Matt Brown

Matt Brown

Age Concern community welfare coordinator Catherine Donnelly. Photo: Matt Brown.

Testing for older drivers

An advocate for older drivers has warned more stringent measures are needed to help keep senior drivers safe on the road.

As the population in the region ages, the number of elderly drivers is expected to increase.

And industry expert Age Concern community welfare coordinator Catherine Donnelly believes driver testing is not rigorous enough for older motorists.

New Zealand Transport Agency figures show more than 1500 people over the age of 80 have a current license in Marlborough. One hundred and twenty nine of those are over the age of 90.

At 75 years of age, motorists are required to provide a medical certificate from their GP  in order to keep their driver’s licences.

But Catherine says cognitive testing should be performed alongside the sight and hearing tests.

“Some GPs already do it,” she says.

“As people age, [testing] should get more rigorous.”

An NZTA spokeswoman says older drivers are not involved in “a large number” of serious crashes.

But due to increasing physical frailty, if involved in a crash, are more at risk of being seriously injured or killed, she says.

“For many older people driving is a key to their independence,” the spokeswoman says.

“Many seniors rely on their car to get around. For shopping, appointments or visiting friends and family.

“These concerns must be balanced with the recognition that the ageing process can affect a range of skills essential to driving – including eyesight, memory, decision-making and reaction times.

“It’s important for all drivers, regardless of age, to regularly and honestly assess their own driving capabilities to keep themselves and others safe.

Catherine says at the end of last year, there was a “horrific” death toll for older drivers.

“As you get older, your reflex time is slower,” she says. She added one in four medications can also affect driving.

She would like to see more people take advantage of an initiative to improve their driving.

In conjunction with NZTA, Age Concern offers a confidence driving course that will fit anyone, “even teenagers,” as well as a course aimed at providing information on how to get by without a driver’s license.

Age Concern provides walkability maps, half price taxi fares and has advice on mobility scooters, e bikes and trikes.

“It costs $4000 to $6000 to run a car per year, that’s a lot of taxi fares,” Catherine says.

“There are a lot of options.”

The free courses run 12 times a year, from 10am to 2pm at the Clubs of Marlborough.

The next course is November 11 and December 9.

The mystery woman who features on a camera found at the bottom of the Marlborough Sounds. Photo: Supplied.

Treasure trove of photos discovered by divers

A camera that lay lost on the seabed for around eight years has been discovered by divers – with its photos saved in perfect order.

The older-style Canon camera was found in its case by divers taking part in the Waikawa Dive Centre’sfirst Trash to Treasure competition.

Now the search is on to reunite the owners with their precious memories.

Bottles, tyres and more than 2000 other pieces of rubbish were recovered from the region’s waterways during a month-long Picton competition.

The case of the camera has seen better days, but the Canon Ixus 130 camera is, superficially, in good condition. Remarkably, the memory card still worked. Photo: Supplied.
The case of the camera has seen better days, but the Canon Ixus 130 camera is, superficially, in good condition. Remarkably, the memory card still worked. Photo: Supplied.

Waikawa Dive Centre manager Kate Trayling says while trawling for trash in the Grove Arm of the Marlborough Sounds, a family came across a camera – not of the “water-loving” kind.

“We would love to return the card to the owners as it looks like a lot of memories are on it,” Kate says.

Kate, who organised the ‘Trash to Treasure’ competition for the Waikawa Dive Centre, says none of the pictures appear to be taken in New Zealand and heavily feature military aircraft and ships, including the USS Midway.

“We’re hoping to find the owner,” she says.

An image from the camera was posted to Facebook but the owners remain a mystery.

Divers, snorkelers and free divers took to the water to collect rubbish lying on the Sounds’ seafloor for the month-long competition.

Those who collected the most were allocated points, which were tallied up to reveal the winner.

Troy Frost took out the Grand Champion title after “spending hours” hauling up trash.

“Troy waded into estuaries and collected all manner of objects that had been discarded,” Kate says.

“He bought in over 800 bits of rubbish from the water.”

Overall, 2000 pieces of rubbish were removed from Marlborough’s estuaries, rivers and seabeds.

“Zoe Luffman came runner-up after diving with her family most weekends,” Kate says.

“During one dive Zoe managed to pull an old tyre on to the beach that she had dragged up from the seabed.”

Husband and wife duo, Chris and Craig Chapman, took out third and fourth place for their efforts to rid the sea floor of junk.

