Tuesday, 26 May 2020


Luke Reilly on Luke’s Kitchen, his new gallery next door and Tom Batchelor and The River Jesters live this weekend

From Kuaotunu locals to the thousands of contributors on the world’s largest travel website, Luke Reilly has earned many fans with his simple recipe for business success.

By combining tasty, fresh pizza with a relaxed surf vibe overlooking Kuaoutunu’s Black Jack reef, Luke’s Kitchen has created a must-do destination on the Coromandel and is the social saviour for locals in the hibernation months at Kuaotunu.

Luke is gearing up for a busy summer with his recent purchase of the gallery next door, which he’s transforming into a funky coffee and juice bar with healthy grab-and-run food that people can take to the beach.

The gallery café formally re-opens on Labour Weekend, but this Friday night it will host the psychedelic rock and blues band of former X Factor contestant Tom Batchelor, who approached Luke to play at the new venue with his band The River Jesters.

"They approached me to come and play and I said ‘yeah, why not?’ It breaks up the winter and keeps the locals entertained. It’s a real winter social hangout here, we get kids coming down after school on a Friday and we put on little events to keep it fresh and keep people interested in the place. It mixes it up and if it’s a busy night, it breaks up the winter a little bit.

"I’ve had tonnes of bands approaching me to play in the gallery over summer, so I’m hoping to get some small gigs going in the summertime at the gallery. During the day we’ll have local art on display and a few big tables and couches for everyone to share, so anyone can walk in anytime and feel at home."

The relaxed holiday vibe is part of what makes Luke’s Kitchen such a hit with visitors. It is in the top three restaurants on the Coromandel as voted by customers on Tripadvisor and Luke says he’s blown away when a single Facebook post reaches between 2,000 and 5,000 people around the world.

It all started five years ago with a small portable kitchen that Paul, Luke’s dad, brought and positioned on the corner of Black Jack Road where he used to run his mechanic business.

"Dad pretty much said here you go it’s yours," Luke said.

Luke was born and raised on the exact corner of Kuaotunu where the kitchen now is. He originally began his studies to be a chef at the age of 18. Unsure of the career path he was taking, he wanted a job where he could work at night time to free up time to go surfing all day. Once qualified, he spent many years travelling and building his skills as a chef. He returned after a phone call from Paul sharing a vision to bring Luke home and create a space for locals to come.

At the age now of 26, Luke is still in disbelief at how far the kitchen has come along and how it has impacted not just himself and his family but the local community of Kuaotunu. "I have been so lucky to have a whole community behind me, I’ve received so much help and local support through the journey of Luke’s Kitchen.

"It’s been super cool to have such great staff, they really are the core of this place, without them Luke’s Kitchen would not be who we are today. We believe in ‘work hard but play hard!’ Keeping it light hearted and fun. I think the atmosphere that our staff creates is very visible to our customers and this adds to the whole vibe of what Luke’s Kitchen is all about."

The 26-year-old enjoys interacting with customers via social media where he seeks feedback on different beers for sale or shares secrets on making great pizza. And for a break from it all he goes surfing.

The River Jesters are a four piece psychedelic rock band formed by Tom Batchelor and guitarist Michael Morris who met on the streets of Dunedin.
The band plays from 5:30pm onward on Friday 26 September and tickets can be bought at Luke’s Kitchen or the gallery.

Visit our Coming Events or Regular Events pages for more things to do in and around Whitianga and the wider Mercury Bay area.

New Thames Coromandel District Freedom Camping Bylaw by Labour Weekend

Thames Coromandel District Councillors deliberated on submissions to TCDC’s draft Freedom Camping Bylaw yesterday and will look to adopt a revised draft bylaw at its meeting on 22 October.

In the past few months TCDC had a draft Freedom Bylaw out for public consultation. They had over 120 submissions and submitters were given the opportunity to speak to Council at a hearing last month.

At yesterday's deliberations Council did decide on some changes to the proposed draft bylaw that included -

  • Removing the proposed restriction that would prohibit freedom camping in restricted areas during summer and holiday weekends.
  • Extending the proposed departure time from 8am to 9am.
  • Extending the number of nights freedom campers can stay in a restricted area to 2 consecutive nights.
  • Having designating areas for freedom camping within all restricted areas.
  • Some changes to proposed areas where freedom camping is prohibited or restricted.

