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.”

Signs to educate the public are clearly seen at Cape Campbell peninsula. Photo: Matt Brown.

Beach access threatens cape

Vehicles are being blamed for the destruction of a pristine Marlborough beach by residents who want to see tighter controls.

The 2016 Kaikoura earthquake uplifted land around the Cape Campbell peninsula and the beach became a popular destination for four-wheel drive vehicles.

But Cape Campbell Experience manager Thomas Peter says the hike in numbers is putting the area at risk.

He says while people have been driving along the beach for years, since the earthquake it’s gone from “casual usage” to upwards of 50 vehicles on a busy day.

“With the Kaikoura quake, the area has had a real spotlight on it,” Thomas says.

The cape, well known for its lighthouse that guided ships around the dangerous reefs since 1870, is the native habitat for several native species including the banded dotterel.

Vehicles driving along the beach leave deep furrows and prevent the ecosystem from regenerating. Photo: Supplied.
Vehicles driving along the beach leave deep furrows and prevent the ecosystem from regenerating. Photo: Supplied.

“Being a peninsula, it’s a nesting site for quite a few birds and it has a seal colony on it,” Thomas says.

“You can see the tyre tracks going right through the middle of where the seals are.

“I know down the Kaikoura coast if a vehicle is within 20 metres, it must be stationary with seals.”

Thomas says to protect the area; the answer is to look nationally – to other councils around New Zealand.

“They’ve effectively put a lot of bans and controls over timing and allowances of vehicles and speeds,” he says.

“Look to Wellington, they’ve put bans over huge proportions of the beach now.

“Auckland, even 90-mile beach now, I understand you can’t drive on it like you once could.

But Marlborough 4WD Club captain Tony Ashworth says no area should be closed off to Kiwis.

“The locals are trying to get everything banned down there,” Tony says.

He says the beach has always been driveable and claims landowners have only started complaining about access since they haven’t been able to charge.

“We do everything with a tread lightly mindset. You can use the area without destroying things.

“I know there are people that go out on their own, but we don’t condone that.”

The club has organised an annual Cape Campbell 4WD trip for about 27 years, Tony says.

“The older members of the club always talk about it.”

A community group formed to protect and enhance biodiversity of the area wants to work with the community to find a solution.

Marlborough East Coast Protection Group secretary Heather Davies says they are working closely with DOC and MDC to educate the public.

Information signs and temporary fencing to protect particularly sensitive areas are in place.

“People are going further along and disturbing native birds and the formation of dunes,” Heather says.

She wants the region’s residents to share a sense of responsibility.

“That what they are doing, they have an impact. That people understand that these are Marlborough’s unique species.

“Those animals live there,” she says.

A council spokeswoman says the council is aware of the broad nature of ecological, economic, and social values that are central to the community that require a balanced approach to management.

Ben Preece and grandfather James Wilson who has written a book about becoming a vegan. Photo: Supplied.

New chapter for vegan farmer

Fear of suffering a fatal bleed has compelled a fourth-generation Picton farmer to ditch meat for good.

Dawn Chorus chairman James Wilson, 78, suffered two embolisms and believed he was at risk of an internal bleed.

Scared he might die, the conservationist made a nerve-wracking decision, to stop his blood thinning medication.

Once a confirmed “anti-vegan” the father of four adopted a whole-food plant-based lifestyle (WFPB).

“I suffered a pulmonary embolism after an operation for a snapped Achilles tendon.

“Twenty years later I suffered a second, more minor embolism, and due to my history, I was put on warfarin “for life”.

“My health and well-being were less than adequate on this medicine and I worried that I might well suffer a fatal internal bleed.

“Despite medical warnings to the contrary, due to the damage of blood vessels around my heart, I resolved to go off Warfarin, he says.

James, who says he has lost 20kg, has written a book, Plant Paradigm, about his efforts in a bid to encourage others to follow in his footsteps.

“Plant Paradigm, while forcibly putting the case for a whole-food plant-based lifestyle, includes practical answers to many of the frequently asked questions expressed by people considering a change to their way of living,” James says.

A radio interview was the catalyst for his new eating regime.