The winner received a dive computer donated by Cressi New Zealand and an annual launch pass from Marlborough Sounds Marinas.

Kate says she hopes the ‘Trash to Treasure’ competition will become an annual event.

However, next year, she says they will wait for the water to warm up a bit more.

“We’re thinking October or November,” she says.

Transitional housing team member Stan Reid, left, with Housing First Blenheim team leader Justin Kemp. Photo: Matt Brown.

House shortage hurts ‘vulnerable’

A bid to help tackle Marlborough’s housing crisis is being hit by a lack of landlords prepared to put forward their properties.

Latest figures show 132 people or families urgently need long-term housing across the region.

And industry experts have warned society’s most vulnerable are being hit hardest, with some families living in transitional housing for more than a year.

The Christchurch Methodist Mission oversees the programme, which relies on properties from the private sector, in Blenheim.

But to date just six landlords have leased properties to the Christian organisation and 14 more properties are needed to meet the government contract.

Christchurch Methodist Mission executive director Jill Hawkey says the “supply has to increase.”

“For landlords it’s a really good deal,” she says.

Housing First is a government-funded programme aimed at the chronically homeless and looks to house those who have been living rough for more than a year.

The $197m initiative began in June in Marlborough and has housed four people with two more homeless people due to move into new accommodation this week.

“Some people in transitional housing meet the criteria, but not many,” Jill says.

Housing First Blenheim team leader Justin Kemp says the average price of a rental in Christchurch is on par with the lowest renters pay in Marlborough.

“The cost of rent is high and it’s a barrier,” he says.

The Christchurch Methodist Mission pays market rent and manages the tenancy, which they sub lease to the tenant.

Jill says damage hasn’t been an issue, however any necessary repairs are covered by the organisation.

The programme offers a wraparound service for the tenants, supporting them with “basic” services such as getting ID, help with shopping, getting licenses and registering with a GP.

It provides the homeless with a stable home before attempting to address mental health, alcohol and drug issues.

“We’re really pleased with progress made to date,” Jill says.

While the landlords receive market rent for the property, the tenants have full responsibility for their accommodation.

Rent for tenants is means tested, like other Housing New Zealand properties, and set at around 25 per cent of the person’s income.

“Housing First gives people another chance, a chance to get settled,” Jill says.

“Everyone deserves a second chance. And a third, and a fourth.”

GCSB director-general Andrew Hampton outside Waihopai Station. Photo: Supplied.

Spy base’s low-key birthday

Thirty years of government spying has quietly passed by up the Waihopai Valley last month.

The satellite spy station turned 30 years old in September.

To mark the occasion, Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) director-general Andrew Hampton conducted a video tour of the controversial domes, giving the public a rare look at the inner workings.

Established in September 1989, the station is famous internationally for being a part of the ‘five eyes’ network with the US, UK, Australia and Canada.

But the 80’s décor is long gone, says a GCSB spokesperson – who due to security clearance is unable to be named.

The spokesperson says the Waihopai site was chosen for three main reasons.

“It has a big sky; you can see pretty much from horizon to horizon.

“It is electromagnetically quiet. There are fewer radio and other signals than what you would find in built up areas.

The final reason, the spokesperson says, was cost.

Land was “reasonably priced” in the valley 30 years ago.

Both dishes are protected from the elements by inflatable ‘radomes’ – one of which was famously deflated in a 2008 by protest group Ploughshares Aotearoa.

The protesters were eventually acquitted and $1.2 million in damages was written off by the government.

The GCSB spokesperson was unable to “definitively” say why the domes are inflated, rather than utilising a frame, but suggested it was likely a combination of engineering and costs.

The first dish was installed in 1989 followed by a second in 1995.

The protection afforded by the domes could see the dishes working for another 30 years.

“Since the domes protect the dishes from the different weather conditions they are in good condition, and they have also been well maintained,” the spokesperson says.

Satellites do not send data specifically to dishes, but broadcast to a wide region.

These transmissions are what can be intercepted by the Waihopai Station.

“The GCSB only collects a very small proportion of communications in line with the strict rules of the Intelligence and Security Act,” the spokesperson says.

“Any intelligence collected by the GCSB is only collected under warrants, follows the Intelligence and Security Act and everything the GCSB does is subject to the robust and independent oversight from the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security.

“There are many different ways of gathering intelligence and each has their own benefits.

“Waihopai station is an important part of the GCSB and helps to achieve the GCSB’s mission of protecting and enhancing the national security and wellbeing of New Zealand.

