George Glover is welcomed onto the beach at Anakiwa on Wednesday afternoon after completing his 123km “Black Dog Swim”. Photo: Peter Jones.

Sounds swimmer finishes with a smile

Spontaneous applause echoed around Anakiwa as a wet-suited swimmer in a pink cap neared the jetty.

Cheers rang out across the Grove Arm as he emerged dripping from the water, feeling solid ground under his feet for the first time in 10 days.

After a makeshift finishing tape was crossed, a traditional Maori reception with speech, song and the presentation of a taonga signalled the completion of an inspirational journey by Marlborough teenager George Glover.

Inspired last year by the words and deeds of Kiwi free diver William Trubridge and Ross Edgley, the first man to swim around mainland Great Britain, the 17-year-old Marlborough Boys’ College student and accomplished pool swimmer decided to use his physical and mental skills to benefit a cause he felt passionately about.

So the “Black Dog Swim” was born, George deciding to swim the length of Queen Charlotte Sound and back to raise funds for and awareness of the I AM HOPE charity.

He pledged to swim approximately 123km, over 10 days, and came up with a possible fundraising target of $50,000.

At around 3pm on Wednesday he waded ashore at the place where he set off from on December 30, slightly weary but delighted as the promised funds soared past $57,000 and recognition for a particularly worthwhile cause skyrocketed.

Amid post-swim celebrations with over 100 well-wishers and supporters, George admitted he had mixed feelings about ticking off the unique achievement.

“Mainly because of the support crew … I’ll obviously see them again but it won’t be in circumstances like this, and that’s the element that’s been really special.”

While the charitable cause was always motivation during the many hours in the water, George said that it was the support crew who were most often on his mind.

“I thought, I’m doing this for the crew and those donating to a great cause – I didn’t want to let them down.

“But that wasn’t too often on my mind because I was loving it, even when it was choppy, it was so much fun.”

He said his support team had made it such a pleasurable experience. “They were able to mitigate any issues and kept me entertained … they were the best part of the swim.

“People like Ross Anderson, Norm Wilson, Dave Edgar, Jon Haack, Glen Richardson, Dan Moore … plus there were so many others, they were all so cool.”

Although George is a competitive pool swimmer, one of the best in the Nelson Marlborough region for the past four years and an age-group silver medallist in the 1500m freestyle at the NZ short course champs, he has limited experience of long-distance ocean swimming.

Consequently, he said his time in the water had been as tough as he had expected.

“That’s why we prepared for it like we did. The training that we put in paid off – we were as prepared as we could have been. The organisation of the swim was very smooth, which was great … everything went to plan.”

To prepare him for the challenge he enlisted the help of local endurance swimmer Edgar, a veteran of many long-distance swims.

Dave was mightily impressed by his charge’s efforts. “It takes resilience, you’ve got to get back in day after day … it’s all good doing big swims but multi-day, stage events are different … it takes a lot of damn hard training and a really good resilient mindset to get through that sort of work every day.”

The experienced Edgar ensured the logistics of spending long hours in the water were taken care of, including proper pre and post-swim nutrition each day. “We also set up half-hour feeding systems and did mouthwash every 90 minutes to coat the lining of his mouth, ensuring he didn’t get ‘salt mouth’.”

Work on George’s ocean swimming technique also paid off, the teen improving rapidly, according to Edgar. “Look at him today, he was smoking … almost like he was doing a 2k open water race or something. For him to be swimming like this at his age is pretty phenomenal.”

It was a proud and emotional time at the finish line for George’s family, his father Ben, mother Susie and three sisters, who were with him every stroke of the way. Ben said, “It’s just been a pretty cool journey. I don’t think we are going to potentially experience anything like this as a family … we are extremely proud of him. It was his idea from the start and I’ve learned quickly that if he says he’s going to do something, he is going to do it.”

“You could call it cantankerous every now and then, but he has certainly got a view and it’s not a stubborn, shallow or selfish view – it’s all-encompassing for people around him, which is pretty special. That’s what I am most proud of … it’s how he views things.”

