishing, swimming, being out and about. School really interfered with my time to do useful things.

"At that time there were little primary schools everywhere. Kaimarama had one, there was one in Kuaotunu and one called ‘Dunsdale’ where Twin Oaks Riding Ranch is today. All twelve students at Dunsdale were Simpsons and their teacher was one of their aunties."

Walter became early in his life involved in a variety of community services, Land Search and Rescue, St John, the Civil Police and the Volunteer Fire Brigade to name a few. His first search and rescue expedition was when he was about eight years old. Roger Simpson, who was in the St Andrews audience on Wednesday, went missing. The whole school was commandeered to go look for the three-year-old boy.

"We first found his gumboots," said Walter. "And then we found Roger eating blackberries, not a concern in the world."

As teenagers, Walter and his friends were, as he put it, ten feet tall and bullet proof. This is an attitude that led to them one day experimenting with an explosive mix of gasses. "A friend lived where Charlie’s Garage in Mill Road now is," Walter said. "We filled a balloon with this explosive gas cocktail and when we lit the thing, it was a huge explosion. The whole garage door blew out.

"That of course just motivated us to go bigger. So, we took a beach ball down to Buffalo Beach and forced as much of this explosive mix of gasses into the ball as we could. Man it was big. We lit a fuse we thought would burn for three minutes or so, pushed the ball into the water and started running.

"When the explosion came, it came it was massive. A few surfcasters later said it was like this wall of fire coming towards them from the water. The town dump was that time on the beach, from where the toilets are now to Mother Brown’s Creek. After a lot of speculation, a newspaper report put the explosion down to some internal combustion at the dump.

"And after that a National Airways Corporation pilot wrote in some or other journal that it was a UFO entering the atmosphere according to some grid pattern he worked out.

"I remember I arrived home just after the explosion happened. My mum and dad were outside looking at the horizon lighting up. My dad immediately asked me, ‘What did you do?’ Asking him why he thought I had any kind of involvement, he answered, ‘If it wasn’t you, you wouldn’t be running away from the action. You would be the first one to go see what’s going on.’"

Walter left school as soon as he turned 15 and started a motor mechanic apprenticeship with his dad, who owned the town garage where Taste Café is now. "Town had a high school then, only a few years old, next to the primary school. It started in an old shed the primary school used to use, all the students sitting around an old table tennis table."

As a young man and qualified A-grade motor and diesel mechanic, Walter and his brother, Graham, who also qualified as a mechanic, worked for their dad. Saturday dances were a big thing on the young adults’ agenda. "Every Saturday night there was a dance somewhere, Whitianga, Whangapoua, Kuaotunu, Coroglen, Whenuakite," said Walter. It was a time for the whole community to gather. The young ones danced and the older ones came to watch, some even brought their knitting with them. And all the older folk brought something for a shared supper. I remember the bacon and egg pies, they were magnificent.

"One Saturday evening a few friends and I had to choose between a dance in Whangapoua or Whenuakite. We chose Whangapoua. When we got there, there weren’t many people. So we decided if we leave immediately, we could make Whenuakite in time for supper. Imagine Whitianga to Whangapoua and then to Whenuakite in the early evening on metal roads."

The other big social event was the movies - every Friday night, mostly in the Whitianga Town Hall. When Walter was about ten years old, the hall burnt down after a showing of "Bambi." Talking to one of his friends the following morning, his friend had this theory that some of the sparks from the forest fire in the movie caused the hall fire.

After the hall was rebuilt, the movies resumed as if nothing happened. "For some people it was a big night out," Walter said. "Jackets and ties, the works. And people pretty much always sat in the same seats.

"The funniest was most probably the handwritten messages that appeared on screen while the movie was showing. Things like, ‘Mrs Jones, your cows broke loose, please go put them back.’ One night there was a movie in the Whenuakite Hall. A message appeared on screen that the Dalmeny sawmill was on fire. So the movie stopped. Everyone went to help put out the fire and then came back to watch the rest of the movie."

