Marlborough Mayor John Leggett. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

The view from the top

With council elections less than two months away, Paula Hulburt catches up with current mayor John Leggett.

Marlborough Mayor John Leggett is a man on a mission.

Three years in office and there is much he wants to achieve; a legacy still being shaped.

On his intention to stand again for the top job John says it was not a difficult decision.

“I think about am I going to be useful or are there others who should step up instead? There are still things I want to do, I want to keep the momentum going,” he says.

The Blenheim lawyer won a landslide victory in 2016 and alongside Rick Ireland and Jamie Arbuckle is one of three confirmed mayoral candidates for the upcoming elections in October.

After a baptism of fire in the wake of the Kaikōura earthquake, John, a two-term councillor, has his eye very much on the future.

But he is quick to point out that none of what he has achieved to date would not have been possible without the support of his council colleagues or his partner, Anne Best,

“Anne has been a big supporter in the last three years, and I couldn’t do this without her. I still have things I want to do, and she gets that.”

Under John’s savvy quietude, a cohesive council has thrived. He is proud of what they [council] have achieved, even if he hasn’t always agreed with the decisions made.

“As mayor, I get just vote. I’m a great believer that if you make an informed decision, it’s a good decision.

‘Strong debate and collective buy-in means we don’t have the bickering you might see elsewhere.

“I’m very conscious about the way I want something to go but you accept it [the decisions] and get on with it”.

Getting the Marlborough Environment Plan (MEP) over the finishing line is a top priority should he be elected again.

A single-source document to replace the Marlborough Regional Policy Statement, the Marlborough Sounds Resource Management Plan and the Wairau/Awatere Resource Management Plan, MEP is a project John feels strongly about.

“Hopefully we can come up with something as a council that not only meets our statutory obligations but a plan that allows the people that are affected by it to live their lives and do what they need to do,” he says.

Moving forward is a key message for the current mayor.

Nine years after he was first elected to council, John is proud to tick-off some of his to-do list.

“Almost three years to the day since we went down the Awatere Hall project route it’s opening.

“I’m really keen to keep the momentum going.

“I’ve spent nine years in council and one of the things I was really hoping to see happen was the lifting of the boil water notice in Seddon.

“We’re really close to that.

Infrastructure upgrades in the next 10 years will see a half a billion-dollar investment by council.

The next Marlborough mayor will have some big decisions to make, says John.

“As a councillor you’re open to public scrutiny and have to be prepared for the attention you get over a decision you make.

“If the community are aware of your decision process it helps. They may not like a rate rise but if they understand why it helps,” he says.

A successful campaign will also see John work alongside a new deputy mayor as Terry Sloan will not be standing.

While wholly appreciative of the work Terry has done, indeed John is quick to praise all his colleagues, he is not opposed to change.

“I’m completely open-minded; see who steps up. It’s important to have fresh ideas and fresh people.

“It’s important to have new people coming in, it brings freshness to any organisation,” he says.

But while he still feels he has work to achieve on behalf of the community, John is happy to put his name forward.

“You’re privy to some pretty ground-breaking decisions for the community and that’s a privilege”.

Nominations for council close on 16 August 2019.

Jamie Arbuckle has revealed his intention to stand for Marlborough Mayor. Photo: Matt Brown.

Arbuckle up for mayor

A Blenheim councillor has revealed his plans to become Marlborough’s youngest-ever mayor.

Just days before the cut off date for nominations, Jamie Arbuckle, 37, has announced his intent to take the top spot from Marlborough Mayor John Leggett.

The move follows an announcement by his wife Sally to run for a seat on council.

Jamie, who has run for the mayoralty three times previously, says he believes his nine years of experience will count in his favour this time.

“It is time for decisive leadership on key regional issues. I will deliver action on the issues that need addressing,” he says.

The councillor of nine years is calling for a Blenheim bypass and a reduction in rates.

He says financial hardship will be a problem faced by some constituents if rate rises continue.

“Rates are not sustainable or affordable. Marlborough has an ageing demographic of 65-plus, and many are on fixed incomes.

“With interest rates dropping near nil returns on savings, financial hardship and cashflow will be a real issue for some ratepayers.

“Plenty of reports come though council on the impact of increasing council rates but there’s never any action. I will change that.”

Jamie says plans for larger ferries will put more of a strain on Blenheim’s already congested main streets.