“Unfortunately, we can’t go into any details on specific cases.”

Marlborough Girls’ College students Lauren Doherty, Eleanor Grigg and Claire Lee received cultural awards last week. Photo: Matt Brown.

Student musicians’ cultural success

Talented students who have made outstanding contributions to culture have been honoured for their efforts.

Marlborough Girls’ College students were recognised for their achievements across a wide range of artistic categories last week.

Among those officially recognised were a trio of accomplished musicians.

Year 13 student Eleanor Grigg was named the Cultural Achiever of the Year after an exceptional year of musical achievements.

The musician was crowned under 19 champion for the tenor horn at the National Brass Band Championships in July.

She also came second in the Champion of Champions, competing against entrants playing a diverse range of instruments.

Year 10 student Lauren Doherty was awarded the All Round Endeavour in Performing Arts (Junior) for her contributions as an individual and in the jazz band. Lauren has been involved in house drama, the jazz band and placed 3rd at the annual talent quest performing on the electric violin.

She also won the Junior Instrumental prize in the school performing arts competitions.

Year 9 student Claire Lee was awarded a piano scholarship after coming first in the junior piano solo at the school competitions. She also studies violin and is a dedicated member of the Marlborough Civic Orchestra.

She is training as a concertmaster for the Upbeat Development Orchestra on violin.

Marlborough Mayor John Leggett with retiring deputy mayor Terry Sloan. Photo: Supplied.

Trio of council stalwarts bid a fond farewell

They clocked up an impressive 27 years of service between them and were each given a resounding round of applause as they officially retired from local politics.

Clapping and cheers rang out in council chambers as a trio of Marlborough District Council members were officially recognised for their contributions to the region.

Marlborough’s deputy mayor Terry Sloan, Wairau-Awatere ward councillor, Geoff Evans and Marlborough Sounds ward councillor Trevor Hook were bid a fond farewell from their council colleagues.

And Marlborough Mayor John Leggett paid a tribute to each, thanking them for their hard work and dedication.

Terry, who served two terms as deputy mayor and one as a councillor, says the moment was quite an emotional one.

Speaking to the Marlborough Weekly on Monday, Terry says he couldn’t rule out a return to council later. But concentrating on his family and business was a top priority, he says.

“It’s about offloading quite a bit of work and commitment,” he says.

“Doing that enables you to spend a bit more time with family and work.”

He says most of the memories from his nine-year tenure were good ones, but he will “miss the information”.

“I’m a bit of a nosy bugger,” he says. “I like knowing what’s going on, but that’s not life changing stuff.

“I’ll miss everyone that I was involved with. I built a lot of friendships and relationships.”

And although Terry only willingly donned his deputy mayoral chains twice, he won’t officially hang them up until election day.

He says the deputy mayoral pendant was designed for former deputy mayor and now councillor Jenny Andrews and didn’t “suit him”.

“It’s not something I hung out to wear,” he says.

Terry says getting a position like deputy mayor is impossible without a lot of people throwing in their support.

“Thanks for all the support that I’ve had,” he says. “It’s really humbling.”

Both Geoff Evans and Te Mahia Bay Resort co-owner Trevor Hook also served for nine years.

Renwick School students Lily Ball and Reece Glennie. Photo: Matt Brown.

Young scientists’ generous gesture

A short stay in the hospital inspired two young entrepreneurs to donate money from their science fair project towards toys for Wairau Hospital.

Renwick School students Reece Glennie and Lily Ball devised an ant repellent for the Marlborough Lines Science & Technology Celebration that worked so well it “shocked” the young scientists.

The two pupils from room 19 followed the scientific method for their first individual science fair project, experimenting on troublesome ants coming in through the window of their classroom.

“There were a lot of ants in the classroom and at home,” 11-year-old Lily says.

They experimented with apple cider vinegar, lavender and lemon juice, using honey as a control.

“Many ants came for the honey,” Reece, 10, says.

They collated the data and had mixed results with the various ingredients but came upon the winning formula when they mixed the ingredients together.

“We were shocked,” Reece says.

“It made every single ant go.”

The two students were so happy with their product, they started selling jars of the eco-friendly ant repellent, with the goal to buy new toys for the Wairau Hospital.

They raised $24.

“We bought heaps of toys and gave them to the Wairau hospital,” Reece says.

“We have learnt to solve problems and we got together as a team and it worked really well,” he says.

The year six students received a silver award for their project.

