Monday, 17 February 2020


New amenity building for Pauanui

After a decade of planning, the Pauanui Amenity Building is about to become a reality.

The location for the purpose-built GJ Gardiner building is in the middle of the Pauanui CBD. Construction is due to start at the end of July, with completion in early summer depending on the weather.

The amenity building will house the Community Library, information centre and a community meeting room. Tairua-Pauanui community Board Chair, Bob Renton is pleased the long and sometimes frustrating process is now behind them and that the building will be open to the public by Christmas.

"On behalf of the Community Board, I have to thank a number of people, especially Ken Bush - a local Pauanui builder, who has provided hundreds of his own hours on this project," said Mr Renton. "Thanks also to the Tairua-Pauanui Community Board and to all the staff at the Council for all the hard work and dedication in making this project a reality."

The traditional sod turning ceremony will take place at the site on 23 July at 10:00am.

First aerial poison drop on Great Mercury island completed

The first bait application to remove rats and feral cats from Great Mercury Island/Ahuahu has been safely and successfully completed.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) and the owners of Great Mercury Island - Sir Michael Fay and David Richwhite - are working together to remove these predators from Great Mercury to make the island a pest free sanctuary for native wildlife. 

“The level of community support for this project has been amazing” said DOC Project Manager, Pete Corson.  “The work to sustain a pest-free Great Mercury Island begins now and it is up to all of us to make sure the island remains pest free.  The message is simple.  Check your boats and gear for stowaway pests, tell everyone Great Mercury Island is pest free and enjoy a pest free Great Mercury Island.   Thank you all for your continued support,” said Mr Corson.

Removing the rats and feral cats from the island involves precisely targeted aerial applications of bait using specially designed buckets carried by helicopter. The helicopter pilots use satellite navigation (GPS) technology to ensure the bait is spread only where intended.

After three years of careful planning, helicopters have completed the first bait application on Great Mercury. A second, and final bait application, is scheduled to be carried out on Great Mercury from three weeks’ time, weather permitting.

Removing rats and feral cats from Great Mercury will make the island safe for resident populations of native birds including kaka, kakariki, and little blue penguins, plus native geckos, skinks and insects. It will also enable DOC to move endangered native wildlife onto Great Mercury in the future. 

The rats on Great Mercury also pose a threat to native wildlife on six other islands in the Great Mercury Group. That’s because several of these islands are within a rat’s swimming distance and rats could spread from island to island. 

These other islands - Red Mercury, Green Island, Atiu/Middle island, Kawhitu/Stanley Island Moturehu/Double Island and Korapuki - are all pest free nature reserves managed by DOC. The islands are nesting sites for seabird species of international importance, such as Pycroft's petrel.

DOC has used aerial applications of bait to safely and successfully remove pests from more than 60 islands. This includes Tiritiri Matangi, Little Barrier/Hauturu, Motuihe, Rangitoto and Motutapu in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. These islands now provide safe pest free havens for endangered native wildlife.

 For example Motutapu - 30 minutes by ferry from downtown Auckland - was declared pest free in August 2011. It now provides a safe home for 21 critically endangered takahē. There are only 260 takahē in total.

Pest free Motutapu is also helping secure the survival of Coromandel brown kiwi. Coromandel brown kiwi have been moved to Motutapu to establish a breeding population.  In the future Coromandel brown kiwi from Motutapu will be returned to the Coromandel boosting the number and genetic diversity of this rare kiwi.


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About The Lost Spring cafe manager, Bastille Day and salmon

Considering what is a good time to publish a story about a local French family, this week stood out. Yesterday (14 July) was Bastille Day and dad Sam, the new manager at and head chef of The Lost Spring Café, is about to enter the second annual Ōra King Awards.

Meet the Gosling family - there are also mum Severine, eleven-year-old Morgane and nine-year-old Mathis.

"We arrived in New Zealand in November 2011," said Sam, a trained French chef. "Severine and I used to own a restaurant in the mountains inland from the French Riviera. I was in the kitchen, Severine was front of house. We’ve had many guests from New Zealand. They were always so positive about their piece of the South Pacific. More out of curiosity than anything else we had a look on the internet and saw a big, beautiful country, but with only four million people. We were hooked.