James says he heard an interview where a doctor spoke of damaged blood vessels being repaired in people following a whole plant food-based diet.

It took him six weeks to settle into the new regime and says he has noticed a dramatic cut in the number of viral illnesses he gets.

“As soon as the interview was over, I made an immediate switch, I was lucky that I was driven by the fear of death.

Subsequently, I feel something like ten years younger than I did, I have suffered almost no colds, no flu and no other similar ailments that I had previously suffered from and considerably less than are normal for a man of my age,” he says.

James says while most of his friends have stuck to their non-vegan ways, some are “closet” vegans.

“I also was upset by many people who were super critical of me in the early days and wanted them to read my reasons for going vegan.

“Then as I aged and became interested in the ecology and finally recognised the cruelty imposed on all farm animals by all farmers.

“So, I guess I started writing it with anger, but by the time I published it the world had moved on

“Ultimately I published it to simply encourage people to go vegan for the pragmatic reasons of health, environmental relief and the avoidance of animal cruelty.”

Marlborough Media has two copies of James Wilson’s new book, Pant Paradigm, to give away.

To be entered in the draw, email [email protected]

Kea Energy's Naomi and Campbell McMath. Photo: Supplied.

Solar farm project powers-up

A Christchurch company is making the most of Marlborough’s sunny reputation with plans to install a two-megawatt solar farm.

The family-owned power generation company Kea Energy is currently in talks with local energy distributor Marlborough Lines to deliver renewable electricity.

Consents have been granted by Marlborough District Council for the solar farm up the Wairau Valley.

Kea Energy managing director Campbell McMath says the solar farm project is slowly coming together.

“We’ve done the initial application [with Marlborough Lines] and they’ve requested some information about the effects that the solar will have on the system”.

The proposed plan for the two megawatt solar farm. Photo: Supplied.
The proposed plan for the two megawatt solar farm. Photo: Supplied.

An engineering company is analysing the effects on the power network with a report due within the fortnight, Campbell says.

“We’re trying for two megawatts but it’s all negotiated with Marlborough Lines.”

“If the power lines can’t handle that, we’ll have to reduce it or find clever ways to store it or send it out at non-peak generation time.”

Campbell says two mega-watts is enough energy to power up to 500 homes.

“During the peak times, it would be powering the Wairau Valley.

“Wairau Valley would be fed from solar,” he says.

Kea Energy own and operate hydro and solar plants in Christchurch, generating around 2.2GWH of electricity every year – close to 30 per cent of Christchurch’s locally generated energy.

Wairau Valley would be fed from solar if the proposed solar generation plant goes ahead. Photo: Supplied.
Wairau Valley would be fed from solar if the proposed plant goes ahead. Photo: Supplied.

“If it was a dirty energy, we wouldn’t be doing it,” Campbell says.

“It’s economical and green which attracts us to it.”

He says Kea Energy take control of all aspects of the production of the powerplant, which allows them to build the solar farm for cheaper.

“We do all the importing of the panels, the importing of all the equipment, we do all the installation ourselves and we do all the engineering ourselves,” Campbell says.

“Once this goes ahead, we’re going to do some analysis and if that’s all promising we’re going to start looking at a much larger one.

“We’re still determining the area, whether it would be in Tasman or Marlborough or up in the Hawkes Bay area.”

Miss Malcolm the falcon has made a full recovery. Photo: Supplied.

A brush with death

A native falcon has been nursed back to health after a near-fatal fight with three magpies.

Marlborough woman Michelle Parkin was sitting inside, reading a book on a rainy day, when she witnessed a vicious magpie attack on a hill above her property.

“Usually, [the falcons] are able to handle that sort of stuff but it was raining, and her feathers had got waterlogged, she was not as agile as she normally would be,” Michelle says.

Michelle says the Kārearea, known to most as the bird on the $20 note, was rolling down the hill “screaming”.

Michelle rushed out to help the juvenile bird.

“We shot up the hill and wrapped her in a polar fleece sweatshirt, very gently,” Michelle says.

“We carefully bundled her up and put her in the vehicle and took her to see Diana at the Marlborough Falcon Trust.”

