Rower Ethan Alderlieste, shown with Maya the German Shepherd, is raising money for animal charities. Photo: Matt Brown.

Rower’s Oar-inspiring charity bid

A rower with a passion for animals is set to pick up his oars for an epic journey.

Throughout August, animal advocate Nathan Alderlieste, 17, from Blenheim, will attempt to row a huge 310 kms in a bid to raise money for animal charities, including Marlborough Dog Pawz.

The talented sportsman says he wants to use his skills to help those who can’t help themselves.

“I decided that I would use what motivates me, what pushed me and what empowers me to do what I can to help the people who help the neglected and discarded animals in our country.

“Animals love you unconditionally. Their value to humans is exceptional and powerful.

“They provide comfort and emotional support, companionship, therapy and friendship and in return, they rely on us to care for them, to ensure they have food, water and shelter and more importantly love”.

Ethan, who spent the last season working with a team at Christchurch Boys’ High School.

He is confident he can reach his rowing target which is the equivalent of driving on SH1 from Blenheim to Christchurch. He has already raised a third of his $3000 total.

Animal abuse and neglect is an issue that affects the whole country, he says.

“It’s overwhelming.

“Organisations like Marlborough Dog Pawz are made up of volunteers who rely on support and donations from the community to help them provide shelter, medication, food and love for these animals, often putting their hands into their own pockets to make sure every animal is cared for.

“These organisations are the voices for the animals who they cannot speak for themselves.

“They are the champions for the neglected and discarded.

“Any financial help would be much appreciated for this worthwhile cause.”

To donate visit

Marlborough councilors at the opening of the Seddon water treatment plant. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Water thieves target Seddon?

Soaring water bills are causing a headache for some Seddon residents – and a thief could be to blame.

Bills as high as $3,000 a quarter have been sent to some homes using water metres installed after the Kaikoura earthquake in 2016.

Frustrated homeowners are calling on Marlborough District Council to act.

But one resident says a construction firm brought in to investigate the issue, have revealed the water could be being siphoned off deliberately.

Fed-up resident Sara Grigg says she was billed the equivalent of one year’s normal use in one quarter alone recently.

“We just had our second bill since moving in, all our water usage yearly allocation was used on the first account first bill of $300 which was odd.

“The second bill was the same and got us wondering if this was legit?

“I can’t get over how we have to pay so much for water that is detrimental to our human health and can’t be consumed,” she says.

The mum of two says her family of four do not use much water.

“We barely water in summer as we only have a small patch of garden”.

Awatere Water Supply consumer meters are read every four months – in October, February and June.

Homeowners are billed via a minimum four-monthly charge and volume or via a combined charging structure.

Some owners have been offered partial refunds on their bills by Marlborough District Council who have confirmed they are investigating the matter.

But leaks are not the likely cause of high bills, says a spokeswoman.

“For the Awatere and Seddon Water Supply there was a small flurry of leak calls relating to the 2013 and 2016 earthquakes, however there has been no discernible ongoing earthquake leak issues brought to our attention.

“If others in the community have concerns about their water charges, they should contact council to discuss this further,” a spokeswoman says.

“Where high consumption is noted by staff, council makes contact with customers to advise them.

“In between readings, Council expects customers to monitor their own consumption so they can identify any leaks promptly.

Residents have reported a range of bills, varying from $30 to $3000, with one lady discovering her water was being stolen.

Knowing what normal consumption for their household is should mean households spot problems earlier, says council.

New Zealand National Rifle Association president Malcolm Dodson. Photo: Matt Brown.

Top marksman takes aim at gun buybacks

A renowned New Zealand marksman has hit out at government gun buybacks, claiming the action makes “criminals” of law-abiding people.

New Zealand National Rifle Association president Malcolm Dodson says the controversial government gun buyback is a form of confiscation.

“It’s not a buy back, what we’ve got at the moment is compensation for confiscation,” he says.

“The licensed firearm owners that are handing in firearms are virtually being treated as criminals.”

The Ballinger Belt winner is among the world’s top ten full bore rifle shooters.

Malcolm, from Rapaura, says the move sets a worrying benchmark for the future.

“If the government wanted my land to build a road on, they would pay me full market value for it,” he says.

“This government set aside $200 million dollars; they know damn well it’s probably not going to be enough.

