Photo: Richard Briggs/Marlborough District Council

Pou whenua unveiled

A special dawn ceremony unveiling a pou whenua at Picton Library and Service Centre Waitohi Whare Mātauranga took place on Friday.

It depicts Awanuiarangi and Ropoama Te One, Awanuiarangi the eponymous ancestor of the Te Ātiawa people and Ropoama Te One chief of the fortified settlement of Waitohi.

The whale depicts the region’s whaling history within Tory Channel. The carving was designed by master carver Pita Rua.

Author Gavin Kerr is using his book of poems to help raise money for Alzheimers Marlborough: Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Lockdown life poems a money-earner for Alzheimers

A Blenheim man whose wife died shortly before lockdown has written a book which will help raise money for those who made her last months brighter.

Gavin Kerr’s wife Elizabeth (known as Liz) suffered from Alzheimers and died on 17 March.

And his poetic bid to record life as he experienced it under lockdown level 4 is set to raise money for Alzheimers Marlborough.

The former school principal and academic says the support they had from staff at Alzheimers Marlborough was vital following Liz’s diagnosis.

On each day of lockdown, Gavin penned a poem which he has published into a book, Under Lockdown, with a proportion of the proceeds from the sale going to the local branch.

Gavin Kerr and wife Elizabeth were married for 62 years. Photo: Supplied.
Gavin Kerr and wife Elizabeth were married for 62 years. Photo: Supplied.

The first poem, dedicated to Liz, was written for her service sheet used at a private family farewell at Geoffery T Sowman Funeral Directors.

“I think that was what prompted me. It helped a great deal, there’s no doubt about that.

“Some days I had to sit down and think about what I was going to do but most were done while walking up the Wither Hills or along the Taylor River.

‘I’ve always been interested in writing but haven’t published any of my personal work before.”

Liz, a fellow academic who spoke fluent French, was diagnosed with Alzheimers early in 2019.

For the pair, who were married for 61 years, it was a devastating blow.

“Once that word, Alzheimers, comes up, you’ve crossed the Rubicon and can’t go back.” he says.

Following the diagnosis, Gavin got in contact with Alzheimers Marlborough.

The support and information they provided was critical through a difficult process, he says.

Liz was moved to Maxwell Lifecare rest home in Blenheim after congestive heart failure complications meant she could no longer be cared for at home.

Gavin too needed a break after months of broken sleep and stress.

“You try to put yourself in their shoes but that’s not easy to do,” he says.

The couple’s three children arrived just before travel restrictions were imposed to say goodbye.

“The staff [at Maxwell Lifecare] were fabulous, you couldn’t have asked for anything more; they’re like family.”

Writing the 34 poems proved to be very cathartic, Gavin says.

“It’s a good release. There is a mix of poems in there; some are amusing and others more serious.

“In some way, it’s a bit like watercolour painting; you do it, let it mature and go back to it.”

The $25 book is available to buy at Alzheimers Marlborough on 8 Wither Road in Blenheim or by emailing [email protected]

Braden Prideaux and John Kershaw are looking forward to the new cycleway. Photo: Supplied.

Cycle trail work begins

Construction of a new cycle trail along Jacksons Road has begun.

The two-metre-wide,1.3-kilometre trail is being built on road reserve running between Rapaura Road and Allan Scott winery and is expected to be completed by the end of August.

Walking and Cycling Coordinator Braden Prideaux says the trail is part of a wider vineyard cycling network that’s been developed in partnership with the Renwick Smart + Connected Bike Walk Group over previous years.

“The existing narrow road shoulder and the 100 km/h speed limit supported the proposal for an off-road trail, that will provide cyclists with an alternative when travelling this route,” he says.

Minimal disruption is expected during construction, however people travelling along Jacksons Road are asked to be mindful of the works.

Blenheim School principal Denyse Healy with St Andrew’s Craft Group members Dicky Willemsen and Raewyn Buchanan. Photo: Matt Brown.

Winter woollies welcome

A craft and knitting group are putting their passion to purpose by keeping young heads and feet warm this winter.

St Andrew’s Craft Group members knitted more than 100 winter woollies for Blenheim School pupils.

And Blenheim School principal Denyse Healy says the timing couldn’t have been better.

“With the start of the term we have our camps coming up,” she says.

Students will be heading off to Mistletoe Bay and Pine Valley, and in the cold weather the slippers “keep feet so warm”.