Hope Walk organisers Vita Vaka and Bary Neal. Photo: Matt Brown.

Bringing Hope to the community

Two friends hope people will turn out in force to support those whose lives have been touched by suicide.

Marlborough man Bary Neal lost his son, Matt, 22, to suicide in 2016 while his friend and Hope Walk organiser Vita Vaka suffered from depression.

Together, the pair hope this year’s walk will start conversations about suicide and let people know support is on hand.

Organiser Vita Vaka says suicide is a topic close to his heart.

“I do this because I wish people were there walking with me through it,” he says.

The walk takes up to an hour, depending on the size of the crowd, and makes a loop circuit around Blenheim – starting and ending at Seymour Square.

In 2017, nearly 1000 Marlburians turned out for the region’s inaugural Hope Walk after organiser Bary Neal heard of a guy in Auckland starting a similar event.

Bary handed over organising the event to 30-year-old Vita last year, after he moved to Dunedin for work.

But now back in Blenheim, he continues to be a passionate advocate for the walk.

He organised the first event in Blenheim in 2017.

“I thought, why not?”

“Rather than sitting around feeling sorry for myself, I got out and did something,” Bary says.

“It’s made a difference in a lot of people’s lives.”

Bary says the event is about encouraging people to open-up.

“To not sit at home and feel like a burden,” he says.

Bary, a competitive speed walker went through a double hip replacement, then a marriage breakup before the death of his  son.

“At that stage I didn’t want anyone around me,” Bary says.

“I put on a brave face, but I would hide and have a cry.

“My best mate didn’t have a clue, but he checked up on me every other day.

“I kept thinking, my boy is looking down on me being miserable, so I wanted to do something to help people who were having similar trouble” he says.

Vita says Hope Walk itself is a type of suicide prevention.

“It’s a day to remind people how valuable they are to life,” he says.

“People have some kai and are informed about the support networks,” Vita says.

“It’s important people know the support is there.”

The Hope Walk begins at 10am Saturday 28 September at Seymour Square.

Chateau Marlborough chief executive officer Brent Marshall and general manager Lynley McKinnon. Photo: Matt Brown.

Double win celebrations for hotel

A Marlborough hotel has been awarded back-to-back wins at a prestigious Australasian hotel competition.

Chateau Marlborough won the HM Australasian Hotel of the Year for Best NZ Regional Hotel for the second year running, one of only two hotels to achieve the award twice and in their second year of attending the ceremony.

General manager Lynley McKinnon says winning the award was very much a team effort.

“We’ve got a dedicated team of staff that is striving for excellence, which makes the success fantastic for the hotel,” she says.

The 2019 HM Awards for Hotel and Accommodation Excellence, now in their 17th year, are the leading industry in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.

More than 900 people attended the awards dinner at the Sydney’s International Convention Centre last Friday and over 60 awards were handed out across 48 categories.

Chief executive officer Brent Marshall says to be the second hotel in 17 years to win the award in consecutive years was a “very pleasing surprise”.

“We were up against 15 others of an exceedingly high standard, to be announced as the winner was satisfying and humbling at the same time,” Brent says.

“There has been a lot of continual work to wh? And improve.

“It’s great for the Marlborough region to be acknowledged as a province that offers a quality experience.

“The awards are a reflection of the staff, from the manager down.”

Lynley was a finalist in the NZ General Manager of the Year category and executive chef James Sievewright was a finalist for the Australasian Hotel Chef of the Year.

The judging panel was made up of industry leaders and travel writers from the Australasian region.

HM editor-in-chief and chief judge of the HM Awards James Wilkinson says the calibre of this year’s entries were the best in the event’s history.

“The quality of entries in the HM Awards this year was unlike anything we have seen before. It was a challenge to even choose the finalists from up to 80 entries in some cases, let alone decide on a winner and highly commended,” James says.

“To even be a finalist this year was a massive effort and many of our winners have also been employee of the year or hotel of the year in their own organisations, so it was an incredibly strong field of entries in 2019.”

Rose Built Homes office in the Blenheim CBD. Photo: Matt Brown.

Hope after company collapse

A young Blenheim couple who faced losing their first home after the collapse of a building business has been thrown a lifeline.

Anastasia Brown and Caleb Mischeski faced losing $50,000 after a now-defunct Blenheim building company was placed into liquidation.

But other businesses have since stepped up to help those burnt by the collapse of Marlborough company Rose Built Homes last week.

