Mike King and Marlborough Boys’ College head boy George Glover. Photo: Matt Brown.

Tractor Trek treat

A 2000km ‘Tractor Trek’ lead by mental health advocate Mike King parked up in Marlborough last week.

The fleet of 16 tractors are making the drive in support of the Gumboot Friday initiative.

Marlborough Boys’ College head boy George Glover, who swam more than 200km late last year fundraising for I AM HOPE, joined the cruise in Christchurch and made the slow tractor journey to Blenheim.

George says the goal of the trek was to raise $5 million for children’s mental health counselling.

“At the moment, kids are only able to access the mental health service when diagnosed rather than accessing it to stay healthy,” George says.

He says seeing how Mike, who he met in person for the first time in Christchurch, and the crew worked and inspired people is “really cool”.

Mike had high praises for the 17-year-old.

“He’s the man. What he did is just insane. He’s the man,” Mike says.

Mike says organising the large crew is like “herding cats”.

“32 people, 16 tractors and five vehicles. It’s like herding cats.”

Jessica Boyce’s disappearance is being treated as murder. Photo: Supplied.

Family’s heart-felt plea to killer

The family of murder victim Jessica Boyce have made an emotional plea to her killer to end their torment.

As the first anniversary of the day she disappeared approaches, Jessica’s cousin Aaron Goodwin has a message for her killer – hand yourself in.

And he is begging for the murderer to reveal where Jessica’s body can be found so she can finally be laid to rest.

In an open message to the killer, Aaron says he still hopes that Jessica’s killer will do the right thing.

“You have had a year to do the right thing. I still, perhaps naively, hold on to hope that your conscience will get the better of you – that any good values your family may have instilled in you when you were young will win out.

“You will make an attempt at redemption and you will either hand yourself in or at least find a way to communicate to us where we can find and retrieve Jess,” he says.

Jessica Boyce was 27 when she was last seen in Renwick on 19 March driving her mum’s red Holden Rodeo ute.

The vehicle was discovered at the Lake Chalice car park in the Richmond Ranges on Friday, March 22.

Jessica’s disappearance became a homicide investigation in October.

Posting on the Find Jess website last week, Aaron says the killer must be struggling with what they have done.

“How long can you live with yourself knowing what you’ve done?

“Replaying it over and over in your head like a movie, heart skipping a beat and morphing into a full-blown panic attack when the police release another statement or Jess’s face reappears in the media,” he says.

“Your own life is more-or-less over, the only way to regain your humanity and anything resembling peace of mind back now is to confess and to own your part in Jess’s homicide and the subsequent cover up.

“How long can you trust anyone else involved with Jess’s disappearance to keep their mouth shut? How do you know they aren’t already talking, laying as much of the blame at your feet as possible before you can even formulate a defence?

Described by Aaron as “innocently naïve,” Jessica is mourned every day by her distraught family and wide circle of friends.

“Where has the time gone? Weird how it can seem like each day waiting for a development seems to drag on forever, yet it seems like only yesterday we got the news that you were missing,” he says.

Robbing her of a future also “struck fear” into the community, says Aaron.

“You have struck fear into the heart of the peaceful Marlborough community. Your community.

“The rumours about the investigation must be driving you insane, and that’s only going to get worse. People should not have to worry that killers are walking among them on Marlborough streets.

“Not only have you taken away a person whose light and energy was responsible for so much happiness in the world, you have also forever changed in a negative way the lives of many family members and friends of Jess’s”.

Jessica’s brother George is now living with Aaron. Having him close by is a comfort, he says.

He will never give up on finding justice for Jessica, he says.

“The most offensive consequence of your actions is the fact that you have robbed Jess of any future she would have had, here with us, where she belongs.

Friend Theresa Mischeski described Jessica’ disappearance as a “nightmare.”

“She’s one of ours, The cop’s have been told so much by so many of us I can’t understand why no one is arrested?

“I don’t know what else to say but keep strong to her family and friends, I’m sure they will get the hideous subhumans whom are involved.”

New Zealand police have been approached for comment and say they plan on releasing a statement on 19 March.

Anyone with any information can contact Crimestoppers New Zealand anonymously on 0800 555 111. Visit crimestoppers-nz.org for more ways to help.

Blenheim Police can be contacted on 578 5279.

The team at ZeroStone Investigations, from left, Matt MacDougall, German Shepherd Stone and Mike Lawson. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Drug dog sniffing out crime

There is a new face in town helping combat illegal drugs – and he comes with four paws and a great sense of smell.

