Marlborough Citizens Advice volunteer Tiffany Cross. Photo: Matt Brown.

Online only move puts people at risk

Vulnerable people are at risk of losing access to vital services, a community organisation warns.

A bid to move government services online and out of local communities is putting some people at risk say Citizen Advice Bureau (CAB) staff.

Now staff have launched a petition calling for government bosses to urgently address digital exclusion.

Marlborough Citizens Advice volunteer Tiffany Cross says the move to online-only is deeply concerning and affects a large cross-section of society.

“People of all ages are coming to us stressed and frustrated about their experiences of trying to access government services,” she says.

“It’s getting harder to access human support from government agencies, but people’s need for face-to-face services is as real as ever.”

A report, released by CAB just before Covid restrictions in New Zealand, reveals digital exclusion affects people across all demographics.

The report, ‘Face to Face with Digital Exclusion’ puts the spotlight on the impacts of government digital services on inclusion and wellbeing in society

“While online services are great for some people, the drive towards online-only is leaving some of the most vulnerable members of the community behind.”

Tiffany says CAB is left to pick up the pieces and shoulder the costs.

“Many of these individuals seek the support of the CAB because they need access to face-to-face services, paper-based resources, and empathetic human connection.

“In the report, it is made clear that the public sector is relying heavily on the goodwill of the Citizens Advice Bureau and its volunteers, to fill the gap from government’s withdrawal from face-to-face and paper-based service delivery.

“This has a very real impact on local CABs who are carrying the burden of this cost-shifting by government agencies.”

The CAB is asking all candidates in the upcoming election to support the recommendations of its digital exclusion report and pledge their support to the following:

 

  1. Leave no-one behind:

Ensure that steps are taken to address digital exclusion and that no-one is left behind or left out because they can’t or don’t wish to engage online.

  1. Public services accessible to all:

Implement accessibility and inclusion standards for the delivery of public services that include offline channels as part of the proactive design of government service delivery.

  1. CAB compensated for cost-shifting:

Ensure that the Citizens Advice Bureau is properly funded to meet the demands and cost-shifting that has resulted from government services going online.

The CAB has issued a pledge statement for candidates to sign up to. It is also asking for the public to get behind this by signing a petition, and Tiffany wants to assure people that “paper copies of the petition will also be available at your local CAB.”

Brendon Adams raises money for mental health groups. Photo: Supplied.

A driving force for health

Mental Health Awareness Week is on until 25 September Here mental health advocate Brendon Adams from Blenheim highlights his journey and why he wants to help.

 

What inspires you to help raise awareness for mental health? 

Up until 2010, I had very little appreciation or knowledge of what mental wellbeing was.  You could say I experienced an awakening.  From that moment I got to meet and talk to a wide variety of people working within our current mental health system.  From high-level psychiatrists, the many branches of social services, and the many people living with a vast array of mental health matters.  I have no doubt my 10-year experience has been my driving force and inspiration to continue to help raise awareness for mental health.

 

What have been your goals to raise awareness for wellbeing? 

I was 37 years old when I first learned anything about the topic.  I felt I could have been better equipped with some form of prior knowledge.  That’s not to say that the information wasn’t around, more so to speak to the fact that the subject was seldom spoken about.  Almost considered Taboo.  Making it ok to talk about mental health and wellbeing and being comfortable doing so would be one of my main goals.  It’s ok to not be ok, and it’s ok to talk about it.   To help others will always be my primary goal.

 

What are some of the main concerns our mental health systems faces? 

I guess the most obvious concern to me would be the apparent lack of resources available to cope with the demand for our mental health system.  It seems to be the poor cousin of our general health system.  It is often very hard to convince people to seek help for themselves or loved ones especially when they’ve tried and have been turned away because the problem doesn’t appear to be big enough.  This will often lead to a problem exacerbating.   Then the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff type scenario plays out and the help is often too little too late.  This seems to be prevalent with men in particular.  Men generally struggle to talk about their feelings and what’s going on for them.  They tend to bottle things up or their situation is played down.

