Home' Greymouth Star : Aug 13th 2019 Contents Fugitive back
Convicted Westport murderer
Aaron Keeweene Howie, 47, is back
in custody after turning himself
in to Christchurch police this
morning. Howie was wanted on a
parole recall arrest warrant. He has
been on the run since the weekend
after breaching his parole, following
his release from prison in 2012 for
the 1997 murder of Westport man
Fuel thief strikes
A fuel theft was reported
overnight from a bulk fuel store at
a rural work site in the Whataroa
area. “Hopefully it’s just a one-off,”
senior sergeant Brent Cook said.
It was again a reminder for rural
residents to be wary of any unusual
activity in the area and to report it
to police straight away, following
a recent spate of rural property
break-ins. Meanwhile, a 35-year-old
woman was arrested and charged
with theft yesterday following a
petrol drive-off from a Greymouth
ser vice station.
Police dog tracks
A suspected drink-driver who fled
police near Birchfield just north of
Westport yesterday was later tracked
down by a police dog and handler.
Senior sergeant Brent Cook, of
Greymouth police, said the driver
of the utility on State highway 67
ignored a police signal to stop, and
the officer subsequently called for
help. “ There was no pursuit. The
vehicle was located a short time
later and the dog handler tracked
from the ute to the person who had
done a runner.” The driver had been
charged with failing to stop for
police. His vehicle was immediately
seized for 28 days.
Morning showers north Hokitika
Greymouth Star On-line
Ex-Coast farrier still
going at 85
The latest nominations for the
local body elections are.—
Development West Coast,
Westland: Christopher John Rea
(Peter Cuff and Gary Towers).
Westland District Council,
northern ward: Samuel Blight (Rhys
Martin and Bryce Thomson).
A heated debate about market
stalls was disrupted by a foul smell
and furious finger-pointing at
a Kenyan regional assembly on
Wednesday. “Honourable Speaker,
one of us has polluted the air and
I know who it is,” Julius Gaya
reportedly told Homa Bay county
assembly. But the member he
accused of farting is said to have
replied: “I am not the one. I cannot
do such a thing in front of my
colleagues.” Hoping to clear the
air, the assembly’s Speaker Edwin
Kakach then instructed members
to step outside and take a break
from the chamber. Reports also
say he asked officials to bring in
air fresheners “to make it pleasant.
Get whatever flavour you will find
in any office, whether it’s vanilla
or strawberry. We cannot continue
sitting in an environment that
smells bad.” — BBC
Grey District Mayor Tony
Kokshoorn was on the defensive
last night in a lengthy debate,
breathing “breach of contract ” as
councillors questioned spending
nearly $200,000 on building
roadways at the Greymouth
aerodrome to ser vice the West
Coast Ag Fest for the next four
During a fiery debate, Cr Peter
Haddock dropped a bombshell,
saying he had been talking with
the Mawhera Incorporation and
they were open to seeing Victoria
Park used as an outdoor events
venue. They had also been talking
to the owners of Ag Fest.
Even though he voted for
the aerodrome site in 2017, Cr
Haddock said the council had
been given little time to make
“ We have spent close to
$60,000 for the first event —
now we’re asking the ratepayers
to come up with $199,000.”
He said the council was at its
borrowing limit, despite knowing
its obligations towards Ag Fest.
“I’ve spoken to Mawhera and
today they said they have been
talking to Ag Fest. I even went
there (Victoria Park) today
with John Wheelans (Mawhera
Incorporation secretary) and had
a look. He said, ‘yep, they ’re keen
as’,” Cr Haddock said.
A council staff report said
Ag Fest ’s requirements for the
2020 event was “more than
the available budget ” with an
estimate of $199,100 compared
to the available $100,000.
It noted the potential of gaining
$25,000 from the Government ’s
provincial growth fund.
“This leaves a shortfall of
$74,100. There is no community
for this shortfall, nor is there
capacity in the future at present
to rate fund this due to the caps
imposed by the council through
its financial strategy,” staff said.
Mr Kokshoorn said the council
had “no choice” but to fund the
“ We’ve had one successful
Ag Fest — we’ve signed up for
three ... this is six years. We
have a contract with Ag Fest ...
it’s unfortunate we’re $74,000
Atrocious weather that had
churned the aerodrome site to
mud “might not happen again,”
and the council was liable if the
proposed roadways were not
installed, he said.