“It’s probably why they’re not paying firearms workers what their goods are worth.

“They’re almost making a token payment.”

The buyback offer, open for six months until 20 December 2019, offers compensation for hundreds of types of firearms as well as high capacity magazines and other parts.

For guns in new or near new condition, owners would receive 95 per cent of the base price, in used condition, 70 per cent of the base price and in poor condition, 25 per cent of the base price.

“There’s no reimbursement for ammunition,” Malcolm says.

“A lot of reloading gear will become redundant, and there’s no compensation for that.

“And a lot of parts, no more than 70 per cent compensation for those.”

Malcolm says the law changes are having unintended consequences and “dragging in” a lot of “other” firearms including “grandad’s .22”.

“The ten-round magazine law is dragging in a huge number of bolt-action .22’s,” he says.

“Because they hold more than ten rounds, suddenly grandfather’s old .22 that he used to shoot rabbits is now a prohibited firearm because of the fact the magazine holds more than ten rounds.”

He says the laws around semi-automatics in the country have been “a mess” for a long time.

“One of the problems in this country is the number of firearms out there that are not held by licensed owners,” Malcolm says.

“Sometimes it’s a license that’s lapsed or someone’s been left with some firearms after dad or grandpa died, there’s an amnesty where they can hand them in but there’s no compensation.

“There’s no encouragement for people to hand in a firearm if they’d quite like to keep it if there’s no compensation for it.

“At the end of the day, this is all the result of a foreign terrorist in this country.”

Carol Taylor with dogs Sophie and Alfie thinks about her dog Buster every day. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Beloved dog inspires pet remembrance park

A much-loved dog who died too young has inspired plans for a Pet Remembrance park.

Buster the bichon frise was family to Blenheim husband and wife Carol and Phil Taylor and when he died in December 2017 at 8-years-old, they were devastated.

Carol vowed to find somewhere special where she could bury his ashes and mourn the loss of the little white dog who has been such a big part of her life.

“He passed away in my arms.

“Buster was my baby really, my prime mover on this,” this says.

A longtime advocate for a pet cemetery in the region, Carol promised herself she would push for a suitable location.

Carol vowed to find somewhere special where she could bury his ashes and mourn the loss of Buster. Photo: Supplied.
Carol vowed to find somewhere special where she could mourn the loss of Buster. Photo: Supplied.

And after making a submission to council, the wedding celebrant says she is delighted that councillors have pledged to investigate the possibility of setting aside land for a park.

“It would be a park for ashes, somewhere nice where people could sit and reflect.

“There’s nowhere to go and mourn here, nowhere to go and just think about them,” she says.

“It broke my heart when Buster died, he was an extra special dog and I just want somewhere nice to put his ashes.

“We do bury our pets in our gardens, thinking our homes will be our forever homes, but often they’re not.”

Carol says she is hopeful of seeing her dream of a place to remember pets that have passed become a reality soon.

Possible sites include the Wither Hills Farm Park, alongside the Rifle Range Carpark or at the Renwick Dog Park at Foxes Island or along the Taylor River area.

The move comes as council ruled out the possibility of putting a pet cemetery in the grounds of any of the eight it cares for.

The memorial park would be a place of peace where ashes could be buried and for owners to reflect, says Carol.

People could donate money to scatter or bury ashes, she says.

“They’ve [the council] been brilliant and appear to be behind it. It’s not been shot down nor has there been any negativity from them at all,” Carol says.

With two other dogs, Sophie, 14, and Alfie, Buster’s grandson, Carol is determined to see the project through.

Until then, Buster’s ashes remain close by at home.

“We make them our family,” she says.

Friends Milly Gjelstad, 12 and Kayla Gifford, 13, have taken their school project to the next level. Photo: Matt Brown.

School project leads to charity lifeline

A school project has inspired two young friends to embark on a special charity quest.

Rapaura School friends Milly Gjelstad, 12 and Kayla Gifford, 13, worked on an inquiry into Voyages, inspired by the upcoming Tōtaranui 250 celebrations.

The friends focused their efforts on voyages of a different kind – those made by Syrian refugees fleeing their homelands.

Milly and Kayla were so stricken by their plight they have launched a bid to help buy a lifeboat.

Kayla says she came up with the idea as a result of all the research the pair did into the issue.

