Featured

Please pay your subs

Our subscription year starts on 01 October each year so subs are now due for 2018. Subs are $25 per year.

Pay online to account 03 0667 0268929 000. Please include your name and beach address so we know who’s paid. There’s not a lot of space on the bank form, so it also helps if you email wbra.committee@gmail.com with your name, beach address, postal address, email address and date of payment so we can make sure our records are completely up to date.

The Waikawa Beach Ratepayers Association aims to promote and protect the interests of Ratepayers and the residents of the district and to create and foster public interest in all matters affecting the progress and welfare of the district.

Read more about subs and the association.

Let’s get speedier

Ultra Fast Broadband is on its way to Waikawa Beach, at last. We could have access to speedy Internet by 2022.

It’s not hard to find locals complaining about slow Internet, but good news has finally arrived in the form of a rollout of Ultra Fast Broadband that will finally include Waikawa Beach.

Under the latest extension of the Government’s Ultra-Fast Broadband programme, worldclass broadband will be rolled out to an additional 18 towns in Manawatu-Wanganui.

This will provide approximately 5,000 more Manawatu-Wanganui households and businesses with access to faster, more reliable internet.

New towns & fringe areas:

  • Himatangi Beach
  • Hokio Beach
  • Manakau
  • Ohau
  • Waikawa Beach
  • Waitarere/Waitarere Beach
  • [This list has been abbreviated for this blog post. ]

The entire UFB build in Manawatu-Wanganui will be complete by the end of 2022, providing more than 91,000 Manawatu-Wanganui households and businesses with faster internet.

The Government’s total investment in Manawatu-Wanganui UFB connectivity is $104.4 million.

Ultra Fast Broadband (UFB) will mean no waiting for web pages to load, being able to play videos without buffering, and pretty much instantaneous Internet.

My internet speed today.
My internet speed today.

Well, anyway, that’s what’s possible — it all depends on the website you’re visiting, the host for the videos, and other factors too, just like travelling on the Expressway: it should be fast, but if traffic’s backed up you’ll have a slow journey.

UFB — Ultra-Fast Broadband explains what UFB is and means:

UFB utilises fibre optic cabling to provide homes, businesses and schools with services such as the Internet and Telephony. The UFB infrastructure will be capable of delivering at least 100 Mbps download (from the Internet to the premises) and 50 Mbps upload (from the premises to the Internet).

So, perhaps within the next 5 years, we won’t be seeing comments like this one from November 2013:

A matter that is of concern is the broadband speeds at Waikawa Beach. I recently sent an email to my provider because I am on broadband but it seems to be consistently slowing down and I wanted to know why.

If we spot any more news about faster broadband here we’ll let you know.

Where and when to vote in the 2017 General Election

The General Election is being held on 23 September 2017. Here in the Otaki electorate we can vote up at Manakau District Hall, Mokena Kohere Street.

promo-howtovote.png

It’s election day on 23 September 2017 and you can find the information you need at the Electoral Commission’s website.

You can vote in advance at various locations, including Levin and Otaki, or at Ngati Wehi Wehi Marae, State Highway 1 on Tuesday 19 September between 1pm and 5:30pm.

On Election day you can vote in various locations, including at Manakau District Hall, Mokena Kohere Street.

You can vote at any voting place or advance voting place in New Zealand. If you’re voting outside your electorate, you may need to fill in an extra form.

On election day, Saturday 23 September, all voting places will be open from 9.00am until 7.00pm. The busiest time of day is usually 9.00am – 11.00am.

Electorate Candidates

These are the candidates you can choose from with your electorate vote.

Candidate Name Party
FERGUSON, Sam Green Party
GRATTAN, Wayne Desmond ACT New Zealand
GUY, Nathan National Party
JENNINGS, Sam Independent
McCANN, Rob Labour Party
RUDZKI, Romuald Edward New Zealand First Party
TUKAPUA, Piri-Hira The Opportunities Party (TOP)

If you need more information about voting call The Electoral Commission at 0800 36 76 56 or check their website.

