Thursday, 20 September 2018

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Tairua dreamboat gets first dunking

It was the beginning of a new era for Tairua boat builder, Russell George, as his labour of love, the "Betty G" set out en-route for her first dip in the ocean.

After 13 years on a hard stand outside the family home, the big white boat, named after Mr George’s wife, was carefully loaded onto the back of a semi-trailer. One of Mr George’s good friends suggested a life-sized cardboard cutout be erected on the lawn to soften the glaringly obvious reality the boat is no longer there.

Transportation of the landscape landmark was kept quiet, but the news seeped out and supporters turned away from their morning routines to witness the move. The humble Mr George looked happy the "Betty G" was finally on the move, but all the sudden action had his head in a spin - he couldn’t believe it was happening.

When the semi was ready to pull out for Whitianga, he checked his bronze cargo, the propeller, was carefully secured in the flatbed of the pilot vehicle. "It cost about six grand so I thought I better make sure it didn’t fall off," Mr George said.

As the "Betty G" transitioned Tairua’s Pepe Bridge, locals gathered to acknowledge the man who had realised his dream to build a comfortable boat for his wife, Betty.

With his preference to fix and build things rather than pay someone else to do it, Russell George is an example of a generation of people who did things for themselves - a DIY poster boy in the truest sense.

He had initially predicted he could transform what was little more than an empty hull into a sleek ocean-going vessel within a couple of years, but he was wrong. Pursuing his retirement project with an unrelenting and patient determination kept him toiling away from the sea he loved and tied fast to terra firma.

The retired commercial crayfisherman - and tractor mechanic by trade - designed and crafted nearly every component of the "Betty G" over 13 long and arduous years fraught with difficulties.

With the "Betty G" permanently gone from the front lawn of his Tairua home, the wiry 76-year-old said, "It’s one hell of a load off my system." Now that his girl - a 12 metre long, sedan-style, 15 tonne displacement launch - is temporarily on a hard stand in Whitianga, Mr George mostly feels relieved his wife no longer has to play second fiddle to a boat.

With the clarity of hindsight, Mr George wouldn’t have embarked on the build all those years ago if he had known just how complicated and costly it would be.

The move from Tairua to Whitianga Marina, including the quick dunk in the water and positioning on the hard stand there, took less than three hours. When the straddle truck lowered his dreamboat into the water, she just sat there, perfectly balanced.

There was less than a 5mm difference between the anti-fouling line and the water line. "That was a little plus for me, not that I engineered it," he laughed.

Mr George and his two sons, Rex and Paul, sat down for a sandwich and a celebratory beer at midday, before they took advantage of the fine weather, "to do a little sanding."

Used to working quietly on his own, and often standing around scratching his head about how to fix a problem, having his sons with him sped up the rate in which last minute tasks were completed - and Mr George said his mind struggled to keep up with the pace.

Before the "Betty G" takes her maiden voyage home to Tairua, the George boys have to put the tape up to the correct level, put on the propeller, the exhaust, the radar tower and the vents for the aft heads.

"We’ll take a beetle up and down the harbour to check there are no unexpected problems before we take her home. Then I’d like Betty to smash something on it and bless it, you know, what do they say, "I name this boat Betty G and God bless all who sail on her."

Family fun day at Mercury Bay Multi-Sport Park a great success

The opening of and the family fun day held at the new Mercury Bay Multi-Sport Park was a great success.

"We want to say a huge thank you to everyone who came along, as a player, a coach, a volunteer or just as a member of the public," said Mercury Bay Community Board chairman Paul Kelly. "It was fantastic to see so many of our community enjoying the facility on the day and it is a hugely positive milestone in the history of the Sport Park. We are looking forward to many more."

Several hundred people turned up on the day to see Mercury Bay sports teams playing netball, rugby, rugby league and football.

"This was a real family and community focused event and an opportunity for everyone to come and learn about the sports they could get involved with at the park and to see what our facility has to offer," said Thames Coromandel District Council Sport Park co-ordinator Sue Costello.

