Matt Brown

Matt Brown

Marie Large and Abbie Large from Large's Rose Nursery. Photo: Malinda Boniface.

Tempting fete

Wet weather failed to dampen spirits at this year’s popular Rapaura Springs Garden Marlborough a fete as hundreds turned out in support.

The annual market featuring an array of stall holders from across Marlborough and further afield was held at Blenheim’s Pollard Park on Sunday.

Umbrellas and gum boots were the order of the day for many after a bout of wet weather overnight.

Showers cleared as the day progressed, with people happy to be out and about.

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) general manager border and visa operations Nicola Hogg. Photo: Supplied.

Crisis looms for $2b wine industry

A horticultural disaster is looming as a lack of vital workers threatens the region’s $2billion wine industry.

Imported workers under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme are in short supply, with less than half of the potential 14,400 workers currently in the country.

And one employer is warning the situation will only get worse.

Seasonal Solutions chief executive Helen Axby says the ideal solution would be a travel bubble with Vanuatu.

“There’s been a shortage of labour and there’s going to be a shortage of labour.

“A lot of places where RSE staff come from are Covid free,” Helen says.

RSE workers who are currently outside of New Zealand are not allowed in until Covid border restrictions are lifted.

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) general manager border and visa operations Nicola Hogg says there are about 1700 RSE workers in Marlborough, with the number is likely to change as workers move around the country.

But Helen says that number will drop.

“For our RSE staff we made the decision to charter an aircraft two weeks ago – that took 340-odd home.

“Not because we don’t need them for work – but we feared for their mental health.

“They’ve been stranded here.”

About 3000 workers are needed to complete the harvest and pruning – and there are not enough Kiwis to fill the shortfall.

“One RSE worker is worth one and a half other workers, at least,” Helen says.

“Some of them have eight or nine years experience.

“They think it’s going to be a little easier to recruit Kiwis, but there won’t be enough.”

In August, the government extended RSE visas by six months for those still in New Zealand and unable to return home.

“This allows RSE workers with visa expiry dates between 18 August and 31 December 2020 to stay and work in New Zealand,” Nicola says.

“This visa extension gives approximately 6,700 RSE workers still in New Zealand, and their employers, more certainty about worker availability for the coming season.”

She says the RSE worker cap of 14,400 will not be increased this year as planned due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month the government also announced that around 11,000 Working Holiday Scheme visa holders who are in New Zealand, with visas expiring between November 2020 and March 2021, will be automatically granted Supplementary Seasonal Employment (SSE) visas.

“This allows them to work until 30 June 2021 in horticulture and viticulture seasonal roles where there are not enough New Zealanders available to do the work,” Nicola says.

“Immigration New Zealand (INZ) recognises the impact that COVID-19 continues to have on businesses and migrants and their loved ones.”

Helen says the critical issue will come next winter.

“This is when staff demand is at its height.

“It will become a critical issue.”

She says the industry won’t have the luxury to utilise staff stuck in New Zealand come next pruning season.

“Next year’s pruning will come up us much sooner than we expect.”

Helen says in a perfect world, the government would recognise Covid-free countries.

“These guys [RSE workers] are very experienced in Covid-19 because they have lived and worked through a level 4 lockdown,” she says.

“They’ve travelled between regions with all the special permissions.

“On returning home, they’ve done a 14-day quarantine.

“They have a lot of experience looking after themselves and remaining Covid-free.

“A bubble with Vanuatu would be the ideal situation.”

About 65 members of the NZ Alvis Club, including Marlburian Ashley McKenzie, pictured, will treat the region to a rally of the iconic vehicle. Photo: Matt Brown.

Alvis rally comes to town

A rally to celebrate the 100th birthday of a popular vintage car will take to the roads this weekend.

One century on from the first commercial Alvis running off the production line in Coventry, England, about 30 of the 1920-styled vehicles will be touring through the region.

Alvis aficionado Ashley McKenzie has helped organise the rally and hopes the public will turn out to admire the vintage vehicles.

“I want to show the passion and dedication that people put into their vehicles,” Ashley says.

About 65 members of the NZ Alvis Club, from Kaitaia to Invercargill, will enjoy local roads and tourist venues, including a mailboat cruise through the Marlborough Sounds.

