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

There could be more rentals on the market when the country leaves lockdown level four. Photo: Supplied.

Airbnb crash could solve rental shortage

Out of luck renters looking for their next home could see some relief as property owners look to convert their empty Airbnbs.

Blenheim-based property managers are predicting Airbnb owners may make the switch as tourism around the country dries up.

But until lockdown restrictions are lifted, the rental market is on hold.

Harcourts Marlborough senior property manager Lavina Diamanti says the move could help ease pressure and housing shortages.

There are 16 rental properties in Marlborough listed on Trademe, with one in Kaikoura and one in Picton while Airbnb lists more than 100 places to stay in the region.

“We’ve had a real shortage of rentals and a lot of people struggling to find a home,” Lavina says.

“Potentially, we could have a more balanced market.”

She says Marlborough’s demographic and industry means, typically, Marlborough isn’t hit as hard by downturns in the property market.

But she says predicting the effect of Covid-19 on the market is “crystal ball stuff”.

First National Marlborough senior property manager Mariette Knudsen says rental demand has plummeted as people isolate themselves to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“There are quite a few Airbnb in Blenheim and there are cancellations happening everywhere,” she says.

“The nice ones with good reviews will probably hold on,” Mariette says.

“I think there will be Airbnb’s coming onto the market, but not all of them.”

She says the increase in stock most likely won’t affect the price of a rental.

“It’s supply and demand,” she says.

“People still need a place to live.”

She says rent increases across New Zealand are caused by a combination of demand and the new healthy homes requirements.

“Being a landlord myself, it’s affected us considerably.

“If there is an adjustment, I don’t think it will be a major one.”

There are around 400 RSE workers in Marlborough helping finish this year's vintage. Photo: Matt Brown.

Praise for vintage workers who helped region ‘dodge bullet’

Marlborough’s mayor is paying tribute to the region’s wine workers for their handling of the Covid-19 crisis.

John Leggett is praising the local wine industry for successfully handling the 2020 vintage under extreme circumstances.

And with early indications of a successful vintage, the relieved mayor says the industry has helped Marlborough dodge another potential disaster.

“Wine is a very substantial contributor to the overall prosperity of Marlborough so I’m relieved that this is one COVID bullet that we’ve managed to dodge,” he says.

Wineries across the region had to adopt stringent health and hygiene regimes to move ahead with harvest as lockdown began.

Overseas workers, harvest crews and transport operators have been isolated from their families in many cases.

With wine making up a fifth of Marlborough’s economy, it was vital the vintage went well, mayor Leggett says.

Marlborough Mayor John Leggett says a successful vintage has helped the region dodge a bullet. Photo: File.

“Everyone has been under huge pressure to get the grapes in, aware that a Covid-19 outbreak could knock down the workforce at any moment.

“It’s to the industry’s credit that harvest is drawing to a close without incident and, by all accounts, it’s a highly successful vintage,

“Vintage is always an intense time for our wineries with everything dependent on the weather, but this year the wineries have faced extra pressure.

“When the vintage goes well, it’s good news for our whole region.”

The ongoing crisis would make “life difficult” for the industry, says mayor Leggett as many international wine trade events and marketing opportunities are postponed.

“It will be a time for innovative marketing and, given our industry reputation and relationships, I’m confident that the strong Marlborough brand will prove its worth,” he says.

There are currently around 400 overseas workers in Marlborough on temporary visas.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment are doing their best to ensure some certainty for temporary migrants, a spokeswoman says.

“An Epidemic Management Notice relating to immigration matters came into effect from 2 April 2020.

“This means that holders of a work, student, visitor, limited or interim visa with an expiry date of 2 April to 9 July 2020 inclusive who were in New Zealand on 2 April 2020 have had their visas automatically extended until 25 September 2020.

“This includes RSE workers who were in New Zealand on 2 April.”

Covid-19 precautions have seen some shoppers have to queue. Photo: File

Supermarket bosses bid to cut queues as weather cools

Countdown stores in Marlborough will open for longer from tomorrow in a bid to help combat queues as the weather cools down.

