Paula Hulburt

Paula Hulburt

Manaia Huntly, left with sister Tui and brother Taika, is celebrating being disease free. Photo: Supplied.

Manaia’s bravery saluted

The parents of a young boy who has beaten cancer have held a celebration with the community who supported them when their son was so sick.

Manaia Huntley, 8, from Seddon, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour in February 2019.

So, when doctors revealed the brave youngster was disease free his delighted family threw a party as thank you- a year to the day after the dreadful diagnosis.

Mum Laura Huntley says the event on Sunday was a way to mark the good news and to thank the community.

She says although the family have only lived in the village for three years, they were welcomed with open arms.

“They were absolutely awesome and with us all the way through. People just rallied around us as if we’d lived here for generations.

“This was a celebration for him [Manaia] now he’s feeling better and for all who helped us” she says.

About 50 people joined the Seddon School pupil alongside dad Tahu and siblings Tui,7, and Taika,4, at the neighbourhood barbecue which included bouncy castles.

Laura says it was great to have something to celebrate after such a tough year.

Manaia was diagnosed with a malignant tumour in the centre of his brain several weeks after he first complained of feeling ill.

He has since undergone surgery to relieve the pressure on his brain, endured four rounds of chemotherapy and five weeks of radiation.

‘He wasn’t quite right for months but nothing I could put my finger on,” Laura says.

“Then one Saturday he just went downhill so fast. I kept trying to wake him and he slumped to one side on the couch. I took him to Accident and Emergency at Wairau Hospital, and they knew then it was brain related.”

The night the tumour was found, dad Tahu was at a work event at Furneux Lodge. He got to the hospital just in time to see Manaia before he was flown to Starship Hospital in Auckland.

Laura spent months with her oldest son at Christchurch Hospital and at  Ronald McDonald House. The separation took its toll on the whole family.

“Tahu was at home trying to juggle working full time and arranging Tui to be picked up from school.

“There’s a real community feel to the town and we just knew people would be there and they were.”

Manaia has now returned to Seddon School four days a week. Laura says that even when he lost his hair, she knew he would never be teased.

“When he lost his hair, some of the children, about 20, shaved their hair off and so did some of the dads.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed, but hopefully there are better days ahead.

“People always turned up for us, dropping off meals, petrol vouchers and offering to help.

“We are just so grateful.”

Viticulture cadet Jessica Marston features in a documentary about harvest at Villa Maria. Photo: Supplied.

Film first for vintage

A fly-on-the wall film giving viewers a behind the scenes look at vintage is set to make its screen debut.

Villa Maria has teamed up with an American filmmaker to create a feature length documentary, set to be released as the region gears up for its busiest time of year.

Titled Vintage, the movie followed staff from the Fairhall-based winery throughout vintage last year.

First timer Jessica Marston says she not only had her first harvest to cope with but a camera crew to contend with too.

“I didn’t want to do anything wrong; make a wrong move with harvest and I was more worried about that,” she says

The viticulturist, who graduated from Washington State University, says she was fortunate with her first harvest.

“I think I got quite lucky. Previous harvests sound like they were quite rough weather-wise. We also have a cool crew of people.”

Originally from Auckland, Jessica who graduated with a degree in viticulture and oenology has made Blenheim her home.

When she first heard about filmmaker Colin West’s concept for the film, she was keen to be included.

‘I like to talk,” she says.

The film also follows chief winemaker Nick Picone, viticulturist Stuart Dudley, chief viticulturist and Ollie Powrie.

It reveals how the team cope with unforeseen challenges, vastly varying climates, frost-filled early mornings and 24-hour-days.

Nick says it is the first time the vintage process has been captured on film

“For the first time ever in New Zealand, a winery is capturing the vintage process, peeking behind the curtain of the all-consuming harvest period known as vintage.

“You’ll see the passion and hard work that goes into every bottle.”

Director and producer Colin West says the film tells a uniquely Kiwi story.

“It captures the incredible highs and heart-breaking lows of making world class wine in New Zealand.”

“We hoped that everything would go well but we didn’t really know how vintage was going to unfold.  It’s so different from one year to the next,” He says.

Vintage will show on free-to-air television in a partnership with Three on Saturday 15 February at 10:30 PM.

Leicester Rainey gives the newest addition a whirl. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Piano the key to music therapy

A secondhand piano has been given a new lease of life after it found a home with some talented would-be players.