TCDC agreed to keep the proposed district-wide restriction that all freedom campers must be certified self-contained.

The deliberations decisions report can be viewed here.

Earlier this year a judicial review of TCDC’s current Freedom Camping Bylaw was sought by the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association (NZMCA). The High Court decision was released late last month and found that the TCDC Bylaw is legal, but two clauses in its Public Places Bylaw and Parking Control Bylaw should be revoked. Council formally revoked these yesterday.

"During the legal proceedings we were already a long-way down the track in reviewing the Bylaw to make it more permissive and revoking the two inconsistent bylaw clauses," said Thames-Coromandel Chief Executive David Hammond.

"We are wanting to work more proactively with the NZMCA to ensure that people visiting the Coromandel in certified self-contained vehicles are catered for and are considerate of our beautiful Coromandel environment. People in uncertified non self-contained vehicles will be encouraged to use commercial campsites."

We will be working on signage and developing easy to use information for the public, including freedom campers, on the freedom camping rules and also places where freedom camping is encouraged. When this is ready we'll have information available in our areas offices, i-Sites and visitor centres and update our website.”

Attempted armed robbery in Tairua

Police are searching for a man believed to have been involved in an attempted armed robbery of the Black Bull liquor store on Tairua’s main road this evening.

Police said the attempted robbery occurred at around 8.12pm and ten units have been called to the scene.

No one has been injured and according to the store’s owner, the robber did not succeed in getting away with anything.

About the election and our electorate MP

Voters of the Coromandel Electorate returned Scott Simpson to Wellington as their Member of Parliament at the general election held on Saturday last week. This will be Mr Simpson’s second term as a National Party MP.

Joining Mr Simpson from the Coromandel is Catherine Delahunty, who will be returning to Wellington for a third term as a list MP for the Green Party.

The National Party was returned for a third term in government by the voters of New Zealand.

In what follows we’ll briefly look at the way the people of the Coromandel Electorate voted in this election compared to the 2011 election and also Mr Simpson’s close connection with Mercury Bay and the things he thinks, at this stage, a National Party government will mean for the Coromandel during the next three years.

Ms Delahunty’s impressions of Saturday’s election can be found in a separate feature on our website..

A total of 34,346 people voted in the Coromandel Electorate in Saturday’s election. That’s approximately 72 per cent of the 47,500 people enrolled to vote in the electorate. Nationally just under 73.5 per cent of enrolled voters voted in the election.

Mr Simpson received 20,165 (58.7 per cent) of the votes cast, Ms Delahunty 5,382 (15.7 per cent), Korbinian Poschl from the Labour Party 3,858 (11.2 per cent) and Grant Ertel from New Zealand First 2,929 (8.5 per cent). The rest of the votes went to candidates from the Conservative Party (1,037), the Maori Party (151), ACT New Zealand (140), and Ban 1080 (373).

In the 2011 general election, a total of 34,850 people voted in the Coromandel Electorate, with Mr Simpson receiving 53.7 per cent of the votes and Ms Delahunty 16.4 per cent. In that election New Zealand First received 6.1 per cent of the votes cast.

In the party vote in Saturday’s election, the National Party received 18,738 (54.6 per cent) of the votes in the Coromandel Electorate, the Labour Party 5,320 (15.5 per cent), New Zealand First 4,356 (12.7 per cent) and the Green Party 3,189 (9.3 per cent). The rest of the votes were split between the Conservative Party (1,817), Ban 1080 (100), the Maori Party (152), the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party (123), Democrats for Social Credit (17), Focus New Zealand (6), Internet MANA (210), the NZ Independent Coalition (14), the Civilian Party (6) and United Future (60).

In the 2011 election, the National party received 51.7 per cent of the party vote in the Coromandel Electorate, the Labour Party 17.9 per cent, the Green Party 11.2 per cent and New Zealand First 10.9 per cent.

Although Mr Simpson grew up and lived and worked in Auckland (he moved to Thames when he was selected to contest the Coromandel Electorate seat for the National party in the 2011 election), his connection with Mercury Bay is very deep.

