Matt Brown

Matt Brown

Flaxbourne farmer John Hickman at the edge of Lake Elterwater. Photo: Matt Brown.

Flaxbourne farmer’s protester challenge

A Marlborough farmer fed up with a lack of action from climate change protesters has challenged them to walk the walk.

Fourth-generation Flaxbourne farmer John Hickman is looking for people to help pioneer change in a practical way.

The forward-thinking farmer wants to give people the chance to help – by getting their hands dirty.

“What got me going was the climate change protests,” he says.

“People were protesting to council and government – and I don’t think that’s the right way to get things done.”

To get the ball rolling, the Taimate Angus co-owner has fenced wetland on his 750-hectare farm and ordered 2000 native plants.

All he needs now is people power to help get the project underway.

He says people should take responsibility for the environment, but that many don’t know where to start.

“I want to give people who are anxious, who are worried about the future, an outlet – something to do that will make a difference to the environment for both habitat restoration and potential climate mitigation”.

“It’s up to each person but a lot of people simply don’t have the means.

“We have the land and the plants, but we struggle with the time,” John says.

Several years ago, John a neighbour and another worker spent weeks planting 6000 natives around Lake Elterwater – which his farm borders.

He says a flood in the first year buried the plants in debris, then it got so dry he and the neighbour had to pump water via a fire pump from the lake to keep them watered.

“It’s a hard environment to get things going, southerlies and northerlies roar through here.

“But we’re now building on a strong base.”

The lake, now boasting healthy lowland totara, kanuka, manuka, Carex, Oleria, Hoheria, cabbage trees, kowhai and flax attracts birdlife that people travel from throughout New Zealand to see.

“The lake’s a showcase area but there are other areas around the farm, other habitats that can be restored,” he says.

The programme has inspired John to replicate the success in other areas in the farm – with hopes to take it even further.

“So, I’m getting the ball rolling and getting things going from here.”

“I wanted somewhere that could link farmers and people that want to help.

“It’s also a way for farmers to do a larger area of planting and brings their cost down.

“At the same time, it helps the urban people that are feeling helpless.”

John says it will also help to break down the rural/urban divide.

“I’m a farmer.

“I don’t consider myself a massive environmentalist, but I do consider myself a protector of the land.”

The first planting day is organised for 9 August.

To get involved email [email protected]

“People, instead of protesting, can come help us out.”


Horror crashes claim three lives, injures more

A third month of horror crashes on a notorious stretch of Marlborough road has turned deadly.

The string of serious accidents on SH1 since May has seen three people killed and many others seriously injured.

But while the road is included as part of a wider safety review, road bosses have put the deaths down to chance.

Seddon man Damian Pollock died on 2 July after a ute left the road between Blind River Loop Road and Tetley Brook Road.

Damian Pollock was killed when his ute left the road at the beginning of July.

His devastated aunt, Theresa Pollock, says people need answers.“If it was driver’s error, we still need answers after hearing so many bad things about the road between Blenheim and Ward.

“If awareness is put out there maybe it could save a life.”

Damian, who just started a new job as a fisheries worker, was the first person to be killed on the road this month.

On Friday, a head-on collision between a ute and an SUV just south of Redwood Pass Road killed one person and seriously injured another.

One person escaped with moderate injuries.

Meanwhile, about ten minutes prior to the fatal accident, a vehicle left the road in the Weld Pass.

An accident on 21 May injured several.

A Waka Kotahi (New Zealand Transport Agency) spokeswoman says safety improvements have recently been proposed for the Weld Pass area and referred to a community engagement report from 2018.

“Clusters of road deaths do occur from time to time but unless they are on the exact same spot they tend to be just part of the range of statistics over time,” the spokeswoman says.

She says if the accidents were in the same place, NZTA staff would be looking at the condition of the highway surface and “anything else” which could be contributing, such as ice patches.

The 22km stretch of highway has had at least six serious accidents requiring emergency services since May.


