Hope Walk organisers Vita Vaka and Bary Neal. Photo: Matt Brown.

Bringing Hope to the community

Two friends hope people will turn out in force to support those whose lives have been touched by suicide.

Marlborough man Bary Neal lost his son, Matt, 22, to suicide in 2016 while his friend and Hope Walk organiser Vita Vaka suffered from depression.

Together, the pair hope this year’s walk will start conversations about suicide and let people know support is on hand.

Organiser Vita Vaka says suicide is a topic close to his heart.

“I do this because I wish people were there walking with me through it,” he says.

The walk takes up to an hour, depending on the size of the crowd, and makes a loop circuit around Blenheim – starting and ending at Seymour Square.

In 2017, nearly 1000 Marlburians turned out for the region’s inaugural Hope Walk after organiser Bary Neal heard of a guy in Auckland starting a similar event.

Bary handed over organising the event to 30-year-old Vita last year, after he moved to Dunedin for work.

But now back in Blenheim, he continues to be a passionate advocate for the walk.

He organised the first event in Blenheim in 2017.

“I thought, why not?”

“Rather than sitting around feeling sorry for myself, I got out and did something,” Bary says.

“It’s made a difference in a lot of people’s lives.”

Bary says the event is about encouraging people to open-up.

“To not sit at home and feel like a burden,” he says.

Bary, a competitive speed walker went through a double hip replacement, then a marriage breakup before the death of his  son.

“At that stage I didn’t want anyone around me,” Bary says.

“I put on a brave face, but I would hide and have a cry.

“My best mate didn’t have a clue, but he checked up on me every other day.

“I kept thinking, my boy is looking down on me being miserable, so I wanted to do something to help people who were having similar trouble” he says.

Vita says Hope Walk itself is a type of suicide prevention.

“It’s a day to remind people how valuable they are to life,” he says.

“People have some kai and are informed about the support networks,” Vita says.

“It’s important people know the support is there.”

The Hope Walk begins at 10am Saturday 28 September at Seymour Square.

Cats on a Blenheim property have been suffering say animal advocates. Photo: Supplied.

House of horrors for neglected cats

Starving, ill and flea-infested cats will continue to suffer and die as authorities fail to act warn animal charity bosses.

Marlborough Dog Pawz, which care for both cats and dogs, has hit out at both the SPCA and Marlborough District Council over their failure to act.

The central Blenheim home has around nine cats living in filth and faeces, says charity co-founder Michelle Masden.

Cats on a Blenheim property have been suffering say animal advocates. Photo: Supplied.
Cats on a Blenheim property have been suffering say animal advocates. Photo: Supplied.

She has implored both councillors and SPCA to act and for help to be given to the homeowner.

But she says her pleas are falling on “deaf ears”.

“I feel like it is in the too hard basket and no one wants to actually try, the place hasn’t changed since January and is still a health hazard.

“We did go knock on the door on one occasion to see if we could help with desexing or any other sick kittens etc.

“That is when I found a little kitten lying in the garden covered in flies and crawling with fleas like I have never seen before, there was also a dead cat by the garage.

“I am not sure what you actually have to do to get someone to take action.

“We have taken six or seven [cats] from the property and four were put down as they were past helping,” she says.

Cats on a Blenheim property have been suffering say animal advocates. Photo: Supplied.
Cats on a Blenheim property have been suffering say animal advocates. Photo: Supplied.

The cats first came to the charity’s attention in January. They reported their urgent concerns to the SPCA.

After a four day wait, officials showed up at the house, Michelle says.

“The smell was so bad it almost made me sick, there was also a dead cat by the garage. SPCA know this property and actually took 8 cats from there last year but haven’t followed up since.

“It breaks my heart totally.”

The charity has been calling for a meeting with council staff, including Marlborough Mayor John Leggett.

But despite assurances a meeting would happen, nothing has been confirmed yet, though says councillor and mayoral candidate Jamie Arbuckle has been in contact.

“The owner of the property will not de sex any cats or let the SPCA remove any, this shouldn’t be a multi choice it needs to be enforced and acted upon.