"My great-grandfather arrived in Kuaotunu in the middle 1800’s," he said. "It was the days of big families. My grandfather was one of eight children and my father was one of eight as well. My grandmother was a Smith from Whangapoua. My grandparents farmed north of Simpsons Beach and later retired to a house, which is at the moment being turned into a café, on The Esplanade in Whitianga.

"Work for young people was scarce in Mercury Bay when my father had to start looking after himself and he went to Auckland, where he met my mother. We often went to visit my grandparents in Whitianga when I was a child."

Mr Simpson bought his own property in Kuaotunu more than 30 years ago where he regularly holidayed with his family while living in Auckland.

Nothing says more about the prominence of the Simpson family in Mercury Bay than a photo in Mr Simpson’s electoral office in Thames of a rugby team made up of Simpson family members who played against "The Rest" in a game on 12 September 1953. The Simpson team (of which Mr Simpson’s father was a member) beat "The Rest" 12-11.

"‘The Rest’ was a Mercury Bay team who earlier beat Thames," Mr Simpson said. "That same Thames team beat Auckland and that Auckland team apparently beat the All Blacks. So it was said that the Simpson team was better than the All Blacks."

Talking about his foray into politics, Mr Simpson said, "I was always interested in politics. I joined the National Party at a young age and was involved in every election campaign in New Zealand since 1975. I served as a volunteer at all levels of the National Party throughout the years, including as a member of the party’s board.

"The Coromandel Electorate is, for me, a perfect fit. It’s by far the most beautiful electorate in New Zealand and its diverse communities, each with its own challenges and opportunities, makes it a real pleasure to represent."

Mr Simpson said New Zealanders can expect three more years of stable government with the National Party remaining in power. On the Coromandel, the rural broadband network will be expanded and ultra-fast broadband will come to a number of towns, including Whitianga. He’s also excited about the creation of a "recreational fishing reserve" in the Hauraki Gulf, something he believes will be of great benefit in the future. He will keep an eye on the ageing population in the Coromandel Electorate as a whole and will actively participate in finding solutions for the challenges that will bring. He will keenly advocate within the government for all things that will benefit the communities of the Coromandel. A medical centre for Mercury Bay is something falling into this category.

Mr Simpson also believes a solution for New Chums Beach has to be found. "My mother’s family used to own the land surrounding New Chums," he said. "When they sold, they retained about five acres across which people now have to walk to get to the beach. That five acres was later put into a trust for the 150 or so Smith family descendants, including me. The land is now protected as QEII Trust land and I believe that’s what needs to happen with all the land surrounding the beach. The problem is just that with the more noise being made about the beach, the more valuable the surrounding land becomes."

Mr Simpson said he nevertheless remains hopeful that a workable solution everyone can live with can be found in the foreseeable future.

Visit our homepage for more breaking local news - The Mercury Bay Informer covering Whangapoua to Pauanui, including Whitianga, Hot Water Beach and Tairua.

The morning after - Catherine Delahunty Green Party list MP and Coromandel Electorate candidate on the election

The 2014 election is a swing to the right generally and basically feels like the campaign never really happened and we are back where we were before the campaign started. The Greens have done well to hold on and hopefully keep our 14 MPs after the special votes are counted.

The campaign nationally was bizarre and exciting with some huge political issues raised, but basically ignored by voters who chose to see the dirty politics and spying as a sideshow to the election. The timing was problematic and the Government succeeded in characterising serious attacks as conspiracy theories. The interesting statistic for me was that 67 per cent of people identified inequality as a hugely important issue but did not vote to address inequality.

Locally the result frustrated me as it’s the second time I have had a strong personal vote and a weaker party vote, despite the Green team working incredibly hard for the party vote. Everyone expected National to hold the Coromandel seat with ease, but it is interesting how much support NZ First received in the party vote, even though their campaign on the ground was not highly visible.

I must say I enjoyed the campaign because of the great people I worked with and the opportunity to engage locally, there is nothing better than standing in the Coromandel.