Although the swim’s financial objective has been surpassed, George stressed that raising funds “wasn’t the main thing”.

“It was about raising awareness and eliminating the stigma around mental health. The money and support for the I AM HOPE charity is a by-product of everyone who has been involved.”

I AM HOPE is a youth and community-focused support group, run by The Key to Life Charity Trust, which promotes positive attitudinal societal change in schools and communities, while funding private care and counselling for young people.

A link to his Give A Little page is below …

https://givealittle.co.nz/…/black-dog-swim-for-nz-youth-mental-health

Lee Griggs with his modified ‘backwards brain bike’. Photo: Matt Brown.

Backwards brain challenge

A mental health advocate known for his off-the-wall challenges is back on his bike – taking his fundraising efforts in a different direction.

Guinness World Record holder Lee Griggs, from Seddon, has unveiled his latest bid to help highlight mental health.

Using a new ‘backwards brain bike’ the intrepid adventurer will enter two of New Zealand’s most prestigious mountain biking events.

He says the mind-bending bicycle is a physical demonstration of neuroplasticity, or the brains ability to rewire itself.

Turning the bicycles handlebars left turns the front wheel right, and vice versa.

Lee says on a regular bike, your brain knows exactly which direction and with how much force is needed to subtly move the handlebars and pedals to avoid falling off.

“This just shows it all up,” he says.

“I’ve had to relearn how to ride a bike.”

The mechanism which reverses the steering on the ‘backwards brain bike’.
The mechanism which reverses the steering on the ‘backwards brain bike’.

In previous years, Lee climbed Mount Fyffe, in Kaikoura, on a pogo stick and cycled the punishing Molesworth track on a unicycle.

The handlebars on the bike, supplied by Blenheim’s Bikefit, are mounted on a specially designed clamp, designed by Cuddons, with gearing that reverses the handlebars direction.

He says participating in the two mountain-biking events is to show what the human brains is capable of, and its ability to change.

“You can take a really well rehearsed and practiced thought pattern you’ve had through life and exchange it for a new one,” he says.

“We all have the ability to change our thought patterns.

“It takes practice, hard work and consistency.”

Lee says there are two principles of neuroplasticity.

“Two neurons that fire together wire together, and the other is use it or lose it.”

“Like the muscles in our body, you use them and make them stronger, or they atrophy.

“If you don’t use the neural pathways in your brain, they become weaker.”

He says the project is to raise awareness about mental health.

“We are not our mental ill health.

“We can replace those anxious thoughts with constructive, resilient thought patterns.”

Lee wants to compete in the longest-running mountain bike event, the Karapoti Classic, a 50km event near Wellington at the end of February followed by the Motatapu in Otago, a 47km event.

“I want to showcase it at those events to raise awareness about mental health.

“On the smooth stuff, you react calmly but with the rough stuff, your brain flicks back to riding a regular bike.

“That’s the parallel, mental health isn’t something you deal with only when it’s tough.”

Lee and his ‘backwards brain bike’ will be on demonstration, with the opportunity to give it a go, at the Christmas Festival on Thursday.

“I would like to do a school tour afterwards and compete in the cyclocross series on the bike in June,” he says.

“Harcourts, Cuddon and Bikefit have joined the team, but I’m still looking for more sponsors to help us promote the message and get us to the events.

“And I’m looking forward to getting back to riding a normal bike.”

Salvation Army major Deane Goldsack and social worker Bridget Nolan hope Marlburians will help them spread Christmas cheer by donating gifts for children. Photo: Matt Brown.

Operation Gifts for Kids

Hundreds of children who might otherwise miss out on a gift this Christmas are set to benefit from the Salvation Army’s toy appeal.

Staff have launched a public appeal for toys in a bid to spread Christmas cheer to those less fortunate.

More than 200 families are expected to receive brand new toys for their children as a part of the Christian organisation’s Operation Gifts for Kids.