Cr Patrick McBride noted the
“massive economic benefits” of
the first Ag Fest in Greymouth.
But Cr Allan Gibson said the
aerodrome’s existing users had
“ big concern” in light of last year.
“It’s not the right venue. I think
we should look at somewhere
else ... it was a bit of a disaster.”
Mr Kokshoorn said: “ They (Ag
Fest) don’t want to go anywhere
else ... the whole problem ended
up being the mud-bath.”
Cr Haddock said anecdotal
feedback from exhibitors about
the site based on the 2018 event
was not positive.
The mayor said Ag Fest was
already advertising the 2020
event, “and you are saying people
are saying they won’t be coming
He said the council had never
been approached by Mawhera
Victoria Park as an events area.
“Ag Fest have said time and
time again they are not interested
(in Victoria Park). They are
heavily advertising right now
telling people to book for the
airport,” Mr Kokshoorn said.
He used the words “breach
of contract ” and quoted from
the 2017 minutes to remind
Cr Haddock he had moved the
motion for the aerodrome site.
In the end the mayor proposed
reducing the shortfall amount to
$50,000 in the face of council
concern about the long-term
Cr Cliff Sandrey said “no
one is against Ag Fest ” but
Mr Kokshoorn continued to
emphasise the festival owners
were “insisting ” they stay at the
decision to convert aerodrome
land came after Mayor Tony
Kokshoorn got into trouble
with his council in March 2017
for floating the idea outside his
portfolio area and through the
Existing occupiers were ropable
and some councillors ticked off
the mayor for not consulting
Some also signed a letter
criticising his communication
style and labelled him “a dictator”.
However, a couple of months
later the council accepted the
aerodrome outdoor event idea as
Ag Fest confirmed the shift from
Hokitika, and some basic site
development was included in the
2017-18 budget after just 10 days
of “urgent consultation”.
Mr Kokshoorn was asked at the
time by the Greymouth Star if
Victoria Park had been considered
as an alternative site for Ag Fest,
but he said he had not even
asked the Mawhera Incorporation
because the site had “deteriorated
substantially” and therefore did
He said Mawhera was not in the
picture because it had failed to
come up with a proposal for the
park when given just two weeks
notice before the council held an
extraordinary council meeting to
decide the matter in April 2017.
The same month, in deciding
on the aerodrome, the mayor said
Ag Fest needed “a quick answer”.
Victoria Park rejected
Popular cafe closes the doors
The Gap Cafe in Greymouth has closed.
It has been a whirlwind few days for cafe
worker Mikaere Clarkson. He was made
manager on Friday, welcomed a new
nephew on Saturday, started organising a
charity auction yesterday and then woke
today on his birthday to a text from the
owners informing him that the cafe was
closing “permanently” due to “financial
The other three staff were advised at a
meeting at 9am.
Mr Clarkson, who has worked at The
Gap for nine weeks, said they were
“devastated, but also understood, and felt
they should have seen it coming”.
Former Franz Josef farm workers
Andrew and Jacquie Douglas purchased
the cafe, in the Olsens Pharmacy mini-
mill in Guinness Street four months ago.
Attempts to contact them today were
Mr Clarkson said he and fellow former
cafe manager Rhonda Knipe hoped to
be able to help the affected staff find
new jobs, using networks, references and
He was disappointed as he felt they had
just got people coming through the door
and the cafe running smoothly.
A complicating factor with the closure is
the auction fundraiser for the Alzheimer
Foundation, which had been set to go
ahead at The Gap later this month but is
Local businesses had already donated
jewellery, vouchers and experiences such
as the Hokitika Tree Top Walkway. Mr
Clarkson is keen to hear from anyone
able to help with an alternative venue for
the charity auction. He can be reached on
021 1869 716.
Rockfall, quakes at Haast
Haast residents, cut off from the
Haast Pass by a rockslide, are on edge
after a swarm of five earthquakes
within the past few days, followed by
the strong Milford Sound quake last
cliff face at Clarke Bluff yesterday
morning — right in front of a
40-seater bus, according to Haast
policeman constable Paul Gurney.
That came on top of five localised
quakes felt within a few kilometres of
“ Very loud bangs, like an explosion,
with a short sharp shock. All very
shallow,” Mr Gurney said.
GNS recorded slight earthquakes
around Haast including a magnitude
2.3 on Monday, a 3.6 last Wednesday
and a 2.4 last Monday.