German Shepherd Stone is being trained as the only drug detector dog in Marlborough and Tasman.

The nine-month-old dog joins the team at ZeroStone Investigations in Blenheim and will be able to sniff-out class A drugs.

Expert dog handler and former policeman Matt MacDougall says the latest addition will help businesses stay drug free.

“I did quite a bit of research before we got him, researching breeders, the dogs’ working lines and looking at videos.

“Stone’s granddad came from a working dog in the States.”

ZeroStone is the brainchild of former Blenheim detective Mike Lawson who set up the agency in 2016 after 24 years with the police force.

The company specialises in methamphetamine testing, employee drug testing, investigation and law enforcement consultation.

He says their services are in in demand across both Marlborough and Tasman.

“We do different things, from work for defence lawyers and investigating the other side to private cases where people are being prosecuted.

“Stone will be able to go into workplaces to help keep them drug free and hopefully act as a deterrent to anyone thinking about bringing drugs in.”

Mike’s time as a detective saw him target methamphetamine and drug dealing syndicates throughout Marlborough and Tasman.

He was involved in investigating some of the country’s most serious crimes.

Starting the agency was the next logical step, he says.

“It just felt like the right time. A lot of the guys I had worked with and respected were leaving.”

After a decade in the force, working in Christchurch as a dog handler, Matt returned to Blenheim.

He has been training Stone for the last six months.

“He’s a big baby at the moment. Some of the puppies start off as little rock stars but, for whatever reason, just don’t make good drug dogs.

“I started training Stone when he was eight weeks old by getting him used to odours and tracking them.

“We started with a tennis ball and once he found that we worked up slowly from there,” Matt says.

“He’s definitely turned out to be the pick of the bunch.”

ZeroStone Investigations are one of eight businesses talking about their work at the Chamber of Commerce’s free SME (Small Medium Enterprises) showcase on April 29 from 5-7pm at the Marlborough Convention Centre.

Other featured businesses are: Credit Recoveries Ltd, 3MLearning, Gift Sisters, NZME, Literacy Aotearoa, Bayleys and Fit4Work.

A dead possum in a tree at Liz Davidson Place. Photo: Matt Brown.

Young mum’s gruesome find

Dead animals hanging in trees in the Blenheim central business district proved a shocking sight for a young mother.

A dead rabbit holding a wine bottle and three dead possums adorned the trees at Liz Davidson Park on Queen St horrified a mother-of-one after visiting a pet shop.

Jesse Smith and her two-year-old son stumbled across the macabre scene on Wednesday.

“It was horrible,” Jesse says.

“It must have been done as a funny joke, but it’s not funny at all.

“Blenheim is a nice place and it’s not a nice thing to see.”

SPCA spokeswoman Sarah Hitchings says there were no complaints or evidence of an offence, but the scene was “unusual”.

“It is unusual and not something we see very often,” Sarah says.

“While the scene is distasteful, there is no evidence of an animal welfare offence.

“These animals were likely roadkill and have been staged to evoke a response from the public.

“However, if someone came forward with evidence these animals being killed inhumanely or in breach of the leghold trap provisions, then we could investigate the manner in which the animals died.”

The dead animals were cleaned up by Marlborough Roads, who manage the park.

A question mark hangs over two large scale events in the region, including Feast Marlborough in May. File photo.

Pandemic threatens busy event season

The future of two major Marlborough events hangs in the balance amid coronavirus fears.

Organisers behind the popular Saint Clair Vineyard Half Marathon and Feast Marlborough are waiting for a government announcement on guidelines for large events.

No final decisions have been made as the number of Covid-19 cases in New Zealand rises to eight.

The move comes just three days after the last-minute cancellation of the annual Framingham Harvest Concert amid fears over the spread of Covid-19.

In an online post, Saint Clair say they have had “a number of enquiries” from people worried the May event will be cancelled.

“At this stage, we are watching the situation closely and we expect a government announcement on events in the coming days.

“We will be following their guidance on this and will update our plans accordingly. We will keep our entrants fully informed as the situation evolves.

“We will follow standard practice regarding cancellation of events, should government advice be to cancel public events.”

Feast Marlborough staff say they are closely monitoring the situation “as a matter of urgency.”

The event is scheduled to take place in May.

Shipwrecks Kidsworld in Picton is temporarily ceasing operations, shitting its doors last week.

Only parties alre4day booked will be allowed to go ahead.

“The health and safety of our young customers is extremely important to us.

“We thank you for your support over the past few years and we look forward to being of service to you again in the future,” says a spokeswoman.

Nelson Marlborough Health say there are no confirmed cases of the illness in the region.