Staff at Care Marlborough and the Mental Health Advocacy Service have been on the look-out for a piano to use as part of a new music therapy programme.

While the initiative is still in the planning stages, the upright piano has taken pride of place at the support group’s drop-in centre on Percy Street in Blenheim.

Visitors have been quick to try out the latest addition which staff hope will benefit both beginners and more experienced players.

The centre’s activities co-ordinator says that some of their regular visitors had played in the past.

“The piano had only been here for 30 seconds when someone started playing it.

“It’s a way for people to change their focus and enjoy something different, she says.

Marlborough Moving & Storage staff collected and delivered the piano for free, much to the relief of grateful staff.

Care Marlborough and the Mental Health Advocacy Service is a community based mental health agency providing both a free advocacy service and a day activity programme for those living with mental illness.

For more information contact Care Marlborough on 578 0302 and MHAS on 579 5304

Sharlese Turnbull-Tait, centre, with her young family has a big battle ahead of her. Photo: Supplied.

Mother’s fight for life

A young mother faced a critical delay in diagnosis before being told she has incurable cancer.

Sharlese Turnbull-Tait, 34, from Blenheim waited years for an answer from doctors only to find she has stage 4 bowel cancer which has now spread to her lungs.

Her devasted family are now frantically trying to raise enough money for a last-ditch treatment they hope will save her life.

The mum of two says she saw her own doctor after developing severe stomach cramps in 2018.

But despite several visits over the next few years and a pelvic scan, Sharlese was told it was probably endometriosis – an inflammatory condition of the uterus.

She now faces an anxious wait after an MRI scan last week to see if the cancer has spread even further.

“I went to my doctor so many times.”

“When I saw that doctor again after I’d been diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer, he apologised and offered to pray for me.

“He said it never thought it could be bowel cancer as I was too young.

“I want everyone to know the signs and symptoms as age just doesn’t matter,” Sharlese says.

The former care worker says she spent hundreds of dollars visiting her GP before a locum doctor noticed something abnormal in her blood test results.

She was immediately referred to a specialist who did a colonoscopy and discovered a large tumour.

A week later Sharlese was told the growth was cancerous and had been growing for years.

“I’m more angry than emotional as I feel really let down by the health service.

“I’m angry for myself but angrier on behalf of my children and family and what they’ve gone through,” she says.

Her children, Luka-Paul Cunniffe-Tait, 10, and Ellazae Cunniffe-Tait, 3, know that mummy is sick, says Sharlese.

She has spent weeks apart from them while undergoing surgery in Christchurch last year.What was supposed to be a three week stay turned into six weeks as Sharlese battled a twisted bowel and ended up in intensive care.

A grueling chemotherapy and radiation regime also took its toll.

“They removed part of my bowel. I was very tired and had to be fed through a tube in my nose,” she says.

Sharlese is pinning her hopes on immunotherapy drug Keytruda.

The drug is only government funded for certain breast cancers and the family hopes to raise at least $9000 towards the first dose to see if it will help.

If not, any money raised will be used to help Sharlese make memories with her children instead.

Her sister Kelsie Small says donations could also be put towards a holiday for the family.

“We would love to raise enough money to support alternative treatments for her to give her a longer life. We will also try to send her away with her family on holiday if she isn’t too sick to create beautiful memories.”

A Give a Little page has been set up. Visit and search under the name Sharlese.

New Zealand has one of the highest bowel cancer rates in the world. Bowel cancer is the second highest cause of cancer death in New Zealand.

Bowel cancer affects people of all ages, especially those in people aged 60 years and more.

There is a free national screening programme available for people aged 60 to 74 years old.

In 2018 Nelson Marlborough Health (NMH) staff launched the National Bowel Screening Programme in the region.

About 30,000 people aged 60 – 74 were invited to participate in the programme.

The screening helps save lives by detecting pre-cancerous polys or finding bowel cancer while still in the early stages.

Sharlese is too young to have taken part in the programme and wants everyone to know that bowel cancer can strike at any age.

“My doctor didn’t consider it, he thought I was too young,” she says.

The numbers of people under 50 years old being diagnosed with the disease is rising in New Zealand

Sharlese says the delay in being diagnosed meant her cancer had time to spread.

She doesn’t want anyone else to share the same fate.

