A Covid-19 sign at Wairau Hospital. Photo: Matt Brown.

Majority of Marlborough Covid cases recovered

Most people who caught Covid-19 in Marlborough have now recovered.

Latest figures from Nelson Marlborough District Health Board show that as of today, 43 people across both regions have recovered from the virus.

For the eleventh day in a row, there have been no new or suspected cases of the illness.

The total number of new and probable cases in New Zealand today is nine taking the tally to 1440.

The Ministry of Health defines a recovered case as someone who has been symptom free for at least 10 days since they first started showing signs of infection.

Over the weekend 54 people were triaged at a Community Based Assessment Centre in Blenheim and swabs were taken from 49 people.

The Government is expected to announce a decision over whether New Zealand drops to Alert Level 3 at 4pm today.

MP Stuart Smith has launched an online petition to help save Sounds Air. Photo: Supplied

Stricken airline’s online support as MP joins funding battle

Marlborough’s stricken regional airline is being backed by the community in a bid to help save it from receivership.

Sounds Air bosses are not eligible to any of the Government’s $600 million rescue package set aside for the aviation sector amid Covid-19 lockdown.

Now MP Stuart Smith has started an online petition calling for immediate financial help.

He says the company has a big role to play in helping the region recover after lockdown as well as playing a vital role in providing essential transport links.

“I was deeply concerned to hear that Sounds Air risks going into receivership because they have not received any financial support from the Government’s aviation sector support package.

“When restrictions are eased, we will need Sounds Air to ensure people living in regional New Zealand can get to where they need to go.

“I’m calling on the Government to immediately provide the financial support that this highly reputable business needs so we can save jobs and maintain our essential transport links,” Stuart says.

Money from the government’s $600m aviation support package has been spent on keeping freight and lifeline links running.

Sounds Air connects Wellington to Picton, Nelson and Blenheim, and flies other routes Air New Zealand pulled out of over the years but is not considered an essential service.

Managing director of Sounds Air Andrew Crawford says he is making every effort to keep his airline afloat but is being met with brick walls.

Eighty employees face losing their jobs if the company has to close.

Stuart says the business cannot be let go without a fight.

“Some businesses are just too important to let fail. Sounds Air will be an important player in the economic recovery of regional New Zealand and our aviation sector.”

The petition has already been signed by almost 2500 people.”

To sign the petition visit https://www.change.org/p/ministry-of-transport-save-sounds-air-make-the-government-provide-financial-support-to-an-essential-nz-airline?recruiter=1078209202&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=share_petition

Higher than safe levels of toxins in shellfish have been found in Croisilles Harbour. Photo: Supplied.

Toxic shellfish warning

An alert over toxic shellfish in Croisilles Harbour in the Marlborough Sounds has been issued today.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has issued a public health warning people not to collect or eat shellfish which, in extreme cases, could kill.

And anyone looking to boost their lockdown menu runs the risk of becoming severley ill.

People should not risk harvesting or eating shellfish in the Croiselles Harbour area. Photo: Supplied.
People should not risk harvesting or eating shellfish in the Croiselles Harbour area. Photo: Supplied.

Routine tests on shellfish samples taken from this region have shown levels of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) toxins to be at dangerous levels.

Pāua, crab and crayfish may still be eaten if the gut has been completely removed prior to cooking, as toxins accumulate in the gut.

Symptoms typically appear between 10 minutes and 3 hours after ingestion and may include numbness and a tingling (prickly feeling) around the mouth, face, and hands and feet.

Difficulty breathing, dizziness, vomiting and respiratory failure can follow.

A spokesman says anyone becoming ill after eating shellfish from an area where a public health warning has been issued needs urgent medical attention.

“Phone Healthline for advice on 0800 61 11 16 or seek medical attention immediately.

“You are also advised to contact your nearest public health unit and keep any leftover shellfish in case it can be tested.”

Lockdown has made it easier for police officers to spot people breaking the law, says senior community constable Russell Smith. Photo: File

Lockdown rule breakers arrested

A dozen people caught breaking lockdown Level 4 rules have been arrested.