“There are no confirmed cases in the Nelson Marlborough region and the Ministry of Health emphasises that, with continued vigilance, the chance of widespread community outbreak is expected to remain low.

People who have symptoms of fever, cough or shortness of breath should stay at home and seek medical advice from Healthline,” says a spokeswoman.

People with symptoms should call ahead before going to a GP clinic, pharmacy or hospital department.

New border measures are in place as of Monday. Most travellers arriving in New Zealand are now required to self-isolate for two weeks.

Phone the free Healthline number for specialised Coronavirus advice: 0800 358 5453 

Sharlese with son Luka-Paul Cunniffe-Tait. Photo: Supplied.

Community rallies for Sharlese

A young mum battling bowel cancer has been told the deadly disease has spread even further.

Sharlese Turnbull-Tait, 34, from Blenheim has stage 4 bowel cancer which spread to her lungs.

Now doctors have discovered a new tumour and Sharlese faces further radiation treatment to ease the pain.

Her family hoped to raise enough money for an alternative treatment but now need funds to help with medical bills and costs.

They have organised a rally in a bid to raise money and hope people will support them.

“She cannot accept alternative treatment because she has a very unique type of mutated metastatic cancer.

“A tumour has returned in her surgery site which is causing her pain but she’s heading down to Christchurch to get some radiation treatment for 10 days so she can be a bit more comfortable.

“The Rally to raise some money to pay for her medical bills, prescriptions and hopefully a holiday,” Kelsie says.

Mainly confined to her bed, Sharlese is being cared for at home by her family who are also looking after her children, Luka-Paul Cunniffe-Tait,10, and Ellazae Cunniffe-Tait, 3.

“The family have all cut work hours to help with the kids and caring for her.

“Mum will be her primary caregiver but unfortunately she has to work also during that time which is pretty tough on her emotionally and definitely financially,” Kelsie says.

Rally for Hope will be held on 4 April taking drivers from Blenheim to Lake Rotoiti.  A car and bike show will be held first at Waterlea Racecourse.

The show will be open to the public between 9 and 11am. There will be a cash raffle too.

To register a vehicle for the display or rally text 0212581213 with your full name and licence plate number or visit the Rally for Hope Facebook page.

Donations can be made by searching the Givealittle website and searching ‘Sharlese’.

Marlborough Roads manager Steve Murrin says the company will build the roundabout, then seek costs through development contributions. Photo: Chloe Ranford/LDR.

Ever increasing circles as new roundabout gets approval

Blenheim is to get another roundabout to help pacify council ahead of a possible 367-house development.

Thirty hectares of mostly vineyard land on the west side of Battys Rd has been rezoned residential.

But Marlborough Roads manager Steve Murrin says a roundabout must be installed at the intersection before any subdivision can take place.

Marlborough Roads are set to pay for the addition, with costs being recouped from developers.

Environment plan panel member and councillor David Oddie says commissioners proposed developers would cover the costs of installing the Battys Rd and New Renwick Rd intersection roundabout.

“I’m not quite sure how that works, but that was what the proposal said.”

But Steve says he understood Marlborough Roads would build the roundabout, and then seek costs from development contributions.

The roundabout would cater for increased traffic movements from any new housing development, and “some existing pressures”.

Design work on the roundabout has already begun, which could see land purchased to allow it to go ahead.

New subdivisions could be developed by Burleigh Estate Ltd, which owned 14.8ha of the rezoned 30ha, or by their neighbours, the Marris Family Trust, which owned the remaining 16.8ha.

The Marris Family Trust are yet to decide to go ahead with any development.

Speaking on behalf of the Trust, Donna Marris says the trust was aware there would need to be “traffic considerations, including potentially a roundabout solution”, before developments took place.

Burleigh Estate Ltd spokesman Norman Clifford says a roundabout has been needed for “some time”.

“It’s the main road used to get from the south to north of town. It was a very wise decision from the plan’s panel,” he says.

The deadline for appeals on the Proposed Marlborough Environment Plan had been pushed out to April 16, after delays in getting the full and finalised version of the plan out last week.

Anastasia Brown and Caleb Mischeski finally have the keys to their new home. Photo: Matt Brown.

Fresh start for couple burnt by fraudsters

For a young Blenheim couple, it was a day they didn’t think they’d see.

Last year, Anastasia Brown and Caleb Mischeski fell foul of defunct building company Rose Built Homes.

Now the delighted pair have finally moved into their dream three-bedroom house.

Blenheim’s Peter Ray Homes took on the build at the last minute to “help Anastasia out”.

