Eric's out, tennis bouts and Kennard saved the day
Perhaps more so than other years but definitely no less, 2013 was an unlucky year for some and a year of some victory for others. Matt Rilkoff takes a look back at the highs, lows and the things in between.
Most Ominous Start to a New Year
Even before the clock struck 12 and the new year began 2013 was causing superstitious people no small amount of worry. Their anxieties at 365 days of rotten luck and inevitable poor harvests seemed to be on the right track when at 3.11am on January 1 a quake measuring 5.0 struck off the coast of Opunake shook even inebriated revellers awake, caused widespread heart murmurs and led to dozens of "I told you sos".
Most Unarguable Proof Intolerance is Increasing
For years the "eccentric" Eric Brewer lived a largely naked life on the beach at Tapuae, just north of Oakura. But complaints to the council about erratic behaviour saw him issued an eviction order in March, giving him a week to get out. He said he would go, then he didn't. New Plymouth District Council said they were coming to chuck him out, then they didn't. But then they did and Eric's home of sticks and plastic was dismantled by men in white boiler suits and he was sent packing. He had occupied the piece of beach for 16 years. Oh well, another free spirit bites the dust.
Most Insulting Truth
In a bitter Davis Cup tennis dispute between this country and Pakistan, Hawera found itself innocently drawn into the fight in May when the Pakistani team retrospectively complained about a 2010 cup tie held in the south Taranaki town. Not holding back they said, among other disparaging thing, the tie took place in a "remote little town called Hawera, which was almost a village". OK, that's basically true, but it's our little village and we love it so go fly a kite Pakistan.
Biggest Political Scandal
The good folk of the republic of Whangamomona have put up with a lot of things in their time, the least of which is once being ruled by a goat. But all looked to be going further downhill in February when a not altogether sane looking man known only as "The Czech", won the presidential vote on Republic Day. Quite how he achieved this is unknown, because not a single person actually voted for him (allegedly). Before the insanity could destroy the town former president Murt Kennard reinstated himself as boss. Thank goodness.
Most Epic Scontroversy
The usually quiet and agreeable town of Eltham was rocked to its core in June when three-time Cheese Scone Competition winners Candy Hopson and daughter Paytn Cameron were banned from entering the competition for a fourth time, ostensibly to give others a chance at tasting victory. It was a bitter pill for Candy to swallow and frankly, we think, the year's best example of Tall Poppy Syndrome. "It's not like I want to enter the Olympics," said Candy.
Single Most Sensible Wood Product
The second most unavoidable thing in life is death but the first is an expensive funeral. In July Eltham beneficiary Kevin Moyle swapped building rabbit and guinea pig hutches for crafting $150 coffins. The no nonsense pine boxes were exactly what dozens of people were looking for and before he could say "dust to dust" Mr Moyle was inundated with orders.
Most Heartbreaking Tragedy
The death of climbers Hiroki Ogawa, 31, and Nicole Sutton, 29, in Labour Weekend on Mt Taranaki unfolded as a horror. Trapped near the summit in atrocious conditions it was widely believed the couple were relatively safe inside a snow cave and simply had to wait it out. In contact with rescuers it appeared inevitable they would be saved. But the cave turned out to be little more than a shallow trench, the weather worsened and repeated rescue attempts failed. Mr Ogawa died in the night before rescuers reached them, Miss Sutton succumbed a few hours after she was found. In a heartbreaking detail her parents had stopped themselves calling or texting her as she was saving her cell phone battery power for talking with police.
Deepest Culinary Loss
The death of Frenchman Andre Teissonniere from cancer in June took from Taranaki one of its most flamboyant and respected restaurateur. His Andre's L'Escargot Restaurant was unique in New Plymouth for its ambience, flair and old world style. It was closed shortly after his death. Without him there it could never carry on.
Most Foreseeable Unforseen Result
After just one term as New Plymouth Mayor Harry Duynhoven was unceremoniously dumped by voters 16,883 votes to 7677 in the October local body election. A Taranaki Daily News poll had picked the result a few weeks before but Mr Duynhoven was clearly gobsmacked by the numbers, which to be fair were a little unfair. He wasn't alone in his disbelief. New Mayor Andrew Judd was equally surprised he had meted out such a spanking.
Most Questionable Timing
On August 27 New Plymouth District Councillors agreed to remove the rubbish bins from Mt Bryan Domain, a popular park-up spot colloquially known as Pig-Out Point. Right from the start it was an unpopular move but the community backlash didn't really push into high gear until two weeks before local body elections. Some say if Harry Duynhoven once had a fighting chance of retaining the mayoralty it was this bins decision that nixed any possibility of retaining the chains. So emphatic was the push-back some believe its timing was not altogether coincidental. Hmmm.
Furthest Fall from Grace
As with everything else he has ever won New Plymouth surf lifesaving couch and champion swimmer Glenn Anderson was miles ahead of the competition in his fall from grace. The good looking and charming New Plymouth Old Boys' club coach stood down from coaching in March after admitting he was under police investigation.
The charges however remained a mystery and his name was subsequently suppressed. In August he was sentenced to 28 month jail after admitting three charges of sexual conduct with a young person under 16 in January. The court heard the offending happened at a swim meet in January where he invited the young girl to his room, gave her cans of beer and the sexual activity took place. The actual offending has been suppressed, as was Anderson's name until November. It's difficult to imagine him ever being welcome back in Taranaki.
Inaugural Slow Reaction Award
Drum roll please . . . and the award goes to the South Taranaki District Council which in July shut down Tawhiti Museum's million-dollar Traders and Whalers exhibition amid fears it was a fire hazard. Museum owner Nigel Ogle told the Taranaki Daily News he was baffled as to why it took the council seven years to notice something might be wrong. And frankly, so are we, hence the award. Anyway it's all open again now. Brilliant. The only competition to win this award was with themselves over their seemingly inert reaction to the long running Eltham Milk Stink saga.
Most Effective Community Action
Some months before legal highs such as synthetic cannabis were strictly regulated, communities around Taranaki decided they wanted them out. Dairies around the province were targeted by picketors and many voluntarily withdrew the products from their shelves. Those that didn't faced further protest and customer boycotts that eventually left just a hardy few selling the dangerous products. Ironically protesters helped guide users to exactly where they were.
Most Head Scratching Moment
For some reason no-one yet can really figure out, New Plymouth Boys' High School banned Francis Douglas Memorial College students from watching the two schools hotly contested annual rugby match in May. Not only did this provoke outrage and indignation among pupils and old boys of both schools, it probably motivated the Catholic lads to smash the historically favoured Boys' High side in a fittingly humiliatingly fashion. They kind of asked for it though, didn't they?
Story Least Likely To Go Away
Waitara leases. With ground rents revalued every 21 years the jump between what lease holders were paying and what they have to pay now will always seem grossly unfair, especially to those on fixed incomes. There is no easy solution to this issue and it is likely to still be making headlines 50 years from now, regardless of what is done. Seriously.
Taranaki Daily News