21 May – Young mother Jamie Miller, three children, and one other were rushed to hospital following a crash at the corner of Roadhouse Drive and State Highway 1. Jamie was flown to Nelson Hospital with serious injuries.

12 June – A freight truck and trailer left the road on a sweeping bend near the Blenheim side of Redwood Pass Road. The driver escaped with moderate injuries.

2 July – A ute left the road between Blind River Loop Road and Tetley Brook Road killing the driver, Damian Pollock.

12 July – A car rolled near Riverlands at about 6.20pm, killing the driver, who is yet to be named.

17 July – A head-on collision between a ute and an SUV just south of Redwood Pass Road killed one person and seriously injured another. One person escaped with moderate injuries.

Blenheim School principal Denyse Healy with St Andrew’s Craft Group members Dicky Willemsen and Raewyn Buchanan. Photo: Matt Brown.

Winter woollies welcome

A craft and knitting group are putting their passion to purpose by keeping young heads and feet warm this winter.

St Andrew’s Craft Group members knitted more than 100 winter woollies for Blenheim School pupils.

And Blenheim School principal Denyse Healy says the timing couldn’t have been better.

“With the start of the term we have our camps coming up,” she says.

Students will be heading off to Mistletoe Bay and Pine Valley, and in the cold weather the slippers “keep feet so warm”.

She says they will continue to be used throughout the term in class, to keep mucky boots of 93 children outside and combat winter chills.

St Andrew’s Craft Group member Raewyn Buchanan says their group love knitting and the finished product going to keep kids warm is a real bonus.

“We’re thrilled to give these to Blenheim School,” she says.

“We’ve made about 40 beanies and 60 pairs of slippers.

“Knitting doesn’t have to be expensive – I got two skeins from an opshop for $8 and I’ve made uncountable slippers from them,” Raewyn says.

Raewyn says the craft group has already begun on the next batch.

A commuter is hoping more people will take up riding the bus. Photo: Matt Brown.

Bus service trial sours as passengers not on board

Council is sinking tens of thousands of dollars into a commuter bus service that is barely being used.

Two trial bus circuits designed to take commuters to work were launched near the end of February.

But the service is falling flat with an average journey costing around $70 per passenger.

One worried commuter says she’s always travelling solo and hopes more people will jump on board.

Retail assistant Cheryl Abrahams, from Blenheim, says she wanted to reduce her carbon footprint but fears she is making it worse.

“I’m wanting to make my carbon footprint smaller but, am I, as the only one on the bus?”

The bus services, two commuter lines and a bus from Renwick, are part of an 18-month trial service.

Cheryl Abrahams wants to reduce her carbon footprint but is often the only passenger on the bus. Photo: Supplied.
Cheryl Abrahams wants to reduce her carbon footprint but is often the only passenger on the bus. Photo: Supplied.

The east and west commuter lines each do two circuits in the morning and two in the evening – eight circuits each day.

Figures from council, show passengers have taken 248 trips on the commuter bus and 342 rides on the Renwick line since the beginning of the trial to 30 June.

“All of council’s bus services were heavily impacted by the COVID pandemic,” a council spokesman says.

The commuter component of the Renwick service and both the Blenheim services were stopped from 26 March to 1 June – with full services reinstated on 2 June 2020.

Over the 30-or-so days the trial has been taking passengers, and spread out over the eight loops each day, that works out to about one passenger per trip.

The $135,442 programme, now nearly a third of the way through, is costing roughly $70 per passenger.

Cheryl, who lives in Witherlea, says it’s a no-brainer to take the bus, and thinks if more people knew about it, they would use it.

But she says bus stops don’t have the timetable for the early commuter bus posted and she’s never seen any advertising for it.

“Council has done a poor job of advertising,” she says.

“Reducing traffic by even just 5 per cent would make a huge difference. To your wallet and traffic.”

She says she was the only one to catch the east bus line into town last week and says the bus driver told her she was only the third person he had picked up since February.

Cheryl usually bikes to work, but when the weather is poor takes her car.