“Kitten season is yet again here and there will be more emaciated kittens very soon.“The property owner needs support and that’s something that isn’t being offered here, the situation is now like a bad joke and i feel like a broken record.

“I know the SPCA and council want me to just disappear, but I won’t, these fur babies have no voice.

A spokesman from Marlborough District Council says the property had been inspected.

“Council inspected the property again on 4 September – there were four cats present and no concerns regarding their health or well-being. There have been no complaints from the neighbours.”

A cheque was presented by Organiser Bob O’Malley to Cancer Society Marlborough centre manager Felicity Spencer at a morning tea ceremony at the Vintage Car Clubs clubroom at Brayshaw Park on Wednesday. Photo: Supplied.

Sun shines for charity car show

The organiser of a vintage car show prayed for good weather and his efforts paid off, especially for the charity they support.

Marlborough’s Cancer Society received a massive windfall after the well-attended car show raised several thousands of dollars.

The popular Vintage Car Club Daffodil Day Vehicle Display smashed previous records, making nearly double the amount of last year’s show.

$17,500 was raised for the charity, with about 4000 Marlburians attending the show.

Organiser Kelly Landon-Lane says he got corns on his knees praying for fine weather for the third annual display.

And it worked, the day was one of the warmest and sunniest of the month.

“The weather leading up wasn’t great, but on the day – they [weather forecasters] got it a bit wrong,” Kelly says.

A cheque was presented by Organiser Bob O’Malley to Cancer Society Marlborough centre manager Felicity Spencer at a morning tea ceremony at the Vintage Car Clubs clubroom at Brayshaw Park on Wednesday.

Felicity says they were “overwhelmed” by the amount the Vintage Car Club made for the charity.

“It’s such an awesome effort, and they took all the initiative to run the event,” she says.

More than 50 generous local businesses contributed to the successful show.

“The support has been absolutely superb,” Kelly says.

“We had a figure in our mind when we started, around $15,000, and we made more than that.

“It’s progressed from $8000, to $9000 to more than $17,000 this year.

“You got to thank the people that turned up on the day.”

Bob says most families are affected “in one way or another” by cancer.

The money raised will go towards a new supportive care nurse hired by the society and to establish support groups for people affected by cancer in the region.

“The public really get behind us, it’s just incredible,” Bob says.

Kelly says the support from the community has been overwhelming.

“Hopefully we can keep the ball rolling and build on the event for next year,” he says.

Bottles, human excrement and other detritus mar a popular hut at Marfells Beach. Photo: Supplied.

Marfell Beach’s family hut trashed

It’s survived an earthquake, but a small structure on Marfells beach near Seddon could be taken down by tanked teens.

The hut, built by a local family for shelter from the notorious east coast wind, has become a dumping ground for raucous revellers.

Human faeces, piles of rubbish, including empty bottles and cans, are turning the hut into a tip – the “childish” antics wrecking the shelter for everyone else.

A local Seddon resident, who asked to not be named, says he erected the hut for his family as a respite when walking the popular beach.

“It’s a good place to kick back and get out of the sun and wind,” he says.

“I haven’t been there for a long time, but it was always kept pretty good.”

Constructed prior to the  7.8 magnitude earthquake in 2016, halfway between Marfells Beach Road and the wharf, the shelter was intended to be used by fishermen and families walking the shore.

But a four-wheel-drive track adjacent to the structure has proven to be its downfall.

The Seddon local thought it was local teens wrecking the structure for everyone else.

“It’s absolute childish stuff,” he says.

“I’ve sent a few people down there to clean up glass and faeces.

“I’ve yet to deal with the people that did it.

“They’re ruining it for everybody else,” he says.

Council has been approached for comment.

Foster Hope coordinator Leonie McLachlan is grateful for all the donations the charity receives. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Crowded house a problem for pyjama charity

A charity bid to help provide pyjamas to children in foster care needs to upsize its storage in a bid to cope with demand.

Foster Hope Marlborough urgently needs a new storage shed as kind-hearted Marlburians gift goodies to the charity.

