Matt Brown

Matt Brown

There could be more rentals on the market when the country leaves lockdown level four. Photo: Supplied.

Airbnb crash could solve rental shortage

Out of luck renters looking for their next home could see some relief as property owners look to convert their empty Airbnbs.

Blenheim-based property managers are predicting Airbnb owners may make the switch as tourism around the country dries up.

But until lockdown restrictions are lifted, the rental market is on hold.

Harcourts Marlborough senior property manager Lavina Diamanti says the move could help ease pressure and housing shortages.

There are 16 rental properties in Marlborough listed on Trademe, with one in Kaikoura and one in Picton while Airbnb lists more than 100 places to stay in the region.

“We’ve had a real shortage of rentals and a lot of people struggling to find a home,” Lavina says.

“Potentially, we could have a more balanced market.”

She says Marlborough’s demographic and industry means, typically, Marlborough isn’t hit as hard by downturns in the property market.

But she says predicting the effect of Covid-19 on the market is “crystal ball stuff”.

First National Marlborough senior property manager Mariette Knudsen says rental demand has plummeted as people isolate themselves to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“There are quite a few Airbnb in Blenheim and there are cancellations happening everywhere,” she says.

“The nice ones with good reviews will probably hold on,” Mariette says.

“I think there will be Airbnb’s coming onto the market, but not all of them.”

She says the increase in stock most likely won’t affect the price of a rental.

“It’s supply and demand,” she says.

“People still need a place to live.”

She says rent increases across New Zealand are caused by a combination of demand and the new healthy homes requirements.

“Being a landlord myself, it’s affected us considerably.

“If there is an adjustment, I don’t think it will be a major one.”

Deputy mayor Nadine Taylor, left, will lead the new council team. Photo: Matt Brown.

New council team to tackle Covid-19

A new council super group has been formed to help Marlborough get back on its feet after lockdown ends.

Led by Deputy Mayor Nadine Taylor, The Economic Action Marlborough (TEAM) group will draft an economic recovery plan over the next month.

In a bid to help the region recover from the impacts of the Covid-19 crisis, council bosses are first looking at how big the economic impact is.

A four-stage plan is helping staff decide the best way forward.

“Council is designated as the regional lead during emergencies and COVID-19 is the biggest challenge Marlborough has faced in our lifetimes,” Nadine says.

“We’ve already announced council itself will spend over $60 million of capital expenditure in 2020-21 and similar spending over each of the next three years.”

The TEAM group looked at four phases for recovery. From the current ‘Respond’ phase dealing with the immediate lockdown issues to moving to a ‘Resilience’ phase. This will see the focus shift to maintaining cashflow and jobs.

The ‘Return’ phase will see a bid to expand services again and a final ‘Reimagination’ phase where a new normal was developed.

Nadine says council’s role is extended to support a wider recovery, working with key sectors and agencies to mitigate COVID-19’s effect on Marlborough businesses.

“Staff worked over the Easter break to bring together the TEAM group and provide the background papers.

“We’ve got a very strong group now underway on helping steer our region through the economic impacts the virus is creating.”

“We are taking particular note as we start our work on the impact of COVID-19 on our tourism and hospitality sectors,” she says.

Ongoing information on how local businesses are faring will continue to be provided by the Marlborough Chamber of Commerce and Business Trust Marlborough.

Councillor Mark Peters told the group he was bringing together a meeting of some Marlborough accountants and lawyers prepared to provide advice and insight on business responses to COVID-19 across the region.

“The information from all these sources which now includes that welcome input from accountants and lawyers will help build a quality picture very quickly of what we are dealing with and allow us to accurately target our recovery efforts,” Nadine says.

Yesterday’s first TEAM group meeting included an update from Ministry of Social Development regional commissioner Craig Churchill who says further Government support programmes would likely focus on projects that are ready to go and creating jobs while navigating through the likely impacts of COVID-19.

This could include projects that expanded social housing.

Nadine says while the TEAM group represents a good cross section, it cannot include all sectors and will be supported in its work by an Industry Advisory COVID-19 group, to be chaired by councillor Gerald Hope.