Salvation Army social worker Bridget Nolan says the gifts go to families that are “doing it tough” over the holidays.

“The concept is a relief for families from the stresses of Christmas,” Bridget says.

“Things are coming up – uniforms, school camps, and they’re expensive.”

She says the support at the “stressful” time of year enables families to pay a bill or afford food instead of shelling out for pricey presents.

“And every child deserves a brand-new toy,” she says.

Eligible families are referred to the Salvation Army from other regional social services.

Salvation Army officer Deane Goldsack says their unique token gift system gives the decision on what their children receive for Christmas back to the parents.

Though the toy appeal has been running for several years, Bridget introduced a token system.

Inspired by the Dunedin Salvation Army and modified for Marlborough three years ago, the system enables parents or care-givers to personally choose gifts for their children from a room specially decorated for the occasion.

Each family gets a free family game and a free book, then, tokens are issued to the family.

Expensive toys cost more tokens.

Bridget says last year, 109 families and about 230 kids received presents through the operation.

And the number is expected to grow this year.

“The public and business supporters have been very generous in the past,” Bridget says.

“We’d like to say thank you to the past supporters in previous years and hope they can support again.”

Donations of new toys for children can be dropped to the Salvation Army Family Store, on Redwood Street, or the Salvation Army Centre on the corner of George and Henry Streets.

Financial donations for toys are also accepted.

This year, the Salvation Army are the recipients of the Kmart Wishing Tree – toys donated to the wishing tree will also go towards Operation Gifts for Kids.

To donate or for more information, call Bridget on 035780990.

TJ’s Roofing staff stepped in at the last minute to help Pine Valley Outdoor Centre. Photo: Supplied.

‘Shining knights’ raise the roof and save the day

A Marlborough company has stepped in at the last minute to help a stricken charity looking to raise the roof – literally.

Dubbed ‘Knights in shining Coloursteel’ by a grateful Pine Valley Outdoors Centre Committee, staff at TJ’s Roofing quickly responded to a plea for help on social media.

The kind-hearted team turned up to put a new roof on the house destined for the popular outdoor centre after a contractor suddenly pulled out of the project.

Nicknamed Good Bones, the bungalow is set to become the new facilitator’s house.

Trust member Talia Burton-Walker says the team were left in a “bit of a bind”.

“Unfortunately, another Marlborough roofing contractor who had offered to install the roof had to pull out unexpectedly at the last minute, so, with all other aspects of the project ready to go to meet our timeline, we were in a bit of a bind.

“We put the word out on social media and TJ’s Roofing responded to our plight almost immediately.

We are incredibly grateful to them,” she says.

The relocated house, currently based at Coffey House Removals in Blenheim, will be transported to the Pine Valley Outdoor Centre next year.

Once there, it will become the home of Pine Valley camp facilitators and administrators, a position being created as part of an overall project to revitalise and future-proof the attraction.

The Pine Valley Outdoor Centre has been looked after by Pine Valley farmers Lloyd and Val Mapp for the past 35 years, who are now retiring.

“This building, and a facilitator on-site, means we can continue to keep the camp open and build on the wonderful facilities already there.

“Without this building we would have to consider closing the centre,” says Talia.

TJ’s Roofing owners Tim and Samiie Pine say they were, “very happy to help and to do something to support our community”.

Talia says the Marlborough community has been incredibly supportive of the house refurbishment, with offers of free or heavily discounted products, time and expertise.

“Roofline Marlborough supplied the roof, Marlborough Pre-Cut Ltd supplied the purlins and, Daveron Scaffolding the scaffolding.

“The team from G.K. Fyfe Painting Contractors have also generously donated 36 hours of paint prep to get the building ready for the painters.”

“This really is a project for the community, made by the community.”

To donate or assist with the refurbishment of Good Bones, email [email protected] or visit the Pine Valley Outdoor Centre Facebook page.