The Kārearea, named Malcolm by Michelle before they were told that she was a female, spent a week at the trust, “basically in hospital” on antibiotics.

“We called her Malcolm the falcon because it rhymes, but now we know she’s a girl, we call her Miss Malcolm.

Marlborough Falcon Trust falconer and aviculturist Diana Dobson looked after the wounded bird and delivered daily reports on her recovery.

“She’s an amazing lady,” Michelle says.

Michelle says Miss Malcolm didn’t look like she had any outward wounds but thought she had sustained a puncture wound to her chest.

“She wasn’t looking very good for a few days.

“There was a possibility she was going to have to go to the wildlife hospital at Wellington Zoo.”

On Thursday night, the “absolutely beautiful” falcon made a turn for the better.

A week later, Michelle picked her up and took her back to her home in a cat cage.

“She’s now returned to her life in her environment,” Michelle says.

“She’s flying around and looking happy.

Michelle says it’s special that the small falcon is “hanging around”.

“It’s totally her environment, we’re lucky to be sharing it with her.”

She says the native falcon, which is rarer than the kiwi, has quite a profile in the community.

“She makes herself known. We see her around and the community sees her.

“She’s pretty neat,” Michelle says.

The native longtailed bat could be at risk of local extinction due to an unprecedented number of rats this season. Photo: Supplied.

Rat plague threatens bats

A population of native bats are in danger of being wiped out by a plague of rats.

Experts are warning a record number of rats could have a “dire” effect on the population of bats in Pelorus.

Forest & Bird top of the south regional manager Debs Martin says they are tracking the highest number of rats ever recorded.

“It’s pretty gruesome out there,” she says.

Forest & Bird top of the south regional manager Debs Martin. Photo: Supplied.
Forest & Bird top of the south regional manager Debs Martin. Photo: Supplied.

“We could seriously lose our populations of bats at Pelorus through this mast year.

A mast season is where plants produce an abundance of fruit and seeds.

Deb says rats climb the trees the bats live in, corner them in their holes and eat them.

“The bats can’t get out.

During a previous mast year in Fiordland, bat colonies went locally extinct.

“They thought they had it covered, but they lost one of the colonies,” she says.

“It’s a real gnarly problem.”

Tracking this year has already seen the rats top 60 per cent of traps set.

Trapping can only go so far, aerial 1080 is necessary Forest & Bird top of the south regional manager Debs Martin says. Photo: Supplied.
Trapping can only go so far, aerial 1080 is necessary Forest & Bird top of the south regional manager Debs Martin says. Photo: Supplied.

“We’re tracking double what would be local extinctions,” she says.

Previously, the record high was 42 per cent in 2014.

“We had a really mild summer with a lot of really nice weather, and it was really warm.

“That triggered a whole lot of trees flowering and fruiting.

“We had a huge abundance of fruit and seeds, which is really good for our native birds because they breed up and have a really good year.

“But it’s like putting feed out for the rats,” Deb says.

The group uses tracking tunnels to get an indication of how many rats are in the area.

Debs says, in an ideal scenario, rats would be below five per cent.

“At around 30 per cent tracking, you’ll get some localised extinctions of some species.

“I was walking around Pelorus, and even the walking tracks would be covered in berries and fruit.

“That drives up the number of rats and mice.”

“Normally, when you go into winter rats will run out of food and their population numbers start crashing”.

Deb says rats stash the seed in dry hollows and rat nests and feed on it right through winter.

“Rather than starving through weeding and slowing down, they’re breeding up right through winter.

Debs says the only thing they know that will bring rat numbers down enough is aerial 1080

“Our area is not targeted for aerial 1080 so we’re just going to have to do as much as we can to try and suppress the numbers and take as many out as we can.

“Hopefully we can take a bit of the heat off it, enough to get our bats through.

For further information or to volunteer contact Forest & Bird at forestandbird.org.nz/volunteer.

The track attracts thousands of visitors every year. Photo: Supplied.

Track misses out on Great Walk title

The Queen Charlotte Track has missed out on the honour of officially being recognised as a Great Walk.