Whatever your political views, let’s all get out there and have our say for democracy.

As for the 2014 results, you can see them below.

2014 election results for the Otaki electorate show National had a huge lead over Labour in second place.
2014 election results for the Otaki electorate.

Council reviews 2017: Easter trading, gambling and TAB

Horowhenua District Council is consulting on a Draft Easter Sunday Shop Trading Policy and a Draft Gambling Class 4 Venue and TAB Venue Policy 2017 Review. Submissions close end September / early October 2017.

Draft Easter Sunday Shop Trading Policy

At its 30 August 2017 meeting, Council resolved to consult on this draft policy, using the special consultative procedure, as laid down in the Local Government Act 2002.

The draft policy is proposing to allow Easter Sunday Shop Trading throughout the Horowhenua District.

The Statement of Proposal, Summary of Information and submission forms are available on the Consultation page, as well as at the Council Customer Services Centres in Levin (126 Oxford Street, or Te Takeretanga o Kura-hau-pō), the Foxton Library (Clyde Street); or Shannon Library (Plimmer Terrace). Copies may also be obtained by telephoning on (06) 366 0999, or emailing enquiries@horowhenua.govt.nz

Submissions close at 5.00pm 6 October 2017.

Draft Gambling Class 4 Venue and TAB Venue Policy 2017 Review

At its 30 August 2017 meeting, Council resolved to review these policies using the Special Consultative Procedure as laid down in the Local Government Act 2002.

TAB Venue Policy — Council currently has a policy that one standalone TAB venue may be established in the district, no changes are proposed.

Gambling Class 4 Venue Policy — Council currently has a sinking lid policy, no changes are proposed.

The Statement of Proposal, Summary of Information and submission forms are available on the Consultation page, as well as at the Council Customer Services Centres in Levin (126 Oxford Street, or Te Takeretanga o Kura-hau-pō), the Foxton Library (Clyde Street) and Shannon Library (Plimmer Terrace). Copies may also be obtained by telephoning on (06) 366 0999, or emailing enquiries@horowhenua.govt.nz

Submissions close at 5:00pm on Friday 29 September 2017.

September 2017 newsletter

September 2017 Newsletter

Hi everyone, soggy greetings from Waikawa Beach

That wet summer turned into a wet autumn and a wet winter — we’ve had about another 250 mm rain since the last newsletter. That brings us to more than 750 mm (30 inches) this calendar year.

Rain to end of August 2017.
Rain to end of August 2017.

If you haven’t visited for a while be sure to bring your gumboots as the water table is extremely high and there are puddles and lakes everywhere. Horowhenua District Council halted all mowing operations a few weeks ago because everything’s too wet.

Horowhenua District Council halted all mowing operations.
Horowhenua District Council halted all mowing operations.

In this newsletter …

  1. Wet winter
  2. Seal season
  3. Did you know?
  4. Tsunami zone road markings
  5. Please pay your Subs
  6. Introducing Neighbourhood Support
  7. A haircut for the entrance
  8. Entrance to Strathnaver Drive cleanup
  9. Property news
  10. Beach erosion update
  11. Trailbikes and beach erosion
  12. Whitebaiting
  13. Training helicopter crash at Waikawa Beach
  14. Quick answers: Fires in this Total Fire Ban area
  15. Website updates: an online noticeboard
  16. Stay up to date by email
  17. Committee meetings in 2017
  18. Comments

Seal season

Seal season has begun, with seal pups and sometimes adults coming up on the beach to rest. A seal may go into the water and then come back out onto the beach repeatedly. From a distance you might think it’s a dog in the water or driftwood on the beach. Please drive slowly and carefully and keep dogs and kids away. There are stiff legal penalties for harming seals, and they can move fast and inflict serious injuries.

Seal on the beach.
Seal on the beach.

