Northland news in brief: Whangārei nurse Debbie Taft wins Matariki competition; tooth brushing programme boosted

Registered nurse Debbie Taft’s winning piece, Celestial Sisters. Photo / Supplied

Registered nurse Debbie Taft took home first place in Whangārei Hospital’s 2023 Matariki Art Competition for staff. Her piece Celestial Sisters was created using water-based colour pencils. The Tumanako – acute mental health addiction IPU nurse won $500 of art supplies, $500 for a charity of her choice, and a meet and greet with a Northland artist. Prior to nursing, Taft was a primary school teacher and visual arts teacher in Auckland.

Oral health boost

Te Tai Tokerau Spotless Operations Manager John Sharp hands over the $3000 cheque to Pip Zammit, Oral Health service manager in Te Tai Tokerau. Photo / Supplied
Te Tai Tokerau Spotless Operations Manager John Sharp hands over the $3000 cheque to Pip Zammit, Oral Health service manager in Te Tai Tokerau. Photo / Supplied

The supervised tooth-brushing programme in Te Tai Tokerau has been boosted by a $3000 donation from the Downer Donate programme. Downer Donate is a community fund in which Downer team members nominate causes or charities that matter to them and are in need of support. Te Tai Tokerau Spotless Operations Manager John Sharp nominated the supervised tooth-brushing programme, which can now get more schools involved. The initiative is in response to the fact Northland’s Year 8 students have a higher number of decayed, missing or filled teeth (0.99 compared with 0.73 nationally), and the region’s 5-year-olds have one of the lowest percentages of teeth without tooth decay (42 per cent compared with 55.1 per cent nationally).

Aroha Island closed for holiday accommodation, camping

A well-known spot in the Kerikeri Inlet, Aroha Island, will not be re-opening for camping and holiday accommodation in 2023. The Aroha Island Charitable Trust (AICT) operated the island under lease as an eco-centre and holiday accommodation but has decided not to renew its lease. The property is owned by the QEII National Trust, which is now considering its options for the future of the land. The property will be temporarily leased to local organisation TriOceans to use as a training facility. This will ensure there is a continued presence on the island until a longer-term arrangement is made. AICT co-chairman and treasurer Howard Smith said there were a variety of reasons for the trust’s decision not to renew the lease, such as the difficult trading conditions over the last three seasons due to Covid-19 restrictions, adverse weather events and road closures into Northland.


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Heads Rd safety work

Slippery patches on Whangarei Heads Rd will be watercut on Monday, July 17, to make the road safer for drivers in Whangārei Heads. Traffic will be stop/go between Pepi and Wharf Rds during the work between 9am and 2pm. Whangārei District Council said the work was needed because stone chip has been lost from the bitumen since a re-seal last year, causing smooth slippery patches that reduce tyre traction and put road users at risk. The road will be resealed when the weather improves.

Accessible saw-saw fundraising

Children with Disability NZ is fundraising for an accessible see-saw for Raumanga Park in Whangārei. The addition will be accessible for wheelchair users but is also multi-use for all children. The charity has also partially funded a wheelchair swing for Waipū Park in Northland, and relies completely on donations to purchase the equipment. To donate visit:

Mural art opportunity

The Whangārei RSA is seeking a talented artist to create a captivating wall mural on its building. Anyone with a knack for transforming blank walls into stunning works of art is invited to take up the opportunity. Realistic portraiture, abstract designs, or any other artistic style will be considered. Express your interest or recommend a skilled artist contact the RSA on 020 4018 7598, or email


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