News in brief

Council backtracks

Susan O’Regan

Waipā District Council has taken the proposed blue blob “preferred” position off the table for a third bridge as part of its Cambridge Connections programme following a community storm. The announcement was made after The News went to press and following weeks of adverse publicity including an aborted public information session where mayor Susan O’Regan was allegedly threatened.

In a statement, O’Regan said while there was no doubt another bridge would be needed in Cambridge in the longer term, elected members agreed the time is not right to pin down a location. “We’ve heard their concerns and understood them,” O’Regan said.

The council still wanted feedback from the community on all aspects of the project and has extended the timeframe to 5pm on Friday, May 24. Anyone who had already submitted feedback could submit further thoughts, or any changes in their thinking before that date.

See: Council admits a ‘blue’

Dennis takes farmer crown

Dennis Main is on his way to the final.

Piarere’s Dennis Main was crowned Waikato-Bay of Plenty FMG Young Farmer of the Year on Saturday, following two days of competition at the Kerepehi Domain. The 30-year-old will take on six other regional finalists in July’s final – when a successor to 2023 Young Farmer of the Year, Pirongia’s Emma Poole, will be crowned in Hamilton. Also on Saturday Summer Korkie and Luke Pease from Te Awamutu College won the Waikato Bay of Plenty FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year title for 2024 – heading off James Hill and Ben Ede from Cambridge High School. Main has not competed in the event before though has been an active member of Piarere Young Farmers. “I didn’t know what to expect, so to come away with the win was a real surprise,” he said. Main grew up on the family dairy farm, and after leaving school studied engineering. He spent four years back on the family farm and has now turned his hand to building.

Not so fast says mayor

Waipā mayor Susan O’Regan says there are no plans to make a submission to the government for Cambridge’s proposed third bridge to be accepted under the Fast-track Bill. And she say the final decision on where the bridge should go could take decades. She was responding to a written question from Taupō MP Louise Upston.
Upston said the issue had been raised at her March Friendly Forum, noting if the project was accepted under the Fast-track Bill the council could move ahead with the bridge, circumventing the need to seek feedback from the public.
O’Regan responded that the final determination of the most appropriate location for a future bridge “will likely take decades, so there is no intention at all to utilise any proposed Fast Track legislation”.
“The location for the new bridge is something that will need community input, and also significant geotechnical investigations, cultural assessments, and ecological assessments,” she said.

Kneebone sits

Waipā-King Country constituency councillor Stu Kneebone, co-chair of the Waikato River Authority, will sit on a hearings panel  responsible for considering submissions on the proposed Waikato Regional Coastal plan.  Hearings are expected to be held from late this year through to early 2025. The regional council has also backed an aquaculture strategy which aims to double the value of the region’s aquaculture exports over the next 20 years to $180 million.

Tagger hits

A vandal has sprayed black paint over at least two Waipā District Council information boards. Slogans were written opposing a pathway project in Cambridge.

Begging warning

Cambridge police say it doesn’t help to give money to people who are begging in Cambridge. Community senior constable Deb Hann says money given “does not truly help the person and encourages less scrupulous people to view Cambridge as being an attractive  begging location”.

See: Your help makes a difference

Grants announced

Eighteen community transport providers get a share of $209,500 distributed in the latest round of the Waikato Regional Council Community Transport Grant fund. The fund supports community organisations that help Waikato residents with transport needs which aren’t met by the public transport network. Recipients include the Cambridge Community House Trust and Te Awamutu Community Health Transport Trust.

Electric rides arrive

Waikato’s first electric bus fleet will be carrying passengers in Waipā from next Monday. Six electric vehicles are replacing diesel buses on the Cambridge (20) and Te Awamutu (24) routes. The new buses will work to a timetable that doubles the number of weekly services connecting the district to Hamilton.

New manager

Waipā Networks has announced Tom Bromfield will join as its general manager of delivery from Monday. Bromfield has over 20 years’ experience in the industry in New Zealand.

Better slow that Mustang down

All smiles: Josie and Rob Van Weerd. Photo: Supplied.

Cambridge’s Rob and Josie Van Weerd are the proud owners of a new 1966 Ford Mustang which they won at the Beach Hop in Whangamata last month. The Beach Hop – one of New Zealand’s largest automotive events – has been running annually since 2000, and organisers have given away dozens of cars in that time.  The event attracts more than 100,000 people to the Coromandel town for a five-day 1950s and 60s nostalgia-themed event. Rob and Josie picked up their car last week. A 25th anniversary celebration is being planned for next year.