Marlborough’s iconic track was shortlisted out of around 30 tracks to make the final three.

But it fell at the last hurdle as Hump Ridge Track in Southland took top honours.

Chair of the Queen Charlotte Track Inc, Rob Burn says the track is still “special”.

“The process of looking at the track subjectively has reinforced to us all what is special about the track. We still believe it is a great walk, for now with a little ‘g’.

Rob has not ruled out another future bid to gain the special status.

The Queen Charlotte Track has been welcoming walkers and bikers for 25 years.

It was formed in 1983 and is managed through a partnership between DOC, Marlborough District Council and private landowners who work together as the Queen Charlotte Track Stakeholder Management Group.

While not an official winner, the official marketing collective for the Track says that Marlborough is still immensely proud of the iconic regional track.

“We will be lined up ready for another crack at gaining DOC endorsement of the Queen Charlotte Track as a Great Walk next time the opportunity comes up,” says Rob.

The Queen Charlotte Track (QCT) is already nationally recognised as a Great Ride on the Ngā Haerenga New Zealand Cycle Trail.

Between 10,000 and15,000 people walk or bike the Queen Charlotte Track each year.

Destination Marlborough general manager Jacqui Lloyd is full of praise for the operators who make the track such a sort after attraction.

“Visitors are already coming from around the world to walk and bike the Queen Charlotte Track,”

“We are confident that the recognition of the track will continue to grow, and visitor numbers will increase,” she says.

Te Paki Coastal Track (Te Rerenga Wairua/Cape Reinga in Northland was the other track shortlisted for the honour.

Mitch Croudis with his game bantam Lara who he hopes will take the top spot at the upcoming Marlborough Poultry, Pigeon and Cage Bird Association's 132nd annual show. Photo: Matt Brown.

Poultry stars as show beckons

On a family farm, the hemming and clucking from 65 small game bantam chickens fill the air.

The tiny chooks aren’t bred for their eggs, they’re just a bonus, these are competition chickens.

Close to 150 game bantams from Marlborough and further afield will be judged on their type and condition at the upcoming Marlborough Poultry, Pigeon and Cage Bird Association’s 132nd annual show.

And poultry enthusiast Mitch Croudis from Rapaura reckons his premier pullet will be the pick of the brood.

Named Lara, the ten-month-old black’s fanning tail and even comb put her in good stead for taking out the top spot.

“She’s got a couple of firsts at the other shows, so I hope to do quite well with her again,” Mitch says.

“She got first up north, in New Plymouth, first in her class.

“She missed out on best black of the show, but it was close.”

Mitch Croudis with his show-stopping game bantam Lara. Photo: Matt Brown.
Mitch Croudis with his show-stopping game bantam Lara. Photo: Matt Brown.

The cut-throat competition examines every facet of the small chooks’ breeding and looks.

Their eye colour, the evenness of their combs, how they act in their cage and how their tail fans out are all checkboxes on the scoring card.

Marlborough Poultry, Pigeon and Cage Bird Association member Helen Croudis says type and condition is the top thing with game bantams.

“We’ve got just under 400 birds all up entered,” she says.

Numbers are down slightly from last year due to a pigeon rotavirus disease excluding the racing birds from the show.

Helen says it’s been a busy month for poultry and bird enthusiasts who take part in the show.

Showing birds is a winter hobby, with the competitions taking place from May to July every year.

“There’s been a show every week since the start of June in the South Island,” Helen says.

Mitch has been competing for thirteen years, and the Marlborough show is his third this season.

“Dad took me to a poultry show when I was younger and I was hooked,” he says.

“It’s my hobby, it’s something to do during the winter.”

Don’t miss the Marlborough Poultry, Pigeon and Cage Bird Association’s 132nd annual show.

Friday 12 July, from 1.30 – 5.30 pm and Saturday 13 July, from 9 am – 2.30 pm.

$5 entry for families, or $2 per adult.

A new pollution monitor gets the once over in Picton. Photo: Supplied.

Picton pollution to be traced

Picton’s air quality is to be put under the microscope in a bid to better understand the town’s worst pollution offenders.