The Sport Park will also be the base for the Goldrush Rally of New Zealand in August.

Surveying work almost finished for section of proposed Cathedral Coast Walk

Land and quantity surveying for the first section of the proposed Cathedral Coast walk is almost complete.

According to Thames Coromandel District Council this will give them a true sense of how much Phase 1A, from what is known as the "Blowhole," just below the “Narnia” site, on through to Pa Road at Hahei,- will cost.

The land where the track is to be built is predominately owned by the Department of Conservation.

Cathedral Cove via Lees Road through to the Purangi Estuary is being proposed as Phase 1B and a Hot Water Beach back dune track is Phase 2.

"We know that Phase 1A will need to establish a walking track, safe viewing platforms along with landscaping," said TCDC project spokesperson Garry Towler. "So, aside from any Council money, we're preparing to lodge funding applications with external sources.”

TCDC has allocated $275,000 towards Phase 1A and 1B of the project in their 2014/2015 draft Annual Plan.

Earlier this year experienced track builder John Gaukrodger was brought onto the project team with the responsibility of developing the route, liaising with landowners, resolving boundary and access issues and the construction and building of the track. Mr Gaukrodger's position is funded by the Department of Conservation, who are partners in the project, along with local iwi, Ngati Hei.

Once external funding is confirmed and consents and design have been signed off, the actual build of Phase 1A should take only a couple of months to complete.

Learn more about walks in the Whitianga area.

Coromandel communities well-represented on Conservation Board

Coromandel MP Scott Simpson is pleased our region’s communities are well represented on Waikato’s Conservation Board.

He made the comments after the Department of Conservation announced who’s got the nod for its regional boards.

“I want to congratulate the Coromandel locals who’ve been appointed, or reappointed. They are Arthur Hinds from Whenuakite, Kevin Robinson from Thames, David Taipari from Ngatea and Joyce Birdsall from Tairua,” Mr Simpson said.

“The Coromandel is blessed with New Zealand’s finest natural surroundings. Our representatives’ local knowledge will directly benefit our communities. That’s because they’ll advise the New Zealand Conservation Authority and Department of Conservation about planning here.”

“This year, boards will be looking harder at promoting recreation opportunities and tourism on conservation land, and enhancing relationships with iwi/hapū.”

Tairua and Pauanui in numbers

Following on from our recent statistical profile of Whitianga, this is the profile of Tairua and Pauanui. Information that has been gathered from Statistics New Zealand census and other official statistics can help you understand the dynamics of these communities.

Just over 2,000 people live in the area, 1,269 in Tairua and 741 in Pauanui Beach. There has been a net loss in population since the 2001 Census of 150 people with Tairua losing 13 per cent (192) of its community while Pauanui has grown by 42. There are as many men as there are women in each community.

Tairua residents are mainly European (81.6 per cent) with a Maori community of 11.1 per cent and the balance from a diverse number of cultures. Pauanui also has a predominant European base (78.2 per cent) but a much smaller (4.2 per cent) Maori population. One fifth of this Coromandel community were born overseas with the most common birthplace being the UK and Ireland. Almost everyone speaks just one language (English) with just 27 people fluent in Maori.

Almost 60 per cent of the people (over the age of 15) living in the area are married, and of the rest, half have never married and half are separated, divorced or widowed. Nearly 30 per cent of people in Tairua and nearly 40 per cent of people in Pauanui aged 15 years and over who have never married, live with a partner. In Tairua, couples with children make up a third of all families (in Pauanui it is less than 20 per cent), while couples without children account for more than half of all families. Less than 10 per cent of families are one-parent-with-children families.

