Paula Hulburt

Paula Hulburt

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 givealittle.co.nz 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.

MarlboroughNZ.com 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.

Ernest Berry wanted a new challenge to look forward to. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Parachute jump a joy for pensioner

A Blenheim nonagenarian looking for a new challenge has opted to help charity at the same time- with a sponsored parachute jump.

At 91 years old, Blenheim poet Ernest Berry started to worry he wasn’t active enough.

He is now set to become one of 24 Marlburians preparing for the Drop for Youth charity jump for the Graeme Dingle Foundation.

The well-travelled poet has already taken to the skies once before, completing a 3000ft parachute jump to mark his 60th birthday.

“I’m not really scared of heights, well not much,” he says.

“I don’t write much anymore, and I don’t like standing still.”

Born in Christchurch in 1929, Ernest spent ten years living in Mexico after selling his Auckland-based sewing machine company.

He lived in Picton from 1993 to 2012, establishing the Picton Poets group and running a series of haiku workshops.

Ernest has twice judged the annual NZ Poetry Society contests and is Life Member of both the British Haiku Society and the NZ Poetry Society.

He lives in Blenheim with his partner, celebrated artist Triska Blumenfeld.

“I’ve yet to hear much about the training side of things for the jump but I’m looking forward to it,” he says.

The Drop for Youth fundraiser asked for volunteers from across the region to “leap into the unknown” in support of the Graeme Dingle

Foundation programmes Kiwi Can and Career Navigator.

$36,550 has been raised so far by participants that include business leaders, schoolteachers and teenagers.

Almost half of the young people in Marlborough, aged from 5 to 18 years old, benefit from the initiative, with almost 2500 children taking part every week.

Regional manager Kelvin Watts says it’s great to see so many local people stepping forward to help.

“The majority of our funding comes from Marlborough and it’s wonderful to see so many people wanting to help.

“This is a community-based initiative and it’s extra special when local people, from all walks of life, chose to step out of their comfort zone to help.

“We are very grateful.”

The event is scheduled for February. To find out more or to donate visit the Drop for Youth Givealittle page.

David and Leonora McKelvey can now stay together after a four-year battle with Immigration NZ. Photo: Supplied.

Wife wins battle for residency

A wife caring for her dementia-stricken husband has won a four-year battle for permanent residency.

Leonora McKelvey, 69, from Blenheim, married husband David in 2015.

Threatened several times with deportation, Leonora fought to stay and care for her ailing husband.

Leonora was finally granted NZ residence by Immigration New Zealand (INZ) last Monday.

A spokesman for the company representing the couple has welcomed the decision but blasted officials previously dealing with their case, accusing them of a “a total absence” of fairness.

“The manner in which Leonora has been treated by all INZ officials over the four previous years … displayed a total absence of any semblance of fairness or natural justice,” he says.

Originally from the Philippines, Leonora came to New Zealand in 2014 on a visitor visa to see her son.

She met and married David, who was diagnosed with dementia a year after their wedding.

The spokesman says by caring for David at home, Leonora has proven her genuine commitment to her husband.

“He has been cared for by Leonora 24/7 for more than 1000 days. Her love, care and Christian ethics have ensured David could remain at home and have some measure of quality and life enjoyment.”

He added that Leonora wanted to thank all those who gave their support, particularly the previous and current Associate Ministers of Immigration, the Hon Kris Faafoi and then Hon Poto Williams.

He also paid tribute to Immigration Advisor Sam Yoon for his “outstanding” work.

“Over the last six months, Sam’s interaction with the final documentation within INZ has been crucial to an excellent and final result,” he says.

He credited immigration officer Isabella Stern, praising her for her “steadfastness and principled approach.”

“Her fortitude in arriving at the correct decision displayed fairness and natural justice and was in adherence to the best principals that all immigration officers must strive to reach,” he says.

The couple have struggled on the poverty line for four years, surviving on one pension, growing their own vegetables and trying to keep costs to a minimum.

The spokesman says Leonora would now like to maintain a “quiet life” and care for David.

‘They would also like to thank all their church members and friends.

“Leonora’s overall situation will in time be carefully examined to determine the facts and accountability to the fate of this remarkable, humble woman.

“Her faith, courage and love for all have carried her through her last 20 years of a journey that most of us would find unbelievable and very difficult to endure.”

Boaties in Marlborough will be under the watchful gaze of automatic speed cameras. Photo: Supplied.

Speeding boaties caught on camera

Automatic speed cameras are catching out speeding boaties in marinas across Marlborough.

Hi tech cameras in Picton, Waikawa and Havelock Marinas are recording every vessel as it arrives and leaves.

Around ten people have been slapped with $200 infringement notices since the cameras were installed.

Acting Harbourmaster Jan Eveleens revealed the cameras have been calibrated to a high standard, like those used by police officers.

He says the Marlborough District Council funded cameras came after an idea to install signs like those that flash up speeds for motorists.

Acting Harbourmaster Jan Eveleens. Photo: Supplied.
Acting Harbourmaster Jan Eveleens. Photo: Supplied.

“I thought we should have them in the marinas, but they were not accurate enough.

“It’s been a bit of an experiment as they [the new cameras] were picking up waves and seabirds but they’re much better now, very accurate.”

The camera at Havelock was installed last winter while the Picton and Waikawa cameras were put up in December.

They record every vessels’ speed as they arrive and leave in the marina.

Boats going above the limit are instantly recorded and an alert goes to the Harbour Master.

Infringement notices are sent to boat owners by the council for breaking local bylaws.

Jan says people flouting the 8-knot speed limit as they arrive at Havelock Marina and the 5-knot limit in place at Picton and Waikawa will face fines.

“There have been some serial offenders but what we are seeing is that once word gets out is that people are slowing down.

“We had one boat coming into Havelock that drove straight into one of the beacons and the boatie hurt himself.

“People can hurt themselves if they are going too fast.”

The Harbourmaster will also monitor speed limits on the lower Wairau River from the State Highway 1 Bridge to below the Blenheim Rowing Club.

Jan says there have been reports of jet skiers on this stretch of the river going too fast.

The maximum speed in this section of the river is 5 knots.

“We want people to slow down and be safe,” he says.