St Marks Foundation chairman Charles Murdoch. Photo: Supplied.

Plea for help from St Marks rehab

The only residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre in the top of the south is facing increasing financial pressure.

St Marks Addiction Residential Treatment Centre in Blenheim is facing increasing pressure on resources as demand for help escalates.

Centre bosses hope a new financially savvy trustee will help boost fundraising efforts and find urgent new revenue streams.

St Marks Foundation bosses say they need more community-minded people to “put up their hand” to take on the challenge.

Outgoing chairman and founding trustee Brian Moore says demand for treatment is “greater” than the facility can currently offer.

“It’s one of those things that society would like to brush under the carpet but it’s there and we do what we can.

“In lots of respects, it’s a pretty thankless role – but we do get amazing results and that’s what it’s about.

“When they’re at rock bottom, we’re there to pick up the pieces; we’re the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.” he says.

The 16-bed centre needs a new residential block for women, but money is tight.

Operational costs are covered by Nelson Marlborough District Health Board.

Brian says the centre is getting more court referrals as well, putting the centre under even more strain.

“The courts have recognised the service that St Marks offers and is referring drug and alcohol related cases to us.

“They have a fund to support some of that work, but as for buildings … we’re continually looking for new facilities.

“We get serious funding from the Rata Foundation, which is helpful, but the bulk of it we have to fundraise for ourselves.

“That’s the main role of a trustee – finding new funding streams or being able to fund it themselves,” he says.

Originally set up as a drop-in centre, people come from as far away as Invercargill for treatment.

New trustees are needed to make sure as many people as possible get the help they need says new chairman Charles Murdoch.

“A willingness to help people, that’s got to be the important thing.

“It would be good to have interested people to put their hand up and help.

“In many ways, the foundation is still in its infancy. We’re now at the stage to get into the community to raise a pot of gold.

“Someone who’s well known in the community – someone who is known to always help.

“We’re looking to increase the number of trustees, potentially up to ten.

“It would be beneficial and helpful to have a few more, to spread the load a little more,” he says.

Tyler Redmond is using his talents to help both bullies and their victims. Photo: Supplied.

Teen’s screen anti-bullying message

They once bullied him, now their victim has included his tormentors in a film to help stop others suffering the same fate.

Blenheim filmmaker and director Tyler Redmond, 16, has been bullied since he was 5 years old.

Making films helped take his mind off the trauma, now his latest film, Rise Up, is set to help others going through similar situations.

But it’s not been an easy path to follow, he says.

“Instead of helping just one person in a schoolyard, I’m trying to help others on a national level.”

The young director credits his dad, Christchurch motorsport driver Stan Redmond, 65, as the force behind his drive to succeed.

Stan died in 2013 following a crash at Invercargill’s Teretonga Park.

“I think I’m so driven because of him. I was nine years old when my dad passed away.

“He was very driven and knew what he wanted, what he wanted to achieve.

“My mum’s also been very supportive and has been with me every step of the way,” he says.

It includes two characters played by two boys who once bullied Tyler. He says while he was “hesitant” at first to include them, he made an unbiased decision.

“I’d put a call out for cast, and they showed up. I was a bit wary, a bit hesitant at first. They remembered me but didn’t realise I was making the film. They were a bit embarrassed.

“I got talking to one of them and he apologised for what he’d done.” Tyler says.

Bullying affects nearly one-half of primary-aged children in New Zealand schools and a third of secondary students.

Tyler hopes his film will help both bullies and victims.

“What makes me sick to the stomach is when you see on the news about young people who are taking their own lives.

“Social media and commenting can cause constant hurt and upset and I want people to know it doesn’t have to be that way.”

Rise-Up will premiere at the Clubs of Marlborough for free on 29 November at 6.30pm.

A milestone moment as the raised pathway was finished. Photo: Supplied.

Lagoon plans unveiled

A ten-year bid to build a boardwalk over part of an iconic Marlborough wetland has been completed.

