Head of the Earthquake Commission Dame Silvia Cartwright. Photo: Supplied.

Public meeting to push for earthquake claim change

People whose lives are affected by the Seddon and Kaikoura earthquakes are being given the chance to push for change.

The repercussions of the devastating quakes are still being felt in the community today.

Head of the Earthquake Commission Dame Silvia Cartwright will be in Ward and Seddon later this month to hear first-hand about peoples’ experiences.

It is hoped the move will help pave the way forward for future practice and tackle concerns people have about the handling of their claims.

Almost 400 formal written submissions have been received about experiences with EQC.

Dame Silvia says it is vital people get the chance to be heard.

But the outcome of the inquiry will not affect individual insurance claims or outcomes.

“I appreciate it’s often not easy to revisit difficult past experiences, but I hope people will do it for themselves and for others who will face the effects of natural disasters in the future,” she says

“Some people have seen positive gains over time depending on who manages the claim, but that is still a contentious area,” she says

The independent Inquiry is tasked with making findings and recommendations as it relates to the operations, policies and service of EQC, following the Canterbury earthquakes and other natural disasters around New Zealand in recent years.

The Inquiry can find fault as it relates to EQC’s processes but will not apportion blame or revisit individual insurance claims or legal judgments.

Dame Silvia expects to report her findings and recommendations to the Governor-General by the end of 2019, and they can then be considered by the Government.

A meeting will be held on 18 June at Flaxbourne Community Hall on Ward St between 1-2pm and at Awatere Rugby Club on Seymour St between 3-4pm.

Tai Hartley Dixon with daughters Iona and Lucia and husband Scott. Photo: Supplied.

Midwife tragically killed in car crash

A former Marlborough midwife has died in a car crash, leaving behind her husband and two young daughters.

Tai Hartley Dion, 41, was killed on her way to do a nightshift at Christchurch Women’s Hospital earlier this month.

The much-loved mother-of-two, originally from the UK, worked as a midwife in Blenheim for several years.

People have rallied to support her husband Scott and daughters Iona, 6, and Lucia, 3.

Friend Debbie Fisher has set up a Givealittle page to help provide financial support for the young family.

“Tai was such an incredible woman to her family and friends.

“She was super loving, caring, fun, loyal – and an amazing colleague to many.

“She was a very dedicated and caring midwife to many new families in both the Blenheim and Christchurch regions.

“Tai leaves behind distraught and devastated family and friends. She will be missed beyond words,” she says.

The accident happened at around 9.50pm as Tai travelled from her home in Selwyn to work.

Police are investigating the crash but early reports indicate the other driver, who was taken to hospital in a critical condition, may have crossed over the centre line.

Debbie says Tai’s family were the centre of her world.

“Scott, Iona and Lucia are just heart broken.

“We would like to fund raise for the family to cover current expenses accrued due to Tai’s sudden death and to support the future for the two girls – which they now face without their dear mum who was dedicated beyond words to her wee angels.

“Scott, Iona and Lucia were everything to Tai, it is incomprehensible how they will go on without her by their sides… They need all the love and support we can give them at this terrible time,” she says.

Canterbury District Health Board chief executive David Meates said his staff were “deeply saddened” by Dixon’s death.

To donate visit givealittle.co.nz

Vice president Louis Lefebre says the centre has a big impact on many lives; his own included. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Money shortfall threatens RDA future

Marlborough Riding for the Disabled is facing a battle for survival.

Members of the Blenheim charitable organisation have pleaded for help as they reveal the severe financial struggle they face.

Funds were so tight, the centre was operating on a “hand to mouth” basis.

Vice president Louis Lefebre says the centre has a big impact on many lives; his own included.

The engineer was paralysed in a freak skiing accident at Mt Hutt in 2010, while celebrating his son’s 17th birthday.

He helps oversee vital maintenance projects at the Churchward Park facility.

“Riding was not part of my life…when I came out of Burwood I couldn’t even sit on a chair without falling over.

“Most of the clients either haven’t got the ability physically or mentally to sum up what it does for them so I’m speaking on their behalf.

