Paula Hulburt

Paula Hulburt

Big changes ahead for Little Theatre

Over the decades, thousands of performers have trodden its boards, but Picton Little Theatre was on shaky ground.

The historic venue needs earthquake strengthening to bring the landmark building up to modern building codes.

And a funds boost from Marlborough District Council means vital reinforcing work looks likely to go ahead.

Committee Chair Carmen Gimpl helped secure a $7,000 grant from the annual plan this month to put towards theatre funds.

Combined with $5,000 left over from last year’s successful $26,000 bid, the charitable trust now has enough to approach other agencies for money.

“We’re keen to do it quickly.

“It [the theatre] constantly needs work so we really want to keep going while the momentum is there,” Carmen says.

From left, Chrissy Powlesland, Val Griffith-Jones, Joy Fletcher, Allison Hargrave, Sheira Hudson and Phil Crawford are looking forward to seeing the Little Theatre get some vital strengthening work done. Photo: Paula Hulburt.
From left, Chrissy Powlesland, Val Griffith-Jones, Joy Fletcher, Allison Hargrave, Sheira Hudson and Phil Crawford are looking forward to seeing the Little Theatre get some vital strengthening work done. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

To be eligible to approach agencies such as Rata for funds, the group must have $11,000 of the $33,000 needed to strengthen the building.

National Building Standards says if a building’s seismic resistance capacity is calculated as less than 34 per cent it is considered earthquake prone.

The engineer’s report gave the old theatre, built about 1886, a 26 per cent rating.

Reinforcing work will take around two weeks and should hopefully be finished by the end of the year, says Carmen.

The building hosts professional and amateur theatre, concerts, meetings, table tennis, dance classes and private functions.

Carmen says the 8-strong committee have great plans for the theatre.

“We put on 10 professional shows a year and really want to upgrade the bar area and see more people use the theatre.

“The theatre has been part of the town for a long time, so it makes sense to make sure it’s still here for generations to come.”

The committee have planned a Monster Garage Sale for 27 June to help raise funds for future improvements.

Carmen says it would be great if people can show their support by donating goods or turning up on the day.

Donations of household goods, tools, clothes and books can be dropped off on the day at the theatre on 9 Dublin Street or the night before between 4 and 6pm.

“Please come along and support the theatre and find out more about what we do too. We’d love more members,” Carmen says.

Niel and Margaret Sowry have garnered support for an extraordinary general meeting. Photo: Summa MacDonald.

Stricken Clubs of Marlborough set to reopen soon

Bosses at Clubs of Marlborough have revealed it will open for business again soon.

The central Blenheim business has not yet reopened following the lifting of lockdown restrictions to level 1.

Committee members have thrown their support behind the club’s beleaguered president, Jason Clouston.

Some financial members have called for an extraordinary general meeting, citing a vote of no confidence in the president, citing concerns over mismanagement.

In a statement released last week, the Committee of Management says the club cannot survive without immediate changes.

Staff stand to lose their jobs in the wake of proposed chnages.

“The Clubs of Marlborough has been through challenging times in the past few months.

“An operational review concluded immediate changes were needed for the club’s survival. These cannot be achieved under the club’s present structure

“In the ever-changing hospitality environment, with declining revenues and returns, we need to make changes that will prepare the club for the financial challenges ahead that all New Zealand businesses will face,” the statement says.

The hospitality business has never achieved the profitability forecast in 2007, when the clubs first moved into the multi-million-dollar complex.

The Clubs of Marlborough brought the Returned and Services Association, the Blenheim Workingmen’s Club and the Marlborough Club under one roof in 2007.

The large complex has a gym, shooting range, gaming hall, TAB facilities and two restaurants – and shares the space with the Marlborough Convention Centre downstairs.

Management say Covid-19 struck just as the restructuring process began.

“When we reached Level 2 the government-imposed restrictions of 100 persons per building made it financially unviable for the Club to reopen.

“Our objective is that following restructuring job security will be provided.

It is acknowledged that the process has been difficult for all those involved,” management says.

Redundancies are set to be announced next week as the proposed restructure is revealed.

“While there are likely to be job losses, they are necessary if the club is to survive.

“At all times, the President and Committee have acted in the best interests of members and staff alike.

“Members will appreciate the constraints imposed upon the President and Committee due to the current employment issues involved.”