He believes the community needs to be consulted on all options before a decision is made.

“We need a bypass for Blenheim.

“Larger ferries mean more traffic heading our way. It is not a central government problem. It is ours.

“Removing all the carparks on Grove Road, Main Street and Nelson Street is not a long-term solution. With a government-funded business case we can consult with the community on all the options, with all the costs and facts,” he says.

Jamie says he has been considering running for mayor for a while.

Should he and his wife be successful in their election bids, it would be the first time a husband and wife have both served on council.

“Nothing can be taken for granted and in the next six weeks we will find out what is going to happen but we’ve both been very busy already.

“It won’t be a conflict of interest to me. Sally will represent Wairau-Awatere and I firmly believe that her attentions are the right ones.

“That’s what constituents should be voting on.

“There is a sense of urgency in the community on a number of issues.

“I feel the time is right for me to lead the region”.

Jamie joins current mayor John Leggett and first-time mayoral candidate Rick Ireland in the running for the mayoralty.

Marlborough mayor John Leggett is please Government is taking a closer look at water quality. Photo: Matt Brown.

Water watchdog plan welcomed

Plans for a national water watchdog have been welcomed by the mayor – but with a warning.

Marlborough Mayor John Leggett has embraced government plans to approve a dedicated watchdog and new water regulations.

But he cautioned costs could be an issue for council trying to reach “new benchmarks”.

“The devil could be in the detail … “There is still a long way to go on this issue.

“Council will need to ensure the standards and timeframes are set appropriately so that Marlborough can afford the investment required to meet the new benchmarks,” he says.

Around 34,000 people across the country become ill from their drinking water every year.

Many thousands must boil their water to drink it safely, including Seddon where a boil water notice is still in place.

Marlborough District Council staff are working with officials from the Ministry of Health to ensure water from the new multi-million-dollar water treatment plant meets stringent safety requirements.

Mayor Leggett says the council supports a move from central government to “strengthen its leadership role.”

“It’s great to see that this step change, initially at the regulatory end, is finally occurring,” he says.

Minister of Health David Clark says public safety is a non-negotiable priority.

“Access to safe, clean drinking water is a birth-right for New Zealanders and a key concern for communities up and down the country. Wherever they live, consumers and communities expect to be able to turn on the tap and drink the water without fear of getting ill.”

Work to make Blenheim’s pavements safer should be completed in time for Christmas. Photo: Matt Brown.

Pedestrians on a firmer footing

Slippery-when-wet pavers in Blenheim will soon be a thing of the past as plans to make them safer get underway soon.

Rather than replace potentially perilous pavers, Marlborough District Council bosses put forward a re-sanding plan.

All glazed clay stones will also be re-sanded and daubed with a more slip-resistant coat.

The work should be done in time for Christmas.

The move follows complaints from pedestrians who have reported fall related injuries.

Assets and services manager Richard Coningham says the pavers needed to be more “slip resistant”.

Installed in many towns and cities during the 1990’s and 2000’s, the walkways had been treated in the past.

But improved methods mean the pavers are ripe for a makeover.

“ … we now have access to improved treatments which will provide longer term resistance.

“While the treatment option is not a permanent fix and is likely to need reapplying every four to six years; it is the most cost effective”, Richard says.

The clay footpaths will need replacing in 20 years at a replacement cost of about $2 million, Richard says.

Treating the problem now and replacing later was a more “cost effective” option, he says.

“As most of the clay footpath paving in Blenheim and Picton’s CBDs is more than 20 years old, it’s likely that it will be replaced within the next 20 years, making treating now and replacing in the future the most cost-effective option.

“We know a number of people in Blenheim and Picton have suffered injuries after slipping over on the pavers, especially when it is wet.

“It’s great that we have a solution to reduce this from occurring in future”, he says.

Work in Picton is scheduled to get underway next year.

Council have given their approval to subdivide land at Wairau Hospital. Photo: Supplied.

Hospital land sale set for public scrutiny

The sale of land at Wairau Hospital will come under public scrutiny as the health board seeks opinion from the community.

Public opinion on the sale of 6.3 hectares of land at Wairau Hospital is being sought.

The move comes after Marlborough District Council approved the proposed subdivision.

A spokeswoman from Nelson Marlborough Health (NMH) says the public submission process is a legislative requirement.