Walter’s most prominent memory of his days as a child and a young man in Mercury Bay was the abundance of fish. "The dairy factory [where the Mercury Bay Museum is now] was washed down every night," he said. The lukewarm water with all the whey and butter residue ran into the estuary at the wharf. For the sprats it was paradise. And for us. The sprats were massive and easy to catch. And of course they attracted the kingfish and kahawai and the kingfish and kahawai attracted the sharks.
Many fishermen made a living out of shark livers, which was sent to Auckland for processing into cod liver oil.

"And crayfish were everywhere. Those were the days where nobody had to go hungry. The ocean provided for everyone."

And then Walter started talking about the ferry that was a rowboat, learning to swim, milk powder (not milk) in schools, the hunt for criminal George Wilder, when Whitianga became part of the national electricity grid in in 1959, the tsunami of 1960, marrying a wife from Auckland and becoming a dad when Whitianga still had a hospital… More to come, soon in The Informer.

National to introduce recreational fishing park in Hauraki Gulf

The National Party announced over the weekend that they, if re-elected, will introduce two recreational fishing parks covering areas of the inner Hauraki Gulf and the Marlborough Sounds.

Dr Nick Smith, Conservation Spokesman, said, “This is a first for New Zealand. It’s about recognising some fishing areas are worth more to New Zealanders for their recreational than their commercial value and we want to preserve those areas for the tens of thousands of Kiwis who use them every summer.

“Commercial fishers currently operating in these areas will be fairly compensated and a new law will provide for a range of marine-protected areas from no-take marine reserves, the new recreational fishing parks, species-specific sanctuaries and seabed reserves.

“The announcement follows from our earlier commitment to protect our most precious ocean areas with ten new marine reserves.

"I want New Zealand to be a world-leader in the responsible use, management, and conservation of our oceans.”

As can be seen from the outline above, the proposed Hauraki Gulf recreational fishing park will not be bordering the eastern seaboard of the Coromandel Peninsula.

The Mercury Bay local who built a business with brushes and pots of paint

"I was born at an early age," said Charles Russell from Whitianga Signs in his bone-dry way.

Charles has to be one of Mercury Bay’s most interesting residents. "My dad was English, my mum Austrian," he continued talking about his birth. "They met just after the Second World War in Vienna, where I arrived in 1946. Five years later my parents moved to England and I tagged along."

Charles stayed in England until the age of 24. After school he obtained a Diploma in Graphic Design, but that wasn’t his biggest achievement before he came to New Zealand at age 24. "I taught myself to play the guitar and mouth organ, but at school I learnt to play the violin and trumpet," he explained. "While studying at the Portsmouth College of Art, a few of us formed the Portsmouth Philharmonia. I was one of only a few who knew something about music, but despite that, we received a prestigious invitation to play at the Royal Albert Hall in London. We were terrible. That didn’t deter us, though. We even made a record. I still cringe when I listen to that. I’m sure we got the invitation to London on our name. It shows you, there’s indeed something in a name."

Charles moved to New Zealand because he was curious. "I just wanted to see the South Pacific," he said.

Charles spent his first ten years in New Zealand in Auckland working in the retail industry as a page designer and building a 36ft steel yacht. He came to Whitianga for the first time on a diving trip and after a few more trips was given an offer to become the skipper of a charter boat that still had to be built. He accepted and back in Auckland, he loaded all his earthly possessions on his boat and arrived permanently in Whitianga in 1980.

"And of course the charter boat I was supposed to skipper was then never built," said Charles. "That was a bit of a predicament, so I started signwriting. I lived on the boat and worked from whatever shed I could find. It was the days before computers and scanners. Pots of paint and brushes were the way to go. Despite my best intentions not to make it happen, the business grew and it really became time to move to shore."

So, after nine years on the waters of Mercury Bay, Charles sold his boat and bought a place on South Highway in Whitianga. When he wasn’t signwriting, he painted proper artwork and learnt to fly aeroplanes. "One day I was outside and this rag and tube plane came over very low a few times. I thought the pilot was taunting me and I longed to shoot him down," he said.

"I went to Mercury Bay Aero Club and Owen Whiting, the resident instructor, lured me into the Bantam they had for people who wanted to learn to fly. From the beginning, I really enjoyed flying and just kept going." Charles is today rated to fly a variety of aircraft of all different sizes.

