Matt Brown

Matt Brown

Empty homes face wrecking ball

They’ve lain empty for a decade – now, two untenanted council homes face the wrecking ball.

Divided into four council-owned units the Blenheim houses have been uninhabitable since November 2009.

But after years of playing the waiting games, council bosses have finally deemed the Andrew Place buildings “uneconomical to repair”.

Marlborough District Council property and community facilities manager Jamie Lyall says the units have subsided due to ground slumping.

“The units are not deemed fit for purpose. So rather than leave the unoccupied buildings suiting there and not being used, council is looking at options for using the space.”

The demolition, approved at a Marlborough District Council planning, finance and community meeting on Thursday, is forecast to cost $34,000 not including asbestos removal.

Currently, there are 13 properties in the MDC Senior Housing portfolio, with 172 tenanted units in total.

Now people are set to get a say in the future of the vacant block.

Council’s senior housing sub-committee chair, councillor Cynthia Brooks, says council wants to hear from Andrew Place residents, and other community members, on how the new space can be best utilised.

“This is a great opportunity to develop the space vacated by the units, into a community area that can be used by all residents.

“Fruit trees, for example, could be planted that residents could enjoy, or a lovely raised vegetable garden could be constructed.

“But we want to get this right and deliver an end product that all residents will benefit from, which is why this feedback is so important,” Cynthia says.

The demolition work is scheduled to begin in the next few with areas fenced off during this time to ensure public safety.

Feedback on the future use of the vacant space is required by 5.00 pm on Monday 20 May 2019 and can be submitted to APL Property via email: [email protected] or by phoning: 03 577 7780.

Solving the bad-driver dilemma

Council and police have joined forced to help break a “vicious cycle” of young drivers caught on the road illegally.

A police-backed driver mentoring programme, funded by NZTA, has been launched with eight referrals in its first week.

And Marlborough District Council has purchased a $20,000 Holden Barina with the aim of training the region’s most at-risk drivers.

Road policing group acting sergeant Andy Holmes came up with the initiative to reduce the trauma and harm on the region’s roads.

“We don’t want to be stopping somebody and ticketing them week in week out.

“We want to attack the root cause,” Andy says.

The programme is managed by family advocacy group Supporting Families Marlborough with recommendations coming from various community groups.

Police are focusing on at-risk young people who have already been caught driving without a license.

Andy says experienced road police officers will be doing some mentoring to improve the quality of drivers in Marlborough.

Marlborough District Council road safety coordinator Robyn Blackburn says another benefit of the programme is that it will provide employment opportunities.

Marlborough District Council road safety coordinator Robyn Blackburn with the new vehicle for the Community Driver Mentoring programme. Photo Matt Brown.

“The aim is improving road safety,” she says.

The programme, which has taken just under a year to implement, is thought to be the first of its type in the district with similar programmes running in Christchurch and Manukau.

Andy says the community’s willingness to come on board has been “fantastic”.

Wadsco Motorworld provided “a really attractive package” on the Holden Barina, including three years of servicing.

Insurance firm AMI insured the car and BB Signs donated signwriting services.

A $35,000 NZTA grant is funding the car purchase and operating costs over three years.

Andy says the launch was a “proud moment” for the community.

“By getting the funding and the support, we’ve ensured we can run this for the next three years minimum.

“It’s quite a proud moment, to have the car here in the flesh and have referrals ready to go.”

Cannabis event organiser ditches on the day

A campaigner for medical marijuana abandoned his own event after fears police may clamp down.

Co-organiser Dakkie Aikad helped organise the inaugural Picton J Day event, but comments from police in a Marlborough App article spooked the cannabis campaigner.

However, his concerns were in vain as the police were not in “direct attendance”, according to a police media representative.

“The police attitude in your article tells me they will be making arrests if anyone uses cannabis tomorrow, so I will no longer be making the trip to attend.” Dakkie says.

“I have too much to lose and too many people relying on me so I’m out.”

J Day organiser Shane Mckenzie says J Day is “sort of like crate day but way better, way safer.”

The police statement says there were no arrests or issues for police.

Shane Mckenzie and Dakkie Aikad organised Picton’s first ever J Day, on Saturday, as part of a nationwide series of events.

The pair hoped their “family friendly” efforts would educate the public ahead of next year’s referendum on legalising the personal use of marijuana.

Shane, a Picton hairdresser, encouraged people to bring their own joints to the event but has warned people to be safety conscious.

“It’s sort of like crate day but way better, way safer. You don’t get a bunch of drunk idiots,” Shane says.

“Some joints will be handed out but please bring your own stash if you have it but not large quantities for safety reasons.”

Shane, who has been attending J Days for more than 10 years, says the event is about informing the public about medicinal marijuana.

“People who are chronically ill should turn up,” Shane says. “There’s no drug dealing, no bad stuff.

Shane broke his neck “years and years ago” and uses medicinal marijuana as a substitute for heavy painkillers.

Shane says the idea is to help educate people.

“Bad behaviour or intimidation will not be tolerated.

“Let’s keep this event family friendly and educate our new generation about the benefits of cannabis but used in a safe way.

“Everyone knows it’s a trouble-free event.

Marlborough Area Commander Inspector Simon Feltham says police are aware of the J Day Picton event.

“We will have a presence in the area,” Simon says.

“The role of the police is to enforce the law and our approach to cannabis has not changed.”

He says police have discretion on how they deal with a range of matters, including cannabis offences, on a case-by-case basis.

J Day is an initiative started by the social activism group, National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

Organisers describe the event as a national day of action supporting cannabis law reform, including safe legal access to medicinal cannabis.

It’s been held on the first Saturday in May every year in over 100 cities around the world.

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Parking payment made easy

The days of scrabbling around for coins for the parking meter are set to become a thing of the past.

A new scheme will see older-style lollipop meters ditched in favour of a new ticketless system.

And a practice meter has been set up to help motorists get to grips with the arrival of a new Pay by Plate parking initiative.

Marlborough District Council’s parking sub-committee chairman councillor Brian Dawson says he wants people to be familiar with the new machines before they are rolled out across Blenheim.

“We want people to feel comfortable with the new system and we hope having a test terminal will help with that,” he says.

The new Pay by Plate system will see drivers enter their vehicle plate number and the desired parking time at the terminal.

They can then use coins or debit cards to pay for their parking.

A new ‘Pay my Park’ app will also allow drivers to top up or pay for their parking remotely.

Marlborough District Council projects and contracts manager Robyn Searle says you won’t need to go to a meter that’s near your park, instead, just pay at the first one you come across as you do your shopping.

If drivers need to move spaces, the new system allows people to move between kerbside parks and use unspent parking credit for that day.

Parking time limits and tariffs will remain the same.

Brian says the system is “really easy to use.”

“You just enter your plate number and time, press ok, pay, then walk away.”

Trained helpers will be on the street to assist for around a month after the new meters went “live”.

Implementation of the new system will be carried out in stages, with stage one starting in Queen, Market, Scott, Maxwell and High streets.

The project is expected to be completed by mid to late June, weather permitting.

Robyn says the old meters were getting vandalized “on a disturbing scale.”

“It’s well overdue. We have more and more going out of order.”

A maximum of $320,000 is budgeted for the new system which will see around 170 of the old meters replaced with 24 pay by plate machines.