Did you know?

We’re all familiar with that sudden jolt, shake, rattle and roll of an earthquake. But some earthquakes are harder to detect. Did you know that here in Manawatu and Kapiti we’re living with a slow slip event?

… slow-slip events … occur up to 60 km below the earth’s surface where the Pacific Plate meets the Australian Plate, along the Hikurangi Subduction Zone …. Slow-slip events can move faults the equivalent of magnitude 6+ earthquakes over a period of weeks to months. Movements caused by these slow-slip events are so slow that they are undetectable by both humans and GeoNet’s seismographs.

Some locals speculate the reason the water table’s so high this year is that perhaps the land dropped in the recent Kaikoura earthquake.

Tsunami zone road markings

Those jolting earthquakes, nearby or far away can cause a tsunami. There is now a blue line across Waikawa Beach Road, 1 Km west of Takapu Road, that shows the safe zone for evacuating to. The Horowhenua District Council says:

A tsunami can violently flood coastlines, causing devastating property damage, injuries and loss of life. Tsunami waves can smash into the shore like a wall of water, or move in as a fast moving flood or tide.

Here that could mean a tsunami sweeps through gaps in the dunes and up the river, and then across the land that always floods after a lot of rain.

Tsunami move so fast there may not be time for an official warning.

This means you must move immediately to the nearest high ground or as far inland as you can if you are at the coast and you experience any of the following:

  • feel a strong earthquake that makes it hard to stand up, or a weak rolling earthquake that lasts a minute or more
  • see a sudden rise or fall in sea level
  • hear loud and unusual noises from the sea

Please pay your $25 sub

Our subscription year starts on 01 October each year so subs are now due for 2018. Subs are $25 per year.

Pay online to account 03 0667 0268929 000. Please include your name and beach address so we know who’s paid. There’s not a lot of space on the bank form, so it also helps if you email wbra.committee@gmail.com with your name, beach address, postal address, email address and date of payment so we can make sure our records are completely up to date.

If you prefer to pay by cheque, then send it to E White, PO Box 30309, Lower Hutt 5040, with your name and beach address, postal address and email address.

Your Committee work closely with both Horowhenua District Council and Horizons Regional Council on matters affecting Waikawa Beach. Read on for updates on beach erosion and road berms, two of several current areas of interest.

Introducing Neighbourhood Support

Contributed by Frank Averes (10 Manga-Pirau St).

A year or so back, Neighbourhood Support in Levin had fallen apart with its previous organiser having moved on. Late last year, a new coordinator was appointed, and since then Deborah Campbell has been re-establishing things. You may recall she attended and spoke at our last AGM. As a direct consequence a number of people ‘signed-up’ with her to be part of a restarted group.

To cut a long story short, WBRA are back and coordinating local NSG here at Waikawa me (Frank Averes).

What it means to you is that whenever we hear of anything from Deborah that is relevant to Waikawa Beach, we will advise all ratepayers on our database, as well as any additional people signed up through Deborah or myself that aren’t otherwise on WBRA database.

If you are signed up to NSG direct with Deborah, you are probably receiving some emails advising of various nefarious activities in the wider district, and/or ‘severe’ weather events. I have filtered these, and thus far there hasn’t been anything directly affecting us.

If you have signed up to her Facebook page, then you will receive even more notifications (of basically everything in and around Levin under the sun!)

In terms of local activity, if you are affected by crime, or notice anything untoward or suspicious, report it in the first instance to the police.

If practical, write down details, or take a photo or video of suspicious activities or people / cars, however never put your own safety in danger when doing so.

If you wish an advisory to go out around our community, let me know and we will send out an email. We prefer non-identifying details wherever possible to protect people’s privacy, however sometimes these may be necessary.

We should all do everything we can to help our neighbours. That is what ‘community’ is about.

