Paula Hulburt

Paula Hulburt

Marlborough Mayor John Leggett has been elected again Photo: Matt Brown.

Mayor wants communication to be key

Marlborough’s newly elected mayor has pledged to make public communication key as he gets set to start his second term.

John Leggett has emerged victorious by a landslide victory of about 3000 votes.

And he has been quick to make assurances that concerns raised by the public throughout the election process will be addressed.

Speaking from his Blenheim home shortly after his win was announced, mayor Leggett says he is “very happy” to have been chosen again.

He also paid credit to his opponent and re-elected councilor, Jamie Arbuckle.

“Jamie came out of the starting blocks very well and campaigned well. I always knew it was going to be a battle to get out there.

“It’s been a bit of a nervous wait, especially when it got to 2pm and there was no phone call. I began to think no news was bad news,” he says.

It was down to the wire today as last-minute voters cast their ballot just before the cutoff point of 12 noon.

Mayor Leggett celebrated on Saturday night with partner Anne Best at Biddy Kate’s Irish Bar, owned by friend and former deputy mayor Terry Sloan.

He was also joined by some council colleagues.

“She’s been a fantastic support, far and away the best supporter I have,” says John.

He also revealed the election has shown him the importance of public engagement.

“The election process always brings out good public engagement as people put down issues they want us to address- a lot of which we are.

“One thing we need to do better is communicate and let people know what we’ve got on the agenda,” he says.

Jamie Arbuckle missed out on his third try at taking out the top spot.

He says he was “really disappointed” not to take the council’s top spot and ruled out a future bid.

“We put a lot of effort into the mayoralty this time. I’m personally disappointed; I thought we had the numbers.

“It was our third attempt and last attempt – we tried our best,” he says.

Candidates Thelma Sowman, wife of former mayor Alistair Sowman, and David Croad have been successful in their bid to take up councillor posts.

They will be a welcome addition, says mayor Leggett.

“There have to be vacancies to keep the way clear for new people coming in, that’s a good thing we need new, blood and good people.”

From left, Mistletoe Bay Trust vice-patron John Stace, Mistletoe Bay Charitable Foundation chairman Simon Heath and patron Sir Stephen Tindall. Photo: Supplied.

Dinner serves up school camp funds boost

A special fundraising dinner has raised $115,000 to help ensure that no Marlborough children miss out on a trip to Mistletoe Bay.

It’s a classic Kiwi rite of passage- a childhood trip to school camp but for some families, it’s out of reach financially.

But the Mistletoe Foundation has raised funds to ensure no youngsters will miss out.

The foundation held a dinner last week at the bay, in Queen Charlotte Sound near Onahau Bay.

Foundation chairman and Renwick School principal Simon Heath says help will be on offer for students who might not be able to afford to go.

“Principals of schools sending students to camps at Mistletoe Bay are now assured of being able to access help for students who might not otherwise be able to afford to go to camp and have the Mistletoe Bay experience,” he says.

The Foundation has raised $300,000 which will now be invested, and scholarships will be granted to students each year.

The dinner was created by the team at Arbour restaurant, and hosted by the Mistletoe Charitable Foundation’s patron Dame Lowell Goddard QC along with the Mistletoe Bay Trust’s patrons Sir Stephen and Lady Tindall.

About 40 people took part in the “Magic at Mistletoe” event, taking a Marlborough Tour Company bus to Picton, and then the Marlborough Tour Company vessel Odyssea to Mistletoe Bay.

Sir Stephen spoke to guests about his experience as patron of the Mistletoe Bay Trust for the last ten years.

“This truly is an example for sustainability that we need to continue to nurture,” he says.

Simon says that spending time at the camp was “life-changing.”

“As a school principal myself, I know that the time spent at the bay on camp, doing activities with classmates and learning valuable lessons, can be life-changing for our young people, and they need that experience now more than ever,” he says.

