Matt Brown

Matt Brown

Kathryn Martin, former Silver Fern Yvonne Willering and Claire Martin at a fan event in Liverpool last year. Photo: Supplied.

Netball nut wins big

A love of the game has seen a self-confessed netball nut net a prize for two to the next world cup in South Africa.

Claire Martin from Blenheim scooped a package for two to the Netball World Cup 2023 in Cape Town.

The huge netball fan is bringing her mum with her for the once in a lifetime trip.

Claire impressed International Netball Foundation with her tie-breaking skills to win the competition.

“I’m very stoked, and so is mum.

“They emailed me at the beginning of August. I couldn’t believe it – I thought it was a joke.

“I was going to go anyway, although I have no idea how I was going to get the money.

“It’s perfect for a netball nut like me.”

Claire, who has just moved to Lower Hutt where she works for a payroll company, went to the World Cup in Liverpool last year.

“It’s a bit of a tradition, now – I went to the Sydney World Cup four years prior,” she says.

After returning from Liverpool, Claire says she wanted to support the federation’s charity, Creating Choices.

It was her $10 donation that ultimately led to her big win.

“There was a box on the form – you could enter a competition – it was just 15 words about what netball means to you.

“I choose netball because it has given me the confidence to take challenges head-on and grab rare opportunities,” she wrote.

“I never thought I would win.”

The prize includes return flights, four-star hotel accommodation and two tickets for the duration of the competition.

“I was in complete shock and it’s taken a while to process the fact I’ve won such an incredible prize.

The first person I called was my mum; the who, how and why to my love of netball and the one that will be joining me on this experience of a lifetime.”

“I can’t wait for Cape Town 2023.”

File photo.

Warming region brings bud burst early

Record-breaking winter temperatures have triggered early budburst for some grape growers.

Plant and Food Research scientist Rob Agnew says last month was the fifth warmest August since records began.

And some early variety grapes are already starting to burst ahead of schedule.

Data shows Blenheim’s winter temperatures have markedly warmed over the past few decades.

But grape growers aren’t too worried, with one hoping the early start will translate to an early harvest.

Grower Ben McLauchlan says the “real, real early” bud burst is just “nature taking its course”.

“It’s one of those things,” he says. “We’ve got frost machines.”

“Investment in frost protection is critical.”

Rob says the three winter months in 2020, June, July and August, recorded well above average mean temperatures.

“The mean winter air temperature of 9.5 degrees Celsius was 0.9 degrees Celsius warmer than the LTA [long term average].

“The winter of 2020 is now the second warmest winter on record for Blenheim.”

Grower Dave Trolove has chardonnay grapes starting to show some bud movement at his vineyard at the bottom of Waihopai Rd.

“It’s been pretty dry and warm the last couple of months, which could bring it [bud burst] forward.

“But it only takes a couple cold spells to slow things down again,” Dave says.

He says bud burst is probably a bit earlier, but in the southern valleys the season usually starts a bit later.

“Growers can’t afford to worry too much,” he says.

Rob says Blenheim’s winters are now far warmer than they were in the mid-20th century.

“23 ground frosts were recorded over winter, compared to the LTA of 37.3.

“This is the lowest total number of winter ground frosts recorded in Blenheim over the 89 years 1932 to 2020.”

The record low number of frosts doesn’t mean mother nature doesn’t have another in store.

“Those early varieties, the chardonnay and pinot, you’re never out of frosts when they come through,” Ben says.

Rainfall is also lacking in the region, with hoped for heavy winter falls not materialising.

“Total rainfall for the 8-months January to August 2020 is 269.8 mm,” Rob says.

“This is the fourth lowest January to August rainfall total on record for Blenheim for the 91 years 1930 to 2020.

“As signalled in the last couple of months, Blenheim needed well above average rainfall over winter in order to make up for the lack of rainfall earlier in 2020.

“This hasn’t happened, and many soil types will still be below field capacity going into the spring.”