 

What are key signs that a person may be suffering from mental health, both what to look out for in ourselves and in others? 

Signs may include the following.  Don’t want to see their friends or no longer enjoy spending time with their friends and family.  Stop doing things they used to love or don’t seem to be enjoying themselves.  Can’t remember things, concentrate, or pay attention.  Feel bad about themselves – guilty, worthless, or ashamed.  Have a big change in eating patterns or appetite.  Have extreme mood swings.  Feel hopeless or really sad, or cry a lot.  Feel anxious, stressed, nervous, or scared a lot and can’t seem to relax.  Are not happy unless they’re using drugs or alcohol.  Don’t take care of their appearance or personal hygiene.  Have physical signs of injury or that they are hurting themselves.  Have panic attacks – rapid heartbeat, unable to breathe, feeling dizzy, and extremely scared or anxious all at once.  Unsettled sleeping patterns.

 

What do you think can help people be resilient in times of adversity, including strategies for coping? 

By being mindful of the four basic cornerstones to good health, you can help yourself and others in many ways.  To start with you would want to 1. get a good night’s sleep (7-9 hours a night).  2. Eat well and frequently, drink plenty of water.  3. Get plenty of exercise throughout the day.  4. Talk to someone about what’s going on.   Too often we see the signs of suffering get worse if any one of these cornerstones is compromised.

 

How can people support loved ones who suffer from mental health? 

I often have people ask me where to start when trying to get help either for themselves or for their loved ones.  The answer is never simple as everyone’s situation is different.  The good news is the increase of awareness we are now seeing as our culture shifts from this being a topic once kept in the dark to a topic bought into the light.  There seems to be more understanding and acceptance nowadays than there used to be.  Although we still have a long way to go.  Encourage an open and casual conversation with someone you think may be suffering and be prepared to listen without judgment.  Encourage belief and self-worth in someone that they can help themselves and get the monkey off their back.  Sometimes that’s all it takes and that is a good start.  Be kind and caring.

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.”

Margaret Smith, Brenda Munro and Michelle Munro are keeping charity in the family. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Charity begins at home

A Blenheim family have joined forces to help new school entrants start their schooling in style.

Michelle Munro, Brenda Munro and Margaret Smith have launched the School Starts First Impressions charity in Marlborough.

The trio are working with welfare organisations to ensure financial hardship does not mean a child misses out on the school essentials.

Colourful kits, tailored to the child when possible, are filled with everything needed for a bright start to school.

Chairperson Michelle says she came up with the idea after seeing a social media post about the charity started by Jane and Graeme Thomas in Auckland.

“I shared it with my family and friends and said how awesome it was. Next thing I know my mum and aunty had followed through.

“We want to make a difference and give 5-year-olds the opportunity to start school on an equal footing with their peers.”

The new initiative also celebrates the child’s 5th birthday, with a personalised gift and a handmade cake.

But because privacy is so important, volunteers will only ever be told the child’s first name and what they are interested in.

All requests for the 5 Kitboxes will come from a third party such as Oranga Tamariki, Te Piki Oranga and Maataa Waka.

Brenda, an accountant, who also served on the Board for Women’s Refuge in Marlborough, says helping in the community appealed to them all.

“We feel so, so lucky. We have lived lucky lives and want to give back.”

The family are now looking at gathering cash donations from individuals and businesses across the region. A gift of a whole box can be acknowledged on the 5 Kitbox as having been paid for by them.

With each box costing about $450, the charity hopes to provide up to 70 a year – 10 percent of 750 new enrollments.

“But we expect that number could be higher because of the COVID-19 situation we’re all going through,” Michelle says.

Retired teacher Margaret says she has seen children who come to school without all the items they need.

“This will give children the chance to focus on their learning and give them the chance to be the best they can be.”