Peter Ray Homes have taken on Anastasia Brown’s build on Blenheim’s Taylor Pass Road, which has languished for more than three months.

Rose Built Homes office in the Blenheim CBD. Photo: Matt Brown.
Rose Built Homes office in the Blenheim CBD. Photo: Matt Brown.

Peter Ray Homes director Donna Lee says their builders are working at a reduced margin to get her into the house.

“We really want to help Anastasia out,” Donna says.

RBH Limited, trading as Rose Built Homes, was placed into liquidation on 5 September.

It has since come to light the company’s two directors, Kyle Payne and Ryan Butler operated a web of interconnected companies.

Peter Ray Homes has come to the rescue of the young couple after the now-defunct building company Rose Built Homes went under. Photo: Matt Brown.
Peter Ray Homes has come to the rescue of the young couple after the now-defunct building company Rose Built Homes went under. Photo: Matt Brown.

The pair, who are no longer in contact with each other, have since fled town, leaving some Marlborough businesses out of pocket by at least $1.4million.

More than 40 businesses and subcontractors have come forward to date are worried staff and family members.

A source says the company’s troubles were clear to those in the building industry.

For Anastasia, who put money given to her by her grandparents towards the $338,000 home, says the first sign of trouble was when scaffolding was pulled down.

The house, on Taylor Pass Road, has sat for months with no roofs and no activity. Photo: Matt Brown.
The house, on Taylor Pass Road, has sat for months with no roof and no activity. Photo: Matt Brown.

A skip on-site was then emptied on where the couple’s front lawn was going as bills weren’t paid.

“Every week I asked when the roof was coming on, and every week they would say Friday.

“I found out from the plumber, they just vanished, I got incredibly stressed about it so my parents took over,” she says.

“The liquidator cancelled their contract with us. It’s pretty shitty, but I was lucky to find Donna from Peter Ray Homes.”

In January, Butler and Payne transferred 90 per cent of the shares of RBH to a holding company, NOA Development Group Limited.

NOA was removed from the companies register in July.

One unsecured creditor, who didn’t want to be named, says alarm bells for him started ringing in June.

“RBH was charging $2-300sqm cheaper than everyone else but were $16,700 a week in the red.

“It’s bad management.”

Anderson Architectural Design owner Jason Anderson says Ryan and Kyle were not “cut out to run a business.”

“They’re the type of guys you could have a beer with,” he says. “They just weren’t cut out to run a business.”

Jason says there were seven Rose Built Homes houses under construction and another person who had paid a deposit when the company folded.

Former project manager Graeme Andrews resigned from the company six weeks ago after a year with the company.

He says while he is not owned any money, he was “a little bit uncomfortable.”

“I was concerned I maybe wasn’t getting the right information. I had suspicions, but I had no idea.

“All I can say is I don’t have the full picture or the full information.

“Everyone in town knew there were issues.

The reason I did stick around was for the tradies…and for the clients, a lot of which were young couples. I felt for them.”


Butler and Payne affiliated companies:


Maddison Group Limited – Trading name: Tru Cut Property services

Industry Classification(s): N731340 Property maintenance service (own account)

Registered from 2 May 2017 to 22 Aug 2019

Kyle Payne owns 100% of 2 shares

Directors: Ryan Butler and Kyle Payne. Ashleigh Broughton was a director until 3 April 2019.


3rd Gen Homes Limited

Industry Classification(s): E301120 Building, house construction

Registered from 18 August 2016 – in process of being removed from register for being overdue in its obligation to file an annual return.

Ryan Butler owns 100% of 100 shares.

Carl Ross Butler ceased being a director: 01/12/2016 – but the paperwork to remove him as a director was filed July 2019

Directors: Ryan Butler.


RBH Limited

Industry Classification(s):

In Liquidation

Registered from 18 July 2017 to 05 September 2019

NOA Development Group Limited owns 90% of 100 shares (90).

Ross Stuart Butler (Ryan’s dad) owns 10% of 100 shares (10).

Directors: Ryan Butler and Kyle Payne.


Rose Built Limited

Industry Classification(s): E301120 Building, house construction

Registered on 16 January 2019 – current

NOA Development Group Limited owns 100% of 200 shares.

Directors: Ryan Butler and Kyle Payne.


NOA Development Group Limited

Industry Classification(s): E321120 Land development or subdivision (excluding construction)

Registered from 3 August 2018 to 17 July 2019.

Ryan Butler owns 50% of 100 shares.

Kyle Payne owns 50% of 100 shares.