A map showing the proposed changes to the speed limit on State Highway 6 between Blenheim and Nelson. Graphic: NZTA.

Thousands call for lower speed limit plan to be scrapped

Thousands of people have signed a petition calling for traffic bosses to scrap plans to lower speed limits.

New Zealand Transport Authority has recommended that the speed limit between Blenheim and Nelson be slashed to 80kmh.

But fed-up motorists have been quick to hit back, calling for the idea to be ditched.

Driver Stephanie Drewery started the online petition last week which has been signed almost 7000 times by Monday afternoon.

She says the speed limit was increased in the first place as cars became safer.

“The New Zealand speed limit has been 100kmh since the early 1980s.

“The upper limit was set at an increased level because the roads were all tar sealed with a centre line and cars had decent suspension air bags.

“Now a majority of mountain roads have road edge barriers, passing lanes and wider cut corners,” she says.

NZ Transport Agency director regional relationships Jim Harland wants people to make submissions. Photo: Supplied.
NZ Transport Agency director regional relationships Jim Harland wants people to make submissions. Photo: Supplied.

Following a series of public meetings in Marlborough and Nelson earlier this year, NZTA heard from people who attended that speed limits needed to be cut.

But cutting limits is not the answer, says Stephanie, from Nelson.

“Why are the NZTA and the NZ Police so insistent on reducing speed limits on safer roads being driven with safer cars?

“Adults drive to the conditions,” she says, adding new drivers need more training.

Between 2009 and 2018, 20 people died and 92 were seriously injured in crashes on State Highway 6 between Blenheim and Nelson.

Nineteen of these deaths were on 100km/h stretches of SH6 and 87 people were seriously injured were on the open road/ 100km/ hour sections of SH6.

Cutting the limit would help prevent deaths and serious injuries say NZTA.

NZ Transport Agency director regional relationships Jim Harland has called for those signing the petition to take part in the decision process.

“We would ask the people signing the petition to maintain the 100km hour speed limit on much of SH6 to put in a formal submission on the Blenheim to Nelson SH6 speed review and be part of that process,” he says.

The petition will be considered if it is presented on time.

“The petition will be taken into account if it is presented to the Transport Agency within the consultation period (15 October to 12 November), along with other submissions,” he says.

Public consultation period will be open for four weeks before a final decision is made.

Any changes to the speed limits could be in place by the end of the year.

To add a submission visit nzta.govt.nz/blenheim-nelson-speed-review or pick up a submission form at your local council office or library or call 0800 44 44 49 and the Transport Agency will send you one. Alternatively, Email [email protected]

The NZTA is recommending the speed limit between Blenheim and Nelson be cut. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Speed limits to be slashed on state highway

The 100 km/h speed limit between Blenheim and Nelson is set to be cut to a maximum of 80 km/h.

Speed limits between Blenheim and Nelson should be cut to 80km/h or less permanently say road safety bosses.

And traffic bosses are backing the switch, recommending that it gets the go ahead.

Earlier this year, New Zealand Road Transport Agency revealed plans to look at lowering speed restrictions to help prevent fatalities and injuries on the region’s roads.

New restrictions will see State Highway 6 restricted to 60km/h in some places.

NZ Transport Agency director regional relationships Jim Harland confirmed the recommendation to the Marlborough Weekly.

“After carrying out a safety assessment we are proposing new speed limits along the route.

“We are currently checking back in with key stakeholders and finalising public consultation documents, and plan to formally consult on new speeds within the month of October,” he says.

The move follows several public events across the region to get public feedback.

Under recommended proposals, existing speeds would change just before the roundabout by Pak ‘n Save, dropping from 100 to 80 km/h for the majority of the 114km journey.

Communities are calling for the change, NZTA bosses say.

“We’ve been speaking with the community and local businesses, and other key organisations about how we can make this stretch of road safer

“One thing we heard loudly and clearly from the community was the need to act,” Jim says.