“Where I work there’s no all-day parking,” she says.

“To get parking, I have to walk the same distance as to the bus stop.”

It costs about $4 a day to park in a long-term carpark in town – the same amount as a return bus fare.

“I’m thrilled that it does exist,” says Cheryl.

17-year-old Alex Marshall. Photo: Supplied.

Picture perfect shot makes a splash

A roadie to Rotoiti and some speedy editing has nabbed a national title for a young Blenheim photographer.

17-year-old Alex Marshall took the top spot in the youth category of the ANZ Sony 2020 Alpha Awards with his image, ‘A Celebration of Solitude’.

And with only four hours to execute and edit the shoot, Alex says the competition tested his skills- but he took the perfect shot first time.

“I had a few locations in mind before I was given the theme,” he says.

“I chose to shoot this image at Nelson National Lakes park, I’ve wanted to capture something like this for some time, and my goal was to take a less traditional approach to the theme, one that shows the joy in solitude.

Alex Marshall’s photo, titled ‘A Celebration of Solitude’ and taken at Lake Rotoiti, won the youth section of an Australian and New Zealand competition. Photo: Supplied.
Alex Marshall’s photo, titled ‘A Celebration of Solitude’ and taken at Lake Rotoiti, won the youth section of an Australian and New Zealand competition. Photo: Supplied.

“At the lake we lucked out with conditions.

“It was overcast with some nice light coming through the clouds.”

He roped in his mate, Jack, as the model – who handily has a family bach nearby where Alex edited the shot.

Alex, a boarder at Scots College in Wellington says he had about two hours to edit, after traveling from Blenheim and convincing Jack to dive into the freezing water.

“Because you have a specific theme, it challenges your creativity and it challenges the way you shoot.

“It really encourages you to get out there,” he says.

“I entered last year and got two images through to the short list but unfortunately didn’t get through to the finals.

“I wanted a go at the finals, so I entered again this year.”

Alex says he has been using a camera for years but got serious about photography about three years ago.

The title, a $1700 Sony A6400 Camera kit and $2,000 worth of Sony Alpha camera gear was the  reward.

He says the cash will go toward new lenses.

Cuddon freeze dry sales and marketing manager Blair Kibblewhite with Lara, who’s destined for America. Photo: Matt Brown.

Firm’s overseas odyssey

Lara has been lovingly bundled up and prepared for her several-thousand-kilometre boat trip to North America for a new life making pet food.

Usually, a Blenheim engineer would be ready to welcome her after her six-week trip to help get her settled and comfortable in her new home.

But COVID put paid to that, so Lara, a $2 million plus, general-purpose freeze-dryer made by engineering firm Cuddon will be making the trip alone.

And the Blenheim based team are making the most of modern technology to oversee Lara’s installation remotely from the other side of the world.

Cuddon freeze dry sales and marketing manager Blair Kibblewhite says they had to think outside the box to get the large machines overseas and installed.

“Previously, we would send an engineer to unpack and facilitate the install,” Blair says.

“Now, we’re doing this in Canada at the moment, the owner has a camera on his head and we’re talking him through the process remotely.

Cuddon Engineering, on Mcartney Street. Photo: Matt Brown.

“We’ve achieved a lot utilising that technology,” Blair says.

Closed borders due to the pandemic continue to hurt exporters.

But Cuddon Engineering is bucking the trend, and while bosses have had to rethink some ways of doing things exports are going strong.

The engineering company works in refrigeration, water engineering, irrigation and carbon steel but their big earner is designing, building and installing freeze driers.

Most of the other branches worked through lockdown as essential services, but the freeze-drying section couldn’t do anything due to health and safety reasons.

“We find the guys may have put things on hold, but the sales are still coming. We haven’t stopped at all.”

He says two freeze dryers are leaving the workshop, one bound for the US and other, the UK.

“We thought and worked outside the box,” he says.

Working remotely via Zoom, up to four engineers in Blenheim can pop on a call to run the engineers onsite through the installation process.

Then there are a few more working with contractors.