Many property owners are not here fulltime, so keeping an eye on neighbours’ properties is a practical thing we can all do. If you are a holiday maker, consider passing a key to your neighbours, or letting them know where you might hide it (if you do). If not a neighbour, then is there some other trusted party, eg chairman of WBRA.

If you are permitting unknown people to stay at your property, let your neighbours know (if they would ordinarily expect only you and your family to be there).

Keeping WBRA up-to-date with your contact details (including phone numbers) means if we hear about an incident affecting your property, we can contact you faster.

Consider your property’s security. Alarms? Cameras? Keeping bushes trimmed, and not leaving valuables (eg kayaks) in sight of the street. When you go out to the beach or even just a walk around the block, lock your doors.

Useful contact details:

Deborah Campbell, District NSG Coordinator (email) horowhenua.nsg@gmail.com, (06) 3660574, (mob) 021 222 1006

Horowhenua Neighbourhood Support Group: Search Facebook for ‘horowhenua district neighbourhood support’

WBRA NSG — Frank Averes (mob) 027 328 3737, (email) bwe.limited@gmail.com

Consider signing up to ‘Neighbourly‘.

A haircut for the entrance

Report by Margaret Burns.

The dangers to passageway for foot traffic, cycles and the occasional horse trail riders promoted the need for shrub and tree clearance at the entrance to the village on Waikawa Beach Road. The berm reserve, being the responsibility of the WBRA, has been mowed and tended over the years by Peter Clarke, a local resident who is contracted by the Association.

Matt Fogden, also a local resident, did a great job volunteering with his mechanical tractor saws, topping and side clearing the trees and shrubs. Matt provides a similar service for Waikawa residents who require assistance with property maintenance. Call 06 362 6599.

Over a couple of fine days (which was a rarity this winter!), willing hands spent many hours clipping, raking, wheelbarrowing, mulching and generally tidying up.

Thank you to all those who assisted. Also thank you to John Hewitson for the use of his mulcher which was certainly put to very good use. The mulch has been laid down for a nutrient source for new shrubs and trees required in current bare spaces.

There are still days required to finish the mulching and plant out when the Association makes purchases.

For more detail and photos read A haircut for the entrance.

Entrance to Strathnaver Drive cleanup

The corner of Sarah Street and Strathnaver Drive was also becoming quite overgrown. After we talked to the Council they came and cleaned up a bit. Now things are looking much better.

Property news

A few more properties have sold in the last few months, including a pair of adjacent houses at the village end of Waikawa Beach and a couple on Strathnaver Drive. Houses on Uxbridge Terrace and Strathnaver Drive have been completed and folks moved in. With the tradies gone, the quantity of sandwich and food wrappers discarded onto Strathnaver Drive has dropped dramatically.

Meanwhile a few sheds and caravans have popped up along Strathnaver Drive in particular, and a new house at the vehicle entrance end of Manga Pirau Street is finally going up after some false starts.

Beach erosion update

We made a submission to the Horowhenua District Council Annual Plan and have held meetings with Horowhenua District Council and Horizons Regional Council to start to sort out how we can collectively deal with the erosion happening near the vehicle entrance to the beach. One landowner there has lost several metres of their property recently. It’s a slow negotiation and still in its early stages but we’re keeping the issue active.

There have been two site meetings at which the option of recutting the river channel directly to the sea was discussed and dismissed as not viable. An engineering / geomorphology study is also being investigated.

Trailbikes and beach erosion

Trailbikes are becoming quite an issue with some residents and weekenders upset at how the bikes are tearing up sand dunes both north and south of the river. Up at the Waikawa Reserve at North Manakau trailbikes and quad bikes have churned the camping area into mud. Here riders are taking their bikes into and over the small and particularly fragile dunes, gouging out sand from the vegetation and causing increased risk of erosion by wind, rain and tide.

Motor vehicles are not allowed in the dunes or near vegetation and must stay below the latest high tide mark.

We are looking at options to help keep vehicles out of and off the dunes, including taking photos of offenders and their vehicles.