"So, I sent a few CV’s out. And it wasn’t long before the emails started coming back. I ultimately accepted a job as head chef at Oreti Village in Pukawa at the south end of Lake Taupo. We wanted to go to a smaller place and it really worked for us."

"And just when we thought life couldn’t get any better, we visited Whitianga one weekend the end of last year and madly, completely fell in love with Mercury Bay.

"We went back to Pukawa and checked on the internet if there were any jobs going in Whitianga. It was such a pleasant surprise to see The Lost Spring was looking for someone to manage their café. I immediately contacted them, one thing lead to another and we permanently arrived in Whitianga the beginning of February, just in time for Morgane and Mathis to start their year at Mercury Bay Area School."

Sam said the outdoor lifestyle is the one thing that really attracted them to Mercury Bay. "And it’s a privilege to work at The Lost Spring," he added. "The pools and spa bring a lot of people to the area. I really want the café to add to the overall guest experience we offer."

Talking about the café menu, it’s difficult for Sam to hide his excitement. "It’s great to bring a bit of French technique to the great local produce I have available to work with," he said. And a good example of what he means is his entry into the Ōra King Awards - a competition where diners can nominate their favourite Ōra King salmon dish from anywhere in the world online (and go into the draw to win a $200 voucher at any restaurant serving Ōra King salmon). "I guess I want to create bit of Kiwiana," said Sam. "So, on The Lost Spring menu from this week will be an Ōra King salmon fillet seasoned with horopito pepper and served with a kina veloute, watercress pesto and pikopiko, the edible tip of an indigenous fern."

There’s little doubt that Sam and his family’s future is in Mercury Bay. "We’re here to stay," he said. "Morgane and Mathis love it at MBAS and Severine is very happy. We became New Zealand residents last year, the next step is citizenship. Not even on Bastille Day do we want to go back to France.

"All that’s missing is my salmon and watercress dish not yet having been named the Best Ōra King Dish of 2014."


Read more about the Mercury Bay area.

Wouldnt it be nice

Whitianga’s Graham Murrell is going to ride his Fergie 28 tractor to Bluff and a local charity is going to benefit.

Whitianga’s Graham Murrell milked cows for many, many years. And more often than not, on the farms he worked, there was a Fergie 28 - the colloquial name of the very popular tractor built in the late 1940’s and 1950’s.

"I always looked at those Fergie tractors and thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to one day ride one of them all the way down to Bluff,’" said Graham.

Well, in March next year Graham is going to do it - riding a Fergie 28 from Whitianga to Bluff, along the way raising money for the work Whitianga Social Services do with the older people in our community.

"In November 2012, I bought a Fergie 28 off Graham Mansell [a long time Mercury Bay local], who’s a bit of a guru when it comes to tractors," Graham said. "She was in pretty good nick, but needed some work. I wanted to see how much of the restoration I could do using recycled materials. Now, I knew nothing about machines and engines, so it was a big challenge."

A few weeks ago the restoration work was completed. Instead of the dull grey she was when he bought her, Miss Ferguson, as Graham formally named the tractor, is now a sporty, Massey Ferguson red. She’s roadworthy, has her own tray and, in Graham’s words, "Is as reliable as a Swiss watch."

And she’s indeed a testament to what can be done with recycled materials. "I looked all over for things I could use," said Graham. "I had to re-wire Miss Ferguson and dumped extension cords came in handy for that. And I built the tray frame mostly from steel tubing I stumbled across."

Quite a bit of Kiwi-ingenuity is also built into the tractor. A Pump water bottle is the engine-breathing device. "I had a bit of trouble keeping the oil temperature down," Graham said. "I mentioned that to John Booker from Pacific Coast Marine and Mike Phear from Phearless Racing one day and they suggested fitting the water bottle with a few holes in it. And it works just fine." And when it was time to paint the trailer frame, Graham thought an anti-corrosive paint was too expensive. He had some of the coating left he used to treat some rust on Miss Ferguson. Instead of letting it go to waste, he left the trailer frame outside for a month, letting it rust away, and then applied the rust treatment coating. "And that also is working just fine,"
he said.