In Tairua, 28.6 per cent (Pauanui Beach, 23.2 per cent) of people aged 15 years and over have no formal qualifications however the rest have a secondary school and/or post-school qualification. This may be a factor contributing to the low unemployment rate in this area of just 2.1 per cent compared to 5.2 per cent for all of Waikato Region. Like Whitianga, managers make up 20 per cent of the workforce, while professionals, technicians and labourers each account for 15 per cent of the employed community. Community and personal service, clerical and administration and sales workers are each 10 per cent of the workforce.

In Tairua, the average annual income per person is even lower than Whitianga - just $18,400 with more than half of the people aged 15 years and over having an annual income of $20,000 or less. Only 11 per cent earn more than $50,000 per year. For Pauanui incomes are better with the average annual income per person at $21,700 with less than half of the people aged 15 years and over having an annual income of $20,000 or less. 16 per cent earn more than $50,000 per year.

There are 603 dwellings in Tairua and 403 in Pauanui Beach and more than half of these are privately occupied with or without a mortgage and just half of the households have access to the Internet.

For two such apparently diverse communities, Tairua and Pauanui Beach share mostly similar statistics borne out of their geographic location, community profile and economy. Both communities add significantly to the beauty and richness of the Coromandel region.

Learn more about Whitianga.

A beautiful beautiful place

Co-leader of the Green party, Metiria Turei was in Whitianga on Tuesday last week, primarily to talk education with John Wright, principal of Mercury Bay Area School. Ms Turei was accompanied by Catherine Delahuntey, Green Party List MP and Kauaeranga Valley resident and Anna Horne, Whitianga local and Ms Delahunty’s campaign manager in the upcoming central government elections.

After their meeting with Mr Wright, the three Green Party members joined us for lunch at The Informer’s offices, where we had the opportunity to quiz them on a number of issues.

We firstly asked Ms Turei if she’s ever been to Mercury Bay. The answer was no. On the follow up question - what did she think of our place in the sun, she said, "It’s a beautiful, beautiful place."

The conversation then moved quickly to education, where Ms Turei explained the Green Party’s two most recent school policies. "Our school hub policy will be aimed at removing poverty as a barrier to learning," she said. "That will include, for low decile schools initially, free school lunches and after school care and a school hub facilitator who will ensure all the social needs a school may have is met. The other policy is safer schools. We would like to see adequate roading and cycling infrastructure around schools and better design of intersections."

Asking Ms Turei where the funding for these policies will come from, she said priorities will have to be reorganised.

Inevitably we also talked about 1080 and mining on the Coromandel. Mining was the shorter of the two conversations, with Ms Turei saying, "The Greens are not in favour of any mining on the Coromandel. An economy like the Coromandel’s will never be strengthened by destruction of the environment. Not a single mining town features in the top ten of New Zealand’s wealthiest places. People come to the Coromandel because of its natural beauty. That’s what needs to be treasured to prosper."

Ms Delahunty took the lead in the discussion about 1080. She said the Green Party’s policy is that aerial drops of 1080 need to be avoided wherever possible, but that it can be used as an absolute last resort. "Some money has already gone into research of alternative trapping methods and we would like to see more investment into New Zealand-based trapping technology," she said. "We are not blind to the fact, however, that aerial 1080 drops are the only option to save what is special to us all in some parts of New Zealand."

Asking Ms Turei what we on the Coromandel can do to increase our share of the tourism market, she said, "The Greens would like to see a greater focus on the domestic tourism market. There is an opportunity to share our environmental wealth with everyone in New Zealand. We need to make our natural attractions accessible to everyone, including disabled people, and we need to do things like the New Zealand cycleway to get all New Zealanders to enjoy what our country has to offer.

"The international tourism market is important and shouldn’t be neglected, but it is a fickle market. The domestic market will always be more resilient."

Telling Ms Turei about the Coromandel Great Walks project, she immediately thought it was a good idea, but is something that needs to be done with input from the wider community.

We also spoke about job creation and economic growth. Coincidentally the day of our meeting, Russel Norman, the other Green Party co-leader announced new "green bank" policy - in essence the creation of a government bank investing in clean technology. "The global green energy industry is now worth $8 billion. All we need is a small slice of that in New Zealand to see our economy improve significantly,
also with regard to the creation of jobs," Ms Turei said.