Bohally school brainboxes Oliver Wakelin and Ted Small. Photo: Matt Brown.

Brainy Bohally boys’ TV quiz quest

Two young brainboxes are taking their quizzing skills to the small screen.

Bohally school pupils Ted Small and Oliver Wakelin will stretch their thinking abilities in upcoming episodes of popular TV2 children’s quiz show Brain Busters.

But don’t ask them how they went, they’re not allowed to say.

“It’s an awesome experience. At first, I was really nervous. Once I started getting the questions right, I was okay,” Oliver says.

The year 8 student filmed at the Christchurch studio about a month ago – his episode is scheduled to air next Wednesday.

Ted says he can’t wait to make the trip to Whitebait Media’s filming space, tomorrow (Wednesday) with one of his parents.

“I’m not super nervous. The fact I even got on the show is pretty good,” he says.

It’s not easy to make the cut – the selection process to compete in the quiz is tough.”

The two students are both in Bohally’s FPSG – Future Problem Solving Group – and they say the entry quiz, used to determine a student’s suitability, is on the “harder side”.

“If they think you did well enough on the quiz, you get an audition,” Oliver says.

Studio executives then gave the young quizzers a Skype or Zoom call.

“They asked our name and interests and had us complete some practice questions,” Ted says.

The new quiz show challenges year eight and nine students through various rounds of  quiz questions with the final two contestants racing on an obstacle course.

“The quiz is only half the show,” Oliver says.

The first round, with all four contestants, test their general knowledge. Then they pick a specialist subject – Oliver’s was history and Ted’s, mathematics.

“I was worried I was going to do really bad, that I was going to bomb out,” Oliver says.

He says it depends how the questions fall, especially with pop culture – pointing out that he wasn’t born when Friends first aired on television.

“A guy on my show was asked a question about Shortland Street – none of us had any idea,” he laughs.

Then comes the physical challenge – a course with puzzles, ziplines, obstacles and a race to the finish.

Finally, the winner from the obstacle course gets the opportunity to win money in a final quick-fire question round.

“You get $100 regardless, and you can earn more if you make it to the final round,” Oliver says.

Ted says he’s aiming for the number one spot and isn’t sure what he will spend his prize money on.

“It’s cool all the effort that goes into it,” he says.

Oliver’s looking to invest in metal detecting tools.

“It’s the best quiz show – mainly because I’ve been on it.”

AppliancePlus Blenheim owner Michael Fitzpatrick. Photo: Matt Brown.

Reno plans dashed by whiteware wait

Kiwis turning to home renovations in the wake of Covid-19 are facing lengthy waits for whiteware.

Low interest rates and soaring house prices have seen people cashing in to carry out renovation work.

But a world-wide shortage of appliances is being felt across Marlborough, with some customers waiting weeks for new goods.

Kitchen and laundry appliances, like ovens and washing machines, are in short supply with some models taking nearly two months to arrive on our shores.

AppliancePlus Blenheim owner Michael Fitzpatrick says a surge of buyers as the coronavirus pandemic closed factories around the world created the “perfect storm”

“Most appliances we’re ordering today are not available,” Michael says.

“We’re waiting one or two months for stock, some even longer.”

“We’ve got multiple brands and plenty of stock but ff it’s not in store, it’s a six week wait.”

Michael says appliance sales are up across the board throughout the country.

“It’s a combination of no holidays for 12 months and low interest rates triggering excess capital for home improvements.

“Out of COVID we had a massive surge and suppliers haven’t been able to catch up.

100% Herkt Appliances store owner Lisa Herkt says there have been “massive disruptions” in the supply chain.

“There may be ovens sitting in factories in Thailand 98 per cent complete waiting on a component from Europe,” she says.

“Covid is still happening worldwide on a grand scale.

“Things are dribbling through, but not at the scale they were. We’ve been in the game for 30-odd years and we’ve never seen anything like it. It’s bizarre.”