To make a donation visit givealittle.co.nz/org/school-start-first-impressions-marlborough

MP Stuart Smith has launched an online petition to help save Sounds Air. Photo: Supplied

Stricken airline’s online support as MP joins funding battle

Marlborough’s stricken regional airline is being backed by the community in a bid to help save it from receivership.

Sounds Air bosses are not eligible to any of the Government’s $600 million rescue package set aside for the aviation sector amid Covid-19 lockdown.

Now MP Stuart Smith has started an online petition calling for immediate financial help.

He says the company has a big role to play in helping the region recover after lockdown as well as playing a vital role in providing essential transport links.

“I was deeply concerned to hear that Sounds Air risks going into receivership because they have not received any financial support from the Government’s aviation sector support package.

“When restrictions are eased, we will need Sounds Air to ensure people living in regional New Zealand can get to where they need to go.

“I’m calling on the Government to immediately provide the financial support that this highly reputable business needs so we can save jobs and maintain our essential transport links,” Stuart says.

Money from the government’s $600m aviation support package has been spent on keeping freight and lifeline links running.

Sounds Air connects Wellington to Picton, Nelson and Blenheim, and flies other routes Air New Zealand pulled out of over the years but is not considered an essential service.

Managing director of Sounds Air Andrew Crawford says he is making every effort to keep his airline afloat but is being met with brick walls.

Eighty employees face losing their jobs if the company has to close.

Stuart says the business cannot be let go without a fight.

“Some businesses are just too important to let fail. Sounds Air will be an important player in the economic recovery of regional New Zealand and our aviation sector.”

The petition has already been signed by almost 2500 people.”

To sign the petition visit https://www.change.org/p/ministry-of-transport-save-sounds-air-make-the-government-provide-financial-support-to-an-essential-nz-airline?recruiter=1078209202&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=share_petition

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.

Residents are concerned the potential increase in trucks will create more noise, dust and safety risks. Photo: Chloe Ranford.

Rocky road ahead for council over quarry objections

Marlborough District council bosses face a logistical nightmare as plans to dig rock from a rural quarry come under fire from residents.

Simcox Quarry Limited is seeking permission to dig up to 90,000 tonnes of rock a year from the Barracks Road quarry in the Omaka Valley.

But 113 submissions to the resource consent application opposed the plan and just three in support.

A report presented to council’s environment committee last week says officials could “easily require a week” of hearings to listen to the 82 submitters that asked to speak on the consent in person.

“This presented a logistical challenge in terms of planning the hearing, providing a venue that could accommodate such a large number of submitters … and managing the volume of material required for the hearings,” it reads.

The hearings were cut down to two days, with a third set aside “if required”, after the council asked Omaka Valley residents to be represented by one member.

Residents are concerned the works would be a safety risk, generate “unbearable” noise, and “severely deteriorate” lifestyles.

Simcox Construction had mined the quarry since 1998, but management was passed to Simcox Quarry Limited in 2018.

Simcox Quarry asked last June to run the quarry for an “unlimited” time period, estimating it would last for “more than 100 years”.

Brookby Rd residents Mary and Rickard Potez say the plans could see an end to “peace in the valley”.

“It [is] inconceivable and deplorable to grant a legacy to future generations of 100 years of destroyed peace in the valley,” they say.

Simcox say the quarry is crucial for Marlborough’s flood control, has “significant” positive effects, and that dust, noise, and hazards would be well managed.

But fellow Brookby Rd resident and Wairau Hospital orthopedic surgeon Rick Wilson says the possible increase in truck traffic was “abhorrent” and would “inevitably result in accidents”.

“Without being unduly melodramatic, the mix of locals, visitors and heavy vehicles is ‘a tragedy waiting to occur’,” he says.

Fairhall School principal Stephen Crockett says an increase in traffic would heighten the risks for students who lived on or travelled along the trucking routes.