She says they will continue to be used throughout the term in class, to keep mucky boots of 93 children outside and combat winter chills.

St Andrew’s Craft Group member Raewyn Buchanan says their group love knitting and the finished product going to keep kids warm is a real bonus.

“We’re thrilled to give these to Blenheim School,” she says.

“We’ve made about 40 beanies and 60 pairs of slippers.

“Knitting doesn’t have to be expensive – I got two skeins from an opshop for $8 and I’ve made uncountable slippers from them,” Raewyn says.

Raewyn says the craft group has already begun on the next batch.

17-year-old Alex Marshall. Photo: Supplied.

Picture perfect shot makes a splash

A roadie to Rotoiti and some speedy editing has nabbed a national title for a young Blenheim photographer.

17-year-old Alex Marshall took the top spot in the youth category of the ANZ Sony 2020 Alpha Awards with his image, ‘A Celebration of Solitude’.

And with only four hours to execute and edit the shoot, Alex says the competition tested his skills- but he took the perfect shot first time.

“I had a few locations in mind before I was given the theme,” he says.

“I chose to shoot this image at Nelson National Lakes park, I’ve wanted to capture something like this for some time, and my goal was to take a less traditional approach to the theme, one that shows the joy in solitude.

Alex Marshall’s photo, titled ‘A Celebration of Solitude’ and taken at Lake Rotoiti, won the youth section of an Australian and New Zealand competition. Photo: Supplied.
Alex Marshall’s photo, titled ‘A Celebration of Solitude’ and taken at Lake Rotoiti, won the youth section of an Australian and New Zealand competition. Photo: Supplied.

“At the lake we lucked out with conditions.

“It was overcast with some nice light coming through the clouds.”

He roped in his mate, Jack, as the model – who handily has a family bach nearby where Alex edited the shot.

Alex, a boarder at Scots College in Wellington says he had about two hours to edit, after traveling from Blenheim and convincing Jack to dive into the freezing water.

“Because you have a specific theme, it challenges your creativity and it challenges the way you shoot.

“It really encourages you to get out there,” he says.

“I entered last year and got two images through to the short list but unfortunately didn’t get through to the finals.

“I wanted a go at the finals, so I entered again this year.”

Alex says he has been using a camera for years but got serious about photography about three years ago.

The title, a $1700 Sony A6400 Camera kit and $2,000 worth of Sony Alpha camera gear was the  reward.

He says the cash will go toward new lenses.

Cuddon freeze dry sales and marketing manager Blair Kibblewhite with Lara, who’s destined for America. Photo: Matt Brown.

Firm’s overseas odyssey

Lara has been lovingly bundled up and prepared for her several-thousand-kilometre boat trip to North America for a new life making pet food.

Usually, a Blenheim engineer would be ready to welcome her after her six-week trip to help get her settled and comfortable in her new home.

But COVID put paid to that, so Lara, a $2 million plus, general-purpose freeze-dryer made by engineering firm Cuddon will be making the trip alone.

And the Blenheim based team are making the most of modern technology to oversee Lara’s installation remotely from the other side of the world.

Cuddon freeze dry sales and marketing manager Blair Kibblewhite says they had to think outside the box to get the large machines overseas and installed.

“Previously, we would send an engineer to unpack and facilitate the install,” Blair says.

“Now, we’re doing this in Canada at the moment, the owner has a camera on his head and we’re talking him through the process remotely.

Cuddon Engineering, on Mcartney Street. Photo: Matt Brown.

“We’ve achieved a lot utilising that technology,” Blair says.

Closed borders due to the pandemic continue to hurt exporters.

But Cuddon Engineering is bucking the trend, and while bosses have had to rethink some ways of doing things exports are going strong.

The engineering company works in refrigeration, water engineering, irrigation and carbon steel but their big earner is designing, building and installing freeze driers.

Most of the other branches worked through lockdown as essential services, but the freeze-drying section couldn’t do anything due to health and safety reasons.

“We find the guys may have put things on hold, but the sales are still coming. We haven’t stopped at all.”

He says two freeze dryers are leaving the workshop, one bound for the US and other, the UK.

“We thought and worked outside the box,” he says.

Working remotely via Zoom, up to four engineers in Blenheim can pop on a call to run the engineers onsite through the installation process.

Then there are a few more working with contractors.

“It’s face to face and stable – it’s better than phone.

