Matt Brown

Matt Brown

RSA olive grove chair John Cragg, Pernod Ricard sustainability manager Tracey Marshall and RSA member Trevor Slipper. Photo: Matt Brown.

Record RSA olive harvest

A record-breaking olive harvest has given RSA members plenty to smile about.

The 1400-tree olive grove in Burleigh was planted by RSA volunteers in 1995 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of VJ day.

Memorial plaques sit at the base of the trunks of the first 100 trees planted, a dedication to the soldiers who died.

Thanks to lots of pairs of helping hands, the annual harvest was completed in record time, with 14 tons safely gathered in just one day.

Marlborough Pernod Ricard staff descended on the grove as part of the company’s annual sustainability and responsibility initiative, Responsib’ALL Day.

“We realised we have a great sized workforce to harvest the olives in one day,” says Pernod Ricard sustainability manager Tracey Marshall.

The 500 wine-industry workers, from administrators to cellar hands, began the day at 8am with a warmup led by the vineyard operations staff.

Tracey says the harvest took the team between four and five hours to harvest nearly 14 ton of olives.

“That we can come in and get it done in a day is great for us and the community,” Tracey says.

Many returned soldiers who fought in World War II in Greece, Crete, North Africa and Italy sheltered from the enemy and enemy planes in olive groves.

The trees are situated alongside a popular walk and members of the public often leave poppies by the trees in remembrance.

The Marlborough grove is a testament to their service says RSA olive grove chairman John Cragg.

Harvesting had proven too much for the RSA to manage alone, he says.

In the past, harvesting the olives has taken up to three days with many volunteers needed to ensure the harvest was completed in time.

“It got to the point of so many trees we had to get a bit business-like.

“Historically, we harvested on Queen’s Birthday weekend because we depended on volunteers.

“We’ve been blessed with Pernod Ricard and their community day as part of our problem is attracting volunteers.

“We’re capable of mowing and pruning but harvest is beyond our capabilities,” he says.

Limited stocks of $20 750 ml bottles are available and the collectors’ item in the WW100 ANZAC Special Limited Edition packaging is now on special at $10.00 per bottle.

These are available from Marlborough RSA, 42 Alfred Street, Blenheim, [email protected]  or call 03 5785230

A day in the life of a primary school teacher

With rolling school strikes on their way, Rapuara School teacher Mikayla Avant sat down with reporter Matt Brown to talk him through a school day to help explain why teacher’s need more support.


5 am: Get up early and get ready to work out at the gym at 6am.

7.45am: At my desk getting ready for the day. You can plan weeks in advance, but something might go wrong, or something might change so your plan gets ripped up and scribbled out. Usually, I’m just sitting at my laptop planning, photocopying, printing.

8.40 am: School begins. We start with the roll, I call it fast admin.

“We go over what’s got to be done during the day, what’s important, and then reacting to whatever the children want to tell me.

9 am: Maths usually goes on until 10.10 and then the children go to morning tea after they’ve done their doubles; basic arithmetic, and they go and play.

10.10 am: If I’m not on duty, I pick up after them and I reorganise myself and get ready for reading. I might shoot over to the staff room to grab a coffee. Sometimes there’s something being said in the staff room that we all need to know.

10.30 am: Class novel. We’re reading Fish in a Tree in class. It’s about being kind and respectful.

10.45 am: Then, we have a reading program that we do, and I go through them with that. Recently, it’s been quite hectic because we have had a whole school enquiry, voyaging, based on the Totaranui.

11.15 am: If it’s not inquiry, it’s writing. We’re going to do newspaper articles starting next week.

12.15 pm: I’d say I have time to eat but I don’t really. I’ll eat if I’m on duty or I’ll grab a hot drink and meander around, make sure the kids are alright. Every teacher has a morning tea duty and a lunch duty. Otherwise, I’m either in here doing work, marking, reading. I’ll shoot over to the staff room, try to eat.

People think you can sit in the staff room, eat your lunch and have a yarn but you can’t. You always have got printing or marking or something to do.

You don’t get that leisurely lunch that everyone thinks that you get.