"We’re also very much in favour of locals supporting locals and are very firm on our national procurement policy," she said. "If any government agency has any buying to do, they should give New Zealand suppliers the first option.

"We need long term economic planning. We live from budget to budget and election to election, but we really should be looking 50 years or even longer ahead. Forestry is a good example. In Austria they have wonderful mixed species forests with a lot of local wood processing. That’s the result of long term planning. We can have it in New Zealand as well, but we need to start planning for it now."

A top team at Platinum Homes

Robert and Angela Duxfield came to Whitianga twelve years ago from Wellington where they owned a Prenail Frame and Truss business and where Robert also had a building company. They were looking for lifestyle change and with the construction industry booming at that time, they didn’t have much difficulty convincing each other that Whitianga was the place to be.

Robert started RCD Builders and Angela started working as an interior consultant at a local business. Things were ticking along nicely and Robert even had time for some diving and fishing, two of the reasons he was keen to call Mercury Bay home.

Keeping an eye on the market, Robert and Angela realised demand for design-and-build houses was picking up and they started looking for a franchise they could purchase.

"When Platinum Homes in Whitianga came onto the market towards the end of last year, we jumped at the opportunity," said Robert. "It was a really good call. We were busy from the day we took the business over. I think it helps that I’m a builder by trade. Many owners of franchise building companies don’t have a background in construction. They do a good job, but I’m maybe just that little bit more aware of pitfalls that may be lurking around. And I’m also trying to get onto the tools every day.

"I must also say that we were fortunate that Kevin Andrews and Butch Matherson decided to stay on with us from the previous owner. Butch is still making sure that all the jobs run smoothly and Kevin keeps on bringing in the sales. His contacts with key players in the areas we work in are invaluable."

Robert and Angela cover the whole of the Coromandel and the Hauraki Plains. They have nine builders at the moment working for them, including two of their sons. Adam, a builder, and his partner have returned from Perth to join them and Joel, the younger brother, is doing his builder’s apprenticeship through the business.

"That’s the one thing about the business we didn’t expect," Robert said. "The eagerness of our family to be involved. It’s great that there’s enough work to keep all of us busy."

To that Angela added, "We’re a close family. Sunday evening dinners are once again a big thing. We really enjoy that."

Robert and Angela are also locally minded. "Being part of a franchise, we have to use some national suppliers, but where we can we try to use local tradesmen and buy our materials locally. It’s important for all businesses in the area to support each other," said Robert.

Angela also said that she and Robert believe that it’s important to be active in the local community. "We’ve recently sponsored some jackets for one of the Mercury Bay Junior Rugby teams and I support an older couple who don’t have their family around. Community spirit is the one thing that really makes the whole Mercury Bay area unique. I cannot think of a better business in a better place for us to be in right at this moment."

Budget 2014 commits to fighting Kauri dieback

New tracks, boardwalks and hygiene stations are all part of the Government’s plans to fight Kauri dieback disease, as outlined in Budget 2014.

Coromandel MP Scott Simpson sought more details in Parliament about the $26.5 million plans to tackle the disease.

“The Conservation Minister, Nick Smith told me the funding will provide over 100km of new track and 5km of new boardwalk in particularly sensitive areas,” said Mr Simpson.

“We can also expect several hundred new hygiene stations in kauri forests, as well as greater pig control and investment in critical research.”

Kauri dieback disease was discovered in the Coromandel region earlier this year, in two young trees in the Whangapoua Forest/Hukarahi Conservation Area. The Coromandel is home to a third of New Zealand’s remnant Kauri.

Mr Simpson said, “The majestic kauri found across the Coromandel is part of what makes our region so special. This investment shows the Government’s commitment to fighting the disease and will ensure kauri is maintained for future generations.”

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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.