Matt Brown

Matt Brown

Don and Maureen Helman. Photo: Matt Brown.

Recipe of thanks for paramedics

A man who collapsed at home has turned to a 58-year-old wedding gift in a bid to say thanks to the paramedics who rescued him.

Don Helman collapsed at his Blenheim home and a St John ambulance crew rushed him to Wairau Hospital.

The retired pharmacist has since made more than 2500 jars of marmalade as a way of raising funds for the St John’s team who came to his aid.

And to carry out this feat of kindness, he used a recipe book he and wife Maureen were given for their wedding more than five decades earlier.

Don says he told St John volunteers at their secondhand store in Springlands, “I could make you a jar or two.”

Ten pounds of fruit and eleven pounds of sugar goes into a batch of Don's famous marmalade. Photo: Matt Brown.
Ten pounds of fruit and eleven pounds of sugar goes into a batch of Don’s famous marmalade. Photo: Matt Brown.

“A particular morning, I walked across the kitchen and hit the floor,” he says.

“I said, send for an ambulance. They were here very quickly.”

A paramedic wired Don up to an electrocardiograph during the short ambulance trip.

“They put me on an ECG monitor, and on the way, they got something.

“The paramedic in the ambulance ran into the hospital and spoke with the house surgeon.

“When she came back, she said we think you need a pacemaker – we’re arranging for you to go to Nelson.”

Neither Don nor Maureen know who the “fantastic” paramedic was.

“She was just amazing,” Maureen says.

“She knew what was wrong with him more or less straight away.”

“They’re always there for an emergency,” Don says.

Ten pounds of fruit and eleven pounds of sugar goes into a batch – that makes about 27 jars.

Affectionately known as ‘the man’s marmalade’, the tasty spread is a favourite at the St John store.

Each batch takes around six hours to make and Don makes up to two batches a week.

He likes to have a supply ready to go when the shop sells out.

He uses lemons and oranges donated from neighbours’ trees.

“Our biggest bugbear is that the jars that we get – it’s lovely that we get the jars – but the labels are still on them.

“Before we can even start, we have to soak them and then scrape the labels off them.

That’s one thing we wish we didn’t have to do.”

The fruit is boiled first in its juice until the rind goes soft then adds the sugar and brings it up to the boil.

“It takes about an hour after that. It’s quite a long process – it takes about six hours, from start to finish.

“I had no idea how much marmalade people want, and it just grew really,” Don says.

The batch is then set aside in a back room overnight to set.

Maureen helps slice up the peel and with the testing process.

“Testing it. It’s bubble, bubble, bubble like a witch’s cauldron,” she says.

Don says he’s happy to be able to help.

“The marmalade is just repayment for what was done.”

Waka welcome the replica of the Endeavour to Meretoto. Photo: Matt Brown.

Shouldn’t a pākehā know more Māori history?

Last month, a national celebration took place – Tuia 250 – commemorating 250 years since Captain James Cook with Tahitian navigator Tupaia first came to Aotearoa. Reporter Matt Brown was lucky enough to be part of the historic event.

The event was billed as an opportunity to hold honest conversations about the past, the present and how we navigate our shared future.

But as the searing Marlborough sun turned my pasty, pākehā skin red and local iwi officially welcomed the guests with haka and speeches, I realised I wasn’t particularly well equipped for the conversation.

I don’t speak Māori.

Travelling to the remote bay in the Marlborough Sounds, children from Omaka Marae singing waiata, the excitement in the air was palpable.

And as the masts of the tall ships appeared on the horizon and dolphins leapt through the water alongside, the sun glittering on the water, I found myself reflecting on the contrast of the Māori people’s connection with the past, and my almost complete disconnect.

Now, I can’t say I’ve spent all that much time thinking about Captain Cook, but I admit I was a wee bit surprised when the Endeavour replica was given the moniker, ‘Death Ship’, in mainstream news.

My history education is sorely lacking, and in small-town, South Island, rural Blenheim – I was brought up to believe Cook was one of the last great explorers. And perhaps, despite his shortcomings, he was.

250 years ago, Captain James Cook sailed into Meretoto, or Ships Cove, to perform repairs to his ship, the Endeavour.

Cook loved the spot so much he effectively made the spot his base of operations – spending more time there than anywhere else in New Zealand.