The clubs are set to open again next Monday, 22 June, at 10am, with a limited service on offer while the new menu and bar service is developed.

“It is a new beginning that we hope our members and staff will embrace. We have a superb facility that we want better utilised by our members,” say bosses.

Blenheim woman Margaret Sowry, who alongside husband Niel has gathered support for a vote of non-confidence in Jason Clouston, says she has not heard anything official from the committee.

Marlborough Roads manager Steve Murrin at the soon-to-be upgraded roundabout near Redwoodtown. Photo: Matt Brown.

A roundabout solution to road safety

A solution to crashes at a notorious Blenheim roundabout could be rolled out across the region if it works.

Fourteen accidents, some serious, have happened at the roundabout at Alabama Road and Weld Street over the last five years.

Marlborough District Council’s Assets and Services committee have revealed plans to slow down traffic which comes at a social cost of about $550,000 a year.

Marlborough Roads manager Steve Murrin says the $300,000 raised roundabout and ramps will be used on all intersections to slow people down.

“Depending on the severity of the accident, the social costs can be huge in terms of ACC claims, time off work and hospital care.

“It’s not the most dangerous in terms of the number of accidents but they are more severe and something had to be done.”

Plans for the proposed roundabout upgrade. Photo: Supplied.

And after an 18-month trial period other potentially dangerous roundabouts on Weld Street, Seymour Street and Maxwell Road could get the same treatment.

This option will help to reduce vehicle speeds and improve facilities for walking and cycling, Steve says.

“The raised roundabout will create less of an impediment for heavy vehicles than other options, and it will also feature urban design treatments to reduce the impact to residents.

“A zebra crossing, with a speed indication sign is also proposed on the Alabama Road Western approach for the nearby school and sports grounds.

“This will further help to reduce the approach speed from this direction,” he says.

Following the Committee’s decision last week, Marlborough Roads will consult with nearby residents, school and businesses before a final design is completed.

Construction works could begin this summer.

A zebra crossing will also be put down on the roundabout exit closest to Redwoodtown School, with a speed indicator sign on approach.

Allan and Janet Udy are changing the way wool is bought and sold. Photo: Matt Brown.

Shear genius

A computer software company is helping keep one of the country’s oldest industries alive.

Blenheim-based software development company Golden Micro Solutions Ltd is helping give New Zealand’s wool market a modern twist.

Wool brokers and buyers are using an online platform created by husband and wife team Allan and Janet Udy.

And the move has helped strengthen the industry in the face of threats like COVID-19.

An online sale held last week was the first time independent wool brokers have used the system, breaking with over 150 years of open cry auction tradition.

Wool Online and Golden Micro Solutions Ltd co-director Janet Udy says the pandemic meant people couldn’t travel to Napier or Christchurch for the traditional auctions.

“The Covid-19 crisis has made everyone realise that there can be situations when it’s simply not feasible or desirable for brokers and buyers to travel.

“Level 3 and 4 lock-downs forced the cancellation of the traditional open-cry auctions in Napier and Christchurch, and this has helped focus the industry’s collective mind on the idea of increasing the volume of wool traded online.

The Wool Online system, a joint venture alongside Canterbury-based wool broker Wool Connextions Ltd, uses technology originally developed for Wool Marketing Nelson Marlborough in Blenheim in 1995.

A new auction mechanism has been added that more closely mimics the way an open cry auction works.

Developers used it as the foundation to build the new online sales software which was used at an auction in Napier last week.

After an initial glitch, the programme quickly proved its worth, says Janet.

“A technical issue in the first few minutes of the sale resulted in it being reset and restarted, but thereafter the auction proceeded well with more than half a dozen of New Zealand’s major wool buyers purchasing lots.”

Ryan Cosgrove, a buyer from John Marshall & Co Ltd, one of New Zealand’s wool exporters, says he was pleased with the way this week’s auction went.

“With the additional support of more brokers, merchants and buyers this certainly has the potential to be a staple method of sale in the exchange of wool in New Zealand.

“We hope that widespread adoption will help reduce costs while maintaining the same price discovery and transparency for growers, with the same efficiency for buyers, as open-cry auctions do.”

Working from home could become the new norm for many staff. File photo.

Heath bosses weigh up work from home advantage

Hundreds of health staff could work from home as bosses look at boosting productivity levels after lockdown

Members of Nelson Marlborough Health Board are looking at ways people could work from home on a permanent basis.