We will be back to work very soon,
I expect, and we will miss some great MPs in the House. Hone Harawira brought some powerful and challenging issues to Parliament and I personally enjoyed working with him. He has stood for the dispossessed with great energy. I will miss great women like Maryann Street and Carol Beaumont. I am very concerned about ACT holding one seat, but being a convenient opportunity for National to do more damage to the public education system. I have been on the platform with David Seymour and he wants to completely privatise schools. It is dreadful to contemplate the next attack on the Resource Management Act which is a big issue for the Coromandel and the legislation to strip working people of a right to tea breaks is just so incredibly wrong on some many levels.

In terms of the bigger picture, the Government will continue to basically deny climate change and attempt to negotiate the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement in secret. None of this helps us face the future and build a cleaner environment, a fairer society and a smarter economy. However, I am so grateful to the Coromandel electorate Green team and the people who did support us. It’s raining again, but I am preparing to go out and support a rally on climate change. I will be back in Karangahake soon, challenging mining on conservation land. The work for a Green future goes on!

About the Mercury Bay Youth Leadership Trust

When John Wright, Mercury Bay Area School principal, took over the reins at the school in 2003, he immediately made work of correctly accounting to students and parents for money paid for things like school camps and music lessons.

One of the consequences of this action was the establishment of the Mercury Bay Youth Leadership Trust, a vehicle giving students the opportunity to save for things like school camps and music lessons and also giving other, less fortunate students the opportunity to go on camp or develop their talents further.

"Students or their parents can pay into the trust," Mr Wright said. "For every dollar they have in the trust, students get credits. They can draw on these credits when they need to pay for things that will develop them in their learning. From around Year 6 the amount spent on camps, for instance, start to add up. It will be nice to know for parents and students that the money is there when it’s needed. The credits can really be used for anything, including the purchase of school uniforms and stationary.

"Parents can contribute to their children’s credits, or students can contribute themselves from money they earn after school, on weekends or during the holidays."

Students with credits in the trust receive dividends every year, also in the form of credits. Dividends for the past 12 months have just been declared and the returns certainly beat interest the amounts represented by the credits would have earned in the bank.

The key objective of the trust isn’t a forced saving scheme, however. It’s really to enable Mercury Bay Area School students to achieve their very best. An example is a six-year-old student showing a real talent in dancing. The family didn’t have the funds for dancing lessons, but the trust was happy to step in and pay the $50 or so per term that’s needed. A small amount to pay for the satisfaction that someone is being empowered to reach their full potential.

So far this year the trust has helped students, in addition to dance fees, with fees for drum lessons, ukulele and writing workshops and camp fees.

About one tenth of the funds in the trust are available for distribution to deserving students. This "general distribution fund" was built up through initial fundraising, unallocated interest on students’ funds and school leavers deciding to leave their credits in the trust.

When students leave school, they have a few options available to them regarding unused credits in the trust. In addition to donating it to the general distribution fund, they can ask for the credits to be paid out or transfer it to their siblings.

The trust has a board of trustees made up of school staff, parents and student representatives and its accounts are annually audited.

According to Mr Wright, the time is now to really turn the trust into something significant. "The community is welcome to donate to the general distribution fund if they so wish and what a good way to help our students cover those expenses families don’t always budget for."

Anne-Maree McDougall, one of the trustees of the trust and a MBAS staff member whose children all have credits in the trust, found an easy way for everyone to contribute. Just go to www.ourschoolproject.org and take the quizzes on the website. It’s great fun and for every quiz taken, 20 cents will be donated to the trust. Half of the money so raised will go towards the school’s ukulele group going to Hawaii next year and half will remain in the trust as part of the general distribution fund.

The Mercury Bay Youth Leadership Trust is one of those things that have no downside. It enables school families to plan now for those larger expenses and it allows those who can go the distance in some part of their development and learning journey, but don’t necessarily have the means to do so, to get there - in the best way they possibly can.

If you want to be a part of this initiative, play the quiz or talk to the school. And next time the neighbour’s child mows your lawn, why not buy them a few credits in the Mercury Bay Youth Leadership Trust?

The general election - what happened in the Coromandel Electorate

In the general election yesterday, a total of 34,346 party votes were cast and 34,336 candidate votes in the Coromandel Electorate.