The popular initiative stores and sorts donations of pyjamas, clothes, toys and other gifts from across the Top of the South

But local Foster Hope coordinator Leonie McLachlan is running out of room.

“This is such an amazing, giving community and this is a fabulous problem to have,” she says.

The Blenheim mum of four, who has been a foster parent for 22 years, has boxes of donations in her living room and in storage sheds in the garden.

Foster Hope arranged for a shed to be installed but it only holds a fraction of the donations.

With the need for help high, Leonie hopes someone may be able to help in some way- through supplying a shed or sleep out, helping to build it or supplying the materials needed.

Gifts come into Blenheim from across Marlborough and the Nelson Tasman areas before being distributed back to both regions.

The charity also provides help to children under the care of Oranga Tamariki and The Open Home Foundation.

“I have also provided clothing and pyjamas through the hospital social workers both here and in Nelson as well as Grandparents Raising Grandchildren and Fostering Kids and pyjamas to the Woman’s Refuge,” says Leonie.

“I need something here on my property rather than a storage unit as I sort out the donations once the kids are in bed. It’s a big job.

“Ideally it needs to be lined and insulated so the clothes don’t go mouldy or get damp.”

Building regulations means the maximum size must not be bigger than 10 metres square.

As a registered charity, Foster Hope can provide a receipt for any donations.

“I absolutely love what I do, I just love it and any help would be much appreciated,” Leonie says.

To contact Foster Hope, email [email protected]

More than 7000 trees have been planted in six years as a result of the reserves initiative. Photo: Supplied.

Call for help to boost reserves

Restoring a scenic reserve will pay off for future generations of endangered bats.

Endangered long tail bats are set for a helping hand as conservation teams join forces to bring Ronga Reserve in Pelorus back to its best.

And an appeal has gone out for members of the public to help plant saplings that bats will one day roost in.

Forest & Bird, Nelson Tasman Weedbusters and the Department of Conservation (DOC) hope people will pledge to assist as they get ready to plant rimu, totara and matai.

DOC ranger Wendy Sullivan say they hope the day will make a big difference.

“The 17ha Ronga Scenic Reserve is an important habitat for the endangered long tailed bats.

“The tiny rimu, totara and matai planted by volunteers will eventually become the giant trees required for bats to roost in.

Ronga Scenic Reserve, along with its more famous neighbour the Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve, are not only home to long-tailed bats, but are also ‘acutely threatened’ forests.,” she says.

The annual planting days have been organised by Forest & Bird and DOC for six years.

More than 7000 trees have been planted and, despite flooding and ongoing weed issues, has been lauded as a success.

It’s heartening to see the seedlings start to appear above the rank grass,” Wendy says.

Less than 1 per cent of this type of forest remains in the Pelorus District.

Wendy says the ancient podocarps are crucial to the survival of long-tailed bats.

“They need old hollow trees to roost and breed in.,” she says.

A community planting day will be held on Saturday 31 August.

Meet outside the Brick Oven in Rai Valley by 9:45 am. DOC will be providing a wild meat BBQ for a late lunch but feel free to bring a salad to share.

Bring solid shoes, warm clothes and a well-labelled spade. If the weather is bad, check out facebook/ronga reserve restoration for updates – postponement dates are 1 or 14 September.

Robbie Parkes needs a diabetic alert dog to help manage his Type-1 diabetes. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Boy’s best friend a life saver

Four-year-old Robbie Parkes desperately wants a dog, not just any dog however, a dog that will potentially save his life.

After falling dangerously ill in May, the Linkwater boy was diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes.

With no history of the condition in their family, mum Diane Parkes says they have been left reeling by the shock diagnosis.

Robbie has been accepted as a potential candidate for a diabetic alert dog from Australia- but the farming family need $20,000 to make the dream a reality.

For mum Diane, the new addition to the family would be much-needed peace of mind.

“The do can be with him 24/7, on the tractor, when he’s playing, and a big thing is that the dog can be with him at nighttime too.

“It would make such a big difference to our lives.”