Rapaura school teacher Mikayla Avant says you don’t become a teacher for the paycheck. Photo: Matt Brown.

1.00 pm: 15 minutes of reading. I go around and make sure they are quiet reading and ask them some questions about what they’re reading.

1.15 pm: In the afternoon we have ‘inquiry’, so we go fully in depth in that area. That takes up the whole afternoon. Writing, science, technology, literacy, maths, everything. It’s about five weeks of really in-depth learning, or teaching from me, based off something wherever we’re going with that.

2.50 pm: School ends, for the children.

4.30 – 6pm: I’m usually here ‘til about five, six some nights and I always take work home. I would be lucky to get out at 4.30.

Because I’m a beginning teacher, I work, eat dinner, work. I probably usually put my laptop down about nine. On top of that, you still have your other paperwork behind the scenes.

I have meetings. Monday morning, Tuesday after school. Every fortnight I have a syndicate meeting at 7am. Thursdays I have a meeting with my mentor. I pretty much have a meeting every day, minus Fridays.

7.30pm: More preparation for class. If I get the chance, I might watch Netflix but that doesn’t always pan out.

9.30-11pm: I try to go to bed as early as I can but have to make sure I’m ready for the next day. I set my alarm for 5am and then do it all again.

Traffic gridlock set to stay

The number of vehicles using Blenheim’s busy Grove Rd is on the rise by hundreds every year.

Gridlocked traffic is fast becoming a common site on the busy main thoroughfare.

And some believe traffic lights are the only solution for a long-term fix.

Latest figures from the New Zealand Transport Association show about ten thousand cars drive down Grove Rd every day, increasing by 400 every year.

Seaview Wholesale salesman Toby MacDonald sees problems on the road almost daily.

“The traffic on Grove Rd is just phenomenal.

“I’ve heard a lot of screeching tyres and swearing,” he says.

“Traffic can get backed up right back around the corner [on Budge St].”

He says traffic lights at the busy intersection, where his business is, are needed to “sort the flow”.

Figures from the New Zealand Transport Agency show there have been nine reported fender benders and one minor crash on the merging lane in the past five years.

NZTA Top of the South system manager Andrew James says a review of the existing SH1 corridor through Blenheim was not a high enough priority compared to other parts of the country.

The Marlborough Regional Transport Committee recommended a review of the thoroughfare in the Regional Land Transport Plan.

A problem crossing island next to Z petrol station intended to offer refuge to pedestrians is instead being repeatedly clipped and damaged by large vehicles.

An NZTA spokeswoman says the red handrails have been knocked over or damaged “seven or eight times” in the past five years.

“Road crews say that they have been clipped by trucks going straight through, not vehicles turning out of the service station.

“We are currently in the process of replacing these red safety rails with yellow ones in the next month or so.

The spokeswoman says yellow objects are less prone to being hit by large vehicles, based on how they work at other sites.

The $21 million Ōpaua River bridge upgrade, scheduled for completion mid-2020, was expected to reduce delays and increase the throughput of traffic through the town.

Working with wood for the greater good

Menzshed members are helping the next generation of woodworkers get to grips with the tools of the trade.

The 15-strong group of men at Renwick Menzshed donate their time to pass on the benefit of their experience to eager pupils from Renwick School.

Each term, children are given the chance to craft their own work.

Coordinator Rick Gleeson says its great to see the boys enjoying themselves.

“The 6 and 7-year-olds, come down on a Friday morning and we give them wooden projects to make. We cut the pieces out for them and they use hammers and nails.

“There’s plenty of things going on, that’s for sure. One of the guys has just finished rebuilding a dinghy for the kids at Renwick Preschool to use.

“It’s all community stuff,” he says.

Rick Gleeson and the team from Renwick Menzshed recently made tables for pupils at Renwick School. Photo: Matt Brown.

The group shares close links with the school and recently revamped some wooden cable reels into colourful tables for them.

Rick says it’s great to see the children gain confidence over time.

“We start them off with some scrap wood, to get them used to using a hammer.

“Then, we get them putting together a boat, measuring and using the right sized nails. They really enjoy it.