Volunteers charged with the restoration of the Grovetown Lagoon have marked a milestone moment as the raised pathway was finished.

And the hard-working team have already unveiled future plans – including a possible outdoor classroom, viewing platform and jetty.

Te Whanau Hou Grovetown Lagoon coordinator Justine Johnson says now the Kelly’s Creek boardwalk has been completed they can focus on the next project.

Plans include a possible outdoor classroom, viewing platform and jetty. Photo: Supplied.

“It’s somewhat fluid,” Justine says. “It’s such an interesting area, the steamer used to come up the steam wharf.

“There’s a lot of iwi history that we’re probably unaware of and a lot of volunteers love the history,” she says.

The oxbow loop of the Wairau River is one of the largest remaining areas of natural value on the Wairau Plain, with areas of open water, swampy ground, springs and adjoining land.

Justine says that when settlers arrived, they used trees from a Kahikatea forest to build their homes.

The group have started planting a tribute forest of replacement Kahikatea trees.

“They called the area Big Bush. Kahikatea is amazing, it grows tall but sheds it’s lower branches,” Justine says.

Over the decade, volunteers have come and gone but people have been keen to lend a hand when they can.

A working bee is held every six weeks.

“Quite a lot of work went into it. People come out and say, I can do this for you.

“Fulton Hogan came and said we want to sponsor you and it all happened quite quickly after that,”

The group also holds a Wetland Warriors meeting every Wednesday from 9.30am to 11.30am.

For further information visit www.grovetown.co.nz

From left, Mistletoe Bay Trust vice-patron John Stace, Mistletoe Bay Charitable Foundation chairman Simon Heath and patron Sir Stephen Tindall. Photo: Supplied.

Dinner serves up school camp funds boost

A special fundraising dinner has raised $115,000 to help ensure that no Marlborough children miss out on a trip to Mistletoe Bay.

It’s a classic Kiwi rite of passage- a childhood trip to school camp but for some families, it’s out of reach financially.

But the Mistletoe Foundation has raised funds to ensure no youngsters will miss out.

The foundation held a dinner last week at the bay, in Queen Charlotte Sound near Onahau Bay.

Foundation chairman and Renwick School principal Simon Heath says help will be on offer for students who might not be able to afford to go.

“Principals of schools sending students to camps at Mistletoe Bay are now assured of being able to access help for students who might not otherwise be able to afford to go to camp and have the Mistletoe Bay experience,” he says.

The Foundation has raised $300,000 which will now be invested, and scholarships will be granted to students each year.

The dinner was created by the team at Arbour restaurant, and hosted by the Mistletoe Charitable Foundation’s patron Dame Lowell Goddard QC along with the Mistletoe Bay Trust’s patrons Sir Stephen and Lady Tindall.

About 40 people took part in the “Magic at Mistletoe” event, taking a Marlborough Tour Company bus to Picton, and then the Marlborough Tour Company vessel Odyssea to Mistletoe Bay.

Sir Stephen spoke to guests about his experience as patron of the Mistletoe Bay Trust for the last ten years.

“This truly is an example for sustainability that we need to continue to nurture,” he says.

Simon says that spending time at the camp was “life-changing.”

“As a school principal myself, I know that the time spent at the bay on camp, doing activities with classmates and learning valuable lessons, can be life-changing for our young people, and they need that experience now more than ever,” he says.

Hope Walk organisers Vita Vaka and Bary Neal. Photo: Matt Brown.

Bringing Hope to the community

Two friends hope people will turn out in force to support those whose lives have been touched by suicide.

Marlborough man Bary Neal lost his son, Matt, 22, to suicide in 2016 while his friend and Hope Walk organiser Vita Vaka suffered from depression.

Together, the pair hope this year’s walk will start conversations about suicide and let people know support is on hand.

Organiser Vita Vaka says suicide is a topic close to his heart.

“I do this because I wish people were there walking with me through it,” he says.