“I’ll ask the little kids how they’re riding’s going, and some can’t speak but there’s a smile that comes up and you know it’d been a positive experience.

“But the stress of worrying about the money takes away from what we’re trying to do. We’re not empire building here, we just want to do our best”, he says.

Vice president Louis Lefebre and volunteer Roslein Wilkes with a user of the Riding for the Disabled programme. Photo: Paula Hulburt.
Vice president Louis Lefebre and volunteer Roslein Wilkes with a user of the Riding for the Disabled programme. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Long-time coach and volunteer Roslein Wilkes revealed it costs $85 to put just one rider on a horse.

Costs were recouped at $20 per rider and with 80 riders a week, the centre was left with a huge shortfall.

“We’re trying to make that up all the time,” she says.

The group caters for children and adults from across Marlborough, with children from almost every school attending in some capacity.

With many horses retiring, demand outstrips supply, says Louis.

The horse he rode on, Pepsi, sadly died just before December and the centre cannot afford to buy a replacement.

“I haven’t been able to ride since then as there is no other horse suitable,” he says.

There is a waiting list of five adults.

RDA committee member Tim Smit revealed the Blenheim-based centre was facing a daily funding battle and had become a victim of its own success.

He implored members of Marlborough District Council to consider extending the help they already offer.

“Like most charitable organisations, our time is spent on trying to raise funds.

“We rely entirely on the goodwill of donations. It’s a hand to mouth business, with barely enough money one or two months ahead.

“When people rely on us for pay, this can be very stressful,” he says.

The RDA rent the building from Marlborough District Council for a “peppercorn” figure.

Council staff have been instrumental in helping cut soaring power bills in half, says Tim.

But the group hope council will help again in any way they can, from maintaining the property and grounds in terms of cash or supplying contractors.

Blenheim councilor Jenny Andrews praised volunteers for all their efforts.

Having visited the centre for herself, she says it is easy to see the positive difference it makes.

“I came back thinking three words; transforming, magic and hope.

“It’s like a miracle, with smiles as wide as the skies,” she says.

For further information about donating or volunteering visit facebook.com/pages/Marlborough-Riding-for-the-Disabled

Since this article appeared in print, the RDA has been successful in securing $10,000 towards maintenance costs from Marlborough District Council in their annual Long Term Plan.

A day in the life of a primary school teacher

With rolling school strikes on their way, Rapuara School teacher Mikayla Avant sat down with reporter Matt Brown to talk him through a school day to help explain why teacher’s need more support.


5 am: Get up early and get ready to work out at the gym at 6am.

7.45am: At my desk getting ready for the day. You can plan weeks in advance, but something might go wrong, or something might change so your plan gets ripped up and scribbled out. Usually, I’m just sitting at my laptop planning, photocopying, printing.

8.40 am: School begins. We start with the roll, I call it fast admin.

“We go over what’s got to be done during the day, what’s important, and then reacting to whatever the children want to tell me.

9 am: Maths usually goes on until 10.10 and then the children go to morning tea after they’ve done their doubles; basic arithmetic, and they go and play.

10.10 am: If I’m not on duty, I pick up after them and I reorganise myself and get ready for reading. I might shoot over to the staff room to grab a coffee. Sometimes there’s something being said in the staff room that we all need to know.

10.30 am: Class novel. We’re reading Fish in a Tree in class. It’s about being kind and respectful.

10.45 am: Then, we have a reading program that we do, and I go through them with that. Recently, it’s been quite hectic because we have had a whole school enquiry, voyaging, based on the Totaranui.

11.15 am: If it’s not inquiry, it’s writing. We’re going to do newspaper articles starting next week.

12.15 pm: I’d say I have time to eat but I don’t really. I’ll eat if I’m on duty or I’ll grab a hot drink and meander around, make sure the kids are alright. Every teacher has a morning tea duty and a lunch duty. Otherwise, I’m either in here doing work, marking, reading. I’ll shoot over to the staff room, try to eat.