She says disruptions began in February and she’s forecasting for ongoing difficulties through November.

“It depends on how it plays out and where stock’s coming from,” she says.

“Distribution is a big one – there are less boats moving around. The days of things being made in New Zealand are long gone – it’s a global market now.

“Noone could have predicted the scale of disruption.”

Michael says he doesn’t know of any price rises this side of Christmas.

“We had price rises on the first of July, once we came out of COVID.

“I’m not seeing the level of discounting there was before – because there’s a lack of stock.”

He says it’s still a very competitive market and if you’re planning to do a renovation in November, you need to order appliances now.

Random Directions film festival organiser Phil McKinnon. Photo: Matt Brown.

Film makers set for silver screen

A new film festival will soon hit Marlborough’s silver screens.

But the awards and certificates have been left on the cutting room floor – this purely local tournament is purely for the love of film.

Random Directions organiser and self-confessed cinephile Phil McKinnon says his festival is all about the movies; there’s no judgement, no pressure, and no politics allowed.

“It’s all about showcasing films and embracing anyone that wants to be involved in film in Marlborough,” he says.

“We want to keep it in the Marlborough community.”

Fifteen filmmakers will be showing off their hard work at Event Cinemas, in Blenheim, at the end of the month.

Phil says the playlist is a “combo” of films created in the first two years of the Random Directions group.

“Covid kind of got us behind,” he says.

“Next year, in September, we’ll show the films from our third year.

“The longest [film] is about 13 minutes. Most are around the four to five-minute mark,” Phil says.

He says a lot of planning and preparation go into films – even short ones.

“You have to rely on your crew.

“It’s always a whole lot of chaos and you have to manage the chaos as well as you can.”

“Movies – it’s what I love. Making them, watching them. Working at a cinema is one of the only jobs I’ve ever wanted to do.

“Now it’s all Netflix. It’s convenient but I miss checking out film covers at the video store.

He hopes the screening will attract new members to the group.

“People can get scared to get involved because they think they’ll have to be on screen.

“But there’s so much going on behind the scenes; sound, post-production, even catering.

“There’s heaps of different aspects.”

Film makers of all ages, from 16 years old to 50 plus will be showcasing their work.

All the proceeds from the short-film screening go toward cinema hire, and Phil says any extra money made he wants to put back into the local filmmaking community.

“We’re also looking at getting into scholarships, to encourage training in Marlborough.”

The “Marlborough-based film festival, Marlborough-made, for Marlburians” screens August 30 at Event Cinemas in Blenheim, from 7.30pm.

Tickets are available on and cost $15 plus booking fee.

“Come buy a ticket and support local,” Phil says.

“It’s just Marlborough filmmakers – unless, of course, Taika calls. Then we’d make an exception.”

Hub committee members thank the community for their help. Photo: Matt Brown

Awatere ECE another step closer

The Awatere ECE Hub committee are “cranking into overdrive” as the realisation of years of hard work comes to fruition.

Construction on a new centre bringing the Awatere/Flaxbourne Plunket, Awatere Playcentre and the Awatere Early Learning Centre under one roof is hoped to begin early next year.

And on Thursday the committee held a special ceremony to thank early supporters of the decade-long project.

Awatere ECE Hub committee chair Phil Muir says they’re taking the opportunity to show their appreciation to the community for all their support.

“It’s been a long time coming.

“There’s a truck load of planning that goes into it, which is what we’ve been doing.”

He says the committee are still waiting on the decision of a Lotteries grant application for $1,354,000 expected during August.

“If that all comes together, we’re potentially starting the build next year,” Phil says.

The area was struck by a 7.8 magnitude quake in 2016, damaging the buildings serving the communities youngest residents beyond repair.

The group’s goal is to raise $2.1 million to build the modern hub.

A new sign showing the amount raised for the learning hub was unveiled at the ceremony.