“They’re a bit shy but by the third week they’re running down the driveway to get here,” he says.

The popular group, which includes a couple of Blenheim members is looking to expand their premises.

“We’re trying to make some money to build another shed. Originally, it was just a single garage,” says Rick.

Renwick Menzshed meet by the Anglican Church on the main road, Tuesdays from 9.00 am -12 noon.

The group can help with a variety of community projects and new members are always welcome.

Communication breakdown at centre of Muslim Centre fail

A breakdown in communication has scuttled plans for an eagerly awaited Muslim community centre in Blenheim.

New Zealand Islamic Development Trust (NZIDT) bought land on Budge St for a purpose-built centre.

But the Trust says they will give the land away for free as they have “heard nothing” from the Blenheim Muslim Association.

Trust chief executive Taoufik Elidrissi says the site was cleared ready for construction.

“The site is still to be gifted to the community of Blenheim,” he says.

“That was always our intention from day one.

“My partner and I are prepared to offer the property free of charge to create a Muslim community centre, to assist the wider Muslim community.”

But Taoufik says they were not prepared to work with the man who helped get the project off the ground – Zayd Ian Blisset.

Zayd Ian Blisset denies making a statement against NZIDT to WorkSafe. File photo.

He says there has been no communication between the trust and the association since August last year.

The former site of On The Spot dairy was purchased by the Auckland-based trust in 2016 for $170,000.

However, the project stalled when WorkSafe opened an inquiry into the unsafe removal of asbestos during the demolition of the old dairy.

Charges against NZIDT were withdrawn in 2018 with WorkSafe finding Marlborough construction company Crafar Crouch, who performed the demolition, at fault.

Lawyers’ fees and demolition works wracked costs up to $250,000 in total, says Taoufik.

But it was the discovery that Zayd has tried to shift the blame to the Trust that spelled the end of the relationship, says Taoufik.

“He made a statement against us to Worksafe. We’ll wait until there’s a change of leadership and then we’ll move in.

“We didn’t know about the contamination; we were just trying to help the community,” he says

Muslim Association of Marlborough president Zayd Blissett says it was a “marvellous offer, but so far, nothing’s eventuated.”

“We’ve not heard from those people since last August … we’re going in another direction.

“We need to be in town for security and convenience, as far as we’re concerned, our community, we’re in limbo when it comes to the centre,” he says.

Zayd denies making a statement against NZIDT to WorkSafe.

He says original discussions saw the trust say they would provide everything, from the demolition and the build to providing an imam.

But he says they went back on their word.

“The only thing that we’ve got there is a container with some stuff in it.

“Our problem, and our fault and I’ve learnt my lesson is to get things in writing.

“It was all told us verbally and I have no proof. It’s sad in a way. We were all excited, we had been working toward having a place of our own.

“I get phone calls from people at least once a week wanting to know where they can pray,” he says.

Homeless struggle with housing crisis

The number of homeless in Marlborough has tripled in the last three years as the region struggles with a “significant housing crisis”.

Latest records from the Ministry of Social Development show 132 people in Marlborough urgently need housing.

But Christchurch Methodist Mission housing manager Andrea Goodman says the need for more social housing was not limited to the homeless.

“There’s a lot of people that come to the area for work because of the vineyards, not realising that there’s an issue with housing,” Andrea says.

“Also, the housing market being so buoyant means that a lot of landlords have sold off their properties.”

There are 36 families currently in transitional housing in Blenheim alone, however, over half of those in desperate need of housing are single people.

Christchurch Methodist Mission executive director Jill Hawkey was in Blenheim last week to unveil the Housing First programme.

“We’re already supporting families in Blenheim but single men is the group that needs particular support,” Jill says.

Housing First is a model of housing and wrap-around support that houses people who are long-term homeless, without the need to be sober or drug-free.

The programme relies on houses from the private sector.

“In some way, it’s a good deal for landlords,” Andrea says.

“The rent will be guaranteed and the properties will get returned in the condition they were let in.

“But it’s also an opportunity for landlords to get a good social outcome.”