People think you can sit in the staff room, eat your lunch and have a yarn but you can’t. You always have got printing or marking or something to do.

You don’t get that leisurely lunch that everyone thinks that you get.

Rapaura school teacher Mikayla Avant says you don’t become a teacher for the paycheck. Photo: Matt Brown.

1.00 pm: 15 minutes of reading. I go around and make sure they are quiet reading and ask them some questions about what they’re reading.

1.15 pm: In the afternoon we have ‘inquiry’, so we go fully in depth in that area. That takes up the whole afternoon. Writing, science, technology, literacy, maths, everything. It’s about five weeks of really in-depth learning, or teaching from me, based off something wherever we’re going with that.

2.50 pm: School ends, for the children.

4.30 – 6pm: I’m usually here ‘til about five, six some nights and I always take work home. I would be lucky to get out at 4.30.

Because I’m a beginning teacher, I work, eat dinner, work. I probably usually put my laptop down about nine. On top of that, you still have your other paperwork behind the scenes.

I have meetings. Monday morning, Tuesday after school. Every fortnight I have a syndicate meeting at 7am. Thursdays I have a meeting with my mentor. I pretty much have a meeting every day, minus Fridays.

7.30pm: More preparation for class. If I get the chance, I might watch Netflix but that doesn’t always pan out.

9.30-11pm: I try to go to bed as early as I can but have to make sure I’m ready for the next day. I set my alarm for 5am and then do it all again.

Balloon tribute to much-loved dad

Standing on the rugby field, Kendra Stewart smiled as she remembers the man affectionately known as Bear.

It is over two years since popular Waitohi rugby player Bevan Moody died suddenly.

To mark the anniversary and to celebrate his life, his partner took their two children to the field at Marlborough Boys’ College where she first watched Bevan play.

It helps Maddie, 4, and the son he never got to meet, Jeremiah,1, understand more about their daddy, says Kendra.

In a message to Bevan, Kendra says how she knows he will be watching his family “every step of the way”.

“Showing them where a chunk of your life was held and what it meant to you, allows them to understand you more and the world you strived in.

“So, at 11.31am today, two years since you left, we released three balloons on that very field in remembrance of you.

“Missed you yesterday, miss you today, missing you for eternity,” she wrote.

Bevan played for Marlborough Boys’ College First XV before joining Waitohi.

The 22-year-old prop collapsed in a Tasman Trophy division one match between the Nelson and Waitohi clubs at Neale Park in Nelson.

He died later in hospital surrounded by family and friends.

His funeral was one of the biggest to be held in Blenheim, with hundreds turning out to pay their respects.

The 700-seater ASB theatre was full as people came from across the country to bid their farewells.

A special haka was held in tribute in front of Bevan’s casket which was draped in the yellow and black colours of Waitohi

Kendra says her two children have helped her come to terms with the loss of a much-loved man.

She says she thinks about him every day.

“She [Maddie} still misses her dad daily, waves to him on the moon and we talk about the memories they both shared. She has been learning to write her name and draw family portraits including her dad which melts my heart.

Jeremiah, well… he has blossomed Such an amazing dude with a huge amount of character. A lot like his dad I should say, he’s a very active and loving wee man,” she says.

Following a special dinner, Maddie was given an early birthday present, a telescope so she could see more of the moon.

Kendra says it helps knowing that Bevan would be proud of what she has achieved.

“We hope you’re having a fab time up there Bev. Today wasn’t easy, but we got through and I feel somewhat at ease that I have made you proud.

“Along with the great sadness that comes from missing you lives a universe of gratitude for having shared life with you at all. Our connection changed my life.

“I’m honoured to be able to miss you.”

Animal neglect warning

An animal rescue charity is warning neglect and cruelty is spiraling out of control as authorities fail to act.

Marlborough Dog Pawz volunteers are accusing council and the SPCA of not doing enough to help to address serious issues.

The number of cases of animal abandonment and neglect are reaching dire proportions, they say.

Marlborough Dog Pawz co-founder Michelle Madsen says the charity is swamped dealing with cases of abandonment and neglect.