Between 2009 and 2018, 20 people died and 92 were seriously injured in crashes on State Highway 6 between Blenheim and Nelson.

Nineteen of these deaths were on 100km/h stretches of SH6 and 87 people were seriously injured were on the open road/ 100km/ hour sections of SH6.

Sixty-nine-year-old motorcyclist Christopher David Heads of Rai Valley died on Sunday after a crash with a car on Bulford Rd near SH6.

“We are investigating safety improvements, but one of the things we can do right now to prevent people from dying or being seriously injured is reduce speed limits, so they are safe and right for the road,” Jim says.

The consultation period will be open for four weeks before a final decision is made.

Any changes to the speed limits could be in place by the end of the year, Jim says.

The move coincides with a Marlborough Roads review last month asked for feedback on what people feel is a safe speed limit on local roads.

The call saw more than 300 submissions made, with a third in favour of more 50km/h areas.

Feedback from Marlburians on Council’s review of speed limits on local roads has seen more than 470 submissions received from across the district.

Marlborough Roads Manager Steve Murrin thanked those who took the time and effort to make a submission.

“It’s great to hear the views of those who gave us their suggestions and to see so many taking an active interest in road safety in Marlborough,” Steve says.

Electoral officer Dean Heiford says Tuesday is the cut-off date to send votes using the postal service. Photo: Glyn Walters.

Low vote numbers as deadline date looms

Marlborough’s electoral officer hopes to see a turnaround in low voting levels as the cut off date draws closer.

Lackluster voting in Marlborough has seen the number of people returning their ballot so far sitting at around just 25 per cent.

But Marlborough District Council electoral officer Dean Heiford says he expects to see numbers rise as the deadline approaches.

Latest figures from the election management company used to count votes across the region have revealed low return numbers do far.

Statistics from Christchurch-based business electionz show the first postal votes came in on 24 September.

Out of 34,026 electors in Marlborough, 22.8 per cent had returned their vote by Monday evening.

This compares to 29.59 per cent for the same period during the last local election.

Dean says early return rates are a bit lower in Marlborough than they were in 2016.

But he says the final turnout figure could yet increase substantially.

“However, early returns don’t determine the final turnout. In 2016 the early returns for New Zealand were lower than in 2010 and 2013, but the final turnout figure was higher”, he says.

NZ Post have dedicated extra resource for local elections, however postal days, offices and boxes have declined in the last three years.

Dean says people should be aware the last posting date is Tuesday 8 October.

“After Tuesday please drop off your voting envelope at the Council office in Seymour St, Blenheim or the Picton Library and Service Centre,” he says.

If you haven’t received your voting papers, contact your local electoral officer. Email [email protected] or Ph: 03 520 7400 before 5.00 pm on Friday 11 October.

Voting closes on Saturday 12 October at 12 noon.

Wairau River winemaker Same rose and viticulturist Hamish Rose toasting to their Champion Sauvignon Blanc. Photo: Supplied.

Wine win for Marlborough family

A pioneering family of winemakers has seen off competition from thousands to see one of its wines come out on top.

Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc 2019 has taken the Champion Sauvignon Blanc title at the 2019 New World Wine Awards.

In its 17th year, the awards attracted 1274 entries from 176 wineries across New Zealand and overseas.

Seventeen independent wine experts took part in a blind taste test with only varietal, vintage and country of origin noted.

The Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc 2019 comes from the Rose Family Estate vineyards located in the Wairau Valley,

Winemakers Sam Rose and Nick Entwistle and viticulturalist Hamish Rose are extremely proud of the wine.

Sam says he believes the 2019 growing season and harvest contributed to the wines outstanding quality.

“The warm and fine weather through the late summer months allowed the development of a riper spectrum of tropical flavours, providing us with excellent blending components to create our Sauvignon Blanc” he says.

Canine Pet Therapy coordinator Wendy Reynolds with two of her toy poodles Pearl, left, and Crystal, right. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Therapy dogs keen to spread joy

They have waggy tails, love cuddles and want to help – now all they need are people to visit.