During lockdown productivity levels increased, with feedback from staff saying they enjoyed a better work life balance.

Speaking at the latest board meeting in May via Zoom, Nelson Marlborough District Health Board Chief Executive Peter Bramley says working from home had many positives.

“By not commuting daily it saves congestion, money, time and the environment.

“It also minimises the circulation and exposure to various infectious diseases, potentially reducing the need to take time off sick.

“Staff have reported better work life balance, and many would like the consideration of a flexible model between work and home going forward.”

The move would only apply to staff not needed for face to face work.

Peter says the challenges brought about by COVID-19 saw many services make the switch to online.

Now is the ideal time to see what changes might work well in the long term, he says.

“There is huge support to keep doing the right thing by our community and not to slip back to the old inefficient ways.”

Figures from Nelson Marlborough Health IT team show prior to COVID19 about 330 staff would remotely connect during a two-week period.

But between 25 March and 8 April that number more than trebled to 1080 staff.

People and Capabilities general manager Trish Casey says encouraging flexible working arrangements is on the cards.

“NMH is interested in continuing to promote flexible working arrangements for staff, especially as we continue to incorporate greater physical distancing into our ways of working for the future.

“We are currently reviewing many aspects of how we work, like when we travel to meetings or conferences versus connecting via technology, as we anticipate a need to maintain a cautious position with regards to bringing people together in groups,” she says.

“If an employee wants to continue remote working and this can be done effectively, managers will be looking to facilitate this.”

Nate Dyer, left, with Mike Newman from Meaters. Photo: Supplied.

Brave mum defies odds after horror smash

Seconds before the car struck, Jamie Miller, 29, closed her eyes and braced for the worst.

The Blenheim mum broke her pelvis, fractured her back and ribs and damaged both her windpipe and liver.

Now she has defied the odds, walking less than two weeks after a horror smash that could have killed her and her children.

The brave mum is already back on her feet, using a walker, and is back home with her family after being discharged from Wairau Hospital on Friday.

“I remember pulling out and seeing the car coming towards me and knew it was going to happen.

“We’re just lucky it turned out the way it did. It could have been much, much worse,” she says.

And the family want to pass on their thanks to the community for all their support, especially Mike Newman from Meaters of Marlborough who donated $250 of meat and $100 cash.

Jamie spent an hour trapped in the wreckage of their family car while emergency crews battled to free her. She was then flown to Nelson Hospital by helicopter.

“The hospital staff have all been amazing,” Jamie says. “Both our families have been really supportive too.”

Jamie was knocked unconscious by the impact of the crash which happened on 21 May at the the intersection of SH1 and Roadhouse Drive, in Riverlands.

She suffered severe lacerations to her head and has two black eyes.

She had just dropped her partner, Nate Dyer, off at Vent Mechanical Repairs where he works, minutes before the crash, she says.

“It was like I was dreaming, like a nightmare really. I remember asking about my children but don’t remember being in the helicopter or seeing Nate there,” she says.

“I was very, very lucky to be honest, as was the driver of the other car.

“Nate heard the sirens but didn’t think much of it until a truck driver told him it was me and the children and he just rushed to the scene.”

Their youngest child, who turns 2-years-old in July, broke her collarbone, and fractured her arm. The 3-year-old broke his femur and the 7-year-old suffered a hit to his head and two black eyes.

Jamie believes the child car seats saved their lives.

“The two youngest were in their car seats and the oldest was sitting in between them wearing a seatbelt.

“That’s what saved him, his siblings’ car seats, they saved his life.

“I blamed myself at first, but it was a freak accident, nobody’s fault

“It makes you think a lot about life and what matters.”

A Give a Little page has been set up to help with costs while the family recover.

To make a donation visit

The annual Southern Jam Youth Jazz Festival attracts a wealth of talented musicians. File photo.

Sound of music silenced as festival postponed

A top Marlborough music festival has been forced to cancel amid safety concerns.

The Southern Jam Youth Jazz Festival has been called off due to coronavirus fears.

But organisers have promised something fun to fill the gap.

Uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic left “too many unknown variables” for the festival to proceed, organisers say.

The week-long youth jazz festival and competition, featuring young musicians from high schools all around the South Island, has been a staple of the Marlborough event calendar for many years.