She says all submissions will be considered before the Board makes a final decision.

“NMH has been aware for some time that there is a surplus of land at Wairau hospital.

“When the Hospital was redeveloped in 2008-2010 the rebuild size confirmed the size requirement for the hospital,” she says.

The proposal would see the subdivision of existing residential units and an empty building at 46 Hospital Rd.

Eight new residential units could potentially be built on an empty block of land behind Marlborough Hospice.

But the final decision over how the land is used would be up to the buyer.

“The use of the land will ultimately be determined by a new owner. However, it will be zoned for residential use at the conclusion of the subdivision,” the spokeswoman says.

A Marlborough community housing group who provide supported living for seniors declared an interest in the site earlier this year.

Abbeyfield Marlborough is working with Abbeyfield NZ to develop to establish an Abbeyfield house for 12 residents in the Marlborough district.

It is currently looking to source a suitable site and fundraise.

Health bosses says the plan would leave them with around 7.7 hectares for any future hospital development.

A spokeswoman says money made from any sale would be retained by the board.

The closing date for submissions is 13 September 2019.

How to make a submission

Submissions must be dated, signed and include the following information:

  1. Your name, postal address, telephone and email address (if applicable)
  2. A statement confirming that the submission is made on the disposal of Wairau Hospital East Block
  3. Your view on the proposed sale of the property

A copy of the submission must be received by NMH by 5pm Friday 13 September 2019 at this address:

Wairau surplus land submission
Corporate office
Nelson Marlborough Health
Private Bag 18
Nelson 7040

Alternatively, the submission may be made to the following email address: [email protected]

Marlborough councilors at the opening of the Seddon water treatment plant. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Water thieves target Seddon?

Soaring water bills are causing a headache for some Seddon residents – and a thief could be to blame.

Bills as high as $3,000 a quarter have been sent to some homes using water metres installed after the Kaikoura earthquake in 2016.

Frustrated homeowners are calling on Marlborough District Council to act.

But one resident says a construction firm brought in to investigate the issue, have revealed the water could be being siphoned off deliberately.

Fed-up resident Sara Grigg says she was billed the equivalent of one year’s normal use in one quarter alone recently.

“We just had our second bill since moving in, all our water usage yearly allocation was used on the first account first bill of $300 which was odd.

“The second bill was the same and got us wondering if this was legit?

“I can’t get over how we have to pay so much for water that is detrimental to our human health and can’t be consumed,” she says.

The mum of two says her family of four do not use much water.

“We barely water in summer as we only have a small patch of garden”.

Awatere Water Supply consumer meters are read every four months – in October, February and June.

Homeowners are billed via a minimum four-monthly charge and volume or via a combined charging structure.

Some owners have been offered partial refunds on their bills by Marlborough District Council who have confirmed they are investigating the matter.

But leaks are not the likely cause of high bills, says a spokeswoman.

“For the Awatere and Seddon Water Supply there was a small flurry of leak calls relating to the 2013 and 2016 earthquakes, however there has been no discernible ongoing earthquake leak issues brought to our attention.

“If others in the community have concerns about their water charges, they should contact council to discuss this further,” a spokeswoman says.

“Where high consumption is noted by staff, council makes contact with customers to advise them.

“In between readings, Council expects customers to monitor their own consumption so they can identify any leaks promptly.

Residents have reported a range of bills, varying from $30 to $3000, with one lady discovering her water was being stolen.

Knowing what normal consumption for their household is should mean households spot problems earlier, says council.

Council candidate Matt Flight with sons Eli, 7, Logan, 11, and wife Dallas Flight. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Taking flight: newbie’s council bid

He’s the first person to reveal he will run for Marlborough District Council in the upcoming elections. The new kid on the council block explains to Paula Hulburt why he’s so keen to cut his teeth in the September local elections.

Matt Flight is stopped several times by people he knows. A smile and a chat and he’s on his way again, but only briefly before another voice rings out in recognition.

It’s encounters like these while out and about in town that makes Blenheim such a great community says the town’s first new council candidate to announce he is running for election.

But there is, he feels, room for some improvement.

At 43-years-old the father-of-two has revealed his intention to run for council.

It has not, he says, been a snap decision.

“I’ve been thinking about it for a while now but wanted to do my research first.