Stores across the country will be changing their opening hours from tomorrow and will open from 8am to 8pm.

And priority shopping for emergency service staff and medical workers will now move to 7am.

Countdown’s general manager health and safety Kiri Hannifin says the change in hours will hopefully help cut down customer queuing.

“We’ve extended the opening hours of our stores to give our customers more time to do their shopping, especially as the weather starts to cool and the evenings are darker,” she says.

Safer measures put in place during lockdown to protect staff and customers from the threat of Covid-19 means customers have had to wait longer outside some stores.

“This has in some instances led to queues but we’re hoping extended trading hours will help ease this a little.,” says Kiri.

“We also hope the earlier start time of our priority shopping hour will work better for those emergency workers and medical personnel working shifts.

The priority shopping hour is available to NZ Police, Fire Service, ambulance paramedics, DHBs, hospital and medical personnel with proper ID.

Covid-19 kills milk delivery

Milk delivery in Marlborough has become a casualty of Covid-19.

The first milk delivery service in Marlborough for 30 years, Milk and More, has closed its Blenheim run.

Owner Trevor Nicholls, in a Facebook post, says a disagreement with their glass-bottle milk supplier was the final straw for the business.

“This is deeply saddening for myself and my staff and I am aware that so many other businesses and individuals are in the same boat,” Trevor says.

“Covid-19 has affected individuals, communities, businesses and many other groups in an immense way.”

He says at the beginning Milk and More intended to deliver through the level four lockdown.

“We were then told that we would not be deemed an essential business – many of us here breathed a sigh of relief as we would not be exposing ourselves, our families and our customers to a greater risk of the virus spreading.”

Then, on March 6, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced butchers, bakers and greengrocers would be able to make home deliveries.

“Although this decision gave us the opportunity to recommence milk deliveries, I’d had time to think about the risks presented with picking up glass bottles from over 5,000 houses across the top of the South.

“So, I made the difficult decision to only supply Anchor Milk in plastic bottles for the immediate future.

“Our glass bottle milk supplier did not see eye to eye with me on this, and as a result, have terminated the relationship between us.”

Trevor says not having glass-bottle milk would see him lose most of his customers.

“Despite this, I stand by my choice to cease glass bottle pickup while in lock-down and will always be of the opinion that the safety of my staff and customers comes above business profitability and success.

“It has been my absolute pleasure in servicing Blenheim and the surrounding areas with Milk and More products over the years.

“Thank you for your support, loyalty and friendly faces. I wish you all the best.”

Suppliers to Milk and More, Oaklands Milk, based in Stoke, is looking to resume home delivery in re-usable glass bottles.

To register your interest in getting milk bottle deliveries, email [email protected]

Haircuts will have to wait until lockdown restrictions are eased. File photo.

Hairdos are hairdon’ts until lockdown hits level two

Manes will go untamed until lockdown restrictions are eased.

The national body of hairdressers has revealed hair cuts are off the table until the alert level is lowered to level two.

Cutz on Weld owner Toni-Marie Robinson says it’s reassuring to have a governing body with the foresight to guide small business owners in these troubling times.

“I feel as an industry we are dealing with customers extremely closely,” she says. “I certainly think it is a fair ruling.”

“All our clients are totally supportive, as they understand this is affecting not only us as a nation but the whole world.”

Guidelines released by the New Zealand Association of Registered Hairdressers outline what their members can and can’t do during the Covid-19 quarantine.

Online sales of haircare products are permitted at level three and four, but they can’t do hairdos until level two.

And there are strict guidelines when they reopen, including physical distancing, staggered shifts and those over 70 and immunocompromised prohibited from salons and barbers.

Toni-Marie says it’s a small price to pay.

“If we don’t have our health, we don’t have businesses, so it is a small price to pay to live,” she says.

“We aren’t in this alone.

