June 2011: From dancing grans to robberies

By John Cousins


Dev  Sangha had fresh emotional turmoil to deal with when the first anniversary rolled around on June 4 of the day his wife and daughter were brutally murdered in their Tauranga home.

Mr Sangha's grief was mixed with the shock of being attacked by thugs who objected to his refusal to give them a free ride in his taxi.

He was punched in the face and his car damaged by the youths who did not want to pay for a trip from Pilot Bay to Bayfair.

Still feeling vulnerable from the grisly killing of his family in Ngatai Rd while he was on a trip to India, the "very scary" attack left Mr Sangha pondering whether he should sell his taxi business and strike out on a new direction in life.

Tauranga's 82-year-old dancing granny Melva Cummins became the latest YouTube sensation when her hipster moves at the Stretch Festival in Western Australia were videoed and downloaded. Melva and her late husband used to dance at the Senior Citizens Club and after he died she took up a cross between tap and line dancing called clogging.

"I just went for my life because I can't sit down, I just can't help it."

Drive-in movies got off to a fantastic start in Tauranga when 120 carloads of people enjoyed the classic Elvis movie Viva Las Vegas under a starry sky at Baypark. The movie was projected on to the side of the new TECT Arena. "We weren't sure what to expect so we were pleasantly surprised," Baypark manager Ervin McSweeney said.

Scientists surveying the bed of Rotorua's Lake Rotomahana found what they believed were the remains of the White Terrace. The discovery, a few months after they located the remains of the Pink Terraces, provoked jubilation in New Zealand and overseas, with Te Arawa Lakes Trust chairman Dr Toby Curtis calling it "almost a spiritual journey back in time".

Until then it was believed that the Pink and White Terraces, known as the eighth Wonder of the World, had been destroyed by the Tarawera eruption of 1886.

One of New Zealand's most notorious criminals, Dean Wickliffe, was released from prison on strict parole conditions which included living in his Maketu home and wearing an electronic bracelet.

Maketu residents reacted philosophically to the release of the 62-year-old who had spent more than half his life in prison. Regional councillor Raewyn Bennett said Wickliffe's presence in the community was "not a biggie ... like before, people are just letting him get on with his life."

Tauranga fraudster Christian Glennie, 68, claimed to have dealt with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as part of an elaborate scheme to hoodwink people out of properties and vehicles.

Purporting to have millions invested overseas, he travelled New Zealand arranging some hefty purchases, including a $1.6 million launch in Tauranga, a $3 million property in Martinborough and a $3.5 million farm in the Waikato.

Glennie also obtained more than $125,000 from two victims after telling them he needed cash to free up his investments. But it was all a sham and he was jailed for two years and three months.

A Facebook page set up to bully an Otumoetai College student was taken down after causing an internet furore. After initially attracting students who joined in to make fun of the target of the page, the tone changed abruptly after supporters of the boy and anti-bullying campaigners took to Facebook. The student responsible for the page was stood down from the college.

A robber tried to distract police from his knifepoint holdup of the Post Shop at the 11th Ave shops by phoning in a warning that a bomb was about to go off in Tauranga Library. The library and neighbouring buildings were evacuated but Brendan Allan, 30, was undone leaving the crime scene when a woman saw him get into a waiting taxi. He was sentenced to four years jail.

Three days later on June 25, a knifepoint robbery of Cherrywood's United Video traumatised the daughter of shop owner Carey Gordon. He was powerless to intervene as he watched the hooded robber pull a large kitchen knife on his daughter and demand money. Mr Gordon watched the fear sweep his daughter as she recoiled from the knife. "It just breaks your heart."

Arthritis New Zealand's office at Tauranga's Historic Village became the latest casualty of tough economic times in which the city's community health services are struggling to survive. It closed with the loss of two full-time jobs, against a backdrop of strong competition for the charity dollar.

A "priceless gem" for Matua and Otumoetai opened at Fergusson Park on June 12, celebrating the completion of a major revamp and extensions to the park's run-down old clubrooms. It represented a new era for the major users - soccer, cricket, and the city's astronomers.

Owners of leaky homes in Tauranga came within one vote of the council shifting its support away from a funding package to pay for up to half the cost of repairs. With the package in the final stages of being passed in law, Cr Larry Baldock moved that the council "did not at this time opt into the financial assistance package".

His bid, lost by a margin of one vote, would have shifted the council away from supporting the package in which it pays a quarter of repair costs if the building certifier was employed by the council.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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