Ashwood Park introduced measures to help safeguard their residents prior to lockdown. Photo: File

Urgent checks on rest home infection controls ordered

Rest home bosses are carrying out urgent infection control checks in a bid to keep Covid-19 from some of the region’s most vulnerable.

Nelson Marlborough Health staff are getting aged care facilities across the region to complete a checklist to gauge the risk of contamination.

And site visits will be carried out to see what further support is needed.

Six of the nine deaths nationwide from Covid-19 have been at a Christchurch rest home.

Director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield launched a review of rest home facilities with confirmed Covid-19 cases on Tuesday.

General manager Strategy, Primary and Community, Nelson Marlborough Health Cathy O’Malley says she is aware of the effort staff are putting in to keeping people safe.

“Nelson Marlborough Health acknowledges the effort and expertise of aged residential care providers to keep their residents and staff safe during this pandemic,” she says.

While there have been no new Covid-19 cases for a week in Marlborough, it is essential care home providers stay vigilant, Cathy says.

Rest home managers and staff are carrying out self-assessment on infection prevention policies and practices.

The results will be carefully scrutinised and online meetings held with care providers to discuss results.

“We want to support providers to stay on top of this,” Cathy says.

“The next step will be to visit any providers as required, to assess their site and see what further support they may need.”

Deputy mayor Nadine Taylor, left, will lead the new council team. Photo: Matt Brown.

New council team to tackle Covid-19

A new council super group has been formed to help Marlborough get back on its feet after lockdown ends.

Led by Deputy Mayor Nadine Taylor, The Economic Action Marlborough (TEAM) group will draft an economic recovery plan over the next month.

In a bid to help the region recover from the impacts of the Covid-19 crisis, council bosses are first looking at how big the economic impact is.

A four-stage plan is helping staff decide the best way forward.

“Council is designated as the regional lead during emergencies and COVID-19 is the biggest challenge Marlborough has faced in our lifetimes,” Nadine says.

“We’ve already announced council itself will spend over $60 million of capital expenditure in 2020-21 and similar spending over each of the next three years.”

The TEAM group looked at four phases for recovery. From the current ‘Respond’ phase dealing with the immediate lockdown issues to moving to a ‘Resilience’ phase. This will see the focus shift to maintaining cashflow and jobs.

The ‘Return’ phase will see a bid to expand services again and a final ‘Reimagination’ phase where a new normal was developed.

Nadine says council’s role is extended to support a wider recovery, working with key sectors and agencies to mitigate COVID-19’s effect on Marlborough businesses.

“Staff worked over the Easter break to bring together the TEAM group and provide the background papers.

“We’ve got a very strong group now underway on helping steer our region through the economic impacts the virus is creating.”

“We are taking particular note as we start our work on the impact of COVID-19 on our tourism and hospitality sectors,” she says.

Ongoing information on how local businesses are faring will continue to be provided by the Marlborough Chamber of Commerce and Business Trust Marlborough.

Councillor Mark Peters told the group he was bringing together a meeting of some Marlborough accountants and lawyers prepared to provide advice and insight on business responses to COVID-19 across the region.

“The information from all these sources which now includes that welcome input from accountants and lawyers will help build a quality picture very quickly of what we are dealing with and allow us to accurately target our recovery efforts,” Nadine says.

Yesterday’s first TEAM group meeting included an update from Ministry of Social Development regional commissioner Craig Churchill who says further Government support programmes would likely focus on projects that are ready to go and creating jobs while navigating through the likely impacts of COVID-19.

This could include projects that expanded social housing.

Nadine says while the TEAM group represents a good cross section, it cannot include all sectors and will be supported in its work by an Industry Advisory COVID-19 group, to be chaired by councillor Gerald Hope.

Representatives from the wine, aquaculture, forestry, tourism and farming sectors, as well as a mandated iwi representative, Port Marlborough, Marlborough Chamber of Commerce and Ministry of Social Development have joined council in the group.

Mayor John Leggett, who sat in on yesterday’s first TEAM group meeting, says it is encouraging to see such a good group has been pulled together to face the major challenges ahead.