“Throughout our research stage we came across ‘Atlantic Pacific, Lifeboat in a Box’ which is an organisation whom help people all over the world.

“It was quite eye opening. After emailing them some questions they mentioned that they struggle with funding for the lifeboats.

“The money that we raise will go towards new lifeboats to help those people in need,” she says.

The kind-hearted duo held a bake sale at school and sold honey made at Kayla’s home in the Waihopia Valley.

Milly says the pair wanted to raise money to help the organisation, that sends lifeboats to the Mediterranean, by making as much money as possible to put towards the project.

“We did a lot of research and although I knew some about the refugees, we found out a lot more.

““It’s good we can help,” she says.

To donate visit

Vice president Louis Lefebre says the centre has a big impact on many lives; his own included. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Money shortfall threatens RDA future

Marlborough Riding for the Disabled is facing a battle for survival.

Members of the Blenheim charitable organisation have pleaded for help as they reveal the severe financial struggle they face.

Funds were so tight, the centre was operating on a “hand to mouth” basis.

Vice president Louis Lefebre says the centre has a big impact on many lives; his own included.

The engineer was paralysed in a freak skiing accident at Mt Hutt in 2010, while celebrating his son’s 17th birthday.

He helps oversee vital maintenance projects at the Churchward Park facility.

“Riding was not part of my life…when I came out of Burwood I couldn’t even sit on a chair without falling over.

“Most of the clients either haven’t got the ability physically or mentally to sum up what it does for them so I’m speaking on their behalf.

“I’ll ask the little kids how they’re riding’s going, and some can’t speak but there’s a smile that comes up and you know it’d been a positive experience.

“But the stress of worrying about the money takes away from what we’re trying to do. We’re not empire building here, we just want to do our best”, he says.

Vice president Louis Lefebre and volunteer Roslein Wilkes with a user of the Riding for the Disabled programme. Photo: Paula Hulburt.
Vice president Louis Lefebre and volunteer Roslein Wilkes with a user of the Riding for the Disabled programme. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Long-time coach and volunteer Roslein Wilkes revealed it costs $85 to put just one rider on a horse.

Costs were recouped at $20 per rider and with 80 riders a week, the centre was left with a huge shortfall.

“We’re trying to make that up all the time,” she says.

The group caters for children and adults from across Marlborough, with children from almost every school attending in some capacity.

With many horses retiring, demand outstrips supply, says Louis.

The horse he rode on, Pepsi, sadly died just before December and the centre cannot afford to buy a replacement.

“I haven’t been able to ride since then as there is no other horse suitable,” he says.

There is a waiting list of five adults.

RDA committee member Tim Smit revealed the Blenheim-based centre was facing a daily funding battle and had become a victim of its own success.

He implored members of Marlborough District Council to consider extending the help they already offer.

“Like most charitable organisations, our time is spent on trying to raise funds.

“We rely entirely on the goodwill of donations. It’s a hand to mouth business, with barely enough money one or two months ahead.

“When people rely on us for pay, this can be very stressful,” he says.

The RDA rent the building from Marlborough District Council for a “peppercorn” figure.

Council staff have been instrumental in helping cut soaring power bills in half, says Tim.

But the group hope council will help again in any way they can, from maintaining the property and grounds in terms of cash or supplying contractors.

Blenheim councilor Jenny Andrews praised volunteers for all their efforts.

Having visited the centre for herself, she says it is easy to see the positive difference it makes.

“I came back thinking three words; transforming, magic and hope.

“It’s like a miracle, with smiles as wide as the skies,” she says.

For further information about donating or volunteering visit

Since this article appeared in print, the RDA has been successful in securing $10,000 towards maintenance costs from Marlborough District Council in their annual Long Term Plan.

A day in the life of a primary school teacher

With rolling school strikes on their way, Rapuara School teacher Mikayla Avant sat down with reporter Matt Brown to talk him through a school day to help explain why teacher’s need more support.


5 am: Get up early and get ready to work out at the gym at 6am.

7.45am: At my desk getting ready for the day. You can plan weeks in advance, but something might go wrong, or something might change so your plan gets ripped up and scribbled out. Usually, I’m just sitting at my laptop planning, photocopying, printing.

8.40 am: School begins. We start with the roll, I call it fast admin.

