Latest News & Public Notices

Councils unite to give local businesses and employment a boost

26 June 2020

We’ve been united against COVID-19, and now, to reboot the East Waikato economy, our Council is uniting with our neighbouring Matamata-Piako and Hauraki District Councils, the Hauraki Maori Trust Board and the education sector (NZ Skills and Education Group and CANDO) to help local businesses and grow employment opportunities.


The very first East Waikato Careers and Employers Expo 2020 will be held at the Thames Civic Centre, 200 Mary Street Thames on Wednesday 12 August, from 9am – 6pm and Thursday 13 August from 9am – 3pm.

High school students (Y11-13) from around all three districts will be attending. That’s thousands of students who are looking for internships, graduate programmes, casual, and part-time jobs. There will also be an opportunity for job seekers to come and see what employment may be available as well.

“Hosting a two-day event gives businesses more coverage, more opportunities to network and gets more students through the one location,” says Thames-Coromandel Mayor Sandra Goudie.

“This year’s event is going to be bigger – with all three Councils and the Hauraki Maori Trust Board uniting with CANDO and NZ Skills and Education Group bringing youth and jobseekers through to match them up to jobs,” Mayor Sandra says.

Matamata Piako District Mayor Ash Tanner says support and development of skilled trades people is vitally important to the growth of our district. "If you can offer employment and career opportunities for young people, I encourage you to go along to this expo. Let's show our young people that there are plenty of excellent local career options," he says.

Hauraki District Mayor Toby Adams says he's happy to support this event, which brings together local businesses, job seekers and youth. "If this helps to grow opportunities and jobs for young people in our district, then that's a fantastic result," he says. 

The East Waikato Careers and Employers Expo is building on the Coromandel Hauraki Business and Careers Expo, which has been hosted on the Coromandel for the past four years

Read more about what's involved with the expo further in this update.

Also in this update:

  • Local business profile: Smitty's Sports Bar and Grill
  • More information on the East Waikato Careers and Employers' Expo
  • Doors re-open for Coromandel food producers at Auckland Food Show
  • NZTA funds Mary St Civic Plaza pilot programme for Thames
  • Events
  • The Beautiful Awards - encouraging sustainable Coromandel businesses to enter

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A local legend returns to Whitianga

Owners of Frankies Sports Bar and Grill seized the COVID-19 lockdown as an opportunity to take a step back to the future for the popular Whitianga pub.

This involved the bold decision to re-brand to what it had previously been known as for years: Smitty’s Sports Bar and Grill.

‘Smitty’s' is what owners and siblings Brent Prisk and Fleur Clayton (pictured below), remember from their many years holidaying in Whitianga when they were younger.

“We always enjoyed Smitty’s and spent a lot of time there. In fact, we only really knew it as Smitty’s, but its name was changed to Frankies by the previous owner,” Brent says.

Although they toyed with a name change when they bought the bar, in November 2017, they felt they didn’t want to make any rash changes, and decided business-as-usual was the best strategy while they settled in and got to know the locals.

“In hindsight, we could have changed it straight away,” Brent says, given the community's strong reception to the rebrand. Indeed, many of the locals had never stopped referring to it as Smitty’s.

Fleur says for her and Brent personally, 'Smittys' feels authentic. “It’s what we enjoyed the bar as, and we’ve bought back a Whitianga icon and a local legend,” she says.

The name change was followed by some improvements – giving the bar a paint job (during level three) to change its colour from a cold grey to beachy blue and a new-look ‘hall of fame’ wall (pictured below).

When the doors opened as Smitty’s on May 21, it was with the huge challenges that Level 2 presented for hospitality venues.

“We couldn’t have people come to the bar; they had to be seated and there was no dancing or live sport to watch," Brent says. 

"It was frustrating for us and our customers, but our locals were supportive and patient. We also had to take on more staff to provide table service, so our costs went up too.”

While trading has started to return to normal in recent weeks, it has been a hugely challenging few months and the books have taken a hit.

“Essentially, all our summer trading was wiped out during that the lockdown,” Brent says. “We worried for our 16 staff and if we would be able to reopen, while sharing wider concern for our fellow business community in Whitianga.”

As hard as that time was, Brent and Fleur now say the lockdown afforded them time to think and strategise for where they are today.

Despite the positive new direction as Smitty’s, the pair are still dealing with the challenges of COVID-19.

“In the two-and-a-half years since we took over the business, we had grown it substantially, but now we feel like we’re right back at the beginning,” Brent says. “But we’re no different to any other business. Everyone is hurt.” 

And there’s light at the end of the tunnel. The pair believe this summer ahead will be as good as any they’ve experienced.