“We’ve all got to get behind this initiative to keep Marlborough moving,” he says.

A Covid-19 sign at Wairau Hospital. Photo: Matt Brown.

Marlborough marks six days with no more Covid-19 cases

Marlborough is now marking six days without any new cases of Covid-19.

There are 20 new and probable cases of Covid-19 across New Zealand, taking the total to 1386.

Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield this afternoon revealed 728 reported cases that have recovered.

The number of cases in Marlborough and Nelson is at 48, with all patients recovering in isolation at home.

As at 15 April 2020, the total number of people who have recovered from COVID-19 in the Nelson Marlborough region is 29.

File photo.

Praise for vintage workers who helped region ‘dodge bullet’

Marlborough’s mayor is paying tribute to the region’s wine workers for their handling of the Covid-19 crisis.

John Leggett is praising the local wine industry for successfully handling the 2020 vintage under extreme circumstances.

And with early indications of a successful vintage, the relieved mayor says the industry has helped Marlborough dodge another potential disaster.

“Wine is a very substantial contributor to the overall prosperity of Marlborough so I’m relieved that this is one COVID bullet that we’ve managed to dodge,” he says.

Wineries across the region had to adopt stringent health and hygiene regimes to move ahead with harvest as lockdown began.

Overseas workers, harvest crews and transport operators have been isolated from their families in many cases.

With wine making up a fifth of Marlborough’s economy, it was vital the vintage went well, mayor Leggett says.

Marlborough Mayor John Leggett says a successful vintage has helped the region dodge a bullet. Photo: File.

“Everyone has been under huge pressure to get the grapes in, aware that a Covid-19 outbreak could knock down the workforce at any moment.

“It’s to the industry’s credit that harvest is drawing to a close without incident and, by all accounts, it’s a highly successful vintage,

“Vintage is always an intense time for our wineries with everything dependent on the weather, but this year the wineries have faced extra pressure.

“When the vintage goes well, it’s good news for our whole region.”

The ongoing crisis would make “life difficult” for the industry, says mayor Leggett as many international wine trade events and marketing opportunities are postponed.

“It will be a time for innovative marketing and, given our industry reputation and relationships, I’m confident that the strong Marlborough brand will prove its worth,” he says.

There are currently around 400 overseas workers in Marlborough on temporary visas.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment are doing their best to ensure some certainty for temporary migrants, a spokeswoman says.

“An Epidemic Management Notice relating to immigration matters came into effect from 2 April 2020.

“This means that holders of a work, student, visitor, limited or interim visa with an expiry date of 2 April to 9 July 2020 inclusive who were in New Zealand on 2 April 2020 have had their visas automatically extended until 25 September 2020.

“This includes RSE workers who were in New Zealand on 2 April.”

The old nurses' home at Wairau Hospital has had it's demolition put on hold as New Zealand battles Covid-19. Photo: Matt Brown.

$1million demolition to go ahead ‘when practicable’

Covid-19 has bought demolition work on one of Blenheim’s oldest heritage buildings to a halt.

The derelict Wairau nurses’ home is all but destroyed, with only the front façade remaining.

But a Nelson Marlborough Health spokeswoman says work on the $1 million project will continue “when practicable.”

Work on the red-brick facility in the grounds of Wairau Hospital was expected to be completed by March.

The nurses’ home has lain empty for almost six years, costing health bosses around $30,000 to keep the building fenced off.

“The demolition is largely completed – just the front-facing façade to come down now,” the spokeswoman says.

Concerns over asbestos and seismic rating issues meant the former home would cost too much to address accessibility and fire safety problems.

Nelson Marlborough District Board staff decided demolition was ultimately a better use of public health funds.

The missing rugby ball bought in South Africa was a gift from Dylan North's godmother. Photo: Supplied.

Plea for special rugby ball to be returned

A young rugby fan is hoping to be reunited with a very special gift that’s vanished during lockdown.

Eight-year-old Dylan North, who moved from South Africa to Blenheim four years ago, was given a Springboks rugby ball from his godmother.