Representatives from the wine, aquaculture, forestry, tourism and farming sectors, as well as a mandated iwi representative, Port Marlborough, Marlborough Chamber of Commerce and Ministry of Social Development have joined council in the group.

Mayor John Leggett, who sat in on yesterday’s first TEAM group meeting, says it is encouraging to see such a good group has been pulled together to face the major challenges ahead.

“We’ve all got to get behind this initiative to keep Marlborough moving,” he says.

The old nurses' home at Wairau Hospital has had it's demolition put on hold as New Zealand battles Covid-19. Photo: Matt Brown.

$1million demolition to go ahead ‘when practicable’

Covid-19 has bought demolition work on one of Blenheim’s oldest heritage buildings to a halt.

The derelict Wairau nurses’ home is all but destroyed, with only the front façade remaining.

But a Nelson Marlborough Health spokeswoman says work on the $1 million project will continue “when practicable.”

Work on the red-brick facility in the grounds of Wairau Hospital was expected to be completed by March.

The nurses’ home has lain empty for almost six years, costing health bosses around $30,000 to keep the building fenced off.

“The demolition is largely completed – just the front-facing façade to come down now,” the spokeswoman says.

Concerns over asbestos and seismic rating issues meant the former home would cost too much to address accessibility and fire safety problems.

Nelson Marlborough District Board staff decided demolition was ultimately a better use of public health funds.

A plan to stamp out stoats from D'Urville Island was signed during the Covid-19 lockdown. Photo: Rod Morris/

Sayonara stoats: D’Urville’s $3.1m plan signed

History has been made during lockdown as a multi-million-dollar deal is signed to stamp out stoats.

There was little fanfare to mark the milestone occasion as the culmination of 16 years work was signed in just a few seconds.

A six-year funding commitment will see a combination of old-school techniques and technology help wipe-out stoats from New Zealand’s fifth largest island.

The 16,782-hectare D’Urville Island, in the Marlborough Sounds, is free of ship rats, Norway rats, possums and weasels.

Now, $3.1 million has been committed to stamping out stoats on the island.

D’Urville Island Stoat Eradication Charitable Trust (DISECT), Predator Free 2050 Limited, Rātā Foundation, Marlborough District Council, the NZ Lotteries Grant Board and landowners have all pledged their support.

Oliver Southerland and Angela Fitchett signing the Marlborough District Council agreement at a carefully prepared COVID-19 signing station. Photo: Supplied.

DISECT co-chair Oliver Sutherland says the moments mark the start of an opportunity to “reverse the history of wildlife loss.”

The project will use a variety of traps and lures, including automated luring with an egg mayo mix, as well as smart detection techniques such as cameras and DNA analysis.

Stoats have caused the local extinction of little spotted kiwi, yellow-crowned kākāriki and South Island kākā and threaten an important population of South Island long-tailed bats/ pekapeka.

Predator Free 2050 Limited chief executive Ed Chignell says the project will provide an important boost to the national Predator Free 2050 effort.

“This is a challenging and ambitious project with a lot at stake for wildlife and important opportunities for innovation and learning,” he says.

The government-owned funder is providing $975,000 and facilitating expertise from other projects around the country.

Marlborough District Council Mayor John Leggett says the restoration of wildlife could open new nature-based jobs and opportunities for the island.

D’Urville Island is New Zealand’s fifth largest island. Photo: Tamzin Henderson/ Driftwood Ecotours.

The council is providing $500,000 of support through its biosecurity programme.

Department of Conservation Sounds operations manager Dave Hayes says DOC has been providing technical advice to the project.

“We are pleased to support this community led initiative and will be continuing to provide expert advice and input throughout its duration of the project.”

Special attention will be given to trapping on the mainland within five kilometres of D’Urville and establishing a surveillance network to quickly detect any incursions across the narrow channel from French Pass.

Field work is expected to start towards the end of this year.

A Covid-19 sign at Wairau Hospital. Photo: Matt Brown.

No new Covid-19 cases in region for two days

There have been no new Covid-19 cases in the Nelson Marlborough region since 9 April.

Health bosses say 26 people have now recovered from the virus.