Ashley says Covid nearly put paid to the rally, and about five participants from overseas had to pull out.

“What overseas entrants that were here have left the country.”

But New Zealand’s Alvis showing is strong, with the oldest vehicle from 1925 to one of the last 1967 models expected to be on display.

Ashley’s 1952 Alvis TA21 needs strong arms as power steering is uncommon on early British cars.

Its 3-litre 6-cylinder 100bhp engine posts a top speed of about 95 miles per hour – about 150kmph.

“It’s a very drivable car,” Ashley says, although there’s a bit of a knack to getting in the front suicide doors.

“You sort of do a half circle and get in,” he says.

Ashley came by the car by chance in the 70s.

“I went to the wreckers on Main St on a Friday. The wrecker said, this is the car you should have.

“I took it away for $50.

“I hate to think what it’s cost me since.”

The 3-litre 6-cylinder 100bhp engine.
The 3-litre 6-cylinder 100bhp engine.

The Alvis Car and Engineering Company produced racing cars, aircraft engines, armoured cars and other armoured fighting vehicles.

Ashley says cars were secondary to the company, behind their military contracts.

“The majority of them [cars] were bought for their performance; even in the 20’s they were way above the market in terms of performance.”

Alvis were ahead of their time in many ways, pioneering front-wheel-drive vehicles, independent front suspension, servo-assisted brakes and the world’s first all-synchromesh gearbox.

Ashley says there are a lot of Alvis vehicles in New Zealand, despite the factory only producing 23,000 vehicles in its lifetime.

“New Zealand was their largest market outside the UK – their biggest sales area,” he says.

“There was a strong dealer network here.”

The vehicles are still being found in barns and garages around the country.

Ashley says one recently sold in Nelson that had just one owner since the 1950s.

“They’re generally pretty well priced.

“There’s one online now for around $18,000 – you wouldn’t find a more quality car.

“They’re sought after.”

Keep your eyes peeled for a convoy of the 1930’s styled vehicle this weekend, and for a closer look head to Patchett’s

Green, just behind the Vintage Car Club rooms at Brayshaw Green, on Sunday from 9am to 1pm.

Petition organiser Mia Yealands with her terriers, Archie and Wolf. Photo: Matt Brown.

Petition for pooch freedom

Dog owners are biting back against a proposal which could see dogs confined to leads along parts of the Taylor River.

Marlborough District Council are set to tighten bylaws around dogs roaming free.

The move would see pets put on a lead from The Quays, near Raupo café to the Burleigh Bridge.

A group of dog lovers have started a petition against the proposed bylaw changes.

Petition organiser Mia Yealands says it would be sad to reduce the size of the central off-leash dog park.

“We come here for the run, the water and the wide-open spaces.

“If it changed it would affect so many people.

“We don’t want this to happen.”

Mia reckons tensions between cyclists and dogs (and their owners) are to blame for the potential change in rules.

“Since council increased the footpath, there have been a lot more bikes and they go too fast.

“They [cyclists] treat it like a training path,” she says.

Animal Control contract manager Jane Robertson says the area is where they see the most conflict between different users

“We have had instances of uncontrolled dogs and also owners not cleaning up after their dogs in this area,” Jane says.

Other proposed changes in the draft bylaw include allowing dogs into Blenheim’s CBD if they are on a leash and under control and increasing the restricted area around playgrounds for dogs from three to ten metres.

Prohibiting dogs from Blenheim’s Pollard Park and Ward Beach, is also proposed.

“We want input from dog owners and the general public to make sure our policy and bylaw works for everyone in our region,” she says.

Following the consultation period hearings will take place in early December when submitters will have the opportunity to speak.

Mia says moving the areas where dogs can run off lead – down the Burleigh end of the Taylor River – would make it difficult for dog owners with mobility issues to exercise their companions.

“One of the concerns we have is there are a lot of elderly who would find the terrain difficult.

“Dogs are a part of the community, too,” she says.

“They help people, they’re good for your mental health.

Consultation on the Marlborough District Council Dog Control Policy and Bylaw is underway and will run for six weeks, closing at 5.00 pm on Monday 9 November.

Gardener Kirsty Wraight. Photo: Matt Brown.