But the precious ball, which features the final quarter scores on it, has disappeared from outside his home near Alana and Milford Streets in Witherlea.

His mother Delicia North is imploring for anyone who may have seen the ball to get in touch.

“This ball is very special to my son and was kicked over our fence into the street. Someone must have picked it up.

“The ball has special meaning to him as it’s his home country ball and they are the World Cup Champs.

“He loves that ball and hardly every plays with it as it’s a keepsake,” she says.

A devoted Springboks and All Black supporter, Dylan was playing outside with his mum and 4-year-old brother who kicked it over the fence on 10 April.

But it wasn’t until later that night that they realised the ball, worth around $36 Kiwi dollars, had gone.

“We always throw ball and love the outdoors.

“The ball was kicked over by my 4-year-old and he forgot to tell us straight away to go fetch it.

“When we started looking for it later the night, we realised it’s missing and my 4-year-old said his sorry he didn’t come tell us sooner.

“Dylan absolutely loves rugby and he equally loves the Springboks and All Blacks.

“As he is from South Africa, having them win the world cup meant the world to him,” Delicia says.

It was Delcia who brought the ball to Blenheim after she visited South Africa in January.

Dylan’s godmother gave it to her as a gift to take home for her oldest son.

Delicia says the ball can only be bought in South Africa and is hoping someone may have found the Gilbert World Cup Champions ball.

It would mean the world to him to have it back,” she says.

If you have found the ball and would like to help get it back to Dylan, please email [email protected]

A Covid-19 sign at Wairau Hospital. Photo: Matt Brown.

Five days without more Marlborough Covid-19 cases

For the fifth day in a row, there are no new cases of Covid-19.

The number of new and probable cases in New Zealand rose by 17 to a total of 1,366.

But numbers in Marlborough have stayed static at 48.

Speaking a few minutes ago, Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield say he believes the peak number of cases has passed.

But as the number of Covid-19 deaths rises to a total of nine he has asked for District Health Boards across the country to work with aged care facilities where vulnerable residents are at particular risk.

A low threshold is also in place to ensure maximum testing for the contagious virus.

“We want to be sure we are not missing cases. We would rather overtest than under test at this stage quite frankly,” he says.

More to follow

Shearer Angus Moore checks out his new lease Hyundai as part of his prize. Photo: Supplied.

Shearer’s tribute to community who helped him take top title

A shearer who became hooked on the craft after showing up late for his first competition has taken out one of New Zealand’s top shearing titles.

Angus Moore from Seddon won the PGG Wrightson Wool National Shearing Circuit Championship earlier this month, just before lockdown.

The father of five says it’s the people he’s met along the way who helped him on the path to success.

Angus has come out on top of the National Shearing Circuit, a series of regional shearing competitions that culminated at the Golden Shears Championships.

There are many people he wants to thank for helping him take out the top spot, he says.

“Big thanks to all who have helped me along the way and who work hard to make our industry possible.

“The experience of travel is a draw card, so I have met and worked with farm owners, shepherds, presses, wool handlers, shearers, cooks and runabouts from all over NZ.

“At The Paki station in the far north and Invercargill, and around the Catlins in the south, I have learned a little from you even if you never meant to teach.

“You are fantastic and there always seems to be fun, laughter and keenness to learn.”

Angus and wife Ratapu are expecting their sixth child in May. Together, the pair who met on the circuit, run Moore Sheep Shearing Ltd.

Brought up on a family farm in Kekerengu then Ward. Angus was Head Boy at Marlborough Boys’ College in 2002 and spent his teenage years wool handling in the holidays.

He went on to complete a shearing course run by Meat and Wool New Zealand under the tuition of instructor and later MP Colin King.

But it wasn’t until he took part in his first shearing competition that he really caught the bug, he says.

“My first show was November 2003 in Blenheim. I hadn’t done a full day’s work and arrived late due to playing in the pipe band. I made the final, came 3rd and I was hooked.

“My first experience of the Golden shears was with Nathan Stratford in 2005 where I managed to make intermediate final and came 3rd.