Certainly, recent weekends have been busier than they would usually be for winter months, and they are working on plans to host some exciting new events later in the year.

 East Waikato Careers and Employers' Expo

As mentioned at the start of this update, the first East Waikato Careers and Employers Expo will be held at the Thames Civic Centre on 12-13 August 2020.

Interested in being part of the expo? Here's what you need to know:

We understand businesses are doing it tough right now, and it's a huge commitment to be involved and devote time and resources to the expo, but the benefits will be the opportunity to source seasonal/part-time workers, look at professional training upskilling for your business and get information on what other business support might be available to you.

This is a heavily subsidised event and there is no cost for local businesses to attend, but you will need to commit to being at the Expo for the full two days.

“This is the place where business opportunities start - a fun day to make business contacts, market your business to get your products known further afield and recruit students who could be future employees,” Mayor Sandra says.

If you are a local business and are interested in attending please email Sue Boden at or phone 027 568 7635 or visit

The local high schools that are committed to coming to the expo so far are:

• Thames High School
• Coromandel Area School
• Paeroa High School
• Mercury Bay Area School
• Waihi High School
• Whangamata Area School

If your school is interested in being involved please contact


Doors re-open for Coromandel food producers at Auckland Food Show

2020 has hit businesses hard through the COVID-19 lockdown period but our Council is here to support them and kick-start our local economy.

"We are pleased to announce we will be supporting our local food producers again this year, marketing the Coromandel as a foodie destination, and promoting homegrown," says our Mayor Sandra Goudie.

This year, the Food Show has been rescheduled for November 19 – 22 from its usual July date due to the lockdown.

"This event gives our local food producers the opportunity to get in front of more than 35,000 people and showcase that we're not just pristine beaches and beautiful bush, there is a lot more going on here that drives people to come visit us," says Mayor Sandra.

“Supporting local is a focus we have at Council and this is a really good opportunity for local producers to get their products known further afield and in front of chefs who are looking for new products and the media covering the Food Show,” she says.


Five food or beverage producers located in our district are showcasing their products at The Coromandel Food Collective’s stand, located within the Food Show's 'Artisan Village', where handmade, high-quality goods are featured. They are:

Corokai - Gluten Free Bread Mix Corokai is an organic, gluten-free, plant-based, food maker based in Coromandel Town. Its base mix can be easily transformed into a plain wholemeal loaf, seed loaf, banana loaf, raisin / fruit loaf, herb loaf or you can add your own extra ingredients.

Uncle Dunkles Chilli
Uncle Dunkles Chilli's uses locally-sourced ingredients to make its wood-fired chilli sauces, slow cooked and smoked in a wood-fired oven with NZ tea tree wood. Flavours include chilli, chilli BBQ, and extra hot chilli sauce. Visit their shop at 20 Black Jack Road Kuaotunu.​

Blue Fridge Brewery
Blue Fridge Brewery stays true to its roots by minimising its environmental footprint as they craft its beers: they use quality local ingredients, sell locally, reduce waste by giving their spent grain to animals on their lifestyle farm, and clean their equipment and brewery with eco-friendly products.​

Blue Fridge's well-balanced, ultra-drinkable beers cater to different tastes, but they’re all made with heart. Blue Fridge Brewery is located by the beach in Kuaotunu.

Blackbeards Smokehouse
Blackbeard’s Smokehouse is a family-run business in Whitianga. Inspired by the Coromandel’s spectacular pristine waters and amazing array of seafood. Blackbeard’s Smokehouse uses traditional methods of smoking Green-lipped mussels by hand with brine, manuka wood smoke and tasty recipes.

Omahu Valley Citrus
Omahu Valley Citrus is a family business run on a small farm, producing high quality, artisan citrus preserves and fragrances that have claimed both national and international awards.

With no artificial ingredients, the preserves are made from fruit grown in the farm's orchards. These are hand-crafted in small batches in the commercial kitchen on the property and the recipes are unique to the business.

The Auckland Food Show has helped put Coromandel on the map as a food experience hotspot.

“Food is becoming more and more important for tourism across the district and we have amazing restaurants, cafes, markets, home-made products and not to mention approximately 90 per cent of the North Island’s Green Shell mussels are loaded in Coromandel Town each year,” says Laurna White, our Economic and Communications Group Manager.

To find out more about the Auckland Food Show click here.

NZTA funds Mary St Civic Plaza pilot programme for Thames


A project in the very early planning stages to create a vibrant town centre hub on Mary Street in Thames has been given a big boost with financial support from Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency’s Innovating Streets pilot fund.