The total cases for Marlborough remians 12 confirmed and 9 probable.

Nelson has 21 confirmed cases and 6 probable.

More than 1000 people have been assessed and 600 tested in Marlborough, Nelson and Motueka.

All cases are travel-related and there is no evidence of community outbreak.

Covid-19 kills milk delivery

Milk delivery in Marlborough has become a casualty of Covid-19.

The first milk delivery service in Marlborough for 30 years, Milk and More, has closed its Blenheim run.

Owner Trevor Nicholls, in a Facebook post, says a disagreement with their glass-bottle milk supplier was the final straw for the business.

“This is deeply saddening for myself and my staff and I am aware that so many other businesses and individuals are in the same boat,” Trevor says.

“Covid-19 has affected individuals, communities, businesses and many other groups in an immense way.”

He says at the beginning Milk and More intended to deliver through the level four lockdown.

“We were then told that we would not be deemed an essential business – many of us here breathed a sigh of relief as we would not be exposing ourselves, our families and our customers to a greater risk of the virus spreading.”

Then, on March 6, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced butchers, bakers and greengrocers would be able to make home deliveries.

“Although this decision gave us the opportunity to recommence milk deliveries, I’d had time to think about the risks presented with picking up glass bottles from over 5,000 houses across the top of the South.

“So, I made the difficult decision to only supply Anchor Milk in plastic bottles for the immediate future.

“Our glass bottle milk supplier did not see eye to eye with me on this, and as a result, have terminated the relationship between us.”

Trevor says not having glass-bottle milk would see him lose most of his customers.

“Despite this, I stand by my choice to cease glass bottle pickup while in lock-down and will always be of the opinion that the safety of my staff and customers comes above business profitability and success.

“It has been my absolute pleasure in servicing Blenheim and the surrounding areas with Milk and More products over the years.

“Thank you for your support, loyalty and friendly faces. I wish you all the best.”

Suppliers to Milk and More, Oaklands Milk, based in Stoke, is looking to resume home delivery in re-usable glass bottles.

To register your interest in getting milk bottle deliveries, email [email protected]

Haircuts will have to wait until lockdown restrictions are eased. File photo.

Hairdos are hairdon’ts until lockdown hits level two

Manes will go untamed until lockdown restrictions are eased.

The national body of hairdressers has revealed hair cuts are off the table until the alert level is lowered to level two.

Cutz on Weld owner Toni-Marie Robinson says it’s reassuring to have a governing body with the foresight to guide small business owners in these troubling times.

“I feel as an industry we are dealing with customers extremely closely,” she says. “I certainly think it is a fair ruling.”

“All our clients are totally supportive, as they understand this is affecting not only us as a nation but the whole world.”

Guidelines released by the New Zealand Association of Registered Hairdressers outline what their members can and can’t do during the Covid-19 quarantine.

Online sales of haircare products are permitted at level three and four, but they can’t do hairdos until level two.

And there are strict guidelines when they reopen, including physical distancing, staggered shifts and those over 70 and immunocompromised prohibited from salons and barbers.

Toni-Marie says it’s a small price to pay.

“If we don’t have our health, we don’t have businesses, so it is a small price to pay to live,” she says.

“We aren’t in this alone.

“This is a once in a lifetime world pandemic, and we as New Zealanders know how to join together and fight.”

But she says there is a bright side.

And with the professionals maintaining their own bubbles, Kiwis have turned to the trusty mixing bowl in droves.

Mullets and bowl cuts have made a comeback as New Zealanders celebrate the number 8 wire mentality with DIY trims.

“We as a business are looking forward to seeing the wild a wacky hairstyles walking through the door,” Toni-Marie says.

Some people are living on their vessel during lockdown but recreational boating is strictly prohibited. File photo.

Easter holiday-makers warned off Marlborough Sounds

Easter traditionally sees the Marlborough Sounds full to bursting with holiday makers enjoying the area before the long winter months.

While some international travellers have holed up in the Sounds, during the lockdown, the waterways are reserved for essential travel only.

And boaties have been given the thumbs up for behaving well while Covid-19 keeps them mainly moored-up.