Committee member Olivia Doonan says she was hoping for the Lotteries decision in time for today’s certificate ceremony so “we would have a bit more of the red line filled in”.

“This will be such an amazing thing for our community,” she says.

“It’s close, after years of working on it.”

“Since the 2013 earthquake we’ve been repairing. It’s been going on for a long time.

“It’s the culmination of years of the community trying to provide the right services.”

She says the ceremony was to show their appreciation for the community’s support.

“We’re wanting to get the build started at the end of the year.

“We’re cranking into overdrive to get it going.”

16-year-old Jack Unwin is helping people make sense of technology is. Photo: Matt Brown.

Teens’ help tech-troubled seniors

A tech-savvy student is helping pensioners get to grips with technology while fundraising for charity at the same time.

Entrepreneur Jack Unwin, 16, from Blenheim has launched a new business – TechZupport.

And while his prime goal is to help people struggling with technology, companionship has been a bonus, he says.

“It’s teaching basic skills, like using Facetime, TVNZ OnDemand or Netflix,” Jack says.

“We have a cup of tea, a chat and learn about technology together.”

“We want to give them a better understanding. It’s giving an idea about new technology, so they don’t feel swamped.”

The Year 12 Marlborough Boys’ College student wants to go on to study engineering at university.

In the meantime, his new company focuses on companionship and learning together rather than simply fixing a problem.

He says TechZupport is off to a good start with several repeat customers.

“Part of it is learning business myself,” he says.

“I’d like to invest in, grow and expand the company.

Jack says he’s actively looking to partner with banks and medical institutions to provide tailored help with things like online banking and health monitoring software.

“I’d love to help out in those scenarios. It helps doctors and patients.”

As Graeme Dingle board youth representative, Jack says starting the business isn’t just about money, with a percentage of each job going to the charity.

But ultimately, he would like to see it grow bigger with dreams of expanding the business to Nelson and Wanaka.

“It’s definitely a service that people need,” he says.

It’s not just computers he helps with, he says he’s even helped a client with a microwave.

If you need help with your tech, send Jack an email at [email protected]

David Swanson and Chris Atkinson are two of Martella Refrigeration’s newest staff members. Photo: Matt Brown.

Covid career switch

It took 120 emails and a nervous wait but within an hour, a Blenheim man secured a new career.

David Swanson moved to Australia three years ago, but as COVID-19 pandemic’s grip tightened on the world he says his family made the decision to move back.

And within an hour of sending out his CV to hundreds of Marlborough firms he had five job offers.

He is now one of the newest recruits at Martella Refrigeration & Air Conditioning, working as an apprentice refrigeration engineer.

Martella owner Craig Martella says because of the strong Marlborough economy, and community support, he’s been able to hire four new workers.

“It’s a testament to the Marlborough economy,” Craig says.

“There’s been a lot of interest in positions.

“There’s more interest from older people – people looking for change and future job security.”

He says finding experienced refrigeration technicians is still hard – but that shows it as a strong competitive field for people to get into.

“It shows it’s a good position to get into because they’re in demand,” he says.

David, whose flights to New Zealand were rescheduled at least ten different times spent two weeks in quarantine in Auckland.

“I enjoyed the quarantine,” David says. “Sometimes the ice-cream was a bit melted by the time it got to your room – but that really the worst of it.”

“Coming out of this I’ll end up with a new qualification,” he says.

“I’m relieved to be back and working somewhere I enjoy.”

“Everyone needs a warm house and a cold beer.”

Colleague Chris was at Canterbury university finishing his master’s degree in engineering geology when the pandemic struck.

But as large infrastructure projects ground to a halt, Chris found himself at a loose end.

He’s been working at Martella’s for seven weeks as a labourer.

“Big infrastructure jobs have slowed down,” Chris says.

“These guys said I could help them out and I jumped at the chance.”

Round Table members Chris Corbyn, left and Julian Butterlin hope to have the new course open by late spring. Photo: Matt Brown.