“This is a once in a lifetime world pandemic, and we as New Zealanders know how to join together and fight.”

But she says there is a bright side.

And with the professionals maintaining their own bubbles, Kiwis have turned to the trusty mixing bowl in droves.

Mullets and bowl cuts have made a comeback as New Zealanders celebrate the number 8 wire mentality with DIY trims.

“We as a business are looking forward to seeing the wild a wacky hairstyles walking through the door,” Toni-Marie says.

ASB Bank in Blenheim. Photo: Matt Squire.

Bank shutdown forces new tech skills

Level 4 lockdown restrictions are forcing some senior citizens to get to grips with technology.

The closure of major banks amid Covid-19 has seen some pensioners struggling to pay bills and carry out every day banking tasks.

Half of Blenheim’s banks have shut their doors until the coronavirus crisis ends with the rest operating at reduced hours.

Marlborough District Council councillor Jenny Andrews says this is a concern for many.

“This will worry them,” Jenny says.

“But entering a bank would be potentially dangerous for a senior person.”

She says where possible, seniors should try and set up services online.

“It may take time but at present we have time,” Jenny says.

“Use a smart phone or tablet and be prepared to keep trying.”

Local technology tutor Wendy Reynolds says the old-fashioned way of writing a cheque isn’t going to work during the lockdown.

“If we have our brain and faculties it’s important we manage our own money,” she says.

Wendy has been offering computer tutoring for eight years and recently was awarded $10,000 by the AM Show and Chorus for her work teaching elderly the ins and outs of technology.

“If they want help, my answer is yes. Help is available.”

But she says the tech-challenged need to want to learn.

“They need to want to do it or else it’s a struggle,” she says.

The biggest challenge she says people face is complicated or unfit devices.

“Some will have to put their hand in their pocket and get a new device.

“Technology skills are something all elderly should have,” Wendy says.

BNZ communications consultant Sam Durbin says while they didn’t open last week, that doesn’t mean they won’t open in Marlborough in the coming weeks.

“In these unprecedented times we have a lot of factors to consider such as staff and resourcing, the busy times for an individual branch, and most important of all is how we can protect our customers and our staff and their wellbeing.”

BNZ opened 48 branches for four hours throughout the country on Thursday last week.

“If customers can, they should avoid going to the branch if possible and use other ways to bank,” he says.

To book training with Wendy, give her a call on 0212230160.

It costs $5 to join an online class or $20 per hour for one on one tutoring.

Bank opening hours:

ANZ – Wednesdays 9am-12pm

BNZ – Closed

ASB – Tuesday 10am-2pm.

SBS – Thursdays 10am-2pm

Rabobank – Closed

The Coop – Closed

Kiwibank – Wednesdays 10am-1pm

Westpac – Wednesdays 10am-1pm

The Blue Door op shop in Blenheim. Photo: Matt Brown.

Op shops face dump dilemma over donations

People are being warned not to dump donations at op shops during lockdown.

Leaving goods outside closed second-hand shops poses a public safety risk.

Everything that’s ditched outside locked doors will have to be destroyed – going straight to landfill.

The SPCA Op Shop on Grove Road has fallen foul of people leaving goods outside and will have to foot the bill to bin the items.

A spokeswoman says that everyone should know that both the store and Renwick centre are closed.

“So why do people still dump their donations at our shop door?

“They will not be sorted they have to go in the bin. The SPCA now have to pay to have your gear dumped. Things are hard enough without extra problems – how about sticking to the rules?

“To everyone else stay safe and look after yourselves.”

A council spokesman is asking for people hold on to anything they have to donate.

Even then, all items will need to be thoroughly cleaned, he warns.

“For health and security reasons, anything left outside op shops will be taken straight to the landfill.

“Please save any donations for delivery to charity shops once we move out of the lockdown period.”

Maegen Blom is a finalist in the Seafood Sustainability Awards. Photo: Supplied.

Mussel makeover wins young entrepreneur awards top spot

A young entrepreneur has been recognised for her part in helping give mussels a reputation makeover.