Marlborough police have issues formal warnings to those caught out and about without good reason.

And repeat offenders not taking the warning to heart have found themselves in court.

Senior community constable Russell Smith says the courts are taking these breaches seriously.

“You may have noticed that Covid-19 Level 4 requirements mean that there are fewer vehicles on the road and far fewer people out-and-about.

“Some people, however, don’t seem to have worked out that this means that if they are out there doing things they are not supposed to be doing, it’s a lot easier for police to find and deal with them,” he says.

Those that have appeared in court have been set stringent bail conditions, including 22-hour a day curfew.

Less traffic means police have also been charging drunk drivers who are easier to spot.

“Police in Marlborough have also been arresting and charging a steady stream of people who have been found driving while intoxicated and driving when they are disqualified or prohibited from driving.

“As previously mentioned, they are easier to spot and more obvious while fewer people are moving around as a result of the Level 4 restrictions,” says senior community constable Smith.

“Please follow the rules. The restrictions are all about saving lives.”

Police have also been getting reports of would-be thieves trying their luck during lockdown.

Residents in Blenheim’s De Castro subdivision have been targeted recently, with police receiving reports of daytime prowlers.

Senior community constable Smith is warning people to be on their guard after several homes were targeted.

“Some residents in the De Castro subdivision have been reporting that they have had prowlers trying to open external doors in daylight while the residents have been home during the Covid-19 Level 4 lockdown in recent days.

“To date, there have been several residents report hearing their front or rear door handle being tried, and when they have investigated the prowler has already left the property.

“Police are encouraging anyone who experiences similar activity, or who believes they have a prowler on their property to call Police on 111.”

 

Blenheim man Mark Bishell was arrested on Saturday on a yacht allegedly trafficking methamphetamines. Photo: Supplied.

Blenheim man caught in high seas drug bust

A former Blenheim man has been arrested after being caught on a yacht allegedly hauling hundreds of kilos of methamphetamines.

Mark Bishell, 33, was taken into custody by police on Saturday following a tip off from the New Caledonian authorities last week.

Bishell was on board the sailboat La Fayette when police uncovered more than 1000 plastic wrapped packages believed to be methamphetamine.

An Australian Federal Police spokesman says forensic experts are now carrying out tests on the drugs and the yacht.

British-South African Sebastian Seve Barnard, 34, has also been arrested.

“Specialist forensic officers are continuing to deconstruct the boat and examine the contents, which is believed to contain methamphetamine.

Packages found on the yacht, La Fayette. Photo: Australian Federal Police.
Packages found on the yacht, La Fayette. Photo: Australian Federal Police.

“Further forensic testing will be undertaken to determine the exact weight and purity of the seized substances,” a spokesman says.

Bishell, a former deckhand and fisherman, was rescued from near White’s Bay in 2011 after falling ill onboard a fishing boat with a serious bowel infection.

He was winched to safety amid high winds by the Westpac Rescue Helicopter crew.

The former Marlborough Boys’ College student was a keen rower and runner.

The two men were taken to Surry Hills Police Station and charged with importing a commercial quantity of border-controlled drugs.

Police say a “vessel of interest” travelled from Mexico to New Caledonia to meet the yacht La Fayette and load it with drugs.

Both Bishell and Barnard were refused bail after appearing before Parramatta Bail Court.

The pair were arrested on Saturday. Photo: Australian Federal Police.
The pair were arrested on Saturday. Photo: Australian Federal Police.

The maximum penalty for the offence is life imprisonment.

The spokesman says the investigation, codenamed Operation ROMANI, has been an ongoing operation with the UK’s National Crime Agency and its office in Canberra looking into British Organised Crime groups targeting Australia.

The multi-agency investigation included the Australian Federal Police (AFP), New South Wales Police Force (NSWPF) and Australian Border Force (ABF), collaborating with agencies from the United Kingdom and New Caledonia.

Saint Clair Vineyard Half Marathon organsiers Chris Shaw and Anna Polson have cancelled next year's event. Photo: Supplied.

Future of famous Marlborough marathon in jeopardy

Money woes have forced organisers behind one of Marlborough’s most famous races to pull the plug, with it’s long term future now uncertain.