When Coromandel Flying Club bought a Tecnam Microlight, Charles was their first choice when they had to ask someone to become the instructor. That was more than twelve years ago and Charles took to the task with gusto. "I now have more than 850 hours teaching in microlights," he said. "And I still enjoy every moment in the air."

In fact, Charles so much enjoys teaching others how to fly, he doesn’t charge for his services. "No, he said. Students pay for the plane and I fly with them. I love it."

Not surprisingly the funniest experience Charles ever had, according to him, involved the sky. "Five years ago I had the opportunity to go to the Oshkosh Air Show in the US. This bunch of parachutists jumped out of a DC3 aeroplane, holding a huge US flag. Now I’ve always known Americans are patriotic, but this took the cake.

"I was looking at this descending flag into the sun. For a group of older folks behind me it looked as if I was saluting their flag. They, of course, didn’t know I wasn’t American. Next moment they all jumped to attention and saluted. This was was a predicament since I now was compelled to stay in this position. Once the parachutists made it to the ground, the older folks all waited for me to break my salute and only when I did, they stood at ease. I could hear the cracking of ancient sinews as I walked stiffly around the back of the hangar before collapsing on the grass in utter relief. It was frightening at the time but very funny."

Asking Charles, this Mercury Bay local of many, many years who performed in the Royal Albert Hall, who built a business with brushes and pots of paint, who built a boat and lived on it for a long, long time, who paints "proper" paintings when he has time, who flies aeroplanes and loves teaching others to do the same and who had a whole group of patriotic Americans saluting their flag with him, what he actually thinks of himself, he said in his bone-dry way, "I’m difficult to get on with. I’m self-opinionated with wide and eclectic tastes. But I’m bloody interesting." And for some reason he forgot to add, years ago, when he was young and innocent, he thought he was exceptionally handsome.

Look out for wild ginger

An all-out assault on wild ginger in Tairua kicked off this month and property owners are invited to muscle in.

Kahili ginger has scented yellow flowers that may smell appealing, but it is a plant that grows voraciously. It has long shallow underground stems called rhizomes that form deep beds, which native plants can’t grow up through. Growing up to three metres tall, it also shades out smaller plants and seedlings, and its seeds are easily spread by birds.

If left unchecked it could permanently replace some of our native plants.

Cherry Ladd and fellow members of the Tairua Parks and Reserves group are encouraging Tairua property owners to check their backyards for kahili ginger and “weed it out” through September.

“While controlling kahili ginger on their property is technically the owner’s responsibility, we’re keen to support the community in working together on tackling this pest plant,” said Cherry.

“One of the things property owners often struggle with is disposal, because you can’t compost kahili ginger. So with the help of Waikato Regional Council, we’re giving property owners the opportunity to bring small kahili ginger plants and flower heads to us for disposal.”

A collection site where property owners can dispose of kahili ginger will be set up by Waikato Regional Council at the Pepe Reserve car park on 20 September between 9:00am and 12:00pm.

Waikato Regional Council’s biosecurity officer Benson Lockhart advises that the process is as simple as -

  • Cutting off the flower heads.
  • Digging out small plants, making sure all of the root system is removed.
  • Putting the flower heads and small plants into a plastic bag.   
  • Dropping your bags of flower heads and small plants at the collection point (Pepe Reserve car park, 20 September, 9:00am-12:00pm).

“It’s really only possible to remove kahili ginger by hand when the plants are small. So if people discover a large clump I’d encourage them to remove and bag the flower heads and then give me a call, and I’ll help them figure out a plan of attack,” Benson said.

“Kahili ginger isn’t necessarily any worse in Tairua than anywhere else on the Peninsula, but the community is keen to get stuck into it, which is fantastic.

“Tairua is close to kiwi sanctuaries to the north and this is a plant that forms a dense root mass that prevents kiwi from being able to forage in the soil, so that’s another good reason to get rid of it.”

Factsheets to help property owners recognise this weed will be displayed around the village in the week beginning 8 September and are also available online at www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/wild ginger.

For more information, contact Benson Lockhart at Waikato Regional Council’s Whitianga office on 07 866 0172 or freephone 0800 BIOSEC (0800 246 732).

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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.