And on the surface, that was the gist of the celebrations – 250 years ago white dudes ‘discovered’ New Zealand.

There’s so much more than that.

Prior to Tuia 250, I didn’t know who Tupaia was.

I may not have been listening in class – or maybe I was one of the rare teenagers who was correct when I said I thought school was not the be all and end all.

For those who are in my boat, or ship as it were, Tupaia is the single reason Captain Cook’s voyage was successful.

Interpreter and liaison, high priest and skilled navigator in his own right, Tupaia was able to calm waters between the English ‘goblins’ and the native Māori people and created bonds of friendship and respect.

It is little wonder that iwi lamented when, on subsequent voyages, they learned of his death.

The event was moving, the location magical – but in translation, something is always lost.

I asked Omaka Marae manager Kiley Nepia how he thought Marlborough would look in 50 years.

He told me he hoped it had “browned up” by then.

Reflecting on my cultural identity, or lack thereof, I hope he’s right.

Watching people from the various tribes of Marlborough, I was struck by how history is a living thing. To them, the wounds of the past are still raw because the past isn’t an abstract thing.

Fifty years from now, at Tuia 300, I hope not only for more cultural diversity but the casual racism endemic to the region be but a distant memory.

Blenheim Dive Centre owner Bryan Bailey. Photo: Matt Brown.

Tills ting to tune of $8million

Blenheim bargain hunters spent a whopping eight million dollars in just one weekend, cashing in on annual mega sales.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday proved a popular draw as consumers made the most of marked down prices.

Figures from Eftpos payment provider Paymark show spending across the country rose by more than 40 per cent compared to a weekend without the widespread sales.

And the shopping holiday appears to be catching on in the region, with spending up 10 per cent on last year’s discount deals.

No. 4 Boutique manager Cheri Baker. Photo: Matt Brown.
No. 4 Boutique manager Cheri Baker. Photo: Matt Brown.

No. 4 Boutique manager Cheri Baker says the eagerly awaited shopping event saw foot traffic in the town centre soar.

“It was definitely busier than any other weekend,” she says.

“It’s great for customers that want to get in and do some early pre-Christmas shopping.”

Cheri says new developments on the outskirts of town haven’t affected their business.

“We’ve just shifted and the foot traffic on Market Street was very busy.

“The fashion hub for Blenheim is Market Street, developments out of town don’t affect us.

“It’s nice to keep that niche in the town centre,” Cheri says.

Paymark spokesman Paul Brislen says Kiwi’s were simply keen to shop.

“Besides strong sales-driven Black Friday activity in shops, there were also strong increases in spending through supermarkets, hairdressers and internet service providers,” he says.

But Blenheim Dive Centre owner Bryan Bailey says the effect of the Black Friday frenzy on his business is “tricky” to gauge.

“We’re a destination shop and it’s our busy season anyway,” he says.

“I think some people may have used it as a tool for pre-Christmas shopping, but it’s our busiest time in terms of retail.

Paul says the last seven days before Christmas are traditionally the busiest shopping days of the year – busier than Black Friday and Boxing Day.

“There are likely to be three very busy shopping days this year, based on the pattern of 2013 when Christmas Day was last on a Wednesday, with possibly Christmas Eve pipping the Friday and Monday before as the busiest day.

Lee Griggs with his modified ‘backwards brain bike’. Photo: Matt Brown.

Backwards brain challenge

A mental health advocate known for his off-the-wall challenges is back on his bike – taking his fundraising efforts in a different direction.

Guinness World Record holder Lee Griggs, from Seddon, has unveiled his latest bid to help highlight mental health.

Using a new ‘backwards brain bike’ the intrepid adventurer will enter two of New Zealand’s most prestigious mountain biking events.

He says the mind-bending bicycle is a physical demonstration of neuroplasticity, or the brains ability to rewire itself.

Turning the bicycles handlebars left turns the front wheel right, and vice versa.

Lee says on a regular bike, your brain knows exactly which direction and with how much force is needed to subtly move the handlebars and pedals to avoid falling off.

“This just shows it all up,” he says.

“I’ve had to relearn how to ride a bike.”

The mechanism which reverses the steering on the ‘backwards brain bike’.
The mechanism which reverses the steering on the ‘backwards brain bike’.