“We’re so excited to be finally in our own home,” Anastasia says.

“Peter Ray have been fabulous – we couldn’t have done it without them,” she says.

The pair, armed with their new-found knowledge of the building industry, are warning others looking to build to verify the company’s reputations.

“Ask people around town,” Anastasia says.

“There’s always talk around the town.”

Rose Built Homes folded in September leaving Marlborough businesses $1.6 million out of pocket.

Anastasia and Caleb paid a $101,000 deposit to Rose Built Homes. All they got for their money was the foundations and the house frame.

They’re down about $50,000, Anastasia says.

Appointed liquidator Brenton Hunt says the former owners, Ryan Butler and Kyle Payne were treating the company as a “personal cash cow”.

He branded the case “one of the worst” he has seen in 25-years, with creditors unlikely to see any money back.

Anastasia says the first sign of trouble at her build was when scaffolding was pulled down.

Then, overdue bills saw a skip on the building site emptied on where the couple’s front lawn would be.

“Every week I asked when the roof was coming on, and every week they would say Friday.

“I found out from the plumber, they just vanished, I got incredibly stressed about it, so my parents took over,” she says.

Marlborough Civil Defence emergency management officer Gary Spence. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Mayor tipped over the edge

Marlborough’s Emergency Response Team tipped the region’s mayor over the edge last week – but all for a good cause.

Strapped into a stretcher, mayor Leggett was lowered from a height of 4.1metres as he was rescued from the fire station training tower in Blenheim.

Playing the part of a casualty, mayor Leggett joked he had checked his will.

“I did think about checking whether it was up to date,” he says

Members of Marlborough Emergency Response Team train regularly to prepare for possible disaster.

Mayor John Leggett was in safe hands as he was lowered to the ground. Photo: Paula Hulburt.
Mayor John Leggett was in safe hands as he was lowered to the ground. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Part of their training includes ground-based rescue, structural search, flood response and casualty recovery.

Marlborough Civil Defence emergency management officer Gary Spence was on hand to talk the audience through the stages of a rescue.

Fire, ambulance and police personnel watched on in interest.

“It’s about keeping the team safe and getting the casualty out of there, he says.

Mayor Leggett agreed to play the part of a casualty with possible neck or spinal injuries.

Crews carefully transferred him into the stretcher by sliding it underneath while he was moved in a blanket.

“I felt very safe, very secure,” he says.

The Marlborough team make up part of 750 emergency personnel throughout the country.

Gary says the 24-strong team are unique in that they don’t just undertake rescues but help support Fire and Emergency New Zealand setting up mobile civil defence centres.

“Other responsibilities include performing evacuations; they are qualified to do cordons and roadblocks so it’s a team that can really fit lots of different areas and different roles.

“The reason that we’re interested in showcasing what we’re doing tonight is that rescue is one of half a dozen things that we do, so that some of the other emergency services can see that this perhaps can be a resource they can look into.”

SPCA centre manager Donna Sollogar with kitten Duffy. Photo: Paula Hulburt

Going the extra mile

Brother and sister Jack and Jill have been at the SPCA centre since December last year. Photo: Paula Hulburt

An animal charity has taken delivery of some new arrivals sent to Marlborough in a bid to find new homes.

The SPCA centre in Renwick has welcomed in seven kittens and cats from the Christchurch rescue hub which is swamped with strays.

Centre manager Donna Sollogar says she hopes people will come out to Foxes Island to meet the new arrivals for themselves.

“We’ve taken some in to help with the backlog. They help us out when we’re really busy so it’s only right to return the favour,” she says.

Staff are also looking for permanent homes for some of the centre’s longer term residents.

“Some have been born here and just get overlooked as new kittens arrive.

“Many have been at foster homes and are well handled and used to children.

“They’re really friendly and mainly very confident,” Donna says.

Siblings Jack and Jill have been at the SPCA since December and the pair have been in one of the centre’s two kitten units the longest.

Both are desexed and ready for adoption.

“They’re both really sweet and while Jack’s a bit more reserved he’s very affectionate,” says Donna.

Another sibling pair looking for home are Lemon and Lime. White-furred Lemon (white) is partially blind and relies on her sister Lime for support.

The pair share a close bond and need a quiet home where they can live as inside cats.

“People are welome to call in to see us during opening hours or give us a call.

“We’d love to see all these lovely animals find a new home,” Donna says.

The SPCA is at 31 Foxes Island Road and is open Tuesday to Saturday between 10am and 4pm and from 10am until 2pm on a Sunday.