Toy poodles Crystal, 8, and Pearl, 4, are trained therapy dogs and registered with the Marlborough branch of Canine Pet Therapy.

Devoted owner and trainer Wendy Reynolds from Blenheim would love to see the furry duo use their talents in rest homes around Marlborough.

Speaking at the 65th Black Hawk National Dog Show in Blenheim on Friday, Wendy says some rest homes in the area have been slow to take up the offer.

“It would be great to see them be a bit more accepting.

“If you’re not feeling well, a cuddle makes you feel better,” she says.

As the Marlborough co-ordinator for the therapy group, Wendy and two of her four poodles joined thousands of other people and pooches at Marlborough Lines Stadium 2000.

And the dogs proved popular with visitors who rushed to cuddle them.

Crystal has a natural ability with people, says Wendy who was also entering her poodles in the show’s agility classes at the weekend.

“She has a hunger for people, she just wants to be around them.

“She has so much to give but once she’s 10-years-old she won’t do agility anymore and it would be great to see her still involved in the community.”

Health research in New Zealand and overseas shows many people show great improvement in their health and attitude through interaction with visiting animals.

Canine Friends Pet Therapy is a New Zealand-wide network of people who share their friendly, well behaved dogs with patients in hospitals and residents in rest homes/hospices.

The service is free and helps spread happiness,” says Wendy.

“One Christmas I put all four dogs in a pram, decorated it with tinsel and took them in [to a rest home], in their Santa suits. Everyone was do happy to see him.”

Wendy is looking for more volunteers as well as places for the therapy dogs to visit.

She says any dog, given the right training, can be a therapy dog.

“You’ve got to be committed and even after all this time, I’m still training them.

“To raise a dog is like raising a toddler, you have to teach them manners.”

For further information visit caninefriends.org.nz

Volunteers spent four hours picking 6kgs of gorse flowers. Photo: Supplied.

Gin fuels record gorse harvest

A key ingredient in a Marlborough-made gin is helping keep a notorious weed at bay.

Record hauls of gorse flower have been gathered at a community harvest event.

Six kilogrammes of the yellow flower were handpicked over four hours.

Twice a year, the team behind Marlborough’s new Elemental Distillery organise a local foraging event.

In a bid to entice people to pick the problem plant, which causes misery to hay fever sufferers every spring, Elemental Distillers co-owner Ben Leggett puts on a free BBQ.

But Ben himself is a big fan of the plant.

“I simply love it. Not only is it both aromatic, herbaceous and fruity but it’s somewhat of an anti-establishment botanical in a market already full of rogue exotic species.

“The only issue remaining is how to harvest it in peak flowering and in volumes enough to last until the following season,” he says.

The answer came in the form of eight off-road vehicles, one gourmet barbeque put on by Francis Nolan from Boom Chef, a large pine plantation, local volunteers and some very thick gloves.

Introduced around the early 19th century as a hedgerow for livestock by European settlers, gorse flourished in New Zealand’s temperate climate flowering twice a year compared to just once in the Northern Hemisphere.

Gorse also generates exploding seed pods which can travel over 6 metres from the parent plant and can lay dormant in soil for up to 50 years before sprouting.

Ben says thanks to a collaboration with Marlborough 4WD Club, 15 local volunteers headed up into Marlborough’s Kaituna Hills last month aiming for a 300-meter-high plateau located in Stoney Creek forestry.

“Without the support by Marlborough locals, we would never have been able to deliver a fresh botanical gin like that of Roots,” Ben says.

Heath and sister Piper are very close but have been separated while Heath is in Starship Hospital. Photo: Supplied.

Little boy’s mystery illness baffles medical experts

A little Blenheim boy is battling a mystery illness that has almost cost him his life.

Heath Johnsen, 2, suffers from severe digestive issue which have left him unable to eat since he was just two months old.