Talking about the tray frame, the steel Graham built it from was very hard. "I broke the one grinder blade after the other," he said. "So I decided to use a hacksaw and a bit of elbow grease to cut the tubing."

Graham decided to commence his journey in Whitianga because he wants to use the opportunity to promote Mercury Bay. "That’s why I’m not setting off from Cape Reinga or somewhere in that vicinity," he said. "That’s also why I decided to support a local charity, one which I think is doing an awesome job in our community. I want this journey to be as local as possible."

Graeme received valuable local help with his restoration of Miss Ferguson. Mitch Pascoe from H & M Pascoe made space available in his shed for the paint work that had to be done, Ian Sloane from Peninsula Small Engines was happy to sort out some really complicated technical issues and Graham Mansell was always willing to provide some sound advice.

But the focus will now be shifting to financial support for Graham’s journey and a few ideas are in the making. Signage space on the tractor and tray will go up for sale. And there’s talk of a dinner or two where Miss Ferguson will be showed off and also the opportunity for people and businesses to sponsor Graham a few cents for each, or some, of the 1,750km or so he will have to travel to get to Bluff.

Asking Jenny Wolf, the manager of Social Services, what she thought of Graeme’s idea, she said, "It’s fantastic Graham is so passionate about his tractor. We are honoured he has chosen a community support service such as ours as his preferred charity. It means the proceeds from his endeavours will remain in our area."

And asking Moira, Graham’s wife, what she thought of Graham’s idea, she said, "Oh, he’ll do it. There’s no question about that. I’m really proud of what he’s done so far and I’m proud of what he’s going to do next year."

The Informer is fully behind Graham and his upcoming adventure and will make sure all the people and businesses supporting him will get all the publicity we possibly can give them.

Soft opening for the Pour House in Hahei

A new chapter has started for Coromandel Brewing Company with the opening of their new brewery and bar in Hahei, called the Pour House, last week Thursday. "It really was just a soft opening," said Karen Vowles, who owns the business with her husband, Neil. "Many of the Hahei community turned up and everyone had a really good time.

"We’ll ease into things and will initially be open to the public from 4pm on Thursdays and Fridays and from 12 noon on Saturdays and Sundays."

Neil, Karen and their two sons came to New Zealand from the United Kingdom five and a half years ago. They settled in Matarangi. "It was a major change for us," Karen said. "Neil had a business outside Liverpool employing 45 people and I had an academic position. We used to holiday in New Zealand fairly often and spent quite a few Christmas days at Cathedral Cove.

"One day in Matarangi Neil got this idea to brew his own beer. Not long after that our garage was converted into a brewery. Anyone can brew beer, but to brew beer well, you need to be part scientist and part artist. The scientist ensures the quality is always consistent, the artist ensures the taste is perfect. I knew Neil was going to make a success."

And a success Coromandel Brewing Company most certainly is, with beer lovers throughout the Coromandel happy to pay a premium for a true craft beer.

But why Hahei? That’s a question Neil was happy to answer. "We were looking for a real tourist destination to set up a brewery. It just so happens that the old Grange Road Café site in Hahei became available and we jumped at the opportunity," he said. "The water quality is the same as in Matarangi, so our beer is still the same."

And is the brewery bigger than the one in Matarangi? "I love my brewing equipment, so I brought it with me from our garage in Matarangi, but we have installed two extra conditioning tanks. That means, with eight days in a week, I will be able to brew twice as much as I did in Matarangi."

Asking Neil more about conditioning tanks, he explained that it is cold storage tanks where beer is kept for a week or so to allow the yeast that was added in the brewing process to do its job. "It’s where the ‘lagering’ actually takes place," he said.

And what’s with the bar area? "That’s to keep me happy," said Karen. "I like people and I like to sell beer. I wanted a place where people can gather, have something to eat with a beer or a cup of coffee and enjoy themselves."

A fairly unique concept of, shall we say, Karen’s bar is that the kitchen is leased out. In this instance to Becks Brown and Andy Driscoll who used to operate a wood-fired pizza out catering business. "We’re going to keep the food simple, pizzas, flatbreads, toasted paninis, chips, things like that,"
said Becks. "We’ll adjust the menu as we go along, but we really want people to come here and experience good, honest food without any pretence."