“Be aware of the symptoms,” she says.

Destination Marlborough general manager Jacqui Lloyd. Photo: Matt Brown.

New look website the perfect match

Marlborough’s online profile has just been given a makeover in a bid to woo more admirers.

Destination Marlborough has unveiled a new-look website dedicated to show off all the region has to offer. includes new sections sharing the ins and outs of living and working here.

Destination Marlborough general manager Jacqui Lloyd says visitors who have a good time here could be inspired to make the region a permanent home.

“Travellers who have a positive holiday experience in the region are more likely to be inspired to consider returning to live, work or do business here.

“Having one site that can seamlessly serve up the right information to encourage this will be invaluable.”

The project is a partnership with Marlborough District Council and supported by multiple regional agencies, Jacqui says.

“It’s been built to provide an online portal to showcase Marlborough in a way that doesn’t duplicate what organisations are already doing, but instead, strengthens and underpins their activity.”

Until now, the website has been tailored towards attracting holiday visitors to the region, generating more than 31,000 visits a month.

Marlborough Mayor John Leggett says the new website fills a much-needed gap for people thinking of relocating, working or investing here.

“The site even has a section on film production, showcasing the amazing opportunities for filmmakers here in Marlborough,” he says.

Marlborough Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Hans Neilson says the site will be a valuable tool support business.

“It means that anyone wanting to find out more about doing business here is directed to the right place and given a range of organisations to connect with, based on their desired pathway and supporting businesses to attract talent into the region.”

Mark Smith Reserve in Blenheim is one of four parks set to benefit from an upgrade. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Cash boost child’s play for council

A Picton playground will get a $60,000 revamp in a bid to make it accessible to all children.

Victoria Domain play area off Hampden Street is set for an upgrade which will include a new basket swing.

The swing makes it easier for children of all abilities to play together.

The old black matting will also be replaced with bark to make it safer and improve appearance.

Marlborough District Council’s Assets and Services Committee has agreed to fund improvements to the tune of $241,000 across four parks.

Deputy Mayor Nadine Taylor says funding for the upgrades was allocated at the Land Subdivision Account meeting in August last year.

“These upgrades are really great news for families and children across Marlborough and follow the opening of new playground facilities at Pollard Park, Renwick Domain and Mark Smith Reserve last year.”

Westwood Reserve, Ballinger Park and Mark Smith Reserve in Blenheim will all benefit from the funding boost.

The new park Westwood Reserve has been in the pipeline since the subdivision was developed in 2016.

Council staff have been working with community representatives on a suitable playground design.

The new playground will feature a landslide platform, climbing wall, fireman’s pole and a timber-framed swing.

A new flying fox will go up in Ballinger Park off of Budge Street and a new pathway at Mark Smith Reserve will be built to connect to the Taylor River tracks.

The committee decision is subject to Council approval on 27 February.

The relieved tramper, second from right, with members of LandSAR Marlborough at Pelorus. Photo: Supplied.

Lost tramper sparks bush rescue

A disorientated tramper has been rescued after mistakenly following trap line markers instead of the track.

Search and Rescue teams were alerted on Saturday afternoon that a woman was lost in the Pelorus River area after police received a 111 call.

The team spent four hours in 28-degree heat tracking the missing walker who was later discovered dehydrated but unhurt.

The LandSAR Marlborough field team leader says a full tracking team were deployed to Pelorus after police got a ping from her cell phone.

“Once panic set in, the lost person realising they don’t make good decisions when panicked, stopped and called emergency services and was instructed to stay put until rescued.

“The reason for getting lost was following pink trapline markers.

“Track markers in NZ are orange and this is the leading cause of people getting lost in our bush.

“Trap lines are a set distance and then stop. Quite often people will continue trying to find these pink markers and get lost when they can’t find them,” he says.

The woman, who is not from Marlborough, was in contact with the Incident Management Team via text.

She was praised by the field leader for keeping calm.

He says people in her situation should stay in one place and wait for help.

“She did exactly what she should have,” he says.

By using whistles, the field team managed to find the approximate area where the lost tramper was.

“The field team had a rough location and was conducting a soundline; a process of blowing whistles, along the track.

“By now, the team was in deep bush and the lost person could no longer hear whistles or people so we backtracked and regrouped.

“We found her about 500m from where we originally were over a ridge and in another gully.”