LDR - Local Democracy Reporting

Sharlese Turnbull-Tait, centre, with her young family has a big battle ahead of her. Photo: Supplied.

Mother’s fight for life

A young mother faced a critical delay in diagnosis before being told she has incurable cancer.

Sharlese Turnbull-Tait, 34, from Blenheim waited years for an answer from doctors only to find she has stage 4 bowel cancer which has now spread to her lungs.

Her devasted family are now frantically trying to raise enough money for a last-ditch treatment they hope will save her life.

The mum of two says she saw her own doctor after developing severe stomach cramps in 2018.

But despite several visits over the next few years and a pelvic scan, Sharlese was told it was probably endometriosis – an inflammatory condition of the uterus.

She now faces an anxious wait after an MRI scan last week to see if the cancer has spread even further.

“I went to my doctor so many times.”

“When I saw that doctor again after I’d been diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer, he apologised and offered to pray for me.

“He said it never thought it could be bowel cancer as I was too young.

“I want everyone to know the signs and symptoms as age just doesn’t matter,” Sharlese says.

The former care worker says she spent hundreds of dollars visiting her GP before a locum doctor noticed something abnormal in her blood test results.

She was immediately referred to a specialist who did a colonoscopy and discovered a large tumour.

A week later Sharlese was told the growth was cancerous and had been growing for years.

“I’m more angry than emotional as I feel really let down by the health service.

“I’m angry for myself but angrier on behalf of my children and family and what they’ve gone through,” she says.

Her children, Luka-Paul Cunniffe-Tait, 10, and Ellazae Cunniffe-Tait, 3, know that mummy is sick, says Sharlese.

She has spent weeks apart from them while undergoing surgery in Christchurch last year.What was supposed to be a three week stay turned into six weeks as Sharlese battled a twisted bowel and ended up in intensive care.

A grueling chemotherapy and radiation regime also took its toll.

“They removed part of my bowel. I was very tired and had to be fed through a tube in my nose,” she says.

Sharlese is pinning her hopes on immunotherapy drug Keytruda.

The drug is only government funded for certain breast cancers and the family hopes to raise at least $9000 towards the first dose to see if it will help.

If not, any money raised will be used to help Sharlese make memories with her children instead.

Her sister Kelsie Small says donations could also be put towards a holiday for the family.

“We would love to raise enough money to support alternative treatments for her to give her a longer life. We will also try to send her away with her family on holiday if she isn’t too sick to create beautiful memories.”

A Give a Little page has been set up. Visit givealittle.co.nz and search under the name Sharlese.

New Zealand has one of the highest bowel cancer rates in the world. Bowel cancer is the second highest cause of cancer death in New Zealand.

Bowel cancer affects people of all ages, especially those in people aged 60 years and more.

There is a free national screening programme available for people aged 60 to 74 years old.

In 2018 Nelson Marlborough Health (NMH) staff launched the National Bowel Screening Programme in the region.

About 30,000 people aged 60 – 74 were invited to participate in the programme.

The screening helps save lives by detecting pre-cancerous polys or finding bowel cancer while still in the early stages.

Sharlese is too young to have taken part in the programme and wants everyone to know that bowel cancer can strike at any age.

“My doctor didn’t consider it, he thought I was too young,” she says.

The numbers of people under 50 years old being diagnosed with the disease is rising in New Zealand

Sharlese says the delay in being diagnosed meant her cancer had time to spread.

She doesn’t want anyone else to share the same fate.

“Be aware of the symptoms,” she says.

Suzanne O’Docherty with her pet, Sparky the part-Maine Coon cat. Photo: Supplied.

Cat death prompts warning

The owner of a cat thought to have been viciously mauled by a dog wants other pet owners to be on their guard.

Suzanne O’Docherty, from Blenheim, popped out to the supermarket on Wednesday night, leaving her husband, Brian, watching the news.