Four-year-old Robbie Parkes desperately wants a dog, not just any dog however, a dog that will potentially save his life.
Four-year-old Robbie Parkes desperately wants a dog, not just any dog however, a dog that will potentially save his life. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Dad Gareth is a stock-truck driver and is away for long stretches of time, so Diane checks on Robbie’s glucose levels every two hours throughout the night.

After making an emergency trip to Blenheim when Robbie first got sick, the prospect of a pet who could warn her when her son was ill would be “life-changing”, she says.

“The dogs are trained to wake or get the attention of someone else if they sense something isn’t right.

“They sniff out if levels are too low or too high 10 minutes before it actually happens.

“If the dog was with Robbie all the time it would give me peace of mind,” she says.

Camped out on a stretcher bed in Robbie’s room, Diane has not had a full night of sleep since his diagnosis on Mothers’ Day when he was admitted to Wairau Hospital for three nights.

Looking after the family’s farm, calving and home-schooling Robbie’s two older siblings, means there is little spare time in the day.

An energetic boy who loves to play outside, Robbie needs constant monitoring.

From crying in fear each time he had to have a finger-prick test done, the brave youngster can now do them himself four times a day.

“He had blood test after blood test and needles and drips, but he’s been very brave and we’re really proud of him.

“His body was basically shutting down, he was almost unconscious and couldn’t stop vomiting.

“It would be wonderful to think that an assistance dog would help stop him having to be in hospital again,” Diane says.

The family are holding raffles to help fundraise and have also set up a donation page on Facebook.

“I haven’t liked to ask for the full amount so am trying to raise $5000. It would be an amazing start,” Diane says.

To donate visit www.facebook.com/donate/939821693029494/2391922750884457/

June Maslin was successfully treated for bowel cancer after an at-home test kit detected it early. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Bowel cancer kit saving lives

A Blenheim woman is urging others to take at an at-home test which helped save her life.

When June Maslin got a bowel testing kit in the post, she put it aside; with no family history and no symptoms, at first it seemed like a waste of time.

But she was persuaded by friends to do the test and within a month was diagnosed with a cancerous tumour.

The keen golfer, who has since been given the all clear, is warning others not to ignore the free test kits.

“I nearly didn’t do it but it’s so simple to do and it’s given me a second chance at life,” she says.

The grandmother of one had surgery at Wairau Hospital in April this year and will not need chemotherapy.

She says the 5-minute test detected signs of the cancer before she developed any symptoms.

In the year since it was launched in Marlborough, the bowel cancer screening initiative has seen 15,223 kits sent out.

Sixty-six per cent were returned. The Ministry of Health’s target for return rate is 60 per cent.

“I felt fine, I didn’t have any symptoms, June says. “I really didn’t think there was anything wrong.

“Please do it now, the sooner it’s done, the better peace of mind you’ll have.

“Everybody during this was absolutely marvelous, the hospital staff were fabulous.”

A total of 415 tests have proven positive with 11 of these proving to be cancer.

Nelson Marlborough Health Bowel Screening Programme manager Claudia Teunissen has been helping spread the word at information stalls at festivals, A&P shows and community meetings.

She says the most satisfying part of her role is getting positive feedback from the public.

“People telling me that they have completed the kit and had a negative result.

“Also, when people tell me that I had convinced them to do the test after we had spoken together at another event.

“I also feel I’ve done a good job when people from our priority population want to talk to me individually and even request for a kit to be sent to them,” she says.

For further information visit www.timetoscreen.nz/bowel-screening/

Signs to educate the public are clearly seen at Cape Campbell peninsula. Photo: Matt Brown.

Beach access threatens cape

Vehicles are being blamed for the destruction of a pristine Marlborough beach by residents who want to see tighter controls.

The 2016 Kaikoura earthquake uplifted land around the Cape Campbell peninsula and the beach became a popular destination for four-wheel drive vehicles.

But Cape Campbell Experience manager Thomas Peter says the hike in numbers is putting the area at risk.

He says while people have been driving along the beach for years, since the earthquake it’s gone from “casual usage” to upwards of 50 vehicles on a busy day.

“With the Kaikoura quake, the area has had a real spotlight on it,” Thomas says.