Along with the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) Marlborough District Council staff have started a year-long study.

Several air quality transmitters and meteorological stations have been installed around the area.

The transmitters will record air quality through both a winter and a summer, operating from July until the end of winter 2020.

Council’s Environmental Scientist Sarah Brand says the study will enable a better understanding of the area’s sources of air pollutants and their significance throughout the year.

“Picton is a unique location, and with population and tourism growth combined with port and industrial activities, we need a greater understanding of the town’s air quality issues,” she says.

Fed-up Picton residents approached council with their concerns last year. The new transmitters are part of the council’s response to pollution concerns.

Continuous monitoring will provide a detailed record of both particulate and gases and where they originate from.

“Previous monitoring revealed that Picton’s topography plays an important part in air movement over the town, so it’s hoped the study will also provide a more detailed understanding of air flows over the area,” Sarah says.

“The study was developed to help address community concerns over the town’s air quality and its sustainable future.

“It has been encouraged and supported by a project team including Council, Te Atiawa, Port Marlborough, the Harbour Master, and community representatives Captain Paul Keating and Mr Brent Yardley.”

A large Norway rat commonly infesting homes and sections in Marlborough. Photo: Supplied.

Rat problem will ‘go beserk’

Fears of rodents reaching plague-like proportions could become a reality in the region as Marlborough feels the bite of a long, dry summer.

A lack of rain at the season’s end has created the perfect storm for the nasty critters.

A pest expert is warning the problem will quickly get worse if people don’t take action.

He warned the problem would not disappear unless urgent action was taken.

Spiderban Marlborough owner and pest control expert John Sigglekow says the “fully developed” rodent population has become a major issue early this season.

Spiderban Marlborough owner and pest control expert John Sigglekow. Photo: Supplied.
Spiderban Marlborough owner and pest control expert John Sigglekow. Photo: Supplied.

“People need to look at what they’re going to do around longer-term consistent maintenance for rodents going forward,” John says.

“As it gets deeper into winter, rodents are going to become more and more of an issue.

“As it comes into summer, it’s the devil in the deep blue sea.

“You come off the pitchfork and get thrown into the ocean with the ants and the cockroaches and the wasps and everything else that’s going to go berserk.”

John says a mega mast season, when plants produce a bumper crop of seeds and fruit, gives rodents plenty to feast on.

Five rodents can produce the equivalent of 75,000 droppings and 27 litres of urine within a year, enough to turn a roof space into a sewer, John says.

“Rat bite fever, Leptospirosis, there’s a whole lot of things you can catch from rats,” John says.

“If you get bitten or scratched by a rat or a mouse, you’re going to need some heavy antibiotics.

“Even cats and dogs that have confrontations with large, aggressive rodents are at risk.”

There are numerous known pathogens that can spread directly from rodents to humans and many more that can be spread by the mites, lice and louse the rodents are typically infested with.

Rat fleas spreading the bubonic plague is a widely known example.

The rodents are omnivores and also pose a real danger to native wildlife, not just eating birds and chicks but also in competition for the same food source.

“It’s pretty disturbing when you get into it,” John says.

He says the lack of rain meant rodents were not drowning in their burrows as they usually would.

“Also, because of the long hot summer that we had, very dry, without the necessary rain that was to come in later in that season. Which has meant that all the mice that would have drowned in the burrows, simply haven’t died out.

“They’ve all reached full sexual maturity and had their own babies,” John says.

He says Marlborough needn’t fear ‘cat-sized’ rats, but they’re “relatively large”, some of the larger rats can get up to 500 grams or the weight of half a block of cheese.

“It’s a big problem, not so much from a predatory point of view but more so for a hygiene and home maintenance perspective.

“The main thing is that you take the baiting around your property seriously so that you’re not just doing piecemeal.

The most common rats in New Zealand are the Ship Rat/Roof Rat (Rattus Rattus), and the Water Rat (Rattus Norvegicus).

Roof rats are incredibly good climbers

“It’s a busy old time for pest control probably for the next decade with the way the climate is changing” says John who will be selling rodent control gear at the Marlborough Home and Garden Show on 5 July.