Marlborough harbour master Luke Grogan says while there is some nervousness around people wanting to visit their bach during Easter, most people have responded positively.

“Everyone is hopeful people will continue in the main doing what they have been doing, that is staying home,” he says.

Luke says Port Marlborough’s message is clear, no recreational boating and if you don’t need to travel, don’t.

“We are going to have a presence on the water to support the efforts of all the people who are complying,” he says.

Alongside police, Port Marlborough staff have been running regular patrols in the Marlborough and Pelorus Sounds.

“There might have been half a dozen boats [not complying] early on during the lockdown.

“In the last few patrols, that number has dropped.”

He says Sounds residents with no road access, or those spending the lockdown on their vessel, still need to eat and they’re allowed to travel to town to stock up their pantries.

Public with concerns about boats travelling within the Sounds are encouraged to go to the police directly.

“Our powers are to do with navigation safety.

“The power with decisions around people breaking lockdown rest with the police,” Luke says.

He says those living in the sounds, or on their vessel should be staying in one place.

“They shouldn’t be going for an afternoon sail.

“They should be on a mooring, or in some instance at anchor, and stay there for the duration.

Luke says he has staff monitoring that space and if there were any red flags they would have notified the police.

He says most of the community has been complying in a bid to stop the virus.

“It’s a case of working together,” he says.

“If people have concerns about their boats, their security or safety on the moorings, genuine concerns, call the harbour office and we could organise and visit to the vessel on their behalf.

Luke says people in Marlborough have a high level of seamanship and know how important it is to make sure their vessels are safe.

“Don’t risk it and break the rules. Talk to us in the first instance.”

A fire has broken out up the Taylor Pass. Photo: Supplied

Gum tree flare up at Taylor Pass

Marlborough fire crews are fighting a blaze tearing through gum trees up Taylor Pass Road.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand shift manager Jonathan Ditmer says ten crews and two helicopters are fighting the flare up.

He says emergency services were called to the blaze, 3km up the road from the Taylor Dam, at 3.15pm.

“At 4.20 80 per cent of the fire was contained,” he says.

Crews from Blenheim, Rarangi, Korimiko and Northbank are attending.

Redwoodtown Countdown. Photo: Matt Brown.

Thoughtless shoppers’ glove gaffe

Careless customers given free gloves to help protect them from Covid-19 are ditching them in supermarket carparks.

What started as a courtesy to shoppers “backfired” for a Redwoodtown supermarket manager.

And horrified Redwoodtown residents are urging shoppers to put their used gloves in the bins provided.

Countdown Redwoodtown store manager Daniel Van Royen says he is “disappointed” that gloves were being dropped in the carpark and around the community.

“We’ve put controls in place and are notifying customers,” he says.

Daniel made gloves available at the front door, along with hand sanitizer, for customers to the Redwoodtown supermarket.

“All of a sudden we had gloves blowing everywhere,” Daniel says.

“I thought I was doing the right thing and it backfired a bit.”

In a Facebook post, one Redwoodtown resident says more than 50 gloves had blown up their driveway and onto their garden.

“We too want to remain free of the virus and would prefer not to come in contact with it as we clean up used plastic gloves,” the post says.

Daniel says after seeing the state of the carpark, and the surrounding area, he went and did a tidy up himself.

Now, the gloves have been moved from the front door and are available at the checkout.

More bins have been added to the entrance and exits.

“We get customers breaking rules, but we’re educating them,” Daniel says.

“It’s just like the lockdown rules, 90 per cent are good and 10 per cent aren’t.”

He says customers have got better as they’ve become more accustomed to the lockdown rules.

“We had aggressive customers at the beginning, but that has died down.

“People would reach past for products as we were stocking shelves, breaking our bubbles.”

He says posters on trolleys are proving a useful tool to help educate the public.

“Be self-aware,” he says. “It’s not a normal shop.”

“Queue up patiently and make sure you’re keeping your distance.”

He wants to remind shoppers that there should only be one person per household doing the grocery shop.

And to throw your rubbish in the bin.

“I would rather be at home, safe, with my two kids,” he says.

“But we’re providing an essential service.”