Glorious Marlborough gardens on show

A blossoming passion for plants has seen a husband and wife team open their garden up to help charity.

The St Andrews Annual Garden Tour is gearing up for another spectacular spring show.

And keen gardener Kirsty Wraight is ready to share her slice of paradise, Willows Garden, in Fairhall to help raise money for charity.

She says she still has a lot she wants to do in her three-year-old garden.

“It’s getting done slowly. It’s a real hobby for us,” she says.

Kirsty and her husband David spend a lot of their free time pottering about in the garden.

“We love it [the garden] and the fresh air.

She says after introducing David to gardening, he’s now surpassed her in skill.

“David is the number one gardener, he does all the hard work,” she laughs.

Visitors can look forward to seeing a wooded walkway complete with camelias, rhododendrons and hydrangeas.

Kirsty says their native lake-side plantings have become a priority as the couple welcome more native birds to their garden.

“We get a lot of bird life, which is nice,” Kirsty says.

“We’re getting a lot of Tui at the moment.”

“It’s something we both love and get a lot of joy from.”

Willows Garden is one of ten gardens on this year’s tour.

The St Andrew’s Church Annual Garden Tour is on the 17th and 18th of October, from 10am to 4pm.

Tickets and programmes are on sale at Roselands Pet and Plants, Devon Nursery, Selmes Trust, Islington Gardens, Morgans Road Nursery, Cresswells and the church office.

Included in the $20 ticket price is a scarecrow competition and display.

Entries for the scarecrow competition can be handed in to the church office.

Problems with the Ōpaoa River Bridge build will delay completion. File photo.

Defects discovered on multimillion-dollar bridge

Routine tests on Marlborough’s multimillion-dollar bridge have uncovered road defects that will delay completion.

A problem with the asphalt on the Ōpaoa River Bridge was discovered by road workers carrying out standard quality control tests.

The construction company will have to pay for vital repairs delaying completion on the 10-metre wide bridge until the end of the year.

Originally expected to open in mid-2020, the bridge was set to cost around $21 million but has jumped to almost $22.7 million.

Waka Kotahi senior manager for project delivery Andy Thackwray says rigorous testing is carried out to find any potential problems.

“During construction, as road surfacing work is carried out, the pavement is subjected to robust testing so we can identify and remedy any issues before a project is completed.

“In this case, the top surfacing asphalt layer on the bridge was found to have deficiencies that, if left, would have resulted in replacement being required much sooner than its expected design life.

“The cost of remedial work will be at the contractor’s expense,” he says.

Final work on the bridge is expected to continue until mid-October with road bosses hoping to celebrate completion late this year.

Waka Kotahi has kept project delays to a minimum over the Covid-19 lockdown.

While pavement works will be completed in mid-October, smaller projects, including landscaping, work on the heritage bridge, and reinstatement of the holiday camp below the new bridge will continue into November.

“With the project progressing so well we’re now starting to plan how we can properly celebrate the completion of this important regional project alongside our partners, stakeholders and community,” Andy says.

“This will be a truly spectacular asset for the community.”

Motorists are being warned to expect delays while works continue.

Drivers are asked to please plan and be patient while the essential works are completed.

In the likelihood of bad weather, these works will be postponed for the next fine day.

  • Monday 5 October – Friday 9 October: Day-time STOP/GO from 8:30am-2:30pm each day (excluding Friday and Saturday days)
  • Monday 12 October – Friday 16 October: Day-time STOP/GO will be used anytime between 8:30am-2:30pm each day (will only be in place whilst concrete is being poured)


Fire services rushed to put out the fire at the Forum in February this year. Photo: Matt Brown.

Tea towels likely cause in Forum fire

Tumble-dried tea towels are being blamed as the most likely cause of a blaze which caused about $1.5 million dollars of damage.

Official investigations into the Forum fire in Blenheim have revealed the hot tea towels likely sparked the fire.

The inner-city fire in February this year caused disruption, damage and heartache for several local business and left a hefty bill for building owners.

Building owner Toni Gillan says the consequences of the fire have been devastating.

She says the building is still being remediated but in the meantime CBD Café owners, who declined to comment, had moved out.

There were two fire investigations as well as an electrical expert brought in from Wellington to determine the cause of the fire, Toni says.

