A race day in the Hokianga this Saturday has just one rule - no thoroughbreds allowed.
However, every kind of farm hack, nag and pony is welcome to take part in the annual Brumby Race Day at Rawene racecourse.
More than 50 horses travelled from every corner of the Far North last year to contest 14 events, ranging from kids' races to a golden oldies race for over 50s and a stockman's challenge in which riders have to dismount and swill a beer at regular intervals.
Organiser Rob Pink, a Rawene school bus driver and riding tutor, hopes for at least that number this year. Locals businesses will put up prize money for each race. Betting will be by a ballot system to keep it legal.
The proceeds will go to Mr Pink's charity, Hokianga Treks 4 Kids, which teaches children outdoor skills and takes them on multi-day horse treks, sleeping at marae along the way.
The action will start about 10am and run until 4pm.
Sailing shed to open
The Hokianga Sailing Trust's new building on Rawene Domain will be officially opened this Saturday, March 5.
The opening will mark the end of a project which had its genesis during the America's Cup in Spain nine years ago, when club president Rene de Vries was working as a physiotherapist for the Swiss syndicate Alinghi, and suffered setbacks that might have made a lesser club give up in despair.
The trust has a fleet of old but serviceable Optimist and Laser boats for teaching Hokianga kids to sail. However, it had nowhere to store them until Alinghi donated a steel shed the team no longer needed. When that proved too small a Northland firm traded it for a bigger, brand new one.
Construction was well under way in 2014 when thieves stole all two tones of cladding. Yet more fundraising, plus generosity from Northland businesses, got the project back on track. Totalspan Bay of Islands supplied new cladding and fitted it at cost while a timber mill offered internal cladding without charge.
The new shed will be blessed at 9am by kaumatua Steve Morunga, followed by an address by club captain Paul Bowker, the official opening by a Far North District Council representative and a reply from Mr de Vries.
As well as providing the club with a place to store and repair its boats, the new shed will house the Rawene Gym Club and a Hokianga Coastguard vessel.
Bike fans will be in Hog heaven on March 11-12 when more than 1000 Harley-Davidsons and their leather-clad owners are expected in the Bay of Islands.
The two-day Iron Run, a celebration of all things relating to the iconic US motorcycle, will be based in Waitangi with events at the Copthorne and the fields opposite the Treaty Grounds as well as in Paihia township.
Riders will be able to take part in the aptly-named Thunder Run, an hour-long round trip by Hog convoy via Paihia and Kerikeri, while those who have never ridden before can have a go on the Jumpstarts, stationary Harleys designed for teaching people of any age the basics of riding a motorcycle. The Jumpstart marquee will be at Waitangi on March 11.
Other attractions will include a community day at Paihia's Village Green on March 12, live music and a show 'n shine for new and vintage bikes.
Walking group starts
A new walking group is starting in Kaikohe for locals who want to exercise but aren't keen on gym work-outs or competitive sport.
The group, which will meet from 12-1.30pm each week day, will walk on the astroturf hockey surface at Lindvart Park instead of the town's footpaths.
Organiser Mike Edmonds, from Kaikohe and Districts Sportsville, said the group would cater for people who appreciate a soft walking surface and a safe exercise environment.
"There are no dogs or cars and it's level, which is good for those of us who have trouble with hills. We also make sports equipment, including rugby and soccer balls available to throw around, so you can exercise your whole body."
Cheryl Smith, from Sport Northland, said walking was an ideal way of keeping healthy, and was an activity people of all ages could do.
The group will start as soon as enough people signed up. It will be free and open to people of all ages. Mr Edmonds is happy to organise a pre-work group if there is enough demand. Phone him on 027 532 9920 or Mrs Smith on 027 434 3417 to join or for more information.
Could there be a better way of celebrating Sea Week than cleaning up your local beach? We doubt it.
Bay Beach Clean is looking for new volunteers to help with a massive, Bay of Islands-wide beach clean on Sunday, March 6.
Come alone or bring a team to Tii Beach in Waitangi (meet near the toilet block) from 9-9.30am to register and collect rubbish bags, gloves and safety advice, and allow the organisers to coordinate their efforts to cover every beach.
A Kerikeri man has been honoured with one of the Scouting Movement's highest awards.
Michael Rowlands topped the Founder's Day awards with a Silver Tui recognising outstanding service of more than 30 years.
Mr Rowlands began his Scouting in the UK and was a leader of the Glen Eden Group, Auckland, before becoming District Commissioner for Bay of Islands in 1993. Later appointments included Area Commissioner for Northland and Kerikeri Group leader. He is currently an associate leader.
Other Northland award recipients at the Paihia ceremony were...
Bronze Tiki (very good service for 15+ years): Janet Lewis-Richardson (Kerikeri), Chris Rumens (Northland Zone).
Medal of Merit (good service for 10+ years): Jenny Calder (Kamo), Chris Fewtrell (Kerikeri), Larry Gordon (Shackleton), Sara King (Hora Hora) and Martin McCullum (Mid-Northern).
Founder's Day, February 22, is the birthday of Scouting founder Robert Baden-Powell.
Paihia pitches in
You may recall an item in this column a few weeks ago urging Paihia folk to get to know their neighbours in Waitangi by lending a hand in the kitchen at Te Tii Marae during Waitangi Day festivities.
The kitchen is run by a small team of volunteers unfazed by the prospect of feeding 1000 hungry mouths a day - but because the work falls on the same few shoulders every year, marae representative Ngati Kawa Taituha invited members of Focus Paihia to pitch in.
Seventeen members of the group took up the challenge over four days and were amazed by the number of people to be fed and the staggering quantities of food that was prepared and served each day.
Focus Paihia's Tiffany Holland said it was the first time the Paihia community had made a conscious effort to help their Waitangi neighbours host the nation at Te Tii Marae.
"Our presence on the marae made a difference, in a small way fulfilling the legacy of the Treaty and it is hoped, setting a great example for others to follow," she said.
Explore your shore
You can be a marine scientist for a day on Saturday, March 5, as part of environmental group Fish Forever's Marine Metre Squared project.
The event will run form 10am to noon at Wairoa Bay, which is accessed via unsealed Bayly Rd (drive past the Treaty Grounds and through the Waitangi golf course, then turn right). Participants will be able to join Fish Forever's marine biologists looking at soft and hard shores and intertidal rock pools. Register by emailing email@example.com.
Children must be accompanied by an adult. Wear sensible footwear, sunblock and a hat. Everything else provided. See www.mm2.net.nz for more information.
Also as part of Sea Week, the environmental education group Experiencing Marine Reserves is organising a community snorkel day at Russell's Tapeka Point from 10am-3pm on Sunday, March 6.
It's a chance to explore the water with an experienced guide and look for unusual critters such as triplefins, nudibranchs and pipefish. Snorkel gear is provided; BYO togs, towel and sunblock. Free event. If conditions are unsuitable at Tapeka snorkelling will take place at Long Beach instead.
Piano comp entries closing
If you're still thinking about entering New Zealand's top piano contest, you'll have to make your mind up fast - entries for the 2016 Kerikeri International Piano Competition close on March 11.
About 50 young pianists are expected to apply for the biennial event. Submitted recordings will be used to whittle the entrants down to the best 14 who will be invited to compete at the Turner Centre on June 30-July 3. The 2016 adjudicators hail from Hong Kong, Vienna and Singapore.
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