Andrea says they are looking for rental contracts that would last at least a year and hoped landlords would commit for longer.

The $197m government programme recognises it is easier for people to address issues, such as mental health problems and addiction, once they are housed.

Government funds would be used for tenancy management, repairs and maintenance, and support services

“Everybody that goes into a Housing First house has at least a weekly visit from a key worker if not more frequently depending on the needs of the person,” Jill says.

Jill says they aim to get long-term homeless people off the streets.

“We don’t want to set up a big bureaucracy, that’s more hoops for people to jump through,” Jill says.

The programme was hoped to “kick off” within a couple of months.

“Once we get that all up and going and they’ve been trained and inducted we can kick off.”

Jill says the strength of the initiative lies with local agencies working together.

Playground revamp nearing end

Children in Marlborough will be jumping for joy as new playgrounds near completion.

An in-ground trampoline, musical equipment and an acorn-shaped playground are taking shape at Blenheim’s Pollard Park.

The new-look additions should be ready to use in around a month.

The work reflects Marlborough District Council’s commitment to improve facilities for children, a spokesman says.

“The new playground will also be home to four pieces of new equipment that provide accessibility for children who are not able-bodied: an in-ground trampoline, carousel, liberty swing and musical equipment.

“The musical items were made possible through a contribution from the Differently Abled Children of Marlborough parent group, who fundraised for them.

The playground equipment from Pollard Park is being ‘upcycled’ for this site, with other play pieces to be added, reflecting a farm-style theme.

A new slide and swings are being put up in Renwick near the Giesen Sports and Recreation Centre: Photo: Paula Hulburt

Work on a new playground at Mark Smith Reserve, on the Boulevard Park on Taylor subdivision, is also underway and is expected to be open by late June.

Pollard Park’s new ‘acorn’ playground foundation pads have been laid and the first supports and pods have been installed.

The acorn-style pods are suspended off supports connected by mesh tunnels. Exit points feature a rope ladder or a slide.

Children from aged five and over will be able to use the new equipment, with completion only a month away.

Deputy Mayor Terry Sloan, Chair of the Assets and Services Committee, says he was really pleased to see the progress.

“Marlborough has an enviable range of parks, reserves and places to go for recreation. These new facilities will bring great enjoyment to our children and grandchildren and provide a place for parents to relax.”

Fire crews win battle over Ward blaze

A blaze believed to be caused by a train carriage derailment is out.

Fire crews tackled a blaze alongside SH1, thought to be caused by a train carriage derailment this afternoon.

Two crews from Ward and crews from Seddon and Rarangi battled a fire between Ward and the Ure River, three kilometres south of Ward.

Spanning 20 metres in length, the fire is believed to be connected to an incident involving a KiwiRail Ltd freight train.

There is no threat to road traffic, but trains have been stopped as a precaution.

A Fire and Emergency New Zealand spokesman says a train had caused the damage.

“It’s been caused by the train somehow. There are reports of damage to sleepers, like something was dragged along,” he says.

A helicopter has been called in to tackle a blaze which crews cannot get to by road.

The derailment of a KiwiRail carriage was reported to emergency services at about 2.15pm.

“A wagon on a freight service travelling north on the Main North Line partially derailed near Taimate this afternoon,” a KiwiRail spokeswoman says.

“KiwiRail is investigating the cause of the derailment, and its possible link to two fires beside the tracks,” she says.

There were no injuries and the wagon remains upright on the tracks, the spokeswoman says.

Rail services have been suspended while investigations are underway.

Birthday milestone for tennis-playing pensioner

A tennis playing pensioner who first picked up a racquet more than 80 years ago credits the game for helping keep him fit.

It’s a crisp Marlborough morning, 90-year-old Nigel Perry is working on his backhand, playing doubles with mates.

The community stalwart is a regular fixture at the Pollard Park courts.

And despite celebrating his 90th birthday on Monday, the born-and-bred Marlburian has no plans to put down his racquet any time soon.

“I’ll keep playing until I can’t anymore,” he says.

His love affair with tennis has lasted a lifetime, he remembers first hitting the ball over the net, aged 8.