Read more on the Association’s blog: Dune and dusted.

Trailbikes gouge the fragile dunes detail. Photo 23 August 2017 08:51..
Trailbikes gouge the fragile dunes detail. Photo 23 August 2017 08:51.

Whitebaiting

The whitebaiting season has opened and keen whitebaiters are down at the river mouth every day. The season runs to 30 November. Read more at Whitebait season is almost here and Glass eels are fragile.

Training helicopter crash at Waikawa Beach

Contrary to news (and even Police) reports, the helicopter that crashed on 24 August 2017 at Waikawa Beach did not crash in Drake Street. Rather it crashed on farmland immediately south of Lake Huritini, in the area where pilots practice their low flying work.

Luckily the two occupants were not badly injured. The helicopter’s rotors, on the other hand, were quite bent.

The helicopter was retrieved the next day — lifted out without its rotor blades by another helicopter and taken away for storage. The blades were lifted out in a separate run.

Read the full story at A thump, then silence — a helicopter crash.

Quick answers: Fires in this Total Fire Ban area

So you want to have an outdoor fire but you know this entire area is under a Total Fire Ban all year round? Luckily, it’s an easy thing to deal with. There are no fires allowed on the beach, ever, but in your own back yard you just need to get a free permit.

Gas barbecues don’t need a permit, but fire pits and all other fires do. Call Fire Emergency on 0800 658 628 or visit the Fire and Emergency website for information and an online application.

Lighting a fire in this area without a permit is against the law and penalties are steep: 2 years in prison and a $300,000 fine.

If you cause damage in this area to property with your fire then your insurance won’t cover it unless you also have public liability insurance.

So, make sure you get that free permit, then you can sit back and enjoy your open air fire, just not on the beach.

By the way: fireworks are notorious for starting fires around the country, so please, stay safe and don’t set off fireworks in this total fire ban area. The local cats, dogs and horses also prefer a quiet fireworks night.

Website updates: an online noticeboard

The two noticeboards by the footbridge are well-used and popular, but weather and other factors can take their toll. In addition to putting notices on those noticeboards you can add items to our new online noticeboard.

For the moment while we iron out some issues with allowing anyone to post, please send any notices to wbra.committee@gmail.com , with Noticeboard in the subject line.

Stay up to date by email

Did you know you don’t have to keep visiting our website to read all the new articles? We’ve published about 20 new items in the last 3 months. Instead get new blog posts by email as soon as they’re published. Enter your email address in the sign-up box on the right-hand side of almost any page on our website. It’s free and your email address is only used for those blog posts. You can easily unsubscribe at any time too.

Next meetings in 2017

Your Committee will next meet at LabourWeekend, and the AGM will be just after Christmas, as usual. Interested in being nominated for the committee? Check the information on our website then email wbra.committee@gmail.com to say you’re interested.

Comments

If you have something to contribute then please either email the Committee at wbra.committee@gmail.com , or visit the Contact page at the website, where you can make a public comment.

Stay dry,
Miraz Jordan

The Takapu Road tsunami safe zone

We could be affected by a tsunami one day. Do you know what to do and where to go?

Did you know that a tsunami can travel at up to 800 kilometres per hour in open water? Yes, that’s eight hundred. And far from being a really really big wave, it’s a wall of water with a speed and force that’s almost incomprehensible. Anyone who’s ever seen the videos of the 2011 tsunami that hit Japan could not fail to understand the power and force of that wall of water as it washed ships ashore, carried houses away and crumbled buildings.

Here in New Zealand we’ve recently had a few almost false-alarm tsunami, less than a metre in height. They may make us complacent, feeling that a tsunami isn’t a big thing. But if a really big earthquake struck nearby we could face something quite terrifying.

