A weekly round-up of news snippets, events and oddities from the Bay of Islands and around the Mid North

Kawakawa celebrates its coal mining history

Kawakawa might be best known these days for a block of toilets designed by an eccentric Austrian artist but in the 19th century it was a bustling industrial town with the biggest coal mining operation in the North Island.

It was also home to the first railway in the North Island – a horse-drawn tramway for transporting coal to a river landing opened in 1868 – and missed out on laying claim to New Zealand's first railway only by matter of weeks.

Those historical feats will be celebrated this Saturday when the town holds its annual Christmas parade with a combined coal-mining and steampunk theme. The parade will also hark back to the coal miners' festival the town used to be famous for.

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The parade starts at noon; floats should assemble behind the Star Hotel by 11.30am for judging. Spectators are encouraged to don their best vintage or steampunk outfits.

If you were wondering what happened to the mines, commercial mining ended in the early 1900s due to repeated flooding. Locals, however, kept extracting coal for their own use until the 1920s, when the shafts were permanently sealed.

Wandering willy workshop

Is your garden or your favourite bit of bush choked by tradescantia, an invasive weed also known as wandering jew or wandering willy?

"Tradescantia Terminators" Charlotte Gamble, left, and Charlie Potter collect beetles for biological control of the invasive weed tradescantia. Photo / supplied

A group of Kerikeri High students called the Tradescantia Terminators are recognised experts in biological control of this troublesome weed, and will hold the first of two workshops this weekend to share their knowledge of an imported beetle which feeds only on tradescantia.

Participants in the workshops will learn how to make "pooters", a simple device for collecting the tiny beetles without harming them, and how to release the critters for maximum effect. Each workshop will start with a theory and pooter-building session at Kerikeri High School followed by a beetle-catching expedition along Wairoa Stream.

The workshops will start at 2pm on December 2 and February 9. Email tradescantiaterminators@gmail.com with your name, contact number and choice of date to book a place. The Far North District Council will cover the cost of materials.

The seven Tradescantia Terminators, aged 13-15, will represent New Zealand at the 2019 International Future Problem Solving Competition in the United States.

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Beyond the Armistice

The Bay of Islands Singers' final concert of the year will feature a programme of music representing a fresh start following the darkness of war, bringing renewed hope and joy.

The Bay of Islands Singers' final concert of the year this Sunday is inspired by the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. Photo / supplied
The Bay of Islands Singers' final concert of the year this Sunday is inspired by the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. Photo / supplied

With November 11 this year marking 100 years since the Armistice which ended World War I, director John Jackets thought it would be fitting to open the concert with a sequence of music and words reflecting new beginnings.

That will be followed by music for Christmas including the first two parts of Bach's Christmas Oratorio and the ever-popular Christmas music from Handel's Messiah.

Soloists Jessica Wells, Michael Burch and Joel Amosa, winner of the 2018 Lexus Song Quest, will join the choir and guest orchestra for an afternoon of music both reflective and joyous.

The concert, called New Beginnings, starts at 2.30pm this Sunday at the Turner Centre. Tickets from www.turnercentre.co.nz or the box office on Cobham Rd.

Focus Paihia fashion show

Focus Paihia Op Shop is holding its ever-popular fashion show at 7pm next Wednesday, December 5.

The venue has changed this year – it will be in the Bay of Islands Yacht Club behind the Copthorne at Waitangi – but organisers promise "the same fun and wonderful clothes at great prices". Part of the fun is spotting the locals who have been roped in to strut the catwalk.

The tickets, which include a drink and nibbles, are $20 from the Focus Paihia Op Shop in Paihia Lanes (the former Paihia Mall).

New lifejackets for old

Bay of Islands boaties will be able to trade in their old lifejackets for new ones starting this Saturday as part of a nationwide Coastguard initiative.

Anyone who brings an old lifejacket – even those nasty kapok-stuffed ones older readers will remember all too well – to Cater Marine in Opua will get $30 or $40 off the price of a new Hutchwilco lifejacket. The Old4New trade-in will run from December 1-9; Coastguard Bay of Islands volunteers will be on hand on Saturday and Sunday offering water safety advice and tickets for the annual Coastguard raffle. Prizes include a Holden Trailblazer LTZ, four Haines Hunter SF485 sport fishing boats and a Greek cruise.

Cater Marine is the only place in the Far North Old4New will be offered this year.

Waste watchers needed

Russell Recyclers are calling for volunteers to act as "waste ambassadors" during the Bay of Islands Ocean Swim event this Saturday.

Joanne Higgins, left, and Martin Allen with Dingo and Weka on duty as waste ambassadors for Russell Recyclers. Photo / supplied
Joanne Higgins, left, and Martin Allen with Dingo and Weka on duty as waste ambassadors for Russell Recyclers. Photo / supplied

The ambassadors will help competitors, visitors and locals place rubbish in the correct bins.