O-Rākau remembered

A commemoration on Tuesday marked the 160th anniversary of the battle of O-Rākau where huge numbers of Māori defended the site from British soldiers.  Photo: Susan O’Regan.

A commemoration on Tuesday marked the 160th anniversary of the battle of O-Rākau where hugely outnumbered Māori defended the site from British soldiers. The commemoration are all the more significant this year following a deed of settlement for the site being signed recently. Raukawa, Ngāti Maniapoto and Waikato-Tainui have been working with the Crown to achieve the return of the battle site since the Crown bought the land in 2015.

See: Academic’s pointed Māori message

Switch signals

The new roundabout at the intersection of state highways 1 29, Piarere is taking shape with much of the main foundation work now complete. The focus now shifts to construction on the southern side (Tīrau approach) and to safely accommodate this work, motorists can expect to see a change to the road layout soon. Traffic south of the roundabout will be moved onto a newly constructed section of road adjacent to SH1 from Monday April 15. The changeover will occur overnight between 8pm and 5am, Sunday April 14 (weather permitting) with temporary speed restrictions and shoulder closures in place.

Wānanga’s new scholarships

Two new Te Wānanga o Aotearoa scholarships honour men who were crucial to its establishment. The wānanga relaunched scholarships last year and is adding three news ones in 2024. Te Tumuaki Rongo H Wetere Scholarship recognises a tauira Māori who is the first in their whānau to study at a tertiary level.

Boy Mangu Mātauranga Māori Waharoa Scholarship recognises a tauira who demonstrates their commitment to the advancement of mātauranga Māori by studying a mātauranga programme.  The third new scholarship is the Te Pou Postgraduate Diploma Kaitiakitanga L8 Scholarship which is awarded to a registered health professional who is enrolled in the Postgraduate Diploma in Kaitiakitanga L8 programme. Applications for the scholarships run  to June 30.

Turnaround bays

There has been excellent progress on the turnaround bays being constructed as part of improvements to SH1 between Cambridge and Piarere. With the finishing touches now being applied to the turnarounds at Gorton and Tunakawa Roads, installation of flexible median barrier can begin. From Tuesday next week, median barrier will begin to be installed in sections from south of the Mobil Karāpiro through to Fergusson Gully Road.

Road reopened

State Highway Three near Ōtorohanga reopened on Tuesday morning after a truck rolled closing the highway for three hours between Blackett and Awatane roads. The driver was reported to have minor injuries.

Art awards

An exhibition of all Enrich Plus artists’ entries in the IHC Art Awards will be held in the organisation’s Te Awamutu gallery in Teasdale Street on April 12. Enrich artists have always done well in the awards which provide artists with an intellectual disability the opportunity to have their talent recognised, their voices hear and to sell their work. Entries for the awards opened on Monday and close at the end of the month.

Debt levels

A reduction in development contributions and significant increases in the size and cost of Waipā’s planned capital work programme has resulted in debt increasing from a projected $318.5 million on June 30 next year to $398.5 million. More than half the debt is growth related and takes the council perilously close to its borrowing limit. The council needs to retain its borrowing power should there be a natural disaster but the delays between when council builds the necessary infrastructure and when developers pay their contributions creates a lag which high growth councils like Waipā are struggling with, a consultation document released to the public this week says.

Minor changes

No consultation will be needed for changes made to development contributions in the 2024-2025 financial year starting July 1, council’s Strategic Planning and Policy committee decided this week. Rates will not increase in growth cells while a market slowdown is occurring as seen through the lower number of consent applications and developers taking fewer sections to the market. The impact of not increasing the rates is low, Growth principal engineer Tony Coutts told the committee.

National champs

The New Zealand Dragon Boat nationals will be staged at Lake Karāpiro tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday. It’s  busy weekend for the domain, which also hosts water skiers for the third round of the Karāpiro masters on Saturday and Sunday.

Tractor crashes

Police are concerned three serious crashes involving tractors over the long weekend put road users at risk and are warning people to be patient. The first was near Te Kuiti where two people were seriously injured after a car and tractor collided.

Missing woman

The search for a 79-year-old woman missing in the Pureora Forest was continuing as this edition went to press. The woman became separated from a group which were laying bait on March 23..