“I spoke to friends Trevor Hook and Terry Sloan who are of course councillors. I wanted to make sure I could devote the time necessary to do this properly.

“While there’s no true means of really finding out how much time the council demands, I have a good understanding of what’s involved,” he says.

Council candidate Matt Flight and wife Dallas Flight. Photo: Paula Hulburt.
Council candidate Matt Flight and wife Dallas Flight. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Married to wife Dallas Flight, with children Logan, 11, and Eli, 7, Matt has lived in Blenheim for 18 years after moving from Manawatu.

The town is “one hundred per cent home,” to the family who are woven into the fabric of everyday life in the community.

Microbiologist Dallas has worked at the lab in Wairau Hospital for 15 years and the couple’s children were both born there.

Helping shape the future of a town that means so much to him has been a major factor in driving his decision to stand.

“I wouldn’t consider any other towns as great as here.

“It really is such a nice area; nowhere else in New Zealand can you go just 20 minutes down the road and find such a vast array; from the sounds to the vineyards and wine, it’s all here.

“It’s very much part of who we are.”

Employment, ensuring the town’s growing elderly population are less isolated, a better bus service and encouraging younger people to live and work in the region are top of Matt’s priority list.

He believes he might well be the “missing puzzle piece” that council needs.

“It seems to me that councillors are each like a piece of a puzzle that seems to slot well together under John’s [Marlborough Mayor] leadership,” he says.

“Some younger blood would help too, mix it up a bit and bring a different perspective to the table”.

The up-and-coming councillor hopes to bring the benefit of his experience in a variety of roles to the curved desk that takes pride of place in Marlborough District Council chambers.

Apart from coaching junior rugby, soccer, basketball and hockey, Matt is also a former DJ and vice president of Central Rugby Club.

“I seem to put my hand up for all sorts of stuff, mainly because I enjoy it.

“Becoming a councillor is another way I can assist; another chance to help,” he says.

As his thoughts turn to campaigning, Matt is already vlogging about his candidacy and the journey he hopes will see him elected.

His role as contract manager for building construction business Switched On is, and will remain, important to him he says.

Responsible for the building maintenance of 450 Housing New Zealand properties in Marlborough, Matt is determined his skills make a positive difference.

Skills, he says, that are transferable to council.

“I come from a big trade background and have the ability to see things from a front-line perspective.

“I can see how to make decisions that will see the nail hammered straight in when that’s needed, not a scenario where you work around it,” he says.

“I want to see things get done that need to be done. I’m not afraid to get stuck in and do what needs to be done”.

And the energetic manager already has three votes he can count own

“When I spoke to my employers about my plans it was a bit nail-biting, but they were quite chuffed that I wanted to run.

“Of course, Dallas has been very supportive too, I couldn’t do this without her.

“The future’s wide open but as long as there’s my family, my kids and the area which I love, I’ll always give 100 per cent effort.”

Former mayors Gerald Hope, Alistair Sowman and Leo McKendry with Japanese ambassador Hiroyasu Kobayashi and current mayor John Leggett. Photo: Glyn Walters.

Japanese friendship milestone marked

The signatures are slightly faded, worn by the passing of decades but the relationship they proclaim is stronger than ever.

This year marks an important milestone as Marlborough celebrates 30 years of sister city relationships between the region and Japan.

And it was all sparked by a shared passion for growing cherries.

It is former Blenheim and Marlborough Mayor Leo McKendry whose signature graces the pages confirming the bond with Tendo, signed in 1989.

For current Marlborough Mayor John Leggett, the anniversary marking the special date is one worth celebrating.

“If the next 30 years give us the opportunity to develop like we have over the last 30 years, it will be a great time,” he says.

John joined guests from across the region for a special afternoon tea with New Zealand’s Japanese Ambassador Hiroyasu Kobayashi last week.

Tendo in Yamagata prefecture in the northern half of the main island of Japan, Honshu is home to around 65,000 people.

It was a bid by Marlborough cherry growers to export to Japan that started the three-decades-long friendship.

As lengthy agricultural clearances and negotiations took place, close friendships were forged.

The agreement has benefited hundreds of exchange students over the years.

Ambassador Kobayashi says Japan and New Zealand have cooperated in a positive manner through close political and economic ties, and in people-to-people exchanges.