The walk takes up to an hour, depending on the size of the crowd, and makes a loop circuit around Blenheim – starting and ending at Seymour Square.

In 2017, nearly 1000 Marlburians turned out for the region’s inaugural Hope Walk after organiser Bary Neal heard of a guy in Auckland starting a similar event.

Bary handed over organising the event to 30-year-old Vita last year, after he moved to Dunedin for work.

But now back in Blenheim, he continues to be a passionate advocate for the walk.

He organised the first event in Blenheim in 2017.

“I thought, why not?”

“Rather than sitting around feeling sorry for myself, I got out and did something,” Bary says.

“It’s made a difference in a lot of people’s lives.”

Bary says the event is about encouraging people to open-up.

“To not sit at home and feel like a burden,” he says.

Bary, a competitive speed walker went through a double hip replacement, then a marriage breakup before the death of his  son.

“At that stage I didn’t want anyone around me,” Bary says.

“I put on a brave face, but I would hide and have a cry.

“My best mate didn’t have a clue, but he checked up on me every other day.

“I kept thinking, my boy is looking down on me being miserable, so I wanted to do something to help people who were having similar trouble” he says.

Vita says Hope Walk itself is a type of suicide prevention.

“It’s a day to remind people how valuable they are to life,” he says.

“People have some kai and are informed about the support networks,” Vita says.

“It’s important people know the support is there.”

The Hope Walk begins at 10am Saturday 28 September at Seymour Square.

Cats on a Blenheim property have been suffering say animal advocates. Photo: Supplied.

House of horrors for neglected cats

Starving, ill and flea-infested cats will continue to suffer and die as authorities fail to act warn animal charity bosses.

Marlborough Dog Pawz, which care for both cats and dogs, has hit out at both the SPCA and Marlborough District Council over their failure to act.

The central Blenheim home has around nine cats living in filth and faeces, says charity co-founder Michelle Masden.

Cats on a Blenheim property have been suffering say animal advocates. Photo: Supplied.
Cats on a Blenheim property have been suffering say animal advocates. Photo: Supplied.

She has implored both councillors and SPCA to act and for help to be given to the homeowner.

But she says her pleas are falling on “deaf ears”.

“I feel like it is in the too hard basket and no one wants to actually try, the place hasn’t changed since January and is still a health hazard.

“We did go knock on the door on one occasion to see if we could help with desexing or any other sick kittens etc.

“That is when I found a little kitten lying in the garden covered in flies and crawling with fleas like I have never seen before, there was also a dead cat by the garage.

“I am not sure what you actually have to do to get someone to take action.

“We have taken six or seven [cats] from the property and four were put down as they were past helping,” she says.

Cats on a Blenheim property have been suffering say animal advocates. Photo: Supplied.
Cats on a Blenheim property have been suffering say animal advocates. Photo: Supplied.

The cats first came to the charity’s attention in January. They reported their urgent concerns to the SPCA.

After a four day wait, officials showed up at the house, Michelle says.

“The smell was so bad it almost made me sick, there was also a dead cat by the garage. SPCA know this property and actually took 8 cats from there last year but haven’t followed up since.

“It breaks my heart totally.”

The charity has been calling for a meeting with council staff, including Marlborough Mayor John Leggett.

But despite assurances a meeting would happen, nothing has been confirmed yet, though says councillor and mayoral candidate Jamie Arbuckle has been in contact.

“The owner of the property will not de sex any cats or let the SPCA remove any, this shouldn’t be a multi choice it needs to be enforced and acted upon.

“Kitten season is yet again here and there will be more emaciated kittens very soon.“The property owner needs support and that’s something that isn’t being offered here, the situation is now like a bad joke and i feel like a broken record.

“I know the SPCA and council want me to just disappear, but I won’t, these fur babies have no voice.

A spokesman from Marlborough District Council says the property had been inspected.

“Council inspected the property again on 4 September – there were four cats present and no concerns regarding their health or well-being. There have been no complaints from the neighbours.”