Koromiko Honey owners Matt and Catherine Wells. Photo: Matt Brown.

Goodbye cheese, hello bees

A 102-year-old building is being given a new lease of life by a couple determined to honour its historic past.

On a small road in Koromiko sits a white building, its rather nondescript exterior gives little hint of its colourful past.

The buzz of bees drowns out the distant highway and colourful hives dot the front lawn.

Once the home of Koromiko Cheese, now the century-old building houses sticky sweet honey and hordes of bees.

Now in the process of a loving restoration by Koromiko Honey owners, Matt and Catherine Wells extracted honey for the first time at the factory and say they’re on the “brink of greatness”.

“We’re on the brink of greatness – well, on the brink of something,” Catherine says.

The building was a jewellery studio, an engineering firm, a plastic extrusion plant and a seafood processing plant throughout its 100 years.

But when Matt and Catherine moved in – it was nothing but a “concrete bunker”.

“We’re bringing it back to life,” Matt says.

The dairy co-op in the early days. Photo: Supplied.
The dairy co-op in the early days. Photo: Supplied.

“It’s probably a 20-year project.”

The couple bought the property from Picton man Kevin Cooper – he acquired the property in the mid 80’s.

“He liked to invest and help people out,” Matt says.

“He was a gorgeous person that gathered people up and helped them,” Catherine added.

“Everyone in Picton seems to know him.”

Matt says the factory was decommissioned from cheese in 1985.

“It wasn’t up to scratch,” he says.

“It closed down and moved to Tua Marina.”

The couple set up Urban Bees, leasing hives to townies in Blenheim and Nelson. It was the first programme of its kind in New Zealand.

“In the first year we had 40 sites in Blenheim and another 40 in Nelson,” Matt says.

Matt took a beekeeper course when he was a teenager.

But he says it didn’t pay the mortgage.

“I got a trade – bought a house – then beekeeping got more popular.

“Now, bees have boomed,” he says.

Matt says he wants to keep his operation small – and the “iconic” building is part of their plan.

“It’s iconic, this place.”

Koromiko Cheese lives on in Marlborough legend, if not fridges.

The annual Southern Jam Youth Jazz Festival attracts a wealth of talented musicians. File photo.

Sound of music silenced as festival postponed

A top Marlborough music festival has been forced to cancel amid safety concerns.

The Southern Jam Youth Jazz Festival has been called off due to coronavirus fears.

But organisers have promised something fun to fill the gap.

Uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic left “too many unknown variables” for the festival to proceed, organisers say.

The week-long youth jazz festival and competition, featuring young musicians from high schools all around the South Island, has been a staple of the Marlborough event calendar for many years.

“After careful consideration and in close collaboration with the Marlborough District Council, the decision has been made to cancel Southern Jam this year,” the announcement, on Facebook, says.

The festival would see students performing at bars and restaurants before a gala performance at the ASB theatre.

“The safety of our students, staff and the public continues to be our number one priority and the current uncertainties regarding the COVID-19 situation leaves too many unknown variables at this point in time.”

Dinghy rescue after Cook Strait adventure

A teenager rescued by police after crossing Cook Strait in a small dingy was trying to visit his brother in Wellington.

Tachyon Hutt, 18, left Kenepuru Sound at 10pm on Friday to make the 100km plus trip.

But after his motor died, he was forced to call for help.

He was rescued by police after emergency crews used the signal from his fast fading cell phone to trace him.

Police say the overnight conditions were “rough” for a small dingy and are warning people to ensure they have all the necessary safety equipment.

Senior Sergeant Dave Houston says the cell phone saved the teenager’s life.

“If we didn’t have the mobile locate, we would have had a massive search. The mobile literally saved his life.

“While this was a good outcome and no one was injured, we’d like to remind people the Cook Strait is a dangerous stretch of water.”

Emma Flanagan won a national art competition during lockdown level 3. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Award-winning COVID art

A school student’s creative take on lockdown has won her a top place in a national design competition.

Fourteen-year-old Emma Flanagan from Marlborough Girls’ College entered a Radio New Zealand competition to design a T-shirt to mark the Covid-19 lockdown.

Her flower-powered entry was picked from thousands to join four other winning designs to be made into T-shirts.

The Year 10 pupil entered the competition at the beginning of May, as the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus began to drop.

Flowers in her designs represent a kinder chapter in people’s lives, Emma says.

“I decided to do a face mask as all the nurses and health care professionals were wearing them.

“The flowers are about growth during lockdown and how people were being kinder to each other.”

Emma also hid a teddy bear, toilet paper, a loaf of bread and a bag of flour in her penned drawing.

Five dollars from every sale will be donated to Emma’s chosen charity, the Kiwi Can initiative run by the Graham Dingle Foundation in schools across Marlborough.

The Year 10 student says she wanted to choose a local charity so money raised would benefit people in her community.

