Matt Brown

Matt Brown

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.

Deputy mayor Nadine Taylor being sworn in as Marlborough mayor John Leggett looks on. Photo: Matt Brown.

Deputy mayor sworn in

Marlborough’s new deputy mayor is officially ready to begin duties as second in command after being sworn in today.

Marlborough Sounds Ward Councillor Nadine Taylor was sworn into office by mayor John Leggett.

Wairau-Awatere Councillor Francis Maher was also sworn in and becomes Chair of the Regional Transport Committee.

It was an important moment for both, with the deputy mayor saying taking on the role was an honour and she was looking forward to working with a “great team.”

“For any of us to do our jobs, we have to be a part of a team. Looking around the table, I can see another great team already.

“We’re backed the most excellent staff.

“It was very easy for me to say yes to John when he asked if I would be his deputy mayor because I find him to be an excellent leader.

“I find myself to be surrounded by a great team – people in this building and at this table and I’m really looking forward to the next few years of working with you,” she says.

Nadine will also chair the Assets and Services Committee, overseeing the management of the Council’s big-budget assets and amenities infrastructure.

As the deputy mayoral chain was placed around her neck by Marlborough Mayor John Legget, Nadine says she welcomes the chance to fulfill her pledge to the district and its people.

“We live in a really special part of the world – our unique Marlborough Sounds and wild Cook Strait waterways, a very successful wine industry, and flourishing tourism, forestry and service industries.

“All of us fulfilling this pledge we made to this district and to our people.

“My background and experience gives me an appreciation of the importance of our primary producers, both land- and sea-based, who are key to the success of Marlborough. They are a big part of our history and the social fabric of our communities.”

“I will strive to be a connector between the Council and our communities, making sure people’s voices are heard in our decision-making, she says.

Originally from Awatere, Nadine went to Seddon School and then Marlborough Girls’ College.

For the last 21 years she has lived in Picton, and also for a time in Tory Channel, in the outer Marlborough Sounds. She has extensive business experience as an owner of a rock lobster fishing company.

She and her partner Graham have two adult sons.

It is family support that makes her role possible she says.

“Like any team, there’s always those that twirl away and don’t get seen and the offices and at home and I think on behalf of all of us I would like to acknowledge – my family’s sitting here and your families – because they are the ones that, as you race out the door, with everything streaming behind you, shut the door on the mess and the worries behind so that we can give service to the province.

It’s only right that we should acknowledge them as well.”

Mayor Leggett says he is confident in his choice for the deputy mayor role.

“Nadine has excelled in her role as a councillor over the last three years.

“We work well together and I’m confident she has the qualities to be outstanding in the role,” he says.

Council executives from left, Mike Porter, mayor John Legget, Mark Wheeler and Tony Quirk. Photo: Matt Brown

Modest pay rise for Marlborough councillors

Marlborough’s councillors are set to get more than $1.5 million in wages over the next three years.

Thirteen councillors got a small boost to their pay checks at an extraordinary council meeting on Thursday.

The elected officials had their base salary increased, from $38,610 to a flat $40,000 as the proposed changes were voted into effect.

And councillors who take on more responsibility will see more money in their bank accounts.

Money for local government officials is set as a lump sum by the Renumeration Authority, and “divvied up” to the elected positions.

The Marlborough region was allocated $583,467 for the year.

Marlborough District Council democratic services manager Mike Porter says council doesn’t have “a lot of say” about the amount of money available in the pool.

“It’s just how we’ve divvied it up,” he says.

Mike says now, sub-committee chairs are recognised for their hard work “slightly more than in the past”.

“It’s a lot more fair, but a lot more complicated,” he says.

“We’ve recognised all the jobs that councillors can do.”

The mayor, who is also chair of the environment committee, has a fixed salary set by the Remuneration Authority separate from the money pool.

He is paid around $135,000.

Only one councillor, Mark Peters, is a standing committee chair. The other two positions taken by deputy mayor Nadine Taylor and mayor John Leggett.

For taking on the deputy mayor position, Nadine Taylor is set to receive an extra $17,467 bringing her salary to $57,467.

“It flows down from there,” says Mike.

Eleven of thirteen councillors are on various committees.

Marlborough is at the bottom of all unitary councils – getting  $10,000 less than Nelson.

Councillor Gerald Hope says the Marlborough council has a “massive responsibility” over a much larger area.

“We are probably a discount council,” Gerald says.