Charles Anderson

Plugging the measles vaccination gap

Nelson Marlborough Health is ramping up efforts to find young people in the region who may have missed out on the measles vaccine.

According to the health board’s data there are 8500 people between the ages of 15 and 30 across the Top of the South, however it’s not clear how many of them are still needing to get vaccinated for the disease.

“There are many people in that age group that missed out on those childhood vaccinations for a whole lot of different reasons,” says associate director of nursing Jill Clendon. “They have slipped through the gaps.”

So, the health board is instead advocating anyone in that age group who is unsure if they had the MMR vaccine to come in, just in case.

“We would rather have people get it than miss out,” Jills says. “If you don’t know, it’s best to get immunised. It’s safe to have an extra dose of the vaccine.”

The vaccine is free and protects and measles, mumps and rubella. Last year, 2000 Kiwis got sick from measles and 700 of them needed to be hospitalised.

The symptoms of measles start with little white spots in the mouth which develops into respiratory illness. But the consequences can be serious as it can cause swilling on the brain and other conditions that can be fatal.

“We are targeting everybody,” Jill says.

She says that measles is highly contagious. If you have one person that catches the disease they will likely spread it to 12-18 others. Covid-19, on the other hand, will only be spread to an average of two people.

Jill says we need 95 percent of people to be immune to reach ‘community immunity’, sometimes known as ‘herd immunity’ and help stop future outbreaks.

“It’s a challenge. It’s really hard to engage people in this age group. Getting them in the doors is really tough. But the vaccine is free and easy and is going to be protecting not only yourself but your mates.”

It is available at GP clinics, at pharmacies, schools and at pop up clinics around the region. Health staff will also be going into some businesses to administer the vaccine. For more information head to

Avalanche dog handler Cait Hall with Rosko and Rainbow Ski Area’s general manager James Lazor. Photo: Charles Anderson.

Meet Rosko, Rainbow’s snow dog

If you are heading up Rainbow Ski Area before the close of the season you might be surprised to see something not usually permitted in a national park – a canine.

But Rosko is no ordinary dog. The labrador, German shorthaired pointer cross is a specially-trained avalanche dog that is our best line of defense in case tragedy strikes.

“A dog is unbelievably efficient at getting an avalanche field, not disturbing it and locating a victim,” says Rainbow Ski Area’s general manager James Lazor. “If there is an avalanche, time is of the essence.”

But until Rosko arrived for the last part of the ski season, the closest avalanche dog was in Methven.

“We call them, and we are looking at three hours before a dog gets here.”

James says with spring conditions heating up the snowpack and more skiers heading out into the backcountry, there is a big risk of avalanches. On top of that, James says Rainbow has some of the best snow coverage in the country right now.

“If they don’t check in with us, we don’t know,” says James. “If a witness sees an avalanche then tells us we have to mobilise and we are under that crunch.”

So, the Rainbow team are working with LandSar, police and the Department of Conservation to help train for avalanche scenarios and James says having Rosko there has made all the difference.

But Rosko wouldn’t be up the mountain if it wasn’t for his handler Cait Hall who has taken him through all the training needed to get him certified. First, she had to find him, though.

“Really it comes down to going with the gut. They need to pass obedience tests and be able to work with other dogs. They need to be able to stay in once place and come back to the handler without being distracted.”

The hope is for Rainbow to get its own permanent dog – but at the end of the season Rosko will head back to Wanaka with Cait.

James says he wants skiers to be more aware of avalanche risk when up Rainbow. Behind the rental shed there is a board that is updated daily with the snow conditions.

He says that people wanting to head back country should always check in with staff, so they know where they are going.

Nelson Marlborough Health chief executive Peter Bramley and Tasman Rugby Union’s commercial and marketing manager Les Edwards celebrate their recent health partnership. Photo: Sara Hollyman.

Aiming to kick sugar for touch

In a first for New Zealand rugby, the region’s health board has signed up with the Tasman union to become its official health and wellbeing partner.

Nelson Marlborough Health (NMH) has replaced the union’s former partner, Coca Cola Powerade, and will see the Mako players promote health initiatives.

As part of the three-year, $15,000 deal, the Tasman Rugby Union will encourage positive health-related decisions and behaviour among its stadium audiences, club rugby communities and schools.

Its focus will be on the reduction of sugar consumption, the promotion of smoke free environments, alcohol harm reduction and promoting metal wellbeing and resilience.

NMH chief executive Peter Bramley says the partnership as an “innovative and powerful” public health initiative.

“As the official health and wellbeing partner of the Tasman Rugby Union, we can leverage the influence that Mako players have among youngsters in our region. We can also the reach the TRU has into clubs, schools and the wider community, to inspire positive health decisions and behaviour.”

He says the sponsorship is a “prudent investment”, even amid revelations that the health board is in a $20 million deficit.

“It costs as much as $5000 to remove one child’s teeth under general anaesthetic and we are seeing far too many children needing this kind of unnecessary hospital care in our region.

“The terrible health effects of sugary drinks don’t stop at teeth – sugary drinks are the cause of obesity, diabetes and other serious health conditions that are a heavy burden on every DHB’s finances.”

Tasman Rugby Union chief executive Tony Lewis says that promoting healthier living to its player base is important to them individually and as players in an active competitive sport.

“As a union we are excited to be working progressively with NMH over three years to achieve our collective goal of encouraging our players to reduce their sugar intake and to be mentally and physically healthier.”

NMH health promotion manager Lauren Ensor says being sponsored by Coca Cola seemed to be “inappropriate” because surgery drinks were the main cause of sugar in New Zealander’s diets.

“We aim to see an increasing health focus within rugby locally over the coming years and hopefully that inspires other unions and New Zealand Rugby to follow suit.”

Nathan Haines is coming to Blenheim as part of a 25th anniversary tour. Photo: Supplied.

Nathan Haines makes triumphant return

A year and a half ago, chart-topping Kiwi jazz musician Nathan Haines was weeks into a months-long fight against throat cancer, a battle that would at times rob him of his voice, his energy and his plans for the future.

Post-treatment, the ambitious young man who left New Zealand in his teens and put out the first of 10 solo albums at age 22 is re-releasing an album and going on tour.

“This time is very special. I have reassembled the band I put together 25 years ago,” he says.

The album, Shift Left, marked the beginnings of a career that has taken Haines all over the world. It was also hugely influential in the New Zealand music landscape.

“I had no idea back then the influence that it would have.”

When he started there was no blueprint for the sort of music he was creating, so Haines started from scratch.

“There are some things about the album that I might not do now but I was 22,” he says. “But there is some fantastic musicianship on it.”

But all that legacy threatened to come crashing down when he was diagnosed with cancer. Haines didn’t know if he would even be able to talk let alone play again.

Nathan Haines is coming to Blenheim as part of a 25th anniversary tour. Photo: Supplied.
Nathan Haines is coming to Blenheim as part of a 25th anniversary tour. Photo: Supplied.

He managed to teach his other throat muscles to do the work. He swore off alcohol and coffee and negotiated ongoing radiation therapy.

“That was the most difficult part of the whole thing. I’m still dealing with the side effects daily,” he says.

But Haines thinks that he is now playing as good as he ever has.

He will also have some good company. The musicians who helped him on that first album are also coming out to accompany him on tour.

“It’s going to be a milestone,” Nathan says. “It’s been a journey, but I feel incredibly blessed to be here to do what I’m good at. I have an incredible passion and love for music.”

Nathan Haines plays at the Trafalgar Centre on August 17. Tickets through

The Marlborough Weekly has a double pass to give away. Email [email protected] with your name and contact details by 14 August to be entered into the draw.