But there was no definitive cause found.

Emergency services were called to the CBD Café in February this year.

Witnesses at the scene at the time described billowing, black smoke coming from the popular eatery.

The café and other businesses were closed at the time and no one was hurt.

The dozen tenants at the central development went without power for about a month – some much longer.

Many businesses – like the popular Dolce restaurant, having to shut their doors until services were restored.

The Marlborough Cancer Society found new premises and aren’t likely to return, Toni says.

Fire & Emergency New Zealand specialist fire investigator Craig Piner says insurance specialists believed the tea towels self-ignited.

“They believe that these towels didn’t spend long enough in the dryer’s cool cycle before being placed in a store room, self-heating and starting the fire,” Craig says.

“They therefore believe that the fire cause was accidental self-ignition of cleaning towels.”

Craig says neither the insurance company or Fire & Emergency found evidence to suggest that it was a deliberately lit fire and found nothing suspicious surrounding the cause.

“This is a good example of materials self-igniting after washing and drying.

“We remind people who use clothes driers to ensure that the full cool down cycle is completed before removing clothes from the drier.

“This allows clothes etc the opportunity to cool sufficiently and prevents this sort of fire occurring.”

Several restaurants have gone up in flames from the spontaneous ignition of oil-contaminated tea towels.

It took more than a dozen fire appliances to extinguish a blaze in a Hamilton restaurant, in 2016, caused by tea towels that had been pulled out of a dryer and left in a basket in the rear of the restaurant.

A fire at West Coast school, in 2015, was caused by rags and tea towels in a clothes dryer combusting about 20 minutes after the dryer switched off.

CBD Café owners declined to comment.

Marlborough Citizens Advice volunteer Tiffany Cross. Photo: Matt Brown.

Online only move puts people at risk

Vulnerable people are at risk of losing access to vital services, a community organisation warns.

A bid to move government services online and out of local communities is putting some people at risk say Citizen Advice Bureau (CAB) staff.

Now staff have launched a petition calling for government bosses to urgently address digital exclusion.

Marlborough Citizens Advice volunteer Tiffany Cross says the move to online-only is deeply concerning and affects a large cross-section of society.

“People of all ages are coming to us stressed and frustrated about their experiences of trying to access government services,” she says.

“It’s getting harder to access human support from government agencies, but people’s need for face-to-face services is as real as ever.”

A report, released by CAB just before Covid restrictions in New Zealand, reveals digital exclusion affects people across all demographics.

The report, ‘Face to Face with Digital Exclusion’ puts the spotlight on the impacts of government digital services on inclusion and wellbeing in society

“While online services are great for some people, the drive towards online-only is leaving some of the most vulnerable members of the community behind.”

Tiffany says CAB is left to pick up the pieces and shoulder the costs.

“Many of these individuals seek the support of the CAB because they need access to face-to-face services, paper-based resources, and empathetic human connection.

“In the report, it is made clear that the public sector is relying heavily on the goodwill of the Citizens Advice Bureau and its volunteers, to fill the gap from government’s withdrawal from face-to-face and paper-based service delivery.

“This has a very real impact on local CABs who are carrying the burden of this cost-shifting by government agencies.”

The CAB is asking all candidates in the upcoming election to support the recommendations of its digital exclusion report and pledge their support to the following:


  1. Leave no-one behind:

Ensure that steps are taken to address digital exclusion and that no-one is left behind or left out because they can’t or don’t wish to engage online.

  1. Public services accessible to all:

Implement accessibility and inclusion standards for the delivery of public services that include offline channels as part of the proactive design of government service delivery.

  1. CAB compensated for cost-shifting:

Ensure that the Citizens Advice Bureau is properly funded to meet the demands and cost-shifting that has resulted from government services going online.

The CAB has issued a pledge statement for candidates to sign up to. It is also asking for the public to get behind this by signing a petition, and Tiffany wants to assure people that “paper copies of the petition will also be available at your local CAB.”

Battle of Britain airmen remembered 80 years in

The gathered crowd fell silent as overhead two Marlborough Warbirds flew by, their wings outlined against a perfect blue sky.

About 100 people gathered in the September sunshine on Sunday at Seymour Square to remember the New Zealand airmen who died in the Battle of Britain.

