April 2011: Swept along in wedding frenzy


One news event dominated April, writes John Cousins.

That gown. That wedding. That spectacle. Dwarfing everything else in April was the wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton.

A million wellwishers flooded into central London as a TV audience of billions watched the wedding of the year, setting back the cause of New Zealand republicanism for another year or 10.

Royal sentiment reached a crescendo as the clearly delighted couple exchanged vows on April 29 before a Who's Who of British aristocracy and world leaders.

The sheer scale of the pageantry allied with endless speculation about Catherine's gown ignited the world. For a few lavish hours, nothing else really mattered.

Tauranga's own rock royalty, AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd, probably wished he had timed his court appearance for April 29. Instead he was in the full gaze of the media when he succeeded in having an earlier cannabis conviction quashed.

The judge accepted the argument of Rudd's lawyer Craig Tuck that the conviction would have restricted the drummer's ability to enter some countries, particularly Japan, Canada and the United States.

Rudd admitted owning the 25g of cannabis found by police in a search of his yacht moored at Tauranga Marina. In a departure from the stereotype of a rock star's hedonistic lifestyle, it was revealed that it was Rudd's first drug conviction.

Heavy rain provided the final ignominy for the Tauranga Jazz Festival, which was already feeling overcast from a disappointing turnout to some big international acts. Sunday's Jazz Village at the Historic Village was moved indoors, made possible by hundreds staying at home. Even the festival finale was switched from Holy Trinity Church to Baycourt because of lack of sales.

Disgruntled rugby fans vowed never to return to Baypark after experiencing the "shambles" of the year's most anticipated local encounter between the Chiefs and the Crusaders on April 15. Traffic built up so much outside the stadium that some of the 17,000 crowd arrived late to the game, spilling over into confusion around seating. There were 30-minute queues for food, chips and tomato sauce ran out, with the final frustration at the end of the match when fans were bottlenecked into two exits. Little wonder there were reports of brawling.

The success of Tauranga's Classic Flyers Museum convinced the Government to rehome one of its mothballed air force Skyhawks to the city. The classic fighter jet will become the jewel in the museum's impressive collection of war birds.

The disgraceful legacy of New Zealand's leaky homes saga reached deep into Tauranga schools, with the disclosure that at least seven schools were being forced to spend tens of millions of dollars fixing buildings. Papamoa's Tahatai Coast School was the worst hit, with the whole school needing major rebuilds. The repair bill to remedy defects at Tauranga Boys' College topped $8 million. Selwyn Ridge School at Welcome Bay also suffered badly, along with Mount Maunganui College, where the gymnasium had to be stripped to the bones.

Churches experienced large attendances during Easter following a resurgence in the popularity of religion. The natural disasters that rocked Christchurch and Japan led to more people taking stock of their lives. Bethlehem Baptist Church had such a big rise in its congregation that a $3.5 million extension was under way to cope with demand.

A Western Bay mother's appalling neglect of her family reduced her 6-year-old son to eating cockroaches. The confession was made to Homes of Hope, which took the family into its care after Child Youth & Family removed the children from their mother. It was an extreme example of a pattern in which children attending low-decile schools were arriving at school hungry and without lunches.

Te Puke Constable Kurt Waugh, 31, was a modest hero when he pulled an unconscious woman from her burning home. He repeatedly exited and re-entered the smoke-filled home to gulp fresh air as he searched the rooms, smashing windows to try and let in enough air to breathe. His efforts were not in vain when he found the woman lying in the master bedroom.

Plans by Legacy Funerals to build a crematorium in the middle of a Pyes Pa neighbourhood shocked residents, who protested in vain that it would have a severe psychological impact on their lives. The Western Bay District Council agreed to the extension to Tauranga Park, despite impassioned pleas. Astonishingly, the regional council's air emission rules do not differentiate between emissions from cremating people and other emissions.

Musician Tiki Taane's arrest during a gig at downtown bar Illuminati briefly turned New Zealand's media spotlight on Tauranga. The bar owner described the incident which led up to the arrest as a misunderstanding, sparked by Taane singing a rap song that contained derogatory lyrics about police. Police accused Taane of acting in a disorderly manner likely to incite violence, but the issue fizzled out when police dropped the charge after a mediation hearing.

Te Puna mother of four Deena Christa Borrel, 32, perished in a house fire on April 14. She and her family had just shifted to Rotorua when their home was engulfed in flames. If a fire alarm had been installed in the property, she would likely be alive today.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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