“Our two countries’ friendly and cooperative relationship has been established under our shared commitment to fundamental values such as democracy and the rule of law.

“There are 43 sister city relationships between Japan and New Zealand, with strong grassroots exchange between local councils and individuals of our two countries,” he says.

A sister city agreement was signed with a second Japanese town in 1991 when an official friendship was struck between Otari Village in the Nagano Prefecture and Blenheim.

Marlborough community groups have been recognised for their commitment and support. Photo: Supplied.

Stellar work from community support groups

The first ever Volunteer Community Awards meant a memorable night for many of the region’s hard-working volunteer groups.

A partnership between Volunteer Marlborough and Marlborough District Council, the awards recognise voluntary groups who make a valuable contribution to the Marlborough community.

In presenting the awards mayor John Leggett congratulated all those nominated and those who received awards.

“Volunteer organisations do fantastic work in our community, across an amazing number of clubs, organisations and causes – these awards recognise that work,” he says.

Twenty-three nominations were received, giving the judging panel had the tough task of selecting a winner and runner up for each of the four award categories.

In choosing each of the winners, the panel took into consideration the effectiveness of the activity, programme or service, the impact on the community, the volunteer input and the number of people who benefit.

The winners and runner up of the awards are as follows:

Arts, Culture & Heritage: Marlborough Civic Orchestra (Winner), Picton Maritime Festival Trust (Runner Up)

Community/Social Services: Selmes Garden Trust (Winner), Marlborough Hospice Trust (Runner Up), LandSAR Marlborough (Commendation)

Sport & Recreation: Marlborough Touch – Junior (Winner), Hockey Marlborough (Runner Up)

Child/Youth Development: Graeme Dingle Foundation (Winner Equal) Marlborough Youth Trust (Winner Equal)

Community Star Award: Bryan Strong

The new development will use the same designs as used for Casebrook village in Christchurch. Photo: Supplied.

New retirement village bosses call for cost cuts

Bosses behind Blenheim’s biggest retirement village are looking for council to relax rules when it comes to development fees.

Summerset Group Holdings Ltd announced plans to build a $100 million rest home on a six-hectare former strawberry farm site earlier this year.

The company has appealed to Marlborough District Council to soften development levies on the project, saying it is “very different” to typical housing projects.

Residents would not be a burden on existing infrastructure, they say.

In a written submission to council, senior development manager Oliver Boyd says the upper age of residents meant they put less demand on services.

“This is primarily due to the nature of a comprehensive care retirement villages attracting an older elderly demographic.

“Summerset’s residents, across New Zealand, are typically in their early 80’s when they move into the independent units of the retirement village.

“That provision of on-site amenities, along with the age and mobility of many of Summerset’s residents, results in a low level of usage of Council funded community facilities and infrastructure,” he says.

He added resident’s use of cars was also “considerably below” that of an average residential household.

“Consequently, Summerset’s residents place less demand on roading infrastructure,” he says.

Following completion of the master plan, village design and the resource consent process, the new village is expected to open within the next two years, a spokeswoman says.

The new development will use the same designs as used for Casebrook village in Christchurch. Photo: Supplied.
The new development will use the same designs as used for Casebrook village in Christchurch. Photo: Supplied.

The village would offer more than 200 independent living homes, including two- and three-bedroom villas, serviced apartments, and hospital level care.

It is expected more than 300 people will be employed or contracted during the construction phase. Up to 40 positions will be created at the village once it is fully operating.

“No village is exactly the same, and we have recently been conducting specific research in the Blenheim community, so that we can build the picture of locals’ preference for future home and surrounds,” the spokeswoman says.

The Overseas Investment Office (OIO) is still to approve the sale of the land, which was bought following the death of well-known berry farmer Celia Jones.

Council say growth, while positive for the community, came with a “number of challenges”.

“Not the least is council’s task of expanding infrastructure networks to support the increased use of essential services.

“The cost of expanding these networks is often high, and the issue of funding inevitably arises.

“As a result, alternative means for funding these capital works must be considered. Development Contributions is one such source”.

A spokesman from Marlborough District Council says it will hear what developers have to say.

“Council has taken a similar approach to Summerset’s proposal that it has taken with other developments of this type, including RSE accommodation, hotels and other retirement villages.

“Currently we are waiting for Summerset to finalise the details of their proposal”.