In previous years, Lee climbed Mount Fyffe, in Kaikoura, on a pogo stick and cycled the punishing Molesworth track on a unicycle.

The handlebars on the bike, supplied by Blenheim’s Bikefit, are mounted on a specially designed clamp, designed by Cuddons, with gearing that reverses the handlebars direction.

He says participating in the two mountain-biking events is to show what the human brains is capable of, and its ability to change.

“You can take a really well rehearsed and practiced thought pattern you’ve had through life and exchange it for a new one,” he says.

“We all have the ability to change our thought patterns.

“It takes practice, hard work and consistency.”

Lee says there are two principles of neuroplasticity.

“Two neurons that fire together wire together, and the other is use it or lose it.”

“Like the muscles in our body, you use them and make them stronger, or they atrophy.

“If you don’t use the neural pathways in your brain, they become weaker.”

He says the project is to raise awareness about mental health.

“We are not our mental ill health.

“We can replace those anxious thoughts with constructive, resilient thought patterns.”

Lee wants to compete in the longest-running mountain bike event, the Karapoti Classic, a 50km event near Wellington at the end of February followed by the Motatapu in Otago, a 47km event.

“I want to showcase it at those events to raise awareness about mental health.

“On the smooth stuff, you react calmly but with the rough stuff, your brain flicks back to riding a regular bike.

“That’s the parallel, mental health isn’t something you deal with only when it’s tough.”

Lee and his ‘backwards brain bike’ will be on demonstration, with the opportunity to give it a go, at the Christmas Festival on Thursday.

“I would like to do a school tour afterwards and compete in the cyclocross series on the bike in June,” he says.

“Harcourts, Cuddon and Bikefit have joined the team, but I’m still looking for more sponsors to help us promote the message and get us to the events.

“And I’m looking forward to getting back to riding a normal bike.”

It’s hoped more staff on the ground will also help put an end to any anti-social behaviour. Photo: Supplied.

Ranger number boost in region

Extra council staff will be out over summer, doubling the region’s rangers.

Marlborough District Council got a funding boost of $183,610 to appoint two more rangers over the busy summer period, taking the total to four.

Rangers will visit camp sites and other spots to ensure things are running smoothly.

And it’s hoped more staff on the ground will also help put an end to any anti-social behaviour as they encourage people to be responsible campers.

Council’s reserves and amenities manager Jane Tito says there has been a big increase in the number of visitors camping at Marlborough’s responsible camping sites – up from 7,000 in 2016 to 12,000 in 2018.

“On top of the funding for additional rangers, council was also successful in getting funds of $25,000 from central Government’s Tourism Infrastructure Fund for a feasibility study on a long-term, sustainable approach to the management of responsible camping sites in Marlborough,” Jane says.

The study will also include consultation with iwi, the camping and motorhome associations and other interested groups.

Council’s Freedom Camping Bylaw 2012 was last reviewed in 2016 and the new review is scheduled to commence in July 2020, following the results of the study.

Salvation Army major Deane Goldsack and social worker Bridget Nolan hope Marlburians will help them spread Christmas cheer by donating gifts for children. Photo: Matt Brown.

Operation Gifts for Kids

Hundreds of children who might otherwise miss out on a gift this Christmas are set to benefit from the Salvation Army’s toy appeal.

Staff have launched a public appeal for toys in a bid to spread Christmas cheer to those less fortunate.

More than 200 families are expected to receive brand new toys for their children as a part of the Christian organisation’s Operation Gifts for Kids.

Salvation Army social worker Bridget Nolan says the gifts go to families that are “doing it tough” over the holidays.

“The concept is a relief for families from the stresses of Christmas,” Bridget says.

“Things are coming up – uniforms, school camps, and they’re expensive.”

She says the support at the “stressful” time of year enables families to pay a bill or afford food instead of shelling out for pricey presents.

“And every child deserves a brand-new toy,” she says.

Eligible families are referred to the Salvation Army from other regional social services.

Salvation Army officer Deane Goldsack says their unique token gift system gives the decision on what their children receive for Christmas back to the parents.

Though the toy appeal has been running for several years, Bridget introduced a token system.

Inspired by the Dunedin Salvation Army and modified for Marlborough three years ago, the system enables parents or care-givers to personally choose gifts for their children from a room specially decorated for the occasion.

Each family gets a free family game and a free book, then, tokens are issued to the family.