The thing is, there could be little to no warning. That’s why the advice is:

… move immediately to the nearest high ground or as far inland as you can if you are at the coast and you experience any of the following:

  • feel a strong earthquake that makes it hard to stand up, or a weak rolling earthquake that lasts a minute or more
  • see a sudden rise or fall in sea level
  • hear loud and unusual noises from the sea

Source: Horowhenua District Council.

So, where do you go? Well, first and foremost, higher ground — a bit in short supply near here.

Next, drive away from the beach along Waikawa Beach Road. The Council have now marked the road with a Tsunami safe zone blue line to show the maximum probable extent of inland inundation. That line is 1 Km west of Takapu Road. But don’t stop there — leave room for others behind you and go further up the road. The school at Manakau is our local civil defence centre.

Tsunami Safe Zone road markings appear.
Tsunami Safe Zone road markings appear.

Keep in mind that the water will follow the path of least resistance: it’ll rush in through breaches in the dunes, and up the river and surely swamp the low-lying land that floods every time there’s a big fall of rain.

When you leave take your emergency bag with you and your pets, if you can. Do you have a neighbour who may need help? We’re a community who must rely on one another.

Last year the Council put signs near the beach with information about coastal hazards. Take a minute to read one next time you pass.

Coastal hazard zones.
Coastal hazard zones.

Dune and dusted

Trailbikes are ripping up our fragile dunes; maybe it’s time to ban all motorbikes from the beach.

Waikawa Beach has many wonderful sand dunes. There’s the privately owned land across the footbridge, the whole area north to Kuku Beach and the area to the south of the river and down to the boundary with Kapiti and beyond.

Sand dune by the estuary.
Sand dune by the estuary.

Some, or maybe all, of the dunes are eroding as wind and tides take their toll, like the area just to the north of the vehicle entrance which has lost several metres in the last year or two.

Eroding dunes by the vehicle entrance.
Eroding dunes by the vehicle entrance. Spot the sagging fence posts.

That erosion is an issue the Ratepayers Association is currently discussing with affected landowners, the Horowhenua District Council, Horizons Regional Council and other interested parties.

Waikawa Beach has long been part of a road connecting Whanganui with Wellington. In earlier times it was where the stagecoach ran, along with drovers, farmers taking produce for sale, settlers moving to new homes, swaggers and pedlers. See Spanking down the level beach, in a horse-drawn coach for an excerpt from a historical account.

The beach is still a road.
The beach is still a road.

Like any road, though, there are rules, including not driving carelessly. And the one about where you may drive on the beach: below the latest high tide mark, and absolutely not on the dunes.

Waikawa Beach vehicle entry sign: no vehicles on the dunes.
Waikawa Beach vehicle entry sign: no vehicles on the dunes.

Thanks to motorbikes in the dunes on the private land north of the river the Council installed bike bars at the footbridge. Some say those bars haven’t worked to keep bikes out, while others find they cause quite an annoyance to people legitimately trying to cross the bridge.

By now you can guess where this blog post is going, I’m sure …

Trailbikes on the beach, 10 July 2017, 1.30 pm.
Trailbikes on the beach, 10 July 2017, 1.30 pm.

I suspect that the motorbikes are finding the bike bars a disincentive as now riders come through the vehicle entrance and down to the sensitive area of new dunes where the north entrance from Reay Mackay Grove exits onto the beach.

We hear the bikes roaring around on the sand, and next day we see proof that they didn’t stick to the area below the high tide mark. Instead they do circuits in the area where the dunes are most sensitive to damage, most vulnerable.

Trailbike tracks by the north entrance, 23 August 2017 at 08:35.
Trailbike tracks by the north entrance, 23 August 2017 at 08:35.

Locals have taken to carting large chunks of driftwood and placing them in spots intended to deter the riders. It’s a huge area to cover and hard work. Some of the results are very impressive, and quite effective.

Blocking bikes from the dunes with driftwood.
Blocking bikes from the dunes with driftwood.

But then the riders change the nature of their sport, seeming almost to deliberately seek out all the most fragile dunes and ride right over the tops of them, scouring huge gouges in the sand and getting right to the roots of the vegetation.