Maegan Blom, 19, is part of a small, passionate, team working at her family business, Mills Bay Mussels in Havelock.

And her bid to shine the spotlight on NZ Greenshell mussels has seen her take a top spot in the Seafood Sustainability Awards as a finalist.

The creative lead behind the rebrand of her family’s business, hopes to get people looking at the humble mussel in a more positive light.

“There is a perception around mussels in NZ and they are often viewed as a cheap form of protein or a food to indulge in.

“We believe that mussels are a delicious, healthy, sustainable superfood that with the right treatment can shine amongst all other top-quality NZ produce,” she says.

Maegen completed her first year of a commerce degree at Victoria University in Wellington last year.

She plans to head overseas this year and take a year out before returning to her studies next year.

There are a lot of people who are yet to discover how great mussels can be, she says.

“Setting up Our Tasting Room & Eatery in Havelock was one of the projects I was highly involved in – this is where we educate our customers about the exciting and delicious ways mussels can be enjoyed.

“Instead of growing our business through increasing volume we are finding ways for people to see mussels as a higher value food.”

Maegen, who grew up in Southland on a dairy farm came to Marlborough four years ago when her family.

Her parents, originally from the Netherlands, bought a small lodge in Nydia Bay, On the Track Lodge, and then diversified into the mussel business.

She has been trusted put some of her business ideas into practice, she says.

“There are a lot of people who want to help and support me. I am still pretty young, so I am quite honoured to be recognised among the other finalists.

“My dad is also a big motivator for me. He challenges me constantly to get out of my comfort zone and try new things.

“He has also given me a lot of freedom within the business to try things and carry out projects.”

Introducing new product offerings, using promotional marketing including ‘the best way to eat mussels’, and creating a website to increase market reach caught the judges’ attention.

“The finalists are shining examples of communities who contribute to the long-term sustainability of New Zealand’s seafood sector and ensure that our oceans are resilient, healthy and bountiful for future generations,” says deputy director-general of Fisheries New Zealand, Dan Bolger.

Viticulture cadet Jessica Marston features in a documentary about harvest at Villa Maria. Photo: Supplied.

Film first for vintage

A fly-on-the wall film giving viewers a behind the scenes look at vintage is set to make its screen debut.

Villa Maria has teamed up with an American filmmaker to create a feature length documentary, set to be released as the region gears up for its busiest time of year.

Titled Vintage, the movie followed staff from the Fairhall-based winery throughout vintage last year.

First timer Jessica Marston says she not only had her first harvest to cope with but a camera crew to contend with too.

“I didn’t want to do anything wrong; make a wrong move with harvest and I was more worried about that,” she says

The viticulturist, who graduated from Washington State University, says she was fortunate with her first harvest.

“I think I got quite lucky. Previous harvests sound like they were quite rough weather-wise. We also have a cool crew of people.”

Originally from Auckland, Jessica who graduated with a degree in viticulture and oenology has made Blenheim her home.

When she first heard about filmmaker Colin West’s concept for the film, she was keen to be included.

‘I like to talk,” she says.

The film also follows chief winemaker Nick Picone, viticulturist Stuart Dudley, chief viticulturist and Ollie Powrie.

It reveals how the team cope with unforeseen challenges, vastly varying climates, frost-filled early mornings and 24-hour-days.

Nick says it is the first time the vintage process has been captured on film

“For the first time ever in New Zealand, a winery is capturing the vintage process, peeking behind the curtain of the all-consuming harvest period known as vintage.

“You’ll see the passion and hard work that goes into every bottle.”

Director and producer Colin West says the film tells a uniquely Kiwi story.

“It captures the incredible highs and heart-breaking lows of making world class wine in New Zealand.”

“We hoped that everything would go well but we didn’t really know how vintage was going to unfold.  It’s so different from one year to the next,” He says.

Vintage will show on free-to-air television in a partnership with Three on Saturday 15 February at 10:30 PM.