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

Mayor wants communication to be key

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He was also joined by some council colleagues.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They will be a welcome addition, says mayor Leggett.

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

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

Dinner serves up school camp funds boost

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Age Concern community welfare coordinator Catherine Donnelly. Photo: Matt Brown.

Testing for older drivers

An advocate for older drivers has warned more stringent measures are needed to help keep senior drivers safe on the road.

As the population in the region ages, the number of elderly drivers is expected to increase.

And industry expert Age Concern community welfare coordinator Catherine Donnelly believes driver testing is not rigorous enough for older motorists.

New Zealand Transport Agency figures show more than 1500 people over the age of 80 have a current license in Marlborough. One hundred and twenty nine of those are over the age of 90.

At 75 years of age, motorists are required to provide a medical certificate from their GP  in order to keep their driver’s licences.

But Catherine says cognitive testing should be performed alongside the sight and hearing tests.

“Some GPs already do it,” she says.

“As people age, [testing] should get more rigorous.”

An NZTA spokeswoman says older drivers are not involved in “a large number” of serious crashes.

But due to increasing physical frailty, if involved in a crash, are more at risk of being seriously injured or killed, she says.

“For many older people driving is a key to their independence,” the spokeswoman says.

“Many seniors rely on their car to get around. For shopping, appointments or visiting friends and family.

“These concerns must be balanced with the recognition that the ageing process can affect a range of skills essential to driving – including eyesight, memory, decision-making and reaction times.

“It’s important for all drivers, regardless of age, to regularly and honestly assess their own driving capabilities to keep themselves and others safe.

Catherine says at the end of last year, there was a “horrific” death toll for older drivers.

“As you get older, your reflex time is slower,” she says. She added one in four medications can also affect driving.

She would like to see more people take advantage of an initiative to improve their driving.

In conjunction with NZTA, Age Concern offers a confidence driving course that will fit anyone, “even teenagers,” as well as a course aimed at providing information on how to get by without a driver’s license.

Age Concern provides walkability maps, half price taxi fares and has advice on mobility scooters, e bikes and trikes.

“It costs $4000 to $6000 to run a car per year, that’s a lot of taxi fares,” Catherine says.

“There are a lot of options.”

The free courses run 12 times a year, from 10am to 2pm at the Clubs of Marlborough.

The next course is November 11 and December 9.

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

Thousands call for lower speed limit plan to be scrapped

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The mystery woman who features on a camera found at the bottom of the Marlborough Sounds. Photo: Supplied.

Treasure trove of photos discovered by divers

A camera that lay lost on the seabed for around eight years has been discovered by divers – with its photos saved in perfect order.

The older-style Canon camera was found in its case by divers taking part in the Waikawa Dive Centre’sfirst Trash to Treasure competition.

Now the search is on to reunite the owners with their precious memories.

Bottles, tyres and more than 2000 other pieces of rubbish were recovered from the region’s waterways during a month-long Picton competition.

The case of the camera has seen better days, but the Canon Ixus 130 camera is, superficially, in good condition. Remarkably, the memory card still worked. Photo: Supplied.
The case of the camera has seen better days, but the Canon Ixus 130 camera is, superficially, in good condition. Remarkably, the memory card still worked. Photo: Supplied.

Waikawa Dive Centre manager Kate Trayling says while trawling for trash in the Grove Arm of the Marlborough Sounds, a family came across a camera – not of the “water-loving” kind.

“We would love to return the card to the owners as it looks like a lot of memories are on it,” Kate says.

Kate, who organised the ‘Trash to Treasure’ competition for the Waikawa Dive Centre, says none of the pictures appear to be taken in New Zealand and heavily feature military aircraft and ships, including the USS Midway.

“We’re hoping to find the owner,” she says.

An image from the camera was posted to Facebook but the owners remain a mystery.

Divers, snorkelers and free divers took to the water to collect rubbish lying on the Sounds’ seafloor for the month-long competition.

Those who collected the most were allocated points, which were tallied up to reveal the winner.

Troy Frost took out the Grand Champion title after “spending hours” hauling up trash.

“Troy waded into estuaries and collected all manner of objects that had been discarded,” Kate says.

“He bought in over 800 bits of rubbish from the water.”

Overall, 2000 pieces of rubbish were removed from Marlborough’s estuaries, rivers and seabeds.

“Zoe Luffman came runner-up after diving with her family most weekends,” Kate says.

“During one dive Zoe managed to pull an old tyre on to the beach that she had dragged up from the seabed.”

Husband and wife duo, Chris and Craig Chapman, took out third and fourth place for their efforts to rid the sea floor of junk.

The winner received a dive computer donated by Cressi New Zealand and an annual launch pass from Marlborough Sounds Marinas.