And she says desperate members of the public are turning to them for help as the SPCA refuses to act.

Foster carers are working night and day to help but the situation is critical, says Michelle.

“It’s just horrendous.

“This is a huge issue; it’s getting worse and council are not addressing it.

“The sights we see are terrible but if we don’t try and help, who will?”

The non-profit group was started in March 2017, originally to support responsible dog ownership.

The main objective being to help with desexing costs and to assist, where possible, with vaccinations, food and bedding.

But, Michelle says, it quickly became clear animals’ lives were also at risk; with not everyone willing to accept help.

“I’ve had people threaten to kill me or bash my head in,” she says.

Marlborough Dog Pawz focuses their efforts on dogs but can’t ignore the number of kittens being abandoned. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

At one Blenheim property, Michelle says there are 11 cats all living in their own filth.

The remains of a dead kitten were discovered rotting on the driveway.

“We’ve complained to the mayor, but he didn’t take our concerns seriously.

“The council need to be enforcing by-laws. Animals are suffering through inaction,” she says.

Marlborough District Council’s Animal Bylaws 2017 forbid people from keeping more than four cats over the age of three months without prior written permission.

But pleas for help have so far fallen on deaf ears, says Michelle.

“There’s cat poo piled up everywhere, cats full of fleas with their ribs sticking out and yet the council’s first concern was to tell us off.

“Even if SPCA staff do come out, which they don’t always it can be days later, and the suffering just goes on.

“The SPCA is too top heavy, too many management positions in Auckland and not enough being done at a local level.

“There aren’t even animal inspectors based here, and the centre is always full.

“It’s virtually impossible to get them to take in a kitten,” says Michelle.

Animal advocate Alex Stowasser works with Marlborough Dog Pawz.

She is horrified by some of what she has seen,” she says.

Top of her wish list for change would be compulsory desexing for dogs and cats, an end to keeping dogs chained up and backyard breeding.

“People have no idea how truly bad this situation is.”

Marlborough District Council and the SPCA have been contacted for comment.

Donations can be made to Marlborough Dog Pawz at BNZ 02 0600 0299421 000 or to The Vet Centre Marlborough, ASB 12 3605 0005262 00.

Traffic gridlock set to stay

The number of vehicles using Blenheim’s busy Grove Rd is on the rise by hundreds every year.

Gridlocked traffic is fast becoming a common site on the busy main thoroughfare.

And some believe traffic lights are the only solution for a long-term fix.

Latest figures from the New Zealand Transport Association show about ten thousand cars drive down Grove Rd every day, increasing by 400 every year.

Seaview Wholesale salesman Toby MacDonald sees problems on the road almost daily.

“The traffic on Grove Rd is just phenomenal.

“I’ve heard a lot of screeching tyres and swearing,” he says.

“Traffic can get backed up right back around the corner [on Budge St].”

He says traffic lights at the busy intersection, where his business is, are needed to “sort the flow”.

Figures from the New Zealand Transport Agency show there have been nine reported fender benders and one minor crash on the merging lane in the past five years.

NZTA Top of the South system manager Andrew James says a review of the existing SH1 corridor through Blenheim was not a high enough priority compared to other parts of the country.

The Marlborough Regional Transport Committee recommended a review of the thoroughfare in the Regional Land Transport Plan.

A problem crossing island next to Z petrol station intended to offer refuge to pedestrians is instead being repeatedly clipped and damaged by large vehicles.

An NZTA spokeswoman says the red handrails have been knocked over or damaged “seven or eight times” in the past five years.

“Road crews say that they have been clipped by trucks going straight through, not vehicles turning out of the service station.

“We are currently in the process of replacing these red safety rails with yellow ones in the next month or so.

The spokeswoman says yellow objects are less prone to being hit by large vehicles, based on how they work at other sites.

The $21 million Ōpaua River bridge upgrade, scheduled for completion mid-2020, was expected to reduce delays and increase the throughput of traffic through the town.

Seddon water plant falls foul of health rules

The new multi-million-dollar treatment plant in Seddon has fallen foul of new water rules.

