Talented Bay pianist on mend after fall
A top Bay concert pianist who miraculously survived a near-fatal fall is on the mend.
Papamoa's Lee Cameron - who on July 11 last year slipped on a staircase, hitting his head - has returned to the piano.
Mr Cameron returned home from a Waikato rehabilitation centre in early September and said he was slowly coming right.
At the time, Mr Cameron's doctors believed he was not going to survive as he was showing signs of a brain injury.
"I'm feeling much better than I was and everything is finally starting to make sense," he said.
The sought-after piano teacher and performer both nationally and internationally said just weeks after leaving hospital, he made moves to return to his normal routine of teaching piano. He added he could not sit at the piano for more than an hour but that was a far cry from the 20 minutes he could muster back in September.
"My doctors are very pleased with my progress," he said.
Mr Cameron believed it would take him a bit longer to regain his full strength.
"I'm taking things slowly and not pushing myself."
However, Mr Cameron added he was making moves to return to his professional musical commitments.
"I am taking part in the orchestra which will play the Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue in New Plymouth in May."
But he had turned down the opportunity to re-schedule his tour of China and Japan, which he cancelled after his accident in September.
"I don't think I'm up to it yet," he said.
"It's important that I take time out to recover from the accident and give my body time to heal."
Blood scheme positive
A pilot scheme run by the New Zealand Blood Service in Tauranga which requires donors to prove their identities before giving blood, has been running well and will be reviewed next month.
The trial, launched last November, aims to make the blood donation process safer by eliminating any mistakes in donor identification.
People giving blood at the service's Cameron Rd clinic now have to provide documents confirming at least three of the following details - their full name, photograph, date of birth, home address, signature or donor registration number.
A driver's licence, passport or a credit card with a photo was sufficient in many cases.
Tauranga's blood service team leader, Jan Catchpole, said the clinic had had a lot of feedback from donors about the new system, most of which was positive.
"The odd person has seen it as a bit bureaucratic but I think people on the whole are getting used to producing ID these days," she said.
The scheme would be reviewed in February by the New Zealand Blood Service's head office and could eventually be rolled-out nationwide.
Cop inquiry continues
A senior Tauranga police officer is still under investigation over alleged misconduct in relation to prosecution matters.
Sergeant Keith Elliott was stood down from his position as a police prosecutor in the Tauranga District Court last October.
This week, media adviser Jon Neilson from the Office of the Commissioner in Wellington, said the case was still being investigated by senior police staff.
He was unable to say when the investigation would be completed.
Mr Elliott has been stood down from his position on full pay.
Staff from Wellington travelled to Tauranga last November as part of their investigation but refused to comment on the case.
The internal investigation will determine whether internal discipline will be needed or if criminal charges will be laid.
Mr Neilson would not say how many misconduct matters were being considered.
Mr Elliott has been a police officer in Tauranga since 1982 and has been a police prosecutor for at least 15 years, primarily working in the Tauranga District Court.
At least 10 Bay people have applied to become Civil Union celebrants since applications were called for before Christmas.
The Civil Union Act will allow non-marriage ceremonies to take place after April 26 but exisiting marriage celebrants still need to apply for permission to preside over them.
The Department of Internal Affairs has received 138 applications nation-wide, and expected an influx once everyone was back at work.
"It's pretty much in line with what we had expected, given the time of year.
It's certainly not an extremely high or low number," said department spokesperson Tony Wallace.
He said the applications included marriage celebrants but was not confined to them.
Grey Power revs up
A new initiative to replace the unpopular elderly driver testing regime is rapidly gaining momentum, with Ministry of Transport officials having visited Tauranga yesterday to be fully briefed on the proposal.
Grey Power's Tauranga-based policy chairwoman Carole Gordon said the push to abolish the dreaded over-80s driver testing has resulted in Grey Power putting up an alternative solution in which the elderly would go through something more akin to a family group conference.
Ms Gordon, who exposed flaws in the methodology used to justify elder driver tests, hopes transport officials will emerge with a clear understanding of the alternative to the existing regime.
The Government has launched a review into elderly transport issues.
There has been co-operation in the Bay of Plenty around the group conference alternative which Grey Power would like to see trialled in Tauranga.
Joining Ms Gordon at the meeting were Bay of Plenty Regional Council chairman John Cronin, the council's land transport committee chairman Athole Herbert, committee member and former Tauranga mayor Noel Pope, Grey Power's Bay of Plenty branch chairmen, Grey Power's national human rights chairman, and representatives from a new Tauranga organisation called the Older Women's Network.
"This is a strong set of people prepared to advocate on behalf of older drivers for a new initiative," Ms Gordon said.
The two-yearly tests, which regularly reduce over-80s drivers to nervous wrecks, are so dreaded that Grey Power took a case to the Human Rights Commission on the grounds that testing contravened the Bill of Rights. The case is on hold pending the outcome of the Government's review.
Harbour Link info day
Western Bay residents will next week learn why it is so vital to push ahead, sooner rather than later, with the $210 million Harbour Link roading project.
Access - the strategic roading network partnership between Transit New Zealand and the Tauranga City and Western Bay District councils - is holding two public information days, and project manager John Hannah is expecting a big turnout.
The first public day will be held in the Mt Maunganui College hall on Maunganui Rd next Tuesday between 2pm-7pm. The exercise will be repeated on Thursday at Baycourt between 2pm-7pm.
Visitors will be able to view plans and models, speak to roading engineers and senior managers, and have the opportunity to make written submissions. The latest proposal for four-laning Hewletts Rd, including dedicated lanes for buses, will also be on display.
The public days are part of wide-ranging consultation on the proposal by Tauranga council and Transit NZ to advance the Harbour Link project by using tolls.
The council hopes to start construction within 18 months and have the new tolled expressway completed by the end of 2009.
Mr Hannah said the open days presented a unique opportunity for the public to get involved in the critical roading issues facing Tauranga city and Western Bay.
"We have designed these events as a one-stop shop for information and feedback for the whole network, and in particular the Harbour Link funding proposal," he said.
The public days will also showcase the strategic roading network projects under construction or about to be built - such as the new Domain Rd roundabout, Te Maunga to Maungatapu median barrier, and the Hewletts Rd/Maunganui Rd flyover.
Harbour Link involves a duplicate harbour bridge and four-laning through to Tasman Quay roundabout, and a viaduct over Marsh St from Takitimu Drive expressway to the harbour bridges.