“There has been no significant improvement to Thames’s street environment for several decades,” Thames Community Board Chair Strat Peters says. “A really buzzing town centre with a defined heart will really help attract visitors, encourage investors, and help boost the economy. This funding from Waka Kotahi comes at just the right time as we’re all looking at ways to get over the financial impacts of the COVID-19 lockdown.”

The Mary Street Civic Plaza project also ties in with work our Council is doing behind the scenes to get the zoning right in the corridor from Thames down to Kopu and beyond to Puriri so that we have options around housing and commercial development.

Our research indicates that Thames has a housing shortage exacerbated by a lack of new housing development, while at the same time commercial development has been stymied by geography, natural hazards and planning rules.

You can read about this research in the Housing Stocktake Report, on our website:

Waka Kotahi’s Innovating Streets programme is focused on revitalising town centres by re-designing main streets to be more people-friendly, which will in turn attract people to spend more time and money there. The Transport Agency’s total nationwide funding pool of more than $7 million was awarded to proposals for quick, low-cost, interim improvements with a high degree of community input that create more people-friendly spaces in our towns and cities.

Our Mary Street Civic Plaza proposal was granted 90 per cent of the $356,000 total project cost. The remaining $35,600 will come from local budgets.

“Our Community Board has been looking at ways to create an attractive civic heart for the town, encourage walkers and cyclists and instil a sense of pride in Thames,” its Community Board Chair Strat Peters says. “This Waka Kotahi funding is a big step forward to achieving this.”

The improvements will at first be temporary, allowing businesses and the community to test the changes, see the impact they have on traffic movements through the CBD and get involved with any revisions to the street design – before any permanent changes take place.

As the project unfolds, there will be opportunities for people to get involved in what these changes will look like. Stay tuned for more information on our Council website, subscribe to our e-newsletters (go to and select “Thames area” among the options) and our Council Facebook page.

For more background on the Mary St Civic Plaza project, read our media release from earlier this week, here.

 Waikato Economic Radar

Our regional economic development agency Te Waka, with the support of Waikato Regional Council economists Blair Keenan and Sarah MacKay, continues to collate data to gauge what is happening in the Waikato economy.

Due to COVID-19’s relatively stable nature throughout the country and Waikato region, radars are now being published fortnightly, with the next update to be available next week on 1 July. To view previous radars, click here    

For Waikato business support: Visit or phone 07 929 4673

 Events update

Our events calendar is roaring back to life, as event organisers across the district are making exciting plans for events to return in the months ahead.

Sign up to our weekly events newsletter to stay informed.

At Council, we have established a working group for event organisers around the district to share ideas and information.

Contact our District Events Coordinator if you are interested in joining or to find out how Council can support your event.


Come on Coromandel - show us how beautiful you are

We all know how beautiful the Coromandel is, and now’s the chance to remind the rest of the country by entering the national Beautiful Awards.

“The Beautiful Awards celebrate environmental excellence and are a great way to celebrate the positive things during these uncertain times,” says our Mayor Sandra Goudie.

“One thing that remains certain is the need to look after, enhance, and preserve our beautiful environment for our local communities,” she says.

The annual competition is open to all individuals, environmental groups, schools, businesses, communities, towns, cities and councils. 

Projects, campaigns and initiatives that have been completed between 1 August 2019 and 5 August 2020 are eligible. Entries are open until 5 August 2020.

In 2018, Plastic-Free Coromandel Town won the Community Group Award, along with the newly-built Hot Water Beach toilet, which won the Plumbing World Best Loo Award.

"This is a great initiative that we want to get behind again this year. We really showed our capabilities by winning two categories in 2018 and this reflects how much effort our local communities put in to keeping New Zealand beautiful," Mayor Sandra says.

Winners will be announced at the Beautiful Awards Dinner - currently booked in at The Domes Auckland Zoo on 29 October, 2020.

If you have any questions, please email

More information:


i-SITES and Visitor Centres

All our visitor centres are open, with the following hours:

Thames i-SITE:  10am – 1:30pm, Monday to Saturday, closed on Sunday.

Whitianga i-SITE: 10am – 1:30pm, Monday to Saturday, closed on Sunday.

Coromandel Town Visitor Centre: 7 days a week, 10am-3:00pm.
Tairua Visitor Centre:  Monday-Friday, 10am - 2pm.

Pauanui Visitor Centre: 7 days a week, 10am - 4pm.

Whangamata Visitor Centre:  7 days a week, 10am- 3pm.

Tairua Information Centre: 10am - 3pm, Monday to Friday.

For more information on our visitor centres and on visiting the Coromandel, go to the website of Destination Coromandel, our regional tourism marketing organisation.