Trailbikes gouge the fragile dunes. Photo 23 August 2017 08:51.
Trailbikes gouge the fragile dunes. Photo 23 August 2017 08:51.

Trailbikes gouge the fragile dunes detail. Photo 23 August 2017 08:51..
Trailbikes gouge the fragile dunes — detail. Photo 23 August 2017 08:51.

It’s heartbreaking to come to the end of the track from Reay Mackay Grove and see deep tire marks all round, all over the dunes, knowing that every single attack weakens the dune, makes it more vulnerable to wind, rain and tide.

Once one person tears it up doing a few laps and donuts, then others take it as free rein.

That quote from Vehicles turn Waikawa camp to mud sums it up. The result in the end is that our dunes erode and disappear. Just a few kilometres up the road such riders have created a muddy morass. Our dunes won’t turn to mud, but they’ll blow away if we don’t care for them.

A popular camping ground in Horowhenua has been turned into a muddy morass by drivers of four-wheel drive vehicles, quad and dirt bikes, raising local fears of an accident waiting to happen.

The Waikawa Stream Recreational Reserve at the end of Manakau North Rd, part of the Tararua Forest Park, has had a campsite for more than 30 years. The back campsite is now almost unrecognisable as a once-pristine camping area.

Vehicles have seriously damaged land at the Waikawa Stream Recreation Reserve campsite
Vehicles have seriously damaged land at the Waikawa Stream Recreation Reserve campsite
Linton Menzies, a regular campsite user, has seen drivers tearing up the site and been threatened, even having a gun pointed at him when he’s tried to intervene.

Down at Kapiti all motorbikes are banned from the beach. Perhaps we could make that happen here.

Kapiti ban motorbikes from the beach.
Kapiti ban motorbikes from the beach.

If you see trailbikes heading for our beach stay safe, but if you can, remind the riders they must stay below the high tide mark and keep their speed down. Taking photos of riders who go onto the dunes may help us work out who’s doing this and find ways to prevent them from doing it in future.

Story and all photos by Miraz Jordan.

A thump, then silence — a helicopter crash

A trainee pilot’s helicopter crashed near Lake Huritini.

Unfortunately Waikawa Beach made the news today: Trainee pilot in helicopter crash near Horowhenua and Two escape helicopter crash near Horowhenua.

Crashed helicopter on Keeling farm.
Crashed helicopter on Keeling farm. Photo by Miraz Jordan.

Around 1 pm a helicopter was buzzing round, as usual, in the low-fly training zone near Lake Huritini. (See Looping the beach.) I was eating lunch on the deck and glanced at the helicopter then returned to my meal. Then I heard a very loud thump — the kind you hear in a car crash — and then silence where there should have been helicopter rotors. I turned to look and waited a few moments in case it was a heavy landing but nothing happened. No helicopter flew up, no rotors made their distinctive noise. On the other hand there was no debris or smoke that I could see.

How unlucky am I that this was the second helicopter crash I’ve witnessed in my life? The first was a fatal crash on Mt Victoria, in Wellington. When we turned to look at that sudden bang and silence there was debris flying up in the air, so I expected that this time too.

After a few more minutes, seeing nothing, I thought I should dial 111, as perhaps I was the only witness, and the occupants, probably some 750 metres away, could be hurt.

Before long emergency services were on the scene, but meanwhile, with the aid of binoculars, I’d seen two people walking around a helicopter lying on its side.

The news and Police reports mentioned Drake Street, but this was almost 2 Km away.

Police respond to report of helicopter crash.
Police respond to report of helicopter crash. But it wasn’t in or near Drake Street.

In the Stuff article:

David Keeling, who owns the farm the helicopter crashed on, said he was called at about 2.15pm and told a helicopter was in his paddock.

He said the paddock was a low-fly zone for training aircraft and the helicopter was on its side.