All remaining profits from the $45 shirt go back to the t-shirt producers in Kolkata, India to ensure they have an opportunity at a better way of life.

Emma says she is a keen supporter of the Kiwi Can programme as her mum, Sal, is a teacher at Redwoodtown School where the initiative is run.

Graeme Dingle Foundation Marlborough Regional Manager Kelvin Watt says he is grateful for Emma’s support.

“It’s so touching that Emma, as a young person herself, is in turn benefitting other children and teenagers here in Marlborough,” he says.

To buy a T-shirt featuring Emma’s work visit https://liminal.org.nz/collections/lockdown-t-shirt-competition

Three siblings were hurt after a two-car crash in Riverlands. Photo: Supplied.

Children recovering after car crash horror

Two young children are being cared for in hospital following a horror car crash that has left their mum in intensive care.

Jamie Miller and her three small children were hurt in a serious car accident at Riverlands on Thursday morning.

The devoted mum was flown by helicopter to Nelson Hospital suffering severe injuries and faces six months in a wheelchair.

She has since transferred to Wairau Hospital where two of her children are being looked after breaking bones in the crash.

Partner Nathan (Nate) Dyer is taking time off work to care for his family wjho have also been left without a car following the smash.

A Nelson Marlborough Health Board spokeswoman says both children and their mother are at Wairau Hospital in a stable condition.

The two-car accident happened at the intersection of State Highway 1 and Roadhouse Drive, in Riverlands at around 8.20am as people were driving to work and school.

Nate’s mother Lianne Budny from Blenheim has set up a Give A Little page to help the young family with ongoing costs.

“It’s hit this young family very hard,” she says.

She says Jamie faces a long recovery time.

“Jamie was flown to Nelson Hospital and was rushed to ICU with severe injuries and is unable to walk.

“She will have a lengthy time in hospital and a long recovery. The two youngest are still in hospital recovering from broken bones.

“The money raised will contribute towards rent and ongoing bills as Nathan is unable to work while Jamie is recovering as he will be taking care of the kids.

“His work, Vent Mechanical Repairs have been very supportive.

“We would appreciate any kind of help or donations through this tough time and long recovery, thank you.”

A police spokeswoman says investigations into the crash are ongoing.

To donate, search givealittle.co.nz/cause/nathans-story

General manager Mental Health, Addictions and Disability Support Services Jane Kinsey. Photo: Supplied.

Help for addicts as wait times slashed

Supporting drug and alcohol addicts to detox at home is slashing wait times for people desperate for help.

Marlborough patients were waiting almost two months as staff shortages slowed access to addiction services.

But a new detox nurse employed across the district is providing planned treatment faster than ever before.

Nelson Marlborough Health Addictions Service in Blenheim was struggling to keep up with demand, with 32 people waiting six weeks plus for help in April.

General manager Mental Health, Addictions and Disability Support Services Jane Kinsey says the new appointment is already having a positive effect.

“Treatment can be provided more quickly because, with a detox nurse’s support, it can be provided in a person’s home and doesn’t rely on the availability of hospital beds, or beds in a residential service in another part of NZ,” she says.

The regional service has facilities in Blenheim, Nelson and Golden Bay and, among other tasks, helps with community detox, screening and intervention for patients admitted to Wairau Hospital.

Staff can also refer people for in patient care and assist with an opioid substitution treatment plan.

The wait list in Blenheim is currently longer than Nelson primarily due to staffing vacancies.

“We have been providing phone support from Nelson for people on the Wairau waitlist and we have recently recruited to a position in Wairau,”

“This is making a difference and we are starting to see a reduction in the waitlist time,” Jane says.

There are currently 13 people on the waitlist in Blenheim and can usually be seen within two weeks, on average.

Jane says finding staff for Marlborough vacancies can be difficult.

There is a current vacancy for one full-time nurse and a part time service coordinator.

“We still have vacancies in the team and while it can be challenging to recruit qualified staff like this to the Marlborough region, we are confident we will find the right people,” Jane says.

Addictions service clients may also have appointments and treatment plans with staff in other services.

There are 16.4 (full time equivalent) staff employed by the service in Nelson, which also covers Motueka and Golden Bay and 11.8 (full time equivalent) in Marlborough.

Tamara Gillan. Photo: Supplied.

Covid patient pays tribute to healthcare team

Struggling to breathe as the virus attacked her lungs, Tamara Gillan tried not to panic.

Having arrived in Blenheim three days before lockdown she had fled the UK to be with her family in what she hoped would be a safer environment.

But in a cruel twist of fate, she became one of 49 people across Nelson Marlborough District Health board to be diagnosed with COVID-19.

Now mainly recovered, the grateful business owner is paying tribute to the team of healthcare workers who cared for her and her mother – well known Marlburian Toni Gillan, who medics believe also had the virus.

“They were amazing. We were called every day and they went through our symptoms with us.

“It was quite psychologically draining and to hear their friendly voices was very reassuring,” Tamara says.