“We go over what’s got to be done during the day, what’s important, and then reacting to whatever the children want to tell me.

9 am: Maths usually goes on until 10.10 and then the children go to morning tea after they’ve done their doubles; basic arithmetic, and they go and play.

10.10 am: If I’m not on duty, I pick up after them and I reorganise myself and get ready for reading. I might shoot over to the staff room to grab a coffee. Sometimes there’s something being said in the staff room that we all need to know.

10.30 am: Class novel. We’re reading Fish in a Tree in class. It’s about being kind and respectful.

10.45 am: Then, we have a reading program that we do, and I go through them with that. Recently, it’s been quite hectic because we have had a whole school enquiry, voyaging, based on the Totaranui.

11.15 am: If it’s not inquiry, it’s writing. We’re going to do newspaper articles starting next week.

12.15 pm: I’d say I have time to eat but I don’t really. I’ll eat if I’m on duty or I’ll grab a hot drink and meander around, make sure the kids are alright. Every teacher has a morning tea duty and a lunch duty. Otherwise, I’m either in here doing work, marking, reading. I’ll shoot over to the staff room, try to eat.

People think you can sit in the staff room, eat your lunch and have a yarn but you can’t. You always have got printing or marking or something to do.

You don’t get that leisurely lunch that everyone thinks that you get.

Rapaura school teacher Mikayla Avant says you don’t become a teacher for the paycheck. Photo: Matt Brown.

1.00 pm: 15 minutes of reading. I go around and make sure they are quiet reading and ask them some questions about what they’re reading.

1.15 pm: In the afternoon we have ‘inquiry’, so we go fully in depth in that area. That takes up the whole afternoon. Writing, science, technology, literacy, maths, everything. It’s about five weeks of really in-depth learning, or teaching from me, based off something wherever we’re going with that.

2.50 pm: School ends, for the children.

4.30 – 6pm: I’m usually here ‘til about five, six some nights and I always take work home. I would be lucky to get out at 4.30.

Because I’m a beginning teacher, I work, eat dinner, work. I probably usually put my laptop down about nine. On top of that, you still have your other paperwork behind the scenes.

I have meetings. Monday morning, Tuesday after school. Every fortnight I have a syndicate meeting at 7am. Thursdays I have a meeting with my mentor. I pretty much have a meeting every day, minus Fridays.

7.30pm: More preparation for class. If I get the chance, I might watch Netflix but that doesn’t always pan out.

9.30-11pm: I try to go to bed as early as I can but have to make sure I’m ready for the next day. I set my alarm for 5am and then do it all again.

Animal neglect warning

An animal rescue charity is warning neglect and cruelty is spiraling out of control as authorities fail to act.

Marlborough Dog Pawz volunteers are accusing council and the SPCA of not doing enough to help to address serious issues.

The number of cases of animal abandonment and neglect are reaching dire proportions, they say.

Marlborough Dog Pawz co-founder Michelle Madsen says the charity is swamped dealing with cases of abandonment and neglect.

And she says desperate members of the public are turning to them for help as the SPCA refuses to act.

Foster carers are working night and day to help but the situation is critical, says Michelle.

“It’s just horrendous.

“This is a huge issue; it’s getting worse and council are not addressing it.

“The sights we see are terrible but if we don’t try and help, who will?”

The non-profit group was started in March 2017, originally to support responsible dog ownership.

The main objective being to help with desexing costs and to assist, where possible, with vaccinations, food and bedding.

But, Michelle says, it quickly became clear animals’ lives were also at risk; with not everyone willing to accept help.

“I’ve had people threaten to kill me or bash my head in,” she says.

Marlborough Dog Pawz focuses their efforts on dogs but can’t ignore the number of kittens being abandoned. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

At one Blenheim property, Michelle says there are 11 cats all living in their own filth.

The remains of a dead kitten were discovered rotting on the driveway.

“We’ve complained to the mayor, but he didn’t take our concerns seriously.

“The council need to be enforcing by-laws. Animals are suffering through inaction,” she says.

Marlborough District Council’s Animal Bylaws 2017 forbid people from keeping more than four cats over the age of three months without prior written permission.

But pleas for help have so far fallen on deaf ears, says Michelle.

“There’s cat poo piled up everywhere, cats full of fleas with their ribs sticking out and yet the council’s first concern was to tell us off.