But when she returned, 45 minutes later, she came back to the lifeless body of her beloved pet part-Maine Coon, Sparky, in their garden.

She is warning other pet owners to be on their guard

“It looked like he had been shaken and had his neck broken,” Suzanne says.

Suzanne says she thinks a dog that has been chased off their property before is responsible.

Husband Brian had already scared off the dog earlier that evening.

She doesn’t want to reveal the breed of the dog, as she believes the fault lies with the owners.

Now, Suzanne, who works at the SPCA opshop, says she’s afraid to adopt another pet, in case it happens again.

“This is the first time in my life that I haven’t had an animal,” she says.

Suzanne says dog control have been excellent, combing the streets for the offending canine.

After moving from a rental near the railway line, Suzanne says she loved the new quiet Redwoodtown neighbourhood.

“We loved this place, we thought Sparky would be safe.

“He was in his own yard; he hadn’t done anything.

“He wasn’t a wanderer.”

Suzanne says she has seen the dog around the neighbourhood several times.

“The dog is innocent,” she says.

“The fault falls on the owners, not the dog.

“The owners have a lot to answer for.

“There have been a few people in Blenheim who have had their pets attacked by dogs.”

The three-year-old tom cat originally belonged to Suzanne’s granddaughter.

“He was the most affectionate, loving animal we’ve ever had.”

“Sparky was a bit too trusting, but I’m worried it might happen again,” she says.

Ivan Miller has walked more than 4000 kilometres around New Zealand so far. Photo: Supplied.

Steps in the right direction

A year ago, Ivan Miller started walking and 4000 kilometres later shows no signs of stopping.

In a bid to raise awareness about mental health, and to raise funds for the Mental Health Foundation, Ivan Miller left his Kerikeri home last February with the goal to traverse New Zealand by foot.

And the mental health advocate returned to Marlborough on Sunday as he completed his circumnavigation of the South Island.
So far, he’s travelled 4063 kilometres.

“It’s a huge adventure,” Ivan says.

“Every day is extraordinary.”

The ups and downs of the winding roads through the countryside reflect the ups and downs Ivan has had through his own life.

His own experience with mental health inspired him to reach out to others.

“Everyone has a story,” Ivan says. “It’s touched everybody.

“I think mental health is something people haven’t talked about enough and it’s made me realise how big the issue is.”

Ivan says he suffered with mental health issues for most of his life, and at 31 while working on a vineyard in Marlborough suffered a mental breakdown.

After a stint at the Mental Health Unit at Nelson Hospital, Ivan credits his recovery to a friend who encouraged him to study the arts at NMIT in Nelson.

In 2018 he was made redundant from the Kerikeri orchard where he works and, with his 50th birthday looking, he opted to take the chance to do “something memorable”.

“It’s definitely been a memorable year,” he says.

With no experience of long-distance walking, Ivan set out from Cape Reinga on 9 February 2019 with just his backpack and a new pair of walking shoes.

“I got a really rude shock on the first day – I was gasping for breath.”

But with no cellphone reception along most of 90-mile beach, Ivan had no choice but to tough it out.

“It only took three or four weeks to build up that fitness,” he says.

“Now when I’m walking, it can be tough, but I don’t think about what my legs are doing anymore.”

Ivan says his hope is to share his highs and lows along the way, walk with others, and basically allow others to follow his personal journey.

He says he will have a few days rest catching up with mates in Marlborough and Wellington before turning his sights on the longest leg yet of his journey – the east coast of the North Island.

“I’m only about two-thirds of the way through,” Ivan says.

He says there’s about 2000 kilometres to go before the finish line, back where he began at Cape Reinga.

“I’ve been helped and supported by a lot of people,” he says.

“It’s been an amazing experience.”

To support Ivan raise money for the Mental Health Foundation, donate at events.mentalhealth.org.nz/fundraisers/ivanmiller/Ivan–s-Walk and follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pg/Walking-for-Life-1247548552058877