Expensive toys cost more tokens.

Bridget says last year, 109 families and about 230 kids received presents through the operation.

And the number is expected to grow this year.

“The public and business supporters have been very generous in the past,” Bridget says.

“We’d like to say thank you to the past supporters in previous years and hope they can support again.”

Donations of new toys for children can be dropped to the Salvation Army Family Store, on Redwood Street, or the Salvation Army Centre on the corner of George and Henry Streets.

Financial donations for toys are also accepted.

This year, the Salvation Army are the recipients of the Kmart Wishing Tree – toys donated to the wishing tree will also go towards Operation Gifts for Kids.

To donate or for more information, call Bridget on 035780990.

Charlie Chambers, 5, “loves” the massive Christmas tree in the Blenheim town centre, especially the “big, giant sparkly star”. Photo: Matt Brown.

Council splash out on big-budget baubles

Christmas cheer comes at a cost – as council staff reveal the price of decorations in the Blenheim CBD.

The 20-metre tall Chinese-bought Christmas tree was bought in late 2015, just in time for the yule season.

But four years on – the “faded” baubles have spurred council to sink more than $10,000 on new decorations.

Marlborough District Council reserves and amenities officer Robert Hutchinson says the region’s famously sunny weather is to blame.

“The display had lost its bite,” he says.

New baubles for the Christmas tree in the Blenheim CBD cost more than $10,000. Photo: Matt Brown.
New baubles for the Christmas tree in the Blenheim CBD cost more than $10,000. Photo: Matt Brown.

The tree, baubles and lights cost council more than $50,000 in 2015.

Robert says the red and gold baubles didn’t last as long as anticipated.

“The baubles should last five years,” he says.

“The red faded quite badly; the weather has these effects.”

Staff were hard at work last week putting the tree up in the town’s central business district where it got plenty of attention.

Blenheim man Simon Green says he liked the decorations.

“It is what it is,” he says. “[Council] weren’t going to get decorations from Kmart, were they?”

But Alicia Oliver was highly critical of what she thought was unnecessary spending.

“There are 135 homeless people sleeping rough,” she says. “Why spend money on decorations?”

“There are people without shelter or food.”

The tree itself has a 15-year lifespan, but Robert says so far, it’s standing up well to the punishing climate.

The 40 four-metre-long strings of blue and green baubles were purchased from Celebration Group, in Auckland, for $10560.

Robert says considering the length of the strands of bauble, 160 metres, the cost is “pretty small”.

“We could have put 20 strands on there, but it wouldn’t look very good,” he says.

The replacement decorations fall within the Christmas decoration budget, $20,000 per year for street decorations in Blenheim and Picton.

The budget includes an electrician and staff to wire and erect the tree.

Robert says they will watch and see the effect of weathering on the new green and blue baubles.

If they fade, he says council will look at new colours.

Utuku Thompson receiving steering instructions from Haunui captain John-Reid Willison as they enter the Marlborough Sounds. Photo: Supplied.

Voyage of discovery

Sailing around New Zealand on a small ocean-going waka sounds terrifying to some, but for one Picton man was a dream come true.

Sixty- two-year-old Utuku Thompson spent several weeks sailing on Haunui, one of three waka accompanying the Endeavour replica and the Spirit of New Zealand sailboats.

And though he was an “elder” on the small boat, novice crewman Utuku had never sailed before and found guidance from the youngest crewmember – a 22-year-old nicknamed “Kowhai”.

“I relied a lot on our youngest when it came to tying knots,” Utuku says.

The waka sleeps up to 16 in the pontoons and can stay at sea for long  periods of time.

Food brought on the trip, or caught off the side, is cooked on board and, unlike other waka, the Haunui had full toilet facilities.

“I felt sorry for my brothers on the other waka,” Utuku says.

Utuku says the kai during the trip was “fit for a king”.

“We weren’t lacking variety.

“It’s amazing what you can get out in the middle of nowhere.”

Hot roast meat and vegetables and freshly baked bread every day “lifted spirits” during dreary and cold moist days.

He says the whare, or cabin, on the waka was well set up for providing vittles.

“I changed the gas bottles a few times,” he laughs.

Utuku says some of the high points of the trip were steering the waka around both the top of the north and south islands.

“I hogged my turn a bit at the top of the south.”