The Saint Clair Vineyard Half Marathon has been cancelled for next year with promoters blaming the Covid-19 crisis for the change of heart.

Entrants will be refunded $30 from the average ticket of $99 as funds have already been spent preparing for this year’s race.

It has been an agonising decision to make, say co-ordinators Chris Shaw and Anna Polson who revealed refunding the entire fee would force the event into bankruptcy.

The pair have event insurance but pandemics are specified in the policy as non-payment events.

“We’ve put a lot of love and dedication into getting the race where it is today, and personally we’re devastated that our efforts have come to this. There have been some emails accusing us of being greedy and that makes me feel personally hurt.

“We’ve tried to be a generous member of the community and set out to give value back to the community. We haven’t just changed overnight.”

“We were hoping the event could take place in May 2021, but that’s not guaranteed by any means with the future of mass gatherings and events being so uncertain. We’re doing a good job at erradicating it [Covid-19] but,looking forward, we couldn’t say with any degree of certainty that we can hold it next year and to start preparing would be irresponsible, Chris says.

The event was originally postponed just days before lockdown officially begun.

All entries were transferred to a rescheduled race in May 2021 but that has now been shelved.

“We can’t be certain that the Vineyard Half planned for May 2021 will be able to go ahead either, so we will soon begin processing refunds to everyone who has entered this year’s event.

“We have agonised over the best process to refund and looked at the range of responses from other events.  We’re uncomfortable with the ‘refund nothing’ model, and ‘refund everything’ would simply bankrupt us; meaning you get nothing, and the Vineyard Half no longer exists,” Chris says.

All merchandise will be completely refunded, and organisers will donate any refunds not taken to race charity Bowel Cancer NZ.

The 14-year-old event has attracted thousands of people to the region and is a crucial way for Bowel Cancer NZ to raise funds.

Chris says he knows the lockdown has had an affect on the whole community.

“This has been an incredibly stressful and difficult time for us.

“We know everyone out there will be affected by this pandemic, so we hope you’ll understand how and why we’ve had to make this difficult decision.”

 

This year's Anzac Day service will be different from any previously held. Photo: File

Driveways at dawn plea to honour Anzacs

People are being urged to pay tribute to veterans on Anzac Day by joining in a dawn commemoration with a twist.

For the first time in history, Anzac Day services across New Zealand have been cancelled; falling foul of the threat of Covid-19.

Marlborough RSA is calling for people to still mark the moment on 25 April by standing at letterboxes, front doors, and driveways in tribute.

With the backing of the national RSA and NZ Defence Force, the Stand at Dawn initiative is a chance for the community to honour those that fought.

Marlborough RSA President Chris Bamber whole-heartedly supports the call.

“I know many of our veterans were upset that they could not stand with their comrades, friends and family to commemorate Anzac Day.

Marlborough RSA is encouraging veterans to wear their medals as normal. Photo: File.
Marlborough RSA is encouraging veterans to wear their medals as normal. Photo: File.

“I will be standing proudly at the end of my driveway, remembering our fallen, our veterans and our serving Defence Force personnel while also thinking of my family members who have passed that I can no longer stand beside in support on Anzac Day,” she says.

Marlborough RSA has been on hand throughout lockdown to offer help to members when needed.

Chris says she has been encouraged by the level of community support evident.

“Once again it shows how we all come together when needed in adverse situations.

“While our welfare team are assisting some members, on the whole most members have good support in place.

“I am encouraged by the level of support given to our vulnerable members by their neighbours, friends and families making sure they have groceries, prescriptions, social contact etc. ensuring they stay safe in their homes.”

Veterans are encouraged to wear their medals as they normally would.

Tune into Radio New Zealand on either their AM or FM frequencies, listen live on the internet or on your phone for the official dawn service broadcast commencing at 6:00 am.

The morning service includes:

– The Last Post

– Ode of Remembrance in Te Reo & English

– National Anthems

– Address by Hon. Ron Mark, Minister of Defence / Minister for Veterans

Student Volunteer Army lead picker Alison Faulls will coordinate the volunteer shoppers in Marlborough. Photo: Matt Brown.