Scientists were not available this
morning to say if they were connected
to the 5.5 that struck north of Milford
Sound at 10.35pm yesterday.
Maureen McDougall, who is staying
at Okuru, said last night ’s shake was
felt very strongly.
“And we had one about a week ago. It
wasn’t as big as the one last night (but)
it made a noise too. It was very noisy,
a really good shake,” Ms McDougall
“The cats didn’t appreciate it, they
took off. That’s the best one for a long
Meanwhile, the New Zealand
Transport Agency was this morning
working out how to tackle the big rock
that fell across the Haast Pass highway
It said at lunchtime the road would
stay closed until tomorrow as abseilers
and geotech specialists pored over
the hillside to work out the best way
to make it safe. Another assessment
would be made at midday tomorrow.
“The site is complex, and scaling
of loose material will take longer to
complete than originally expected.
Rain on site is also slowing progress,
and we must ensure that staff working
on the face of the slip are safe,” NZTA
maintenance contract manager Moira
The large rock had been sitting close
to the cliff edge.
“ We need to safely reopen the
highway, which is narrow at this bluff,
and no room for traffic to drive around
it as (there is) a steep slope (to the
Haast River) on the other side.”
PICTURE: NZ Transport Agency
The rockfall at Clarke Bluff, between Haast township and the Haast Pass.
Weather hinders Omoto slip work
Trains were not allowed through
Omoto today for a second day, and
State highway 7 was still down to one
lane as specialists tried to fathom the
movement in the historic Omoto slip.
For now, wet weather has put paid to
The hillside started to move over the
weekend, causing the Omoto Road just
east of Greymouth to slump.
Today ’s Tranz Alpine tourist train
again terminated at Moana, but
Westland Milk Products said the
disruption has not yet affected the
resumption of export trains for the
“ We are ready to start bringing the
train over, however the anticipated
delay due to the slip will not have a
significant impact on the business,
if resolved in the coming days,” a
company spokesman said.
“As always, Westland has contingency
plans around alternatives to rail, should
the situation require it, to ensure the
supply line is maintained.”
Grey District Council asset manager
Mel Sutherland said the Kaiata to
Greymouth sewerage pipes beneath the
slumping road appeared to be holding
up so far.
“They are still pumping effluent
New Zealand Transport Agency West
Coast maintenance contract manager
Moira Whinham said contractors
were first notified about movement at
the slip on Sunday morning and were
immediately on site.
Tr a ffi c management was put in place,
including a 30kph temporary speed
restriction, to manage vehicle speeds
over the depression in the highway.
An engineer was on site at midday
on Sunday and determined it was safe
to allow traffic to continue to use the
“ Very little else could be done on
Sunday while it was raining. The site
was checked again before dark. The
contractors were on site again at first
light Monday morning and began
undertaking remedial work with the
temporary speed reduction in place and
stop-go one-way management.”
A geotechnical engineer carried out a
further assessment yesterday.
“If rapid movement begins to occur
traffic will be immediately detoured
until the site can be made safe,”
Ms Whinham said.
“More wet weather is forecast for
today, so no pavement or highway
repairs will be attempted today.
“ We appreciate drivers keeping their
speeds low, 30kph or lower, while the
site is being assessed and access is over
a raised area, keeping the highway
relatively level and safe for use at those
Official assessing Franz future
A representative of cabinet will visit
Franz Josef Glacier this week amid
serious concerns about the risks to the
township from flooding, landslips and
the Alpine Fault.
It has been two years since a major
report suggested the township could be
moved away from the river and fault-line
to a new site near Lake Mapourika.
Another option raised was to let the
stopbanks go on the south side of the
Waiho (Waiau) River, risking farms at
Waiho Flat. However, they were flooded
unexpectedly in the big flood of March
West Coast Regional Council chief
executive Mike Meehan said the
government official would meet locals,
the community, council, and the New
Zealand Transport Agency.
“Government is trying to find a way
Mr Meehan said they were trying to
work out what the town would look like
in 30-40 years time.
In recent months, the council has been
meeting with the Department of Internal
Affairs, Ministry of Business, Innovation
and Employment, Ministry for the
Environment and Civil Defence.
The Tonkin and Taylor report, released
in 2017, estimated it would cost at
least $300 million to move Franz Josef
Aerodrome site confirmed
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