Incumbent electorate Member of Parliament, Scott Simpson attracted 20,165 votes, followed by incumbent Green Party List MP, Catherine Delahunty with 5,382 votes. The Labour Party’s Korbinian Poschl received 3,858 votes, New Zealand First’s Grant Ertel attracted 2,929 votes and the Conservative Party’s David Walkden attracted 1,037 votes. Mike Downard of Ban 1080 (373), David Olsen of ACT (140) and Hiria Pakinga of the Maori Party (151) all received under 500 votes.

Mr Simpson retained the seat with a majority of 14,784 votes.

National received 18,738 party votes, followed by Labour (5,320), New Zealand First (4,356), the Greens (3,189) and the Conservatives (1,817).

The remaining 810 party votes were shared by Ban 1080 (100), ACT (122), the Maori Party (152), Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis (123), Democrats for Social Credit (17), Focus New Zealand (6), Internet MANA (210), NZ Independent Coalition (14), the Civilian Party (6) and United Future (60).

A bigger and better Leadfoot Festival in the making

On Friday to Sunday of Waitangi Weekend next year the Leadfoot Festival is returning to Mercury Bay.

After a year off to develop new ideas and plans, Rod Millen and Shelly Campbell, the hosts of the event, are full of energy to ensure that next year’s festival will not only be better than the one they put on in 2013, but also be an opportunity to showcase Mercury Bay and the central and northern parts of the Coromandel Peninsula to the world.

"We applied earlier this year for a grant from Thames Coromandel District Council’s major event fund," said Rod, one of most New Zealand’s most famous motorsport competitors. "We were delighted when they awarded us $40,000, which will all be used towards the marketing campaign for the festival. More importantly, it was also an endorsement of what Shelly and I are trying to achieve."

The Leadfoot Festival is a hill climb event on a 1.6km asphalt track on Rod’s farm, named Leadfoot Ranch, outside Hahei. The event started in 2011 as a private gathering of friends celebrating Rod’s 60th birthday. In 2012 the event was opened to the public, with more than 3,500 people per day attending the 2013 festival.

The format of the festival is simple - 150 competitors each get six chances over a three day period, that is two chances per day, to race up Rod’s track in vehicles covering many decades. To make things more exciting, two top ten shoot-outs will be held the last day after conclusion of formal racing -
the ten fastest competitors in pre and post 1975 vehicles will get a last opportunity to show what they’re made of. The winners of the two shootouts are the overall winners.

Asking Rod and Shelly what will be different next year, Shelly answered, "First and foremost, we hope to have 8,000 people through the gates every day. We’re going to focus part our marketing efforts on Australia. They’re a market with relatively easy access to New Zealand and big into motorsport. And we’ll be promoting the festival extensively throughout New Zealand. It goes without saying that we won’t only be promoting Leadfoot, but also everything this part of the Coromandel has to offer.

"A wider selection of good quality food will be available than before and we’ll have a wine and beer garden next year. The Friday and Saturday evening we’ll have live music, no need for people to leave once racing for the day is done, and there will next year be a play area for children who come with their parents. Maybe the biggest change of all is that ticket prices will be half of what they were before. A three day pass is $95, Friday will be only $25, Saturday and Sunday only $40 per day and children 12 years and under are free.

"We really want next year’s festival to be an event everyone can attend. We want people and their families to come for the whole day, enjoy racing by some of the world’s best motorsport competitors, eat good food and, if they feel like it, stay into the evening and enjoy some really good music."

Watching the competitors showing their mettle on Rod’s track won’t be the only thing festival-goers can indulge in. Car clubs will, like in previous years, be invited to display their members’ pride and joy and a display of brand new cars in "Auto Alley" will be giving those who want to make a quick purchase or two an opportunity to view the newest models available.

Competitors in next year’s festival will only be named towards the end of this year, when the international racing calendar has been finalised. "There will be some big names among them," said Rod.

Entering Leadfoot Ranch, there’s a sign saying, "Minimum Speed 200mph." There aren’t many opportunities around where people do their absolute best to meet the obligation imposed on them by a sign like that. Next year the Leadfoot Festival will be one such opportunity. Tickets are on-sale now at www.leadfootfestival.com.


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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.