“It’s face to face and stable – it’s better than phone.

“It’s given us the ability and confidence to do it again with this one going to the US.”

Stuart Smith.

Kaikōura electorate candidates: What is your position on the 2020 cannabis referendum?

Jamie Arbuckle.
Jamie Arbuckle.

Jamie Arbuckle – New Zealand First
The NZ First party position is for this issue to be decided by a referendum.
I personally will be voting No.
Government has recently passed legislation for the commercial cultivation of cannabis for medicinal use which I support.
To have recreational cannabis freely available, in my view, will cause more harm to vulnerable communities and set back achieving Smokefree Aotearoa 2025.

Matt Flight.
Matt Flight.

Matt Flight – Labour
I will be voting in favour.
Police spend approximately $120m a year policing a product which causes less harm than alcohol and other drugs.
I believe our police resources are better directed at tackling issues like methamphetamine, home invasions and other criminal acts which cause greater harm and concern in our community.

Stuart Smith.
Stuart Smith.

Stuart Smith – National
The cannabis referendum question is; ‘Do you support the proposed Cannabis and Control Legislation Bill’.
It has nothing to do with medicinal cannabis but rather would establish a legal framework for a regulated industry.
This is an inferior Bill that has not gone through the legislative process which may fix some of its shortcomings or indeed make it worse, but that is not what we are voting on, we are in effect being asked to sign a blank cheque.
I would however support decriminalising recreational cannabis which would mean that those with small amounts of cannabis would not be able to be charged with an offence.
But I do not support the proposed Bill which is what we are being asked to vote on.

Photographer David James did a fashion portrait session with his ten-year-old niece Madison Love who died of a rare brain cancer during lockdown. Photos: David James.

Sick kids to fashion models

The loss of a close loved-one has inspired a photographer to give sick children a moment in the spotlight.

After a magazine cover shoot with his terminally ill ten-year-old niece, photographer David James wants to offer the “awesome” experience to other ill kids.

And with the plan in the “germination” stage, David hopes the community will get on board.

“I’m thinking about ways to go around this,” he says.

David says he’s unsure whether to reach out to families privately, or if it needs to go through an organisation.

“It’s putting an idea out there,” he says.

His niece, Madison, is the motivation behind the initiative after she passed away from a rare brain cancer during lockdown, David says.

“I wasn’t able to go to her funeral because of lockdown restrictions and funeral numbers,” he says.

“I made a strong connection with her; she was a good friend.

“She was cool to hang out with and through her, I learnt about myself.”

He says while on a shoot in Christchurch, he invited his niece along.

“I said, let’s get dressed up and do a fun shoot.

“The clothes were all too big for her, but that didn’t matter.”

Photographer David James did a fashion portrait session with his ten-year-old niece Madison Love who died of a rare brain cancer during lockdown. Photo: David James.

David says during the photo shoot, Madison forgot her troubles.

“For 15 minutes she totally forgot that she was sick.

“I thought after, what an awesome experience to give kids.”

He says the idea has been building since that shoot.

“And I don’t think I grieved properly.

“When I had this idea, I felt some of that grief lifting.”

His mini travel studio has everything needed for a magazine-style fashion portraiture photo session, and he says hair and wardrobe stylists have offered to donate their time.

“I’ll set it up in the living room or somewhere convenient for the family.

“I want to be really respectful about the whole situation.

“I’m seeing if someone can give me ideas about how to go about it.”

David says it’s an awesome experience that results in some neat pictures.

“Every time I look at those photos, I’ll always remember that time,” he says.

“It’s a reason to forget about all the crap for a minute.”

“One of the things that struck me about Madison was how arty and creative she was.

“She had the creative, goofy, weird genes that I have; I fell in love with her straight away.”

To offer support or knowledge, get in contact with David James at [email protected]

Mussels are extensively farmed in the Marlborough Sounds. Photo: Supplied.

Scientists’ mussel seabed solution

Hopes to bring wild mussels back to the Sounds and boost marine diversity have moved a step closer.