“After careful consideration and in close collaboration with the Marlborough District Council, the decision has been made to cancel Southern Jam this year,” the announcement, on Facebook, says.

The festival would see students performing at bars and restaurants before a gala performance at the ASB theatre.

“The safety of our students, staff and the public continues to be our number one priority and the current uncertainties regarding the COVID-19 situation leaves too many unknown variables at this point in time.”

Dinghy rescue after Cook Strait adventure

A teenager rescued by police after crossing Cook Strait in a small dingy was trying to visit his brother in Wellington.

Tachyon Hutt, 18, left Kenepuru Sound at 10pm on Friday to make the 100km plus trip.

But after his motor died, he was forced to call for help.

He was rescued by police after emergency crews used the signal from his fast fading cell phone to trace him.

Police say the overnight conditions were “rough” for a small dingy and are warning people to ensure they have all the necessary safety equipment.

Senior Sergeant Dave Houston says the cell phone saved the teenager’s life.

“If we didn’t have the mobile locate, we would have had a massive search. The mobile literally saved his life.

“While this was a good outcome and no one was injured, we’d like to remind people the Cook Strait is a dangerous stretch of water.”

Emma Flanagan won a national art competition during lockdown level 3. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Award-winning COVID art

A school student’s creative take on lockdown has won her a top place in a national design competition.

Fourteen-year-old Emma Flanagan from Marlborough Girls’ College entered a Radio New Zealand competition to design a T-shirt to mark the Covid-19 lockdown.

Her flower-powered entry was picked from thousands to join four other winning designs to be made into T-shirts.

The Year 10 pupil entered the competition at the beginning of May, as the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus began to drop.

Flowers in her designs represent a kinder chapter in people’s lives, Emma says.

“I decided to do a face mask as all the nurses and health care professionals were wearing them.

“The flowers are about growth during lockdown and how people were being kinder to each other.”

Emma also hid a teddy bear, toilet paper, a loaf of bread and a bag of flour in her penned drawing.

Five dollars from every sale will be donated to Emma’s chosen charity, the Kiwi Can initiative run by the Graham Dingle Foundation in schools across Marlborough.

The Year 10 student says she wanted to choose a local charity so money raised would benefit people in her community.

All remaining profits from the $45 shirt go back to the t-shirt producers in Kolkata, India to ensure they have an opportunity at a better way of life.

Emma says she is a keen supporter of the Kiwi Can programme as her mum, Sal, is a teacher at Redwoodtown School where the initiative is run.

Graeme Dingle Foundation Marlborough Regional Manager Kelvin Watt says he is grateful for Emma’s support.

“It’s so touching that Emma, as a young person herself, is in turn benefitting other children and teenagers here in Marlborough,” he says.

To buy a T-shirt featuring Emma’s work visit

Three siblings were hurt after a two-car crash in Riverlands. Photo: Supplied.

Children recovering after car crash horror

Two young children are being cared for in hospital following a horror car crash that has left their mum in intensive care.

Jamie Miller and her three small children were hurt in a serious car accident at Riverlands on Thursday morning.

The devoted mum was flown by helicopter to Nelson Hospital suffering severe injuries and faces six months in a wheelchair.

She has since transferred to Wairau Hospital where two of her children are being looked after breaking bones in the crash.

Partner Nathan (Nate) Dyer is taking time off work to care for his family wjho have also been left without a car following the smash.

A Nelson Marlborough Health Board spokeswoman says both children and their mother are at Wairau Hospital in a stable condition.

The two-car accident happened at the intersection of State Highway 1 and Roadhouse Drive, in Riverlands at around 8.20am as people were driving to work and school.

Nate’s mother Lianne Budny from Blenheim has set up a Give A Little page to help the young family with ongoing costs.

“It’s hit this young family very hard,” she says.

She says Jamie faces a long recovery time.

“Jamie was flown to Nelson Hospital and was rushed to ICU with severe injuries and is unable to walk.

“She will have a lengthy time in hospital and a long recovery. The two youngest are still in hospital recovering from broken bones.

“The money raised will contribute towards rent and ongoing bills as Nathan is unable to work while Jamie is recovering as he will be taking care of the kids.

“His work, Vent Mechanical Repairs have been very supportive.

“We would appreciate any kind of help or donations through this tough time and long recovery, thank you.”

A police spokeswoman says investigations into the crash are ongoing.

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