“It’s given us the ability and confidence to do it again with this one going to the US.”

Nine-year-old Anika Jones joined the Pasifika Production group after lockdown as she had heard it was great fun. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Picton’s Pasifika production pride

The door to Picton School hall is flung open amid a babble of excited chatter.

Wilting school bags are dragged across the floor behind excited children as they head to Pasifika Production practice, their smiles broad and voices high.

The bell has just rung to mark the end of the day and Susana Doris Evalu-Tyrell waits as she does every Friday and Wednesday for the students to arrive.

Originally from Samoa, Susana wanted to ensure her heritage remained part of their lives and with other Pacific Island families in the Picton community it seemed like a good fit.

The idea for the group was born and it proved so popular that soon children from all backgrounds were asking to join.

“I wanted it to be culturally inclusive,” she says.

The group has almost doubled in size and has around 40 members.

As the music begins, the children, aged from 5 to 10 years old, quickly take their places. Poised for action, small brows slightly furrowed in concentration, they begin to dance.

Faces light up and eyes cast quick glances around the room to reassure themselves they are keeping up. The smiles are infectious, and the sense of pride is palpable as they show-off their moves.

“Our children come from different backgrounds,” says Susana who is a regular volunteer at the school.

“I wanted to open the Pasifika Production group to everyone as there seemed to be a need for it, it is for everybody.

“It’s not just dance we do, next term the children are going to create designs from their imaginations of flowers or plants and print them on T-shirts.

“At the end of the project they will get to take their T-shirts home with them and be proud of what they have done,” she says.

The group has already performed in public and were captured on film as part of the Tuia 250 celebrations last year.

Picton School Principal Dave Sullivan says the school is lucky to have Susana, who also fundraises for the group and makes their costumes.

“The children are so excited about it.

“We are a culturally inclusive school and a lot of our children have dual heritage and it’s great that Susana does this.

‘This teaches them so much and the ability to perform in front of the public, their confidence has greatly improved.

Nine-year-old Anika Jones joined the group after lockdown as she had heard it was great fun.

“I really enjoy it the costumes and music are great and it’s something my crew and I can do together. It’s helped me feel more confident,” she says.

Friend Jayla Murrell, 10, says she wanted to be part of the group after watching them perform at the Picton Christmas parade last year.

“It looked like so much fun and it really is.”

For Susana, seeing the children smiling and having fun makes it all worthwhile.

“I want to thank Picton for their support because if it weren’t for them, I would not be able to come here and do this.”

Photographer David James did a fashion portrait session with his ten-year-old niece Madison Love who died of a rare brain cancer during lockdown. Photos: David James.

Sick kids to fashion models

The loss of a close loved-one has inspired a photographer to give sick children a moment in the spotlight.

After a magazine cover shoot with his terminally ill ten-year-old niece, photographer David James wants to offer the “awesome” experience to other ill kids.

And with the plan in the “germination” stage, David hopes the community will get on board.

“I’m thinking about ways to go around this,” he says.

David says he’s unsure whether to reach out to families privately, or if it needs to go through an organisation.

“It’s putting an idea out there,” he says.

His niece, Madison, is the motivation behind the initiative after she passed away from a rare brain cancer during lockdown, David says.

“I wasn’t able to go to her funeral because of lockdown restrictions and funeral numbers,” he says.

“I made a strong connection with her; she was a good friend.

“She was cool to hang out with and through her, I learnt about myself.”

He says while on a shoot in Christchurch, he invited his niece along.

“I said, let’s get dressed up and do a fun shoot.

“The clothes were all too big for her, but that didn’t matter.”

Photographer David James did a fashion portrait session with his ten-year-old niece Madison Love who died of a rare brain cancer during lockdown. Photo: David James.

David says during the photo shoot, Madison forgot her troubles.

“For 15 minutes she totally forgot that she was sick.

“I thought after, what an awesome experience to give kids.”

He says the idea has been building since that shoot.

“And I don’t think I grieved properly.

“When I had this idea, I felt some of that grief lifting.”

His mini travel studio has everything needed for a magazine-style fashion portraiture photo session, and he says hair and wardrobe stylists have offered to donate their time.

“I’ll set it up in the living room or somewhere convenient for the family.

“I want to be really respectful about the whole situation.

“I’m seeing if someone can give me ideas about how to go about it.”

David says it’s an awesome experience that results in some neat pictures.