When her symptoms worsened and she laboured to breath, the knowledge that help was just a call away was calming, she says.

“I was so breathless; like someone was standing on my chest.

“I knew that if I needed to, I could go to the hospital. That was calming as in London there might not be ventilators or beds, but I knew here I would get really amazing care.”

Founder and chief at marketing agency Cherry London and of the WealthiHer network, entrepreneur Tamara opted to come to New Zealand to be with her parents.

She thought the air quality would be better in Marlborough and safer for her 5-year-old son who suffers from lung issues after he was born prematurely.

They arrived in Blenheim two weeks after Toni had visited them in London in early March.

But on Toni’s return to New Zealand, she got a call from the Ministry of Health’s tracing team.

A patient sitting in front of her on the flight back had tested positive for COVID-19.  While her test was negative, Toni’s case was treated as probable, especially when Tamara fell ill too.

“I’m not a good patient but I knew I had to treat it with the respect it deserves. It was like I was at the bottom of the ocean and couldn’t breathe.

“The Public Health team here have just been spectacular,” she says.

“This is just heart breaking for the whole world and I feel hugely privileged to be here as people are just not getting the same level of testing in the UK.

“They also checked with a paediatrician about my son and consulted an immunologist as well as finding things to help keep him amused.

“I’m so grateful.”

Tamara wants to especially acknowledge and thank Nelson Marlborough Health clinical director Stephen Bridgman, public health nurse Karen Aitken, medical officer of health Andrew Lindsay and health protection officer Evan McKenzie.

Designer Makai Cresswell has turned his passion for dinosaurs into a design business. Photo: Supplied.

Young designer’s dino passion goes global

A young boy’s talent for drawing dinosaurs has sparked a T-shirt business that’s gaining fans fast.

Eleven-year-old Makai Cresswell from Blenheim has launched an online clothing company, MC Designs.

And the entrepreneur’s dinosaur designs have proven so popular some are being sent overseas.

With help from mum Kalita and dad Greg, the Bohally Intermediate student started his fledgling company in February.

Makai says he is delighted to get the chance to share his creations.

“I have always loved to draw. I started when I was about 3yrs old.

“I like that there’s lots of different types of dinosaurs and I like their different spikes, scales, teeth, spines and the sounds they make.”

Taking his inspiration from movies like Jurassic World, each intricate design takes around one to two hours.

Years of practice means he knows how to get his ideas done.

“I can draw them quickly because I make the details random. I watch movies like Jurassic World and get scenes from them to inspire me.

“I have always drawn a lot, so I have had lots of practice,” he says.

When his not designing T-shirts and hoodies, the former Witherlea School student watches movies and enjoys board games with brother Cooper, 14, and sister Mali, 9.

But he is always drawn back to the design board and the favourable reaction he has been getting has been exciting, he says.

“It makes me feel happy and proud. People commenting on my Facebook/Instagram pages makes me feel inspired about drawing & and designing more.”

Makai’s designs are being sold across New Zealand with some heading to Australia and South Africa via Marlborough customers.

Mum Kalita says the family have been overwhelmed by the positive response.

“We have been completely blown away at the response & and interest from all over NZ.

“Thank you to everyone who has ordered and supported Makai’s dream of having his own little business doing something he’s passionate about, which is drawing dinosaurs.”

Essential workers from every department at Wairau Hospital have ensured patients get the care they need. Photo: Paula Hulburt

Thank you, essential workers

Essential workers across Marlborough have helped keep the region going through lockdown – and all their efforts are appreciated.

From Supermarket staff to medical personnel, through to emergency services, teachers, vets, rest home staff, pharmacists and others, people have pulled together across the region.

And as a region, we want to thank you all for the vital part you have all played in keeping us all safe throughout Alert Level 4.

Marlborough Mayor John Leggett is today paying tribute to all essential workers.

He says the region’s close-knit ties are more important than ever before.

“Marlborough is a close-knit community, with generous spirited people who help each other.

“Our strong networks – families, workplaces, clubs, churches and schools – are going to be important as we enter the Level 3 lockdown period, which for many of us will be similar to the Level 4 restrictions.

“Thank you to all the essential workers who have kept Marlborough going through the lockdown – your work and achievements are well recognised and appreciated.”

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

Majority of Marlborough Covid cases recovered

Most people who caught Covid-19 in Marlborough have now recovered.

Latest figures from Nelson Marlborough District Health Board show that as of today, 43 people across both regions have recovered from the virus.

For the eleventh day in a row, there have been no new or suspected cases of the illness.

The total number of new and probable cases in New Zealand today is nine taking the tally to 1440.

The Ministry of Health defines a recovered case as someone who has been symptom free for at least 10 days since they first started showing signs of infection.

Over the weekend 54 people were triaged at a Community Based Assessment Centre in Blenheim and swabs were taken from 49 people.

The Government is expected to announce a decision over whether New Zealand drops to Alert Level 3 at 4pm today.