And what did some of the Hahei locals who were at the opening of the brewery had to say?

Gilbert Bannan from the Mercury Bay Art Escape said Neil and Karen are great hosts. They always had time for a chat while the building work was going on and he has no doubt that the brewery will become the locals’ local. "And the beer is great too," he added.

Brian Pilkington from Cathedral Cove Macadamias was more concise. "I had a call to the bar earlier today," he said. "And as lawyers cannot resist their own call to the bar, I couldn’t resist this one either." And looking at the mischievous expression on his face, we have little doubt that there are going to be many more calls to the bar, none of which will be resisted.

PhD study finds that as many as a third of resource consent holders do not comply with consent conditions

When the Informer spoke to Dr Marie Brown about the findings of her PhD study, and her role in the Resource Management Law Association (RMLA) Roadshow currently touring New Zealand, she said she felt like a very little fish in a big pond. Her study, titled Ecological Compensation -
an evaluation of regulatory compliance in New Zealand, has opened up areas of inquiry into how to better manage ecological risk and brought the problem of non-compliance with resource consent conditions into the open.

For the purposes of Dr Brown’s doctoral research, undertaken at the University of Waikato, ecological compensation was defined as, "Positive conservation action required by resource consent and intended to compensate for residual adverse effects of development and resource use." In her study, and what is the first systematic analysis of regulatory compliance with mitigation requirements under the Resource Management Act (RMA) in New Zealand, she found that as many as one third of resource consent holders do not comply with their consent conditions.

After presenting her findings to the Judges and Commissioners Conference for the Environment Court last year, Dr Brown was invited by the principal judge, Laurie Newhook, to tour with this year’s RMLA Roadshow, "Conditions of Consent." In ten cities over July and August, the RMLA Roadshow focuses on up-skilling lawyers, planners, general council and compliance staff, consultants, NGO’s, interested members of the public and others on topical issues relating to environmental law.

Dr Brown’s research investigated compliance with 245 conditions related to ecological compensation across 81 case studies across New Zealand under the Resource Management Act 1991. All cases studied related to one or a bundle of consents issued by a district or regional council. Activity, applicant and condition types were compared to investigate relative compliance. Her results show that present tools and practice in New Zealand are not adequately securing the necessary benefits from ecological compensation, with 35.2 percent of requirements not being achieved.

With a background in RMA compliance, Dr Brown, now Senior Policy Analyst for the Environmental Defence Society, entered into the study with a desire to demonstrate the state of play of non-compliance, not to single out those industries where performance was low. "I didn’t want that to be the focus because it nullifies the more constructive message that compliance is predictable and we can work at the beginning of a process to limit ‘disasters’ later. Putting numbers to a situation makes them definitive, objective, citable. That’s the beauty of empirical data. Now we can say, this study shows a project is more likely to comply when these factors are included. This helps agencies dealing with risk-management and that is what I like to think is a key outcome of the study," she said.

Where compensatory actions were required before or concurrent with the consented activity, and where compensation requirements were discussed early in the process, compliance was observed to be significantly higher. The presence of an RMA bond on a condition also had a positive correlation with compliance, as did when compensation is proposed and included in the consent by the applicant and where a detailed plan is required prior to granting the consent.

Compliance varied with consent type - most compliant was energy generation with 100 per cent compliance, while consents related to agriculture exhibited the lowest overall level of compliance, with less than five per cent. Public organisations had a greater likelihood of attaining compliance, followed by private companies, then private individuals.

Throughout her doctorate, Dr Brown observed that poorly worded conditions were a major barrier to achieving outcomes. "District and Regional Plan provisions are often very weak, so there is a limit as to what agencies can control in terms of adverse effects." Without a high degree of surety, councils are risk-adverse around prosecution and this further constrains the likelihood of a good outcome. Improving fundamentals like condition wording is a straightforward means of improving outcomes.

According to Dr Brown, the RMA itself is fairly solid. The main barriers to achieving good outcomes, she said, lie in the implementation gap. "That’s things around under-resourcing of compliance and monitoring by councils and central government, lack of priority afforded to it by consent holders and political and managerial interference in processes surrounding enforcement."