Russell Recyclers are also involved in cutting waste at Waitangi Day, The Birdman Festival and the Tall Ships Regatta.

Anyone interested in helping out for a few hours can contact John Maxwell on russellrecyclers@gmail.com or 027 380 5640.

Letterbox decorating contest

Business Paihia is holding a letterbox decorating competition in a bid to brighten up the town ahead of Christmas.

Homes in Paihia, Waitangi, Te Haumi, Haruru Falls and Watea are eligible; see www.paihianz.co.nz for more information. Judging will be on December 13.

Ohaeawai, 10km east of Kaikohe, also holds a hotly contested letterbox decorating competition every December.

Floating bye

Alzheimers Northland is launching a new way to remember and celebrate the lives of lost loved ones this Christmas.

Alzheimers Northland is launching a new initiative called Floating Bye to remember loved ones through a beach flower ceremony. Photo / supplied
Alzheimers Northland is launching a new initiative called Floating Bye to remember loved ones through a beach flower ceremony. Photo / supplied

Floating Bye is a floating flower beach ceremony open to anyone who wants to remember loved ones at a time of year when they can be missed even more than usual.

Those who can't make it to the ceremony, at 10am on Sunday, December 9 at Waitangi, can dedicate a flower which will be floated on their behalf.

Alzheimers Northland spokeswoman Hannah Hunter said the short beach ceremony would comprise readings, music, and floating the flowers on rafts designed by the Kaeo Flower Company to be biodegradable so as not to cause any harm to marine life.

"We want to provide a meaningful way to remember our loved ones at Christmas. It's a time of year that we feel the pain of loss at its rawest. We invite everyone to come along, bring a blanket or a seat and take time to share the moment and your memories with those around you."

Donations from Floating Bye will help Alzheimers Northland support whānau affected by dementia.

A similar event will be held in Ruakaka at 3pm on December 9. For more information go to www.alzheimersnorthland.org.nz/floating-bye, email hannah.hunter@alzheimers.org.nz or call 021 174 9760.

Kaikohe Library upgrade

Kaikohe and Hokianga residents are being asked to provide feedback on plans for a long-awaited facelift to Kaikohe Library.

Kaikohe Library is getting a long-overdue refurbishment next year. Photo / supplied
Kaikohe Library is getting a long-overdue refurbishment next year. Photo / supplied

Refurbishment of the 50-year-old building is due to start in May 2019 so staff are seeking ideas from library users about a new internal layout as well as suggestions about the type of services users want.

Manager Jacine Warmington said the $77,000 upgrade was long overdue with little done to the library since it was built in 1968.

"The building was extended with funding from the Rotary Club of Kaikohe in 1980 and minor work was later undertaken on the circulation desk, study and work zones, and the staff area. However, we desperately need to improve accessibility, renew book stands and shelving, and replace worn-out, second-hand furniture."

A 2018 resident survey showed a high level of satisfaction with Far North Library services with the exception of Kaikohe-Hokianga. Many respondents said the poor state of the library was the main reason for low levels of satisfaction.

Floorplan kits with Lego pieces representing shelving, PC tables, couches and other equipment are available at Kaikohe Library. Library users can create their own floor layouts and submit photos of them using iPod touch devices.

Warmington said suggestions could also help inform plans for a new library proposed as part of a community hub and civic centre planned for Kaikohe.

"Some may question why we are spending money now refurbishing an old building when we may move to a new library. The fact is we cannot keep deferring improvements. The run-down state of the library is impacting on what we provide right now, and we can't expect residents to wait another five or six years to access services that our other libraries already provide."

Suggestions can be made by emailing kaikohelibrary@fndc.govt.nz, filling in a survey form available at the library, or handed to Kaikohe Library staff. A final floorplan will be released in March 2019 with work due to begin May.

Mac's Patch hits the big time

A song from Kerikeri-made life skills programme Mac's Patch has been included in a Sony Music compilation album selected by Suzy Cato.

Called the Totally Awesome Kiwi Kids Music Album, it's packed with children's songs by artists from all over New Zealand including Illumination Workshop's Brushing Teeth Song sung by Jack Rabbit (aka Kerikeri youngster Jack Laird) and written by Jo Slack (Kerikeri singing teacher and lead vocalist with Scarlet Fever, Luna Chix and other bands).

The album is available in music stores and on Spotify.

Opua dance

Opua Hall is hosting a dance from 7pm this Saturday with live music by Raemon. Bring a plate to share for supper; drinks BYO. Tickets $10 at the door for adults, kids free.

* Do you have news or an upcoming event you'd like to see in this column? Send it to us, including your full contact details, to baynews@northernadvocate.co.nz