The youngster has been flown to Starship Hospital by LifeFlight in Auckland where his worried family hope doctors can discover what is making him so sick.

His aunty Emma McKinnon says the family have fought hard for answers after Heath fell ill at just two months old.

“He’s lost almost two years of his life; it’s taken too long and we do feel a bit of anger about that.

Heath has spent more than 150 nights in Blenheim, Nelson and Christchurch hospitals over the last nine months. Photo: Supplied.
Heath has spent more than 150 nights in Blenheim, Nelson and Christchurch hospitals over the last nine months. Photo: Supplied.

“We knew something wasn’t right but were told he would grow out of it.

“He would scream in complete agony, but it wasn’t until he was 15 months old and weighed just 7kg that people started taking it seriously.”

Heath has spent more than 150 nights in Blenheim, Nelson and Christchurch hospitals over the last nine months.

But medical experts are still baffled, Emma says.

“Things were on the improve for a little while then it all came crashing down.

“Heath went from okay to being bad within hours,” she says.

A permanent IV line provides the nutrition he needs, but his health is still fragile.

Emma says he recently needed two blood transfusions in three weeks as he deteriorated.

“He’s baffled the medical teams in the South Island.

“Heath was also given another blood transfusion on Wednesday which helped perk him up.

“It has now become very serious and extremely concerning with that being the second one needed in just 3 weeks,” she says.

Heath’s mum Jess McKinnon, is in Auckland with him while his sister Piper Johnsen,6, stays at home with Emma.

His father Tiri Johnsen is spending the majority of his time in Blenheim, where is starting up his own business.

“Family is everything at a time like this and some days you would never get through if it wasn’t for each other.

“A journey with a sick child you would never wish on anyone and some days are beyond tough while other days bring so much joy,” Emma says.

The family need ongoing support to help them while they spend time with Heath.

“With Heath’s future at this stage being so unstable we can’t thank people enough for their generosity.

“Let’s hope Starship can offer some answers and reassurance our little man is okay.

“Any financial donation whether it be $5 or $50 is greatly accepted.”

Donations can be made to Grovetown School Parent Support Group (PSG), ASB 12 3167 0143314 00. Reference last name and/or donation. Use HEATH as the code.

EcoWorld’s trainee vet nurse Celine Moshiem holds the fledgeling Little Penguin. Photo: Supplied.

Little penguins rescued from drain disaster

A trapped penguin family, including a chick, have been rescued from a drain in Picton.

Staff from EcoWorld Aquarium & Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre rescued three Little Blue Penguins discovered stuck in a drain in the Interislander carpark in Picton last week.

The two adult penguins and a chick were taken to EcoWorld’s rehab centre.

Worried members of the public contacted the centre after hearing the trapped birds cry out.

EcoWorld’s director John Reuhman says the penguins all appear to okay.

But the chick has lost some of its downy coating as a result of being caught in the drain.

“We responded to several calls from members of the public who heard the Little Blues plaintive cries,” he says.

“We have checked their health. They seem to be in reasonable nick, and they are very feisty and bitey.”

The penguins will stay at the centre and be looked after until they have put on enough weight to be released back to the wild,

“We do need to get them back up to a healthy weight so they can survive in the wild.

“The chick has a reasonable coating of down.  But there are patches where the down has obviously been worn off being trapped in the drain,” says John.

EcoWorld Aquarium works with Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary where the Little Blues, once back to full health, will be released back into the wild.

John says the episode is a “classic example” of man meets nature.

“The Little Blues lucky escape is a classic example of man meets nature and nature comes off second best.

“Penguins live in dangerous places where it is hard for predators to get at them, but sometimes they get stuck,” he says.

Penguin breeding season is underway and staff at the animal rehabilitation centre expect to see more Little Penguins.

John says if anyone finds a sick or injured bird they should contact EcoWorld Aquarium or the Department of Conversation for advice.

“Take care Little Penguins are wild animals and they do bite,” he says.