An international team of experts are calling for Marlborough District Council to approve plans to create two new mussel beds in the Pelorus Sound.

And marine scientists hope the Marlborough project could spark mussel bed restoration initiatives in other parts of New Zealand.

The move comes after three years of investigation into the best way to create new seabed habitats.

Large areas of mussel beds were destroyed last century as land clearance and ongoing run off from farmland altered the nature of the seabed.

A report prepared for council by marine scientist Dr Andrew Jeffs says dropping clean shells to create a habitat for two new mussel beds in

the Pelorus Sound could stop further deterioration.

“For a number of years there has been concern, including from MDC, about the decline of wild shellfish beds in areas of the Marlborough Sounds.

“Studies in other areas have shown that mussel beds are extremely productive, support high biodiversity, act as nurseries for fin-fish species, and help to remove suspended sediment from the water column and stabilise the seabed,” the report says.

Scientists plan to drop clean shells to act as anchors for live mussels in a bid to test whether coarser seabed substrate will prove a better habitat than silt.

The multi-million-dollar project has attracted significant co-funding and specialist technical support from an overseas environmental NGO, The Nature Conservancy.

“One possibility for the lack of natural recovery of wild mussel populations in the Marlborough Sounds is the inability of mussels to re-establish naturally on this changed seabed substrate,” Andrew says.

“Mussels require sediment particles of at least 2 mm in diameter in order to attach their anchoring threads which hold them upright on the seafloor so they can feed,” he says.

The shell material and live mussels will be actively monitored by researchers.

The Marine Farming Association worked with other community groups, the University of Auckland and NIWA to develop the research plan.

Gramado’s owner Saulo Camillo is organising a huge community picnic and BBQ. Photo: Matt Brown.

Chef cooks up big BBQ idea

A group of big-hearted restauranteurs are banding together to give people a boost – with a huge community barbecue.

Some of Marlborough’s finest chefs have joined forces to organise a community picnic and BBQ to help bring people back together after lockdown.

The brainchild of Gramado’s owner Saulo Camillo, the idea has been inspired by his father who died at just 38 years old.

“He was the inspiration for my whole life, he was a big-hearted man.

“During lockdown I knew that it was going to be tough, so I had to find something to do that I love.

“For me, that’s Brazilian BBQ; It reminds me of my family.

“Our idea is in these desperate times to bring to families that have been having financial problems, that haven’t been able to take the kids out in a while,” he says.

The Gramado’s team dishing up BBQ at their first event following the lockdown. Photo: Supplied.
The Gramado’s team dishing up BBQ at their first event following the lockdown. Photo: Supplied.

Straight after lockdown, Saulo donated food to 38 families who had been nominated for a culinary treat.

Nominations flooded in and Saulo was encouraged to organise a larger event for 500 people.

It grew so large he reached out to fellow foodies to help. Karaka Cuisine, Arbor and Feast Merchants are all on board.

“I couldn’t cater 500 people by myself, so I asked for help,” he says.

Suppliers jumped on board too, Saulo says.

Westmeat, Te Mana, Bidfood and Meaters are providing ingredients.

“I had to ask for help, and it’s ok to ask for help; That’s why we have a community.

“We have a region that looks after each other.”

He says the event is for families and individuals that could have had it rough during these “desperate” times.

“It could be people that are lonely or couldn’t see their family during quarantine.

“Our idea is to have fun.

“We’re going to have fun with whoever is coming.”

He says he understands some families don’t want to show that they are in need, and so plans to have a central pick up area in town for takeaways.

“A lot of families probably won’t come, they don’t want to seem in need,” Saulo says.

“But it’s better to be together with someone who can lift you up.”

He says he hopes the event will continue and get bigger.

“In the last three weeks I’ve had more emails from people wanting to help than to join.

“If you can give a little – not even money, but time, you’re going to inspire more people to help.

“Together we can make Marlborough better.”

To nominate, email family name, contact number, address and the reason why they’re deserving to [email protected]