The woman was discovered at 5.20pm, safe and well but thirsty and hungry and was back at Pelorus Bridge by 6.30pm.

She did not require medical attention.

“Thanks to all those who responded, the team back at base including AREC, the field team who deployed including the logistical support who returned an exhausted team safely back to base at 8pm

The team is always much bigger than just the team in the field,” the spokesman says.

Field team

Dean Boyce (Operational Tracker) Jason Jones (Operational Tracker) Mandy Smith (Field Team Member) Kerry Lammas (Operational Tracker/team leader Lew Bright (logistic support and containment) Incident Management Team Julia Eason (IMT) Kimberley Karaitiana (IMT) Ron Harris (AREC) Paul Rennie (AREC)

Mechanical compliance coordinator Duncan Jarvie. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Coal boilers to get heave-ho at hospital

Coal hungry boilers are set to be ditched as part of a $5 million fund boost to future-proof Wairau Hospital.

Over the last eight years, three old coal boilers have burnt through an average of 8,000 tonnes of coal.

Health bosses have pledged to help reduce carbon emissions by choosing greener alternatives instead.

Health Minister David Clark last week revealed Nelson Marlborough Health was one of several health boards around the country to benefit.

Revealing the funds boost, Dr Clark says the move was part of a wider initiative to move towards more environmentally friendly options.

“In Nelson Marlborough we’re future proofing our hospitals by replacing aging, dirty coal-burning boilers with modern, green alternatives

“Today’s announcement means DHBs can get to work now on the detailed planning work needed to make all these projects, and many more, a reality.

“That will mean better health services for New Zealanders, and a more sustainable and secure future for our public health service, Dr Clark says.

Nelson Marlborough Health chief executive Peter Bramley welcomed the move, saying the boilers needed to be replaced with “some urgency.”

“We need to replace the Wairau boilers with some urgency and welcome this funding announcement.

“While we don’t know exactly what fuel source or system will be best for Wairau Hospital, we can assure the community that it will not be coal-based.

“We look forward to a ‘greener’ future for our hospitals,” he says.

A three-month trial into using a wood pellet fuelled replacement has been postponed while engineering issues are investigated further.

No time frame for the replacements is yet in place.

The injured man is likely to have all his medical treatment costs, which could run into several thousand dollars, covered by ACC. File photo.

ATV theft ends in tears

A man has been seriously injured after he was thrown from a farm vehicle minutes after it was allegedly stolen.

The unnamed man, believed to be a Frenchman in his 20s, was left with a badly mangled hand and had to be flown by Life Flight to Hutt Hospital for surgery.

He faces possible finger amputation after falling from the All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) as it overturned on Friday, causing crush injuries.

A 24-year old associate of the man was arrested and appeared in Blenheim District Court on Monday morning charged with burglary and has been remanded on bail.

A police spokeswoman says the two men had taken the ATV from a farm near Taylor Pass Road on the outskirts of Blenheim shortly before the crash.

“A man and an associate accessed the farm in the vicinity of Taylors Pass Road, Blenheim where they located an all-terrain vehicle.

“The vehicle was driven for a short time before it overturned. The man was found by police at Wairau Hospital,” she says.

Under the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) scheme, the injured man is likely to have all his medical treatment costs, which could run into several thousand dollars, covered.

An ACC spokeswoman says that those visiting New Zealand should still have travel insurance for injuries that aren’t covered by the scheme such as illnesses, or other events like lost luggage.

The injured man was in a stable condition in Hutt Valley Hospital on Monday, a spokeswoman from Hutt Valley District Health Board says.

His associate is scheduled to appear in court in February.

Police were called to the PAK’n SAVE carpark on Friday night. Photo: Supplied.

Supermarket stabbing

A man has been seriously injured after being stabbed in a supermarket carpark in Blenheim.

Police were called to the PAK’n SAVE supermarket carpark on Westwood Avenue about 8pm on Friday after reports of a fight.

The patient was first taken to Wairau Hospital in Blenheim before being transported to Nelson Hospital by the Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter.

A police spokeswoman says a man was stabbed and two people have been taken into custody.

“A man sustained a serious but not life-threatening stab wound.

“Police continue to make enquiries into the circumstances of the incident.”

Anyone with information may help is urged to contact Blenheim Police by visiting the station or calling 105.

Information can also be provided anonymously by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.