“It looks expensive, lying on its side with all the rotors bent”.

The Civil Aviation Authority is investigating.

Photo by David Keeling, the farm owner.
Photo by David Keeling, the farm owner. Taken from Stuff news report.

The RiverWatch water sensor could help us, but first we need to help it

The RiverWatch water sensor needs crowdfunding by 04 September 2017.

The quality of our river water is of great concern. Last summer the monitoring by Horizons showed the status too often as orange or red. Read more about this at

One of the problems with the monitoring Horizons does is that the results appear several days after testing, and in that time the river’s status can change dramatically.

Imagine if we could know at any given moment exact levels of water-soluble nitrates and phosphates and E. coli!

We could have real-time information if we had a New Zealand developed RiverWatch water sensor.

RiverWatch water sensor.
RiverWatch water sensor.

This solar powered device measures water quality with its sensors and sends the data to a smartphone.

The River Watch water sensor has an integrated design, accommodating up to seven interchangeable water quality probes. It is inexpensive, at one tenth the cost of similar sensors on the market. RiverWatch has been developed and manufactured by local people for New Zealand conditions.

But before we can even consider buying one the creators, Water Action Initiative (WAI) NZ, need to develop it further and get it ready for commercial sales. To that end they’re looking for funding from the public, via their PledgeMe crowdfunding campaign that ends on 04 September 2017.

Can you spare a few dollars? Can you tell your friends about this?

Glass eels are fragile — take care when whitebaiting

Longfin eels take decades to mature then reproduce once. We need to watch out for and preserve the juveniles.

You might think all the water in the river at the footbridge originates in the stream that crosses State Highway 1 just north of North Manakau Road. Much of it does come from there, but the stream that flows from South Manakau, running behind Quarter Acre Cafe on the main road, joins it just west of Takapu Road, as you can see on the Google Earth screenshot below. Waikawa Beach Road is marked in yellow, and the streams in red.

Waikawa stream and its sources.
Waikawa stream and its sources, on Google Earth.

If you’ve visited the garden behind Quarter Acre Cafe, you may have admired the eels in the stream there. It’s reasonable to think that those or other eels inhabit other parts of the stream too, including down by the sea. New Zealand Longfin Eels take decades to mature and reproduce and their numbers have declined severely.

In fact, it’s something to keep in mind when whitebaiting, or just fishing in general.

Eel, dead on the beach, probably shorten.
Eel dead on the beach, probably shortfin. Photo by Miraz Jordan.

Muaupoko iwi has set up a highly successful aquaculture programme, which is helping rejuvenate the population of tuna (longfin eel) in Lake Horowhenua, using the country’s only eel rearing facility at the Foxton Wildlife Trust.

Keeping an eye on the eels in the spa says:

Once a daily food source for Muaupoko, the tuna [longfin eel] population has taken a massive hit over the 150 years of European settlement, with more than 90 per cent of the tuna wetlands habitat destroyed, and dams and weirs blocking upstream migration of young eels.

Tuna can live for more than 100 years and grow as long as 2m but tuna this size have not been found for more than five decades.

“Tuna’s biggest enemy has been farming. Before Europeans came, Horowhenua was a maze of interconnected swamps and through manmade channels, we would farm eels and shell fish inland.”…

It takes 40 years for a tuna to reach maturity before it leaves its fresh water home for a perilous sea journey to Tonga’s warmer waters, where they breed then die, their eggs floating to the surface to hatch into flat, leaf-like larvae that drift along oceanic currents back to New Zealand.

On arrival, the larvae change into small transparent versions of adult eels, slowly developing colouration before migrating upstream to develop into adults and begin the cycle again.

Note to whitebaiters: Please watch your catch carefully.

If you catch glass eels [longfin eels] please throw them back or pass them onto Foxton Wildlife Trust, 48 Harbour St, Foxton, 06 363-5300. Thank you to whitebaiters who passed on their eels last season.