“As a kid, I enjoyed running around,” he says. “I enjoyed being on the courts.”

Tennis stalwart Nigel Perry celebrated a milestone birthday on Monday. Photo: Matt Brown.

Even a life-threating bone marrow disease couldn’t keep him from the sport after contracting osteomyelitis in his left arm at 13.

He spent 9 months in hospital and endured eight surgeries.

“I’m bloody lucky it was my arm, and not my leg,” he says. “It could have gone anywhere.”

The left-handed player was forced to swap his playing arm and plays tennis right-handed to this day.

He joined the Marlborough Tennis Club in 1947 when the courts were on Blenheim’s Kinross St.

In 1953 the courts moved to Pollard Park.

Nigel has vivid memories of matches played there, especially playing for Marlborough vs Nelson in the Lucas Cup, around 1960.

“I played Richard Harris, I can still see that game now, clear as a bell.”

The sprightly nonagenarian, who was once among the best 16 table tennis players in New Zealand, celebrated his milestone birthday with family and friends.

Nigel, a well know figure in the community, was president of the Road Safety Council for more than a decade.

He has been honoured with life memberships at the Table Tennis Association, The Marlborough Tennis Club, Marlborough Tennis Association, Marlborough Veterans Tennis Club, Blenheim Working Mens Club, Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary and Picton Senior Services.

A keen photographer, Nigel say he started photographing with a Baby Brownie and dabbled with writing, penning several articles for the former Seaport News in Picton.

In 1953, Nigel was offered the job as the first photo-finish technician in Marlborough, operating the cameras at the Waterlea Racecourse.

He photographed the races in Blenheim and around the country for 30 years.

“I’ve been bloody lucky, and I’ve had a damn good run. I put the blinds up in the morning and it’s another day, isn’t it?”

Homeward bound for record bid

A musician who catapulted to internet stardom is hoping her first headline gig will help make her dream come true.

Singer Eden Kavanagh, 24, won fans across the globe after her appearance on the Voice UK went viral.

Now to raise funds for her first album, the talented songstress will perform at Escape to Picton boutique hotel & restaurant in Picton.

And she’s looking to make her dream of releasing a record a reality.

Singer Eden Kavanagh, 24, won fans across the globe after her appearance on the Voice UK went viral.

“I’m making the music and having that polished. I can’t afford to do the recording, yet. Recording is the goal,” she says.

Eden made it through the gruelling selection process for the popular talent contest, the Voice UK, in January this year.

Performing for the judges, Eden had the crowd’s backing and entertained the judges, but was ultimately unsuccessful in her bid to secure a mentor.

Eden says the song she performed on The Voice UK will feature at her upcoming gig.

She says it would be a “crime” not to perform Megan Hilty’s ‘They Just Keep Moving The Line’ for a New Zealand audience.

“It’s going to be a very intimate setting, candlelight, the piano outside in the courtyard,” she says.

Since performing on the popular UK television show, Eden has been using her talents for the greater good.

She took part in the ‘This is who we are’ charity concert at the SkyCity Theatre in Auckland  to raise funds for the victims of the Christchurch terrorist attack.

Recently, she was a guest judge at the Voice of China South Island regional finals in Christchurch.

“The emotion and performances were unreal and I was honoured to be a part of it,” she says.

“I was honoured to show my support for victims and families affected by those horrific attacks.”

Eden  will be accompanied by accomplished jazz pianist Jack Page at her June gig.

“Jack’s brilliant,” Eden says.

“We have brilliant chemistry, I’m very happy to have him on board, that’s for sure.”

An Evening with Eden is on 1 June in Picton. Photo: Supplied.

Eden will also perform a mix of contemporary and classic songs.

“Songs that I resonate with, that have stories,” she says.

“It’s nerve-wracking but exciting”.

Eden says she hopes Marlburians would come out and “support a local girl and her dreams.”

“I hope to see a lot of familiar faces there,” she says.

‘Evening with Eden Kavanagh’ is on 1 June at Escape to Picton.

Tickets are $25.

A return bus will be operating from the iSite in Blenheim for $15.