Commemorating the 80th anniversary of the famous air battle, Marlborough Mayor John Leggett welcomed guests and Officer Commanding Base Woodbourne, Wing Commander Peter De Rungs.

The service at the Blenheim War Memorial clock tower was attended by 32 military personnel from RNZAF Base Woodbourne.

A total of 135 New Zealand airmen flew with the Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain which lasted from May 10 to October 31, 1940.

It was the RAF resistance to the Luftwaffe aerial bombing campaign of southern England that effectively prevented the German invasion of the British Isles, a turning point in World War Two.

Airmen from all over the Commonwealth, including New Zealand, served in RAF Fighter Command.

Heagney Bros chief executive Mickayla Kerr with their new Scania logging truck. Photo: Matt Brown.

Trucking toward the future

Six-hundred and twenty horsepower, automatic deflating tyres and a computer that scores the driver on their skills – Heagney’s newest logging truck, Truck #35, has everything but the kitchen sink.

Purpose-built for logging to exacting specifications designed by Heagney Bros owners Peter and Patrick Heagney, the trucking stalwarts embraced the opportunity to include the latest safety and environmental features in the Scania Euro V.

Heagney Bros chief executive Mickayla Kerr says the latest noise reduction technology in the heavy vehicle is a welcome feature – especially when travelling through built up areas.

The 620 horsepower, 16-litre V8 boasts an impressive 3,000 newton meters of torque. 
The 620 horsepower, 16-litre V8 boasts an impressive 3,000 newton meters of torque.

“Our drivers are out as early at 3.30am in the morning collecting their first load of the day and with more and more forests being located near or having to travel past residential areas this feature reduces the distinctive noise and rattle of logging trucks,” she says.

“Scania is known for a quiet ride and has a retarder rather than an engine brake making its braking system quiet in built up areas.

“This combined with the lay over bolster system removes the distinctive rattle of the pins as logging trucks drive by.”

Fitted with an 8-speed automatic gear box, the 620 horsepower, 16-litre V8, 54 tonne Scania boasts an impressive 3,000 newton meters of torque.

The EBS braking system and the onboard computer, which measures the trucks weight, adapts to ensure braking is efficient, safe and reliable.

Winches constantly tighten the chains while driving, ensuring that even when a load settles that chains do not come loose while the tyre inflation monitors keeps all the tyres at the correct pressure, reducing tyre wear.
Winches constantly tighten the chains while driving, ensuring that even when a load settles that chains do not come loose while the tyre inflation monitors keeps all the tyres at the correct pressure, reducing tyre wear.

Patchell Group sales manager Glenn Heybourn weighed in on the design of the purpose-built Patchell logging frame and trailer.

“The design length of the trailer was created specifically with safety in mind to enable 6.1 meter logs to be double bunked rather than a single stacked,” Glenn says.

“This reduces the centre of gravity of the load making it safer giving it one of the safest SRT (Static Roll threshold) on the road today.”

Mickayla says the truck has all the tricks, like air operated winches, early bearing failure detectors and central tyre inflation monitors.

The winches constantly tighten the chains while driving, ensuring that even when a load settles that chains do not come loose while the tyre inflation monitors keeps all the tyres at the correct pressure, reducing tyre wear.

It also provides warning if there is a flat tyre and enables the driver to reduce tyre pressure to increase the surface area of the tyre when the conditions require extra traction.

Rob Graham, a member of the Heagney Bros team for more than 15 years has been selected as the driver of the new truck.

The truck was purpose-built for logging to exacting specifications designed by Heagney Bros owners Peter and Patrick Heagney.
The truck was purpose-built for logging to exacting specifications designed by Heagney Bros owners Peter and Patrick Heagney.

Truck #35 will evaluate Rob’s driving, using a Communicator 300.

The reporting tool provides weekly and monthly reporting scoring the drivers performance on fuel, efficiency, and emissions.

But the truck is also built for comfort.

Rob enjoys leather seats, all the safety features and even a fridge to keep the sammys cold.

Redesigned windows, more mirrors and a forward driving position gives him unparalleled vision – especially useful when navigating tricky skid sites.

“It’s a great example of a local business leading innovation and safety,” Mickayla says.