Daffodil call

People can pay $5 to buy  a daffodil bulb for Te Awamutu’s Sculpture Park on Albert Drive later this month to ultimately create a “Memory Meadow” to remember cancer victims. The event will help raise funds for the Cancer Society.

Farm finals

The Waikato Bay of Plenty regional final of the young farmer of the year series will be staged in the Hauraki district at Kerepehi Domain tomorrow and Saturday. The present Young Farmer of the Year is Pirongia’s Emma Poole.

Housing progress

The first stage of a Housing for Humanity development on the former Zion Church site – clearing the site – has been completed. Habitat chief Nic Green said there is no time frame to complete the next stage and funding is being sought now.

Call for amalgamation

Don Good

Waikato Chamber of Commerce chief executive Don Good, who lives in Karapiro, says it is time for Waikato’s 13 local authorities to start talking about mergers.

Local government duplication of bureaucracy, the differences in rules, the lack of efficiency and speed in delivering services, the number of dumb initiatives that annoy voters (such as the raised roads at intersections) means voters are looking for change, he says in his latest newsletter to members.

“The why is clear: 13 councils have proven to be too costly. It is time look at how amalgamation can be implemented. It is time for our leaders’ parochial patch protection to be put aside in the interests of all of the Waikato.

“We are calling for some genuine co-operation, reasoned debate, then real action and our current leaders to lead the Waikato, not their personal patch,” he says.

Cycle numbers up

On Hamilton Road in Cambridge, there were the highest number of pedestrians and cyclists so far this year with 8452 users. This compares to 8230 in February. The busiest day was Sunday March 17 with 485 users.

On Park Road in Te Awamutu, there were 2717 users in March, down from 3128 in February. The busiest day was 16 March 16 with 148 users.

About bloody time!

It might have taken more than 25 years, but The News senior writer Mary Anne Gill finally donated blood this week. She was one of the thousands of New Zealanders who lived in the United Kingdom, France or Ireland from 1980 to 1996 during the ‘mad cow disease’ outbreak and were forbidden from donating blood from 2000. The restriction was lifted on February 29 and the Blood Service was in Cambridge on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Mary Anne Gill gives blood helped by donor technician Kristin Bayhon.

Sculpture park will celebrate

Over 30 years of replanting and beautifying a derelict quarry near Cambridge will be celebrated over the Easter weekend at The Sculpture Park at Waitakaruru Arboretum in Scotsman’s Valley. The Seeds of Renewal celebration will offer self-guided walks, a series of workshops, guest speakers and demonstrations on seed collecting, propagation, organic gardening, pruning, designing, soil care and establishing an Asian forest. There will also be different hands-on workshop topics for each day.

Owners John and Dorothy Wakeling began work in 1991 on turning the derelict Winstone’s quarry into a magnificent park. Today, it contains towering cliffs, pools and waterfalls and is home to more than 30,000 trees and shrubs from around the world. The Wakelings held the first sculpture park event there in late 2003, when 47 sculptures were displayed as part of a Hospice Waikato fundraiser. Since then, it has hosted numerous musical performances and exhibitions and holds regular open weekends in support of charities.

Man found

An 85-year-old man reported missing in Te Awamutu on Monday was found by police overnight and returned to his home.

Fluoride call

Cambridge Community Board members were implored last week to ask the district council to seek a time extension to the end of the year on introducing fluoride to  the town’s water supply and avoid the likelihood of costly legal action.

Work stops

Most state highway road works will stop at midday tomorrow (Thursday), ahead of the long weekend, and will start up again at midnight Tuesday. Some traffic management will still be in place at major construction sites, such as speed restrictions, closed road shoulders and reduced lanes.

On the rocks

Organisers expect a “couple of hundred” people to take part in a rock climbing festival at Waipari, near Arapuni, over Easter.  Aotearoa Climbing Access Trust general manager Edwin Sheppard said Waipā is one of the best places in the country for rock climbing.

Balloons popular

Six balloons entertained a crowd at the Karāpiro Domain last weekend as part of the Balloons over Waikato festival. The crowd were able to get up close to Bila the Baby Polar Bear and Farmer Pig balloons and take part in the Rotary Walk Thru Balloon Envelope to raise funds for True Colours Childrens Charity.

Fees up

Waipā’s fees and charges look set to rise on average by 10 per cent from July 1 affecting dog registrations, burial fees and building consents. There will be a 20 per cent increase for casket burials at Hautapu and Te Awamutu cemeteries. Consultation on the proposals will run to  April 26.

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