The cape, well known for its lighthouse that guided ships around the dangerous reefs since 1870, is the native habitat for several native species including the banded dotterel.

Vehicles driving along the beach leave deep furrows and prevent the ecosystem from regenerating. Photo: Supplied.
Vehicles driving along the beach leave deep furrows and prevent the ecosystem from regenerating. Photo: Supplied.

“Being a peninsula, it’s a nesting site for quite a few birds and it has a seal colony on it,” Thomas says.

“You can see the tyre tracks going right through the middle of where the seals are.

“I know down the Kaikoura coast if a vehicle is within 20 metres, it must be stationary with seals.”

Thomas says to protect the area; the answer is to look nationally – to other councils around New Zealand.

“They’ve effectively put a lot of bans and controls over timing and allowances of vehicles and speeds,” he says.

“Look to Wellington, they’ve put bans over huge proportions of the beach now.

“Auckland, even 90-mile beach now, I understand you can’t drive on it like you once could.

But Marlborough 4WD Club captain Tony Ashworth says no area should be closed off to Kiwis.

“The locals are trying to get everything banned down there,” Tony says.

He says the beach has always been driveable and claims landowners have only started complaining about access since they haven’t been able to charge.

“We do everything with a tread lightly mindset. You can use the area without destroying things.

“I know there are people that go out on their own, but we don’t condone that.”

The club has organised an annual Cape Campbell 4WD trip for about 27 years, Tony says.

“The older members of the club always talk about it.”

A community group formed to protect and enhance biodiversity of the area wants to work with the community to find a solution.

Marlborough East Coast Protection Group secretary Heather Davies says they are working closely with DOC and MDC to educate the public.

Information signs and temporary fencing to protect particularly sensitive areas are in place.

“People are going further along and disturbing native birds and the formation of dunes,” Heather says.

She wants the region’s residents to share a sense of responsibility.

“That what they are doing, they have an impact. That people understand that these are Marlborough’s unique species.

“Those animals live there,” she says.

A council spokeswoman says the council is aware of the broad nature of ecological, economic, and social values that are central to the community that require a balanced approach to management.

Volunteers, from left, Breanna Holt, Michelle Dawson, Olivia Cooke and Sophia Wills have started a thrift shop. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Students shift to thrift

It used to display books, but shopping savvy students have set up a thrift shop in an old library to encourage browsers of a different kind.

Inside the former library at Marlborough Girls’ College, student volunteers have set up a clothes and accessories store.

They hope the move will help their peers save money as well as encouraging recycling.

Year 12 student Breanna Holt says the idea for the small store, named Hidden Treasures, was sparked after a visit to Nelson College for Girls.

“We looked at what they had done and thought we could do it too.

“It’s much easier to get to than say Savemart where students have to drive to and most of our items are more affordable,” she says.

Clothes sell for under five dollars or $15 for well-known labels.

After getting the idea okayed by principal Mary-Jeanne Lynch, a subcommittee of the college’s Enviroschools group swung into action.

Volunteers, from left, Olivia Cooke, Michelle Dawson, Breanna Holt and Sophia Wills have started a thrift shop. Photo: Paula Hulburt.
Volunteers, from left, Olivia Cooke, Michelle Dawson, Breanna Holt and Sophia Wills have started a thrift shop. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

A competition to see which class could donate the most saw clothes come flooding in says English teacher Michelle Dawson.

“We held a competition to see what form class could get the most donations with the prize being a pizza-lunch.

“I’ve taught most of the girls at some point and it’s a real pleasure to be working with them again.”

The college is working towards gaining its gold Enviroschools award.

Student Olivia Cooke says the recycling aspect is an important part of the decision to set up the shop.

The store also stocks a range of clothes in the school’s house colours to make it easier for students to find the right coloured clothes at the right price.

Volunteers join a six-week roster and take it in turns to oversee sales.

Student Sophie Ellis says with both the girls’ and boys’ colleges preparing to collocate, a future thrift store would have to expand its range.

“There’ll be opportunity to grow and one day it will have to cater for boys too.

“When we’ve all moved on, it’ll be our legacy”.

Funds raised through sales will be put towards bettering the college environment.