May the course be with you

One of the fastest growing sports in the world could be coming to Blenheim.

Plans for a $35,000 disc golf course have been unveiled by Blenheim’s Round Table.

And, pending council approval, they hope to have the completed course, either at the Taylor River Reserve or Harling Park, open by late spring.

Blenheim’s Round Table have raised a third of the funds for the region’s first 18-hole disc golf course.

But they need the community’s help to get it in the basket.

Round Table member and keen disc golfer Chris Corbyn says there’s more to the sport than just throwing frisbees.

“It’s one of the fastest growing sports in the world,” he says.

“Blenheim is the last major town that doesn’t have one [a course].”

The 39-year-old took his pitch to traditional golf courses around the region, trying to replicate the success clubs in other regions have had from diversifying.

“Pollard Park took it to their committee, and it got voted down,” he says.

“That’s about the furthest it went with any of the clubs.”

But Chris says the “competitive walk in the park” has seen a massive boom in New Zealand.

“Invercargill went from a group with two members – their club now has 140 members,” Chris says.

“In the last 12 months there have been 15 new courses in New Zealand.”

Another Round Table member, Julian Butterlin, is leading the charge to raise the course’s $35,000 price tag.

The rules are the same as traditional golf, but instead of a ball you have a frisbee – or disc.

“You have to get the disc in the basket in as few shots as possible,” Chris says.

“There are drivers, mid-range and putter discs – which are accurate at different distances.”

Blenheim’s geographical location, right in the middle of New Zealand, is a perfect place to participate in the fledgling pro-circuit, Chris says.

“The New Zealand national tour has thousands attending and hundreds of players.

“We could be part of the tour and very beneficial for the region.

“Wellington and Christchurch have a thriving scene – we’re in the middle.

Chris went to council and presented his idea during the annual plan process.

He says a few of the councillors have played before, in Queenstown, so the pitch wasn’t falling on deaf ears.

“For them [council] to be involved they want a show master – someone to take responsibility, to form a club and maintain the facilities,” he says.

A special movie night fundraiser will be held on 26 August at Event Cinema Blenheim with details to be confirmed.

Acting principal Nicky Cameron-Dunn, left, with outgoing Bohally School principal Shane Campbell. Photo: Matt Brown.

Principal hangs up his captain hat

A much-loved school principal has relinquished his captaincy as new challenges overseas beckon.

Bohally School principal Shane Campbell was farewelled at a schoolwide assembly on Friday as he looks forward to a new job at an international school in Kuala Lumpar.

And a ship captains’ hat – a symbol of Shane’s leadership given to him when he first joined the school – was handed over to deputy principal Nicky Cameron-Dunn, who will take the role of acting principal until next year.

Shane says he leaves the school in the hands of a “dedicated” group of teachers and specially acknowledged the school’s deputy principals.

“There’s a real strong sense of support from the community,” he says.

The farewell, led by two year eight students, featured songs, dancing, and heartfelt messages of thanks to the principal of five years, with one student saying Shane put them, and learning, above all else.

Bohally board of trustee’s chair Suzie Glover says Shane’s kindness and integrity has always been clear from his actions.

“He builds learning partnerships with parents and whanau.

“He’s focused on the kids first and easy to talk to.”

Suzie says Shane has had a positive effect on the culture at Bohally and wished him “every success” in his new leadership role.

Originally from Golden Bay, Shane took the top job at Bohally in 2015 following a stint as principal at a primary school in Northland.

He joked he had worn through eight pairs of shoes pacing the halls of Bohally.

Under his watch, the school roll has grown from 392 in 2015 to 529 this year and more than 550 students expected next year.

Shane says it’s a privilege to be able to focus funding on just year 7 and 8 students.

“We’re lucky to have an intermediate school in Marlborough,” Shane says.

“What I’ve enjoyed the most is we can spend all the money on two year groups.”

The one thing he says he won’t miss at his new role in Malaysia – the cold, frosty mornings.