He says crewing the waka was like becoming a part of a “little family”.

And although they were in a small waka in a big ocean, he never feared for his safety.

“There are a lot of safety procedures,” he says.

“There were rough seas, but I felt safe.

“I was the only one without sailing experience at the time.

“My only fear was falling short of the mark.”

He says joining the flotilla challenged him to “keep rising”.

“You feel like you’re a part of the moment.”

St Marks Foundation chairman Charles Murdoch. Photo: Supplied.

Plea for help from St Marks rehab

The only residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre in the top of the south is facing increasing financial pressure.

St Marks Addiction Residential Treatment Centre in Blenheim is facing increasing pressure on resources as demand for help escalates.

Centre bosses hope a new financially savvy trustee will help boost fundraising efforts and find urgent new revenue streams.

St Marks Foundation bosses say they need more community-minded people to “put up their hand” to take on the challenge.

Outgoing chairman and founding trustee Brian Moore says demand for treatment is “greater” than the facility can currently offer.

“It’s one of those things that society would like to brush under the carpet but it’s there and we do what we can.

“In lots of respects, it’s a pretty thankless role – but we do get amazing results and that’s what it’s about.

“When they’re at rock bottom, we’re there to pick up the pieces; we’re the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.” he says.

The 16-bed centre needs a new residential block for women, but money is tight.

Operational costs are covered by Nelson Marlborough District Health Board.

Brian says the centre is getting more court referrals as well, putting the centre under even more strain.

“The courts have recognised the service that St Marks offers and is referring drug and alcohol related cases to us.

“They have a fund to support some of that work, but as for buildings … we’re continually looking for new facilities.

“We get serious funding from the Rata Foundation, which is helpful, but the bulk of it we have to fundraise for ourselves.

“That’s the main role of a trustee – finding new funding streams or being able to fund it themselves,” he says.

Originally set up as a drop-in centre, people come from as far away as Invercargill for treatment.

New trustees are needed to make sure as many people as possible get the help they need says new chairman Charles Murdoch.

“A willingness to help people, that’s got to be the important thing.

“It would be good to have interested people to put their hand up and help.

“In many ways, the foundation is still in its infancy. We’re now at the stage to get into the community to raise a pot of gold.

“Someone who’s well known in the community – someone who is known to always help.

“We’re looking to increase the number of trustees, potentially up to ten.

“It would be beneficial and helpful to have a few more, to spread the load a little more,” he says.

Biddy Kate's owner Terry Sloan. Photo: Matt Brown.

CBD apartment complaint quashed

A bar owner who feared a proposed apartment development would mean noise complaints has lost his bid to stop the plan going head.

Hotel owner Terry Sloan, whose pub, Biddy Kate’s, sits directly opposite the site of the proposed apartments, was worried future tenants would find it too noisy.

But a decision by a council-appointed commissioner found the pub, which includes an upstairs backpackers, was unlikely to be the target of noise gripes.

He highlighted that the pub was already able to operate with “noise sensitive activity” – its own visitor accommodation.

In his official decision, commissioner Julian Ironside says the decision rested on whether Biddy Kate’s would suffer unreasonable constraints from residential use of the Porse building.

“I recognise that permanent residents may have or develop different expectations in terms of a night-time noise environment,” Julian says.

“However, I do not consider that the establishment of residential activity in the Porse building is contrary to the expectations for the Central Business Zone or is incompatible with the business activities undertaken on the Criterion Hotel site.

“The issue of night-time noise is in my view adequately addressed by the refurbishment details for the proposed apartments.”

The apartments ranging in floor area from 62 square metres to 110 square metres, have been in the pipeline for building owners TH Barnes & Co since late last year.

Consents show vacant shop frontage on the street could be converted to a car parking garage and storage for each of the units.

The car parking garage entrance would require the loading zone on the street to be moved or removed.

Originally built for the Inland Revenue Department in 1987, the government agency downsized and quit the region shortly after completion.

Since then, the building has been largely vacant.

Council documents show TH Barnes & Co engaged a lawyer to draft a ‘Noise and Nuisance’ agreement that could be signed by both parties ahead of the development.

The documents were not signed by Terry, it says.

Plans for the apartment include double glazed windows to minimise sound intrusion and an acoustic engineer’s report found the apartments comply with the noise rule for residential activity within the CBD.