“Every time I look at those photos, I’ll always remember that time,” he says.

“It’s a reason to forget about all the crap for a minute.”

“One of the things that struck me about Madison was how arty and creative she was.

“She had the creative, goofy, weird genes that I have; I fell in love with her straight away.”

To offer support or knowledge, get in contact with David James at [email protected]

Derek and Maureen Waller long to stay in New Zealand to be nearer to their family and friends. Photo: Matt Brown.

Rule change costs couple life in NZ

When Derek and Maureen Waller moved to New Zealand, they found happiness in the wake of tragedy.

The husband and wife, originally from England, were devastated when their only son died suddenly.

They made the move to Renwick to be closer to their daughter who had immigrated to New Zealand.

But now the couple may be forced to leave their family behind as they face deportation after five years of calling the community home.

It is a terrible blow say the stricken pair whose only grandchildren are in New Zealand.

‘We’re totally desperate about what to do next,” says Maureen. “We’re so well known in Renwick; it’s such a gorgeous community and people help each other out.

“It’s devastating and people keep asking us what we’ve done wrong.”

The couple lost their son David, 42, when he suffered a heart attack in 2011.

When their then son-in-law was headhunted for a job in Christchurch, they knew they had to leave the UK.

“We couldn’t lose both our children,” says Derek, a retired engineering teacher.”

Both had fallen in love with the country on previous holidays and were told by an independent immigration agent they would have no problem getting residency.

They arrived in New Zealand on a Parent and Grandparent Visitor Visa and have spent $30,000 trying to get residency.

A change in rules after they arrived in the country meant they could only stay up to six months at a time, with a maximum total stay of 18 months in 3 years

Only a 1000 people a year can apply for residency under this scheme.

A last-ditch attempt to persuade immigration to let them stay failed and the pair have been told they have to leave in September.

“We fell in love with Marlborough, the climate and the people,” says Derek.

“Our 4-bedroom house means we have plenty of room for our daughter and grandchildren when they come and stay.

“We have private British pensions, have savings and pay for health care privately. We don’t rely on the government for anything.

“This has caused us both a lot of stress and worry.”

Both Derek, 76, and Maureen, 73, do volunteer work in Renwick, with Derek a committed member of the Men’s Shed.

“There are people who rely on us, people who are distraught for us,” says Maureen.

Under immigration rules, the couple must be sponsored to the tune of $160,000 a year.

After their daughter and son-in-law separated, the pair faced a shortfall in sponsorship.

But offers of additional financial sponsorship from friends have been turned down by immigration officials, says Derek.

“We’ve been told we’re out of options and will have to leave and go back to England in September.

“We have no idea how we will start again.”

Chairman of the Renwick Men’s Shed Rick Gleeson says Derek has been a valued member of the team since 2016.

“Derek has a lot of skills to contribute, is very passionate, loyal and always willing to help anybody or with anything that needs doing.

“It would be of great loss and sadness to myself, all of our MenzShed members and to the local community to lose Derek and his wife Maureen who also helps out a lot in our community, the Renwick School, one of the local Marae’s school and helping with our BBQ’s at Bunnings.”

Health woes force resignation

Poor health has forced a long-serving Marlborough Trust committee member to resign.

Marlborough Electric Power Trust has revealed trustee Malcolm Aitken is standing down at the end of the month.

The former air force employee will be replaced by unsuccessful candidate, Cathie Bell, who was the highest-polling candidate not elected to the board.

Trust chairman Ian Martella says Malcolm’s contributed over the past few years has been valuable.

Marlborough Electric Power Trust has revealed trustee Malcolm Aitken is standing down at the end of the month. Photo: Supplied.

“Malcolm has been on the trust since September 2014, and we have really valued his input.

“He is a long-time Marlburian, moving here in 1960 with the air force, and then running a highly-successful restaurant business for 22 years, as well as being part of many community organisations.”

Malcolm Aitken was re-elected to the trust in the election held in February 2020.

Ian says Malcom had resigned because of health reasons and that the Trust wishes him all the best.

Cathie Bell is a communications specialist, having worked in journalism, public relations, and in local and central government roles.

She now owns her own communications business.

“Cathie has followed the trust’s work actively, attending all our public meetings and asking questions and we look forward to welcoming her to the team”.

The Marlborough Electric Power Trust holds all the shares of lines company Marlborough Lines and administers them on behalf of the power users of Marlborough.