Student army wages war against virus one trolley at a time

Volunteer shoppers have mobilised in Marlborough in a bid to provide help for the elderly and infirm.

A shopping and delivery service for over 65’s, the medically vulnerable and healthcare workers, staffed by Student Volunteer Army volunteers, launched in the region today.

Student Volunteer Army lead picker Alison Faulls says they’ve had a great response from the community.

“We currently have 9 fully registered volunteers from a range of backgrounds, with the interview process ongoing,” Alison says.

Orders are placed online through the SVA website, then volunteers in full PPE pick the groceries at New World, which opens early especially for the volunteers, before delivering them to the door.

Consideration is given to those who are otherwise vulnerable on a case by case basis.

It is a completely contact-free process.

“We have to follow all the procedures staff at New World do,” Alison says.

Alison, a Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment policy advisor, communicates with volunteers and the supermarket to ensure orders are picked up and meet the requirements of their customers.

“I’m the first point of contact for ensuring everything goes to plan,” she says.

Founded as a response to the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes the Student Volunteer Army work to provide community-based solutions and connection.

“I was drawn to the sense of community and the projects SVA ran, and volunteered with them from 2012 through to 2016,” Alison says.

Studying a Bachelor of Science and Master of Engineering Management at University of Canterbury, Alison served as an SVA executive for her final two years and says she’s excited to be a part of the initiative in Marlborough.

“We’ve had some great buy in from the high schools here and I’ve heard the head students have been encouraging others to get involved.”

Founder Sam Johnson says this is humanity at its best.

“We have been astounded with the response to what we are doing, from those willing to join the SVA as volunteers, the individuals in the community that require our service, and also the general public sentiment who recognise the support we are providing for the most vulnerable.

The service will continue for as long as is required.

SVA Grocery orders can be placed at www.shop.sva.org.nz and volunteers can register to help at www.sva.org.nz.

A Covid-19 sign at Wairau Hospital. Photo: Matt Brown.

No new Covid-19 cases in Marlborough for seven days

Marlborough is now marking a week without any new or probable cases of Covid-19.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has revealed there are just 15 new cases of the virus confirmed nationwide today.

A Nelson Marlborough Health spokesperson says there have been no new or probable cases in Nelson or Marlborough.

Twenty people visited a Community Based Assessment Centre yesterday and 19 swaps were taken.

Today, the total number of people who have recovered from COVID-19 in the Nelson Marlborough region is 30.

There could be more rentals on the market when the country leaves lockdown level four. Photo: Supplied.

Airbnb crash could solve rental shortage

Out of luck renters looking for their next home could see some relief as property owners look to convert their empty Airbnbs.

Blenheim-based property managers are predicting Airbnb owners may make the switch as tourism around the country dries up.

But until lockdown restrictions are lifted, the rental market is on hold.

Harcourts Marlborough senior property manager Lavina Diamanti says the move could help ease pressure and housing shortages.

There are 16 rental properties in Marlborough listed on Trademe, with one in Kaikoura and one in Picton while Airbnb lists more than 100 places to stay in the region.

“We’ve had a real shortage of rentals and a lot of people struggling to find a home,” Lavina says.

“Potentially, we could have a more balanced market.”

She says Marlborough’s demographic and industry means, typically, Marlborough isn’t hit as hard by downturns in the property market.

But she says predicting the effect of Covid-19 on the market is “crystal ball stuff”.

First National Marlborough senior property manager Mariette Knudsen says rental demand has plummeted as people isolate themselves to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“There are quite a few Airbnb in Blenheim and there are cancellations happening everywhere,” she says.

“The nice ones with good reviews will probably hold on,” Mariette says.

“I think there will be Airbnb’s coming onto the market, but not all of them.”

She says the increase in stock most likely won’t affect the price of a rental.

“It’s supply and demand,” she says.

“People still need a place to live.”

She says rent increases across New Zealand are caused by a combination of demand and the new healthy homes requirements.

“Being a landlord myself, it’s affected us considerably.

“If there is an adjustment, I don’t think it will be a major one.”