“Even if SPCA staff do come out, which they don’t always it can be days later, and the suffering just goes on.

“The SPCA is too top heavy, too many management positions in Auckland and not enough being done at a local level.

“There aren’t even animal inspectors based here, and the centre is always full.

“It’s virtually impossible to get them to take in a kitten,” says Michelle.

Animal advocate Alex Stowasser works with Marlborough Dog Pawz.

She is horrified by some of what she has seen,” she says.

Top of her wish list for change would be compulsory desexing for dogs and cats, an end to keeping dogs chained up and backyard breeding.

“People have no idea how truly bad this situation is.”

Marlborough District Council and the SPCA have been contacted for comment.

Donations can be made to Marlborough Dog Pawz at BNZ 02 0600 0299421 000 or to The Vet Centre Marlborough, ASB 12 3605 0005262 00.

Seddon water plant falls foul of health rules

The new multi-million-dollar treatment plant in Seddon has fallen foul of new water rules.

Marlborough District Council staff are warning residents hooked up to the new network that the boil water notice still stands.

The alert comes after the Ministry of Health (MoH) changed the guidelines.

But council were only made aware of the changes three weeks ago says council’s operations and maintenance engineer Stephen Rooney.

“We are very confident that the plant is compliant.

‘Essentially the issue centers around how we show how much chlorine is going in and how much is going in and how we make that calculation.

“We take that data from one-minute intervals and are working towards that and providing that to Ministry of Health,” he says.

Staff are searching through records going back three months to provide the latest figures.

The changes mean the plant doesn’t yet officially meet the NZ Drinking Water Standard due to a technicality.

Stephen says he expects the boil water notice to be lifted at the start of July.

In the meantime, all water used for drinking, food preparation or cleaning teeth should be boiled before use.

Work on the treatment plant began in January 2018 after more than 10 years of debate on the best way to deliver safe drinking water straight from the tap.

‘We have all the data we need; we just need to supply it in a slightly different format,” Stephen says.

Council will present this information to the Ministry of Health Drinking Water Assessor in early June 2019.

For Awatere Rural areas, the boil water notice will remain in place.

Council is working with Nelson Marlborough District regarding options for supplying rural customers with water compliant with the NZ Drinking Water Standard.

Treated water is available at the public taps on Marama Road, outside Seddon School.

Members of the community can contact council’s customer service centre on 03 520 7400, for further information.

Homeless struggle with housing crisis

The number of homeless in Marlborough has tripled in the last three years as the region struggles with a “significant housing crisis”.

Latest records from the Ministry of Social Development show 132 people in Marlborough urgently need housing.

But Christchurch Methodist Mission housing manager Andrea Goodman says the need for more social housing was not limited to the homeless.

“There’s a lot of people that come to the area for work because of the vineyards, not realising that there’s an issue with housing,” Andrea says.

“Also, the housing market being so buoyant means that a lot of landlords have sold off their properties.”

There are 36 families currently in transitional housing in Blenheim alone, however, over half of those in desperate need of housing are single people.

Christchurch Methodist Mission executive director Jill Hawkey was in Blenheim last week to unveil the Housing First programme.

“We’re already supporting families in Blenheim but single men is the group that needs particular support,” Jill says.

Housing First is a model of housing and wrap-around support that houses people who are long-term homeless, without the need to be sober or drug-free.

The programme relies on houses from the private sector.

“In some way, it’s a good deal for landlords,” Andrea says.

“The rent will be guaranteed and the properties will get returned in the condition they were let in.

“But it’s also an opportunity for landlords to get a good social outcome.”

Andrea says they are looking for rental contracts that would last at least a year and hoped landlords would commit for longer.

The $197m government programme recognises it is easier for people to address issues, such as mental health problems and addiction, once they are housed.

Government funds would be used for tenancy management, repairs and maintenance, and support services

“Everybody that goes into a Housing First house has at least a weekly visit from a key worker if not more frequently depending on the needs of the person,” Jill says.

Jill says they aim to get long-term homeless people off the streets.

“We don’t want to set up a big bureaucracy, that’s more hoops for people to jump through,” Jill says.

The programme was hoped to “kick off” within a couple of months.

“Once we get that all up and going and they’ve been trained and inducted we can kick off.”

Jill says the strength of the initiative lies with local agencies working together.