“It was a week that I won’t forget. I had heard about the Golden Shears but the experience was much more than I could have imagined.

“Everyone loved and breathed the wool Industry and we’re so amazingly passionate about it,” Angus says.

But without the support of his sponsors, none of his achievements would be possible, he says.

“Big thanks to PGG Wrightson and Hyundai for their massive sponsorship and recognition of the commitment we all make to compete.

“It will be an honour to compete for my country and I look forward to all the opportunity this prize offers.”

Covid-19 precautions have seen some shoppers have to queue. Photo: File

Supermarket bosses bid to cut queues as weather cools

Countdown stores in Marlborough will open for longer from tomorrow in a bid to help combat queues as the weather cools down.

Stores across the country will be changing their opening hours from tomorrow and will open from 8am to 8pm.

And priority shopping for emergency service staff and medical workers will now move to 7am.

Countdown’s general manager health and safety Kiri Hannifin says the change in hours will hopefully help cut down customer queuing.

“We’ve extended the opening hours of our stores to give our customers more time to do their shopping, especially as the weather starts to cool and the evenings are darker,” she says.

Safer measures put in place during lockdown to protect staff and customers from the threat of Covid-19 means customers have had to wait longer outside some stores.

“This has in some instances led to queues but we’re hoping extended trading hours will help ease this a little.,” says Kiri.

“We also hope the earlier start time of our priority shopping hour will work better for those emergency workers and medical personnel working shifts.

The priority shopping hour is available to NZ Police, Fire Service, ambulance paramedics, DHBs, hospital and medical personnel with proper ID.

A plan to stamp out stoats from D'Urville Island was signed during the Covid-19 lockdown. Photo: Rod Morris/www.rodmorris.co.nz

Sayonara stoats: D’Urville’s $3.1m plan signed

History has been made during lockdown as a multi-million-dollar deal is signed to stamp out stoats.

There was little fanfare to mark the milestone occasion as the culmination of 16 years work was signed in just a few seconds.

A six-year funding commitment will see a combination of old-school techniques and technology help wipe-out stoats from New Zealand’s fifth largest island.

The 16,782-hectare D’Urville Island, in the Marlborough Sounds, is free of ship rats, Norway rats, possums and weasels.

Now, $3.1 million has been committed to stamping out stoats on the island.

D’Urville Island Stoat Eradication Charitable Trust (DISECT), Predator Free 2050 Limited, Rātā Foundation, Marlborough District Council, the NZ Lotteries Grant Board and landowners have all pledged their support.

Oliver Southerland and Angela Fitchett signing the Marlborough District Council agreement at a carefully prepared COVID-19 signing station. Photo: Supplied.

DISECT co-chair Oliver Sutherland says the moments mark the start of an opportunity to “reverse the history of wildlife loss.”

The project will use a variety of traps and lures, including automated luring with an egg mayo mix, as well as smart detection techniques such as cameras and DNA analysis.

Stoats have caused the local extinction of little spotted kiwi, yellow-crowned kākāriki and South Island kākā and threaten an important population of South Island long-tailed bats/ pekapeka.

Predator Free 2050 Limited chief executive Ed Chignell says the project will provide an important boost to the national Predator Free 2050 effort.

“This is a challenging and ambitious project with a lot at stake for wildlife and important opportunities for innovation and learning,” he says.

The government-owned funder is providing $975,000 and facilitating expertise from other projects around the country.

Marlborough District Council Mayor John Leggett says the restoration of wildlife could open new nature-based jobs and opportunities for the island.

D’Urville Island is New Zealand’s fifth largest island. Photo: Tamzin Henderson/ Driftwood Ecotours.

The council is providing $500,000 of support through its biosecurity programme.

Department of Conservation Sounds operations manager Dave Hayes says DOC has been providing technical advice to the project.

“We are pleased to support this community led initiative and will be continuing to provide expert advice and input throughout its duration of the project.”

Special attention will be given to trapping on the mainland within five kilometres of D’Urville and establishing a surveillance network to quickly detect any incursions across the narrow channel from French Pass.

Field work is expected to start towards the end of this year.