Kate says she hopes the ‘Trash to Treasure’ competition will become an annual event.

However, next year, she says they will wait for the water to warm up a bit more.

“We’re thinking October or November,” she says.

Transitional housing team member Stan Reid, left, with Housing First Blenheim team leader Justin Kemp. Photo: Matt Brown.

House shortage hurts ‘vulnerable’

A bid to help tackle Marlborough’s housing crisis is being hit by a lack of landlords prepared to put forward their properties.

Latest figures show 132 people or families urgently need long-term housing across the region.

And industry experts have warned society’s most vulnerable are being hit hardest, with some families living in transitional housing for more than a year.

The Christchurch Methodist Mission oversees the programme, which relies on properties from the private sector, in Blenheim.

But to date just six landlords have leased properties to the Christian organisation and 14 more properties are needed to meet the government contract.

Christchurch Methodist Mission executive director Jill Hawkey says the “supply has to increase.”

“For landlords it’s a really good deal,” she says.

Housing First is a government-funded programme aimed at the chronically homeless and looks to house those who have been living rough for more than a year.

The $197m initiative began in June in Marlborough and has housed four people with two more homeless people due to move into new accommodation this week.

“Some people in transitional housing meet the criteria, but not many,” Jill says.

Housing First Blenheim team leader Justin Kemp says the average price of a rental in Christchurch is on par with the lowest renters pay in Marlborough.

“The cost of rent is high and it’s a barrier,” he says.

The Christchurch Methodist Mission pays market rent and manages the tenancy, which they sub lease to the tenant.

Jill says damage hasn’t been an issue, however any necessary repairs are covered by the organisation.

The programme offers a wraparound service for the tenants, supporting them with “basic” services such as getting ID, help with shopping, getting licenses and registering with a GP.

It provides the homeless with a stable home before attempting to address mental health, alcohol and drug issues.

“We’re really pleased with progress made to date,” Jill says.

While the landlords receive market rent for the property, the tenants have full responsibility for their accommodation.

Rent for tenants is means tested, like other Housing New Zealand properties, and set at around 25 per cent of the person’s income.

“Housing First gives people another chance, a chance to get settled,” Jill says.

“Everyone deserves a second chance. And a third, and a fourth.”

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

Speed limits to be slashed on state highway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Communities are calling for the change, NZTA bosses say.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wine win for Marlborough family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GCSB director-general Andrew Hampton outside Waihopai Station. Photo: Supplied.

Spy base’s low-key birthday

Thirty years of government spying has quietly passed by up the Waihopai Valley last month.

The satellite spy station turned 30 years old in September.

To mark the occasion, Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) director-general Andrew Hampton conducted a video tour of the controversial domes, giving the public a rare look at the inner workings.

Established in September 1989, the station is famous internationally for being a part of the ‘five eyes’ network with the US, UK, Australia and Canada.

But the 80’s décor is long gone, says a GCSB spokesperson – who due to security clearance is unable to be named.

The spokesperson says the Waihopai site was chosen for three main reasons.

“It has a big sky; you can see pretty much from horizon to horizon.

“It is electromagnetically quiet. There are fewer radio and other signals than what you would find in built up areas.

The final reason, the spokesperson says, was cost.

Land was “reasonably priced” in the valley 30 years ago.

Both dishes are protected from the elements by inflatable ‘radomes’ – one of which was famously deflated in a 2008 by protest group Ploughshares Aotearoa.

The protesters were eventually acquitted and $1.2 million in damages was written off by the government.

The GCSB spokesperson was unable to “definitively” say why the domes are inflated, rather than utilising a frame, but suggested it was likely a combination of engineering and costs.

The first dish was installed in 1989 followed by a second in 1995.

The protection afforded by the domes could see the dishes working for another 30 years.

“Since the domes protect the dishes from the different weather conditions they are in good condition, and they have also been well maintained,” the spokesperson says.

Satellites do not send data specifically to dishes, but broadcast to a wide region.

These transmissions are what can be intercepted by the Waihopai Station.

“The GCSB only collects a very small proportion of communications in line with the strict rules of the Intelligence and Security Act,” the spokesperson says.

“Any intelligence collected by the GCSB is only collected under warrants, follows the Intelligence and Security Act and everything the GCSB does is subject to the robust and independent oversight from the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security.

“There are many different ways of gathering intelligence and each has their own benefits.

“Waihopai station is an important part of the GCSB and helps to achieve the GCSB’s mission of protecting and enhancing the national security and wellbeing of New Zealand.

“Unfortunately, we can’t go into any details on specific cases.”

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

Therapy dogs keen to spread joy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For further information visit caninefriends.org.nz