Dr Brown said she had excellent engagement from land-owners and councils from all regions of New Zealand, with the majority readily acknowledging the problem of non-compliance. "The important thing to me was that the study - after careful analysis - demonstrated that this long-held assumption that councils could assume compliance would be achieved was just fatally flawed. Calling this into question opens up an important conversation as to what’s going wrong and how we can fix it."

The results of Dr Brown’s research show there is a clear need to understand the complexities of non-compliance as they apply to trade-offs that justify development at the expense of ecological values. "It may take thirty or forty years until we get it right but I’m quite confident that we can."

Easterly winds to be around until tomorrow

There will still be high winds and seas around the east coast of the Coromandel until Saturday.

The MetService wind warnings are no longer in place for the Coromandel, however the winds are still easterly and up around the 30 knots and potentially gusting up to 45 knots on Saturday.

Coastal erosion is likely to be exacerbated over the next few days along the Coromandel east coast due to the sustained easterly wave event. TCDC staff members are working on sand push ups between high and low tides in Buffalo and Brophy's Beaches in Whitianga, where coastal erosion is a higher risk.

If you need any help, the TCDC customer service phone line is manned 24/7 on 07 868 0200.

High tide times for the Whitianga area are as follows:
Friday 11th                              17:35      
Saturday 12th                          05:48      
Saturday 12th                          18:30

Colouring in competition to kick off Goldrush Rally activities

Now is the chance for you and your child to win a ride in a Rally NZ car, around Whitianga, on Friday 22 August as part of the Coromandel Gold Rush Rally of NZ celebrations.

All you have to do is have your child enter Thames Coromandel District Council’s colouring in competition by clicking here, and send in their entry by 5pm Monday 11 August to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. at TCDC or drop it in to your local TCDC area office or district library. Or pick up an entry from one of TCDC’s area offices or district libraries.

The competition is open to children aged up to 12-years-old and entries have been broken down into three categories, with a girl and boy winner selected from each category.

Category One
Girls aged up to 5 years.
Boys aged up to 5 years.
Category Two
Girls aged 6 -9.
Boys aged 6 –9.
Category Three
Girls aged 10 – 12.
Boys aged 10-12.

All winners will need to be accompanied by an adult for their winning ride in a NZ Rally car. The tour will depart the Mercury Bay Area School for a circuit around Whitianga before arriving at Blacksmith Lane. This is where up to 80 Rally cars and crew will be on display for a pre-event rally show, which allows the public to get up close to the cars and stars before the official race starts on Saturday morning.

Rally teams will be departing from the Mercury Bay Multi-Sport Park for nine special stages covering close to 140km of competitive distance.

The nine stages are -

1 - From Ernslaw 1 (11.08km) just outside of Whitianga.

2  -  A tour down the coastline, through the 309 Road and a race against the clock for the first Service of the day back at the Mercury Bay Sports Park.

3 - 23kms of Tapu-Coroglen, starting at the Coroglen side.

4 - Another coastline tour north to Castlerock for the next stage, starting on the forestry road back to join the 309 Road for the second half of the stage.

5-6 - Another service back at the Sports Park before a repeat of this 47 kilometre loop.

7 - A spectacular tarmac publicity stage beside Whitianga Waterways.

8 - A repeat of the 11.08km Ernslaw test.

9 - The final stage is a second pass of the Whitianga spectator stage, along a section of Joan Gaskell Drive, to thrill the crowds before the finish celebrations on the finish ramp.

Some of the stages will entail road closures during racing. Public meetings are now being arranged for anyone who may be affected. TCDC, Rally organisers and Destination Coromandel will also meet separately with any businesses that may be affected by any road closures.

The public meetings are planned for:
Monday 14th July - Mercury Bay Multi-Sport Park. Time 7pm.
Tuesday 15th July - Tapu Hotel. Time 7pm.

Wednesday 16th July - Coroglen Tavern. Time 7pm.

For queries contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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Did TCDC do the right thing to make Whitianga subject to a total watering ban during the busy summer holiday season?

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.