Marlborough District Council staff are warning residents hooked up to the new network that the boil water notice still stands.

The alert comes after the Ministry of Health (MoH) changed the guidelines.

But council were only made aware of the changes three weeks ago says council’s operations and maintenance engineer Stephen Rooney.

“We are very confident that the plant is compliant.

‘Essentially the issue centers around how we show how much chlorine is going in and how much is going in and how we make that calculation.

“We take that data from one-minute intervals and are working towards that and providing that to Ministry of Health,” he says.

Staff are searching through records going back three months to provide the latest figures.

The changes mean the plant doesn’t yet officially meet the NZ Drinking Water Standard due to a technicality.

Stephen says he expects the boil water notice to be lifted at the start of July.

In the meantime, all water used for drinking, food preparation or cleaning teeth should be boiled before use.

Work on the treatment plant began in January 2018 after more than 10 years of debate on the best way to deliver safe drinking water straight from the tap.

‘We have all the data we need; we just need to supply it in a slightly different format,” Stephen says.

Council will present this information to the Ministry of Health Drinking Water Assessor in early June 2019.

For Awatere Rural areas, the boil water notice will remain in place.

Council is working with Nelson Marlborough District regarding options for supplying rural customers with water compliant with the NZ Drinking Water Standard.

Treated water is available at the public taps on Marama Road, outside Seddon School.

Members of the community can contact council’s customer service centre on 03 520 7400, for further information.

Working with wood for the greater good

Menzshed members are helping the next generation of woodworkers get to grips with the tools of the trade.

The 15-strong group of men at Renwick Menzshed donate their time to pass on the benefit of their experience to eager pupils from Renwick School.

Each term, children are given the chance to craft their own work.

Coordinator Rick Gleeson says its great to see the boys enjoying themselves.

“The 6 and 7-year-olds, come down on a Friday morning and we give them wooden projects to make. We cut the pieces out for them and they use hammers and nails.

“There’s plenty of things going on, that’s for sure. One of the guys has just finished rebuilding a dinghy for the kids at Renwick Preschool to use.

“It’s all community stuff,” he says.

Rick Gleeson and the team from Renwick Menzshed recently made tables for pupils at Renwick School. Photo: Matt Brown.

The group shares close links with the school and recently revamped some wooden cable reels into colourful tables for them.

Rick says it’s great to see the children gain confidence over time.

“We start them off with some scrap wood, to get them used to using a hammer.

“Then, we get them putting together a boat, measuring and using the right sized nails. They really enjoy it.

“They’re a bit shy but by the third week they’re running down the driveway to get here,” he says.

The popular group, which includes a couple of Blenheim members is looking to expand their premises.

“We’re trying to make some money to build another shed. Originally, it was just a single garage,” says Rick.

Renwick Menzshed meet by the Anglican Church on the main road, Tuesdays from 9.00 am -12 noon.

The group can help with a variety of community projects and new members are always welcome.

Trappings of stealth for Havelock pests

A library with a difference will be set up in Havelock to help wipe out predator pests.

The Havelock Bird Song – Waiata Manu group wants to help make the town predator free by starting a trap library.

Residents can borrow traps and record catches for inclusion in a national database.

Member Sandra Currie says making sure the township is predator free by 2050 is the group’s long-term goal.

“The aim of our group is to create a predator free township in which our native species can flourish and so we all get to see and hear more native birds and bird song,” she says.

When Sandra moved from Pelorus to Havelock two years ago, she was struck by the lack of bird song.

Determined to do something about it, she canvassed residents and set up the group.

They plan to start targeting rats before moving on to other species such as possums, stoats, weasels and ferrets.

Havelock Menzshed are making 100 traps in total to get the lending library underway, with 35 ready to go.

Sandra says that ultimately the group would like to see monitored traps all along the estuary and the marina and in the Lawrence St hillside area.

But practice needs to come first, she says.

“To achieve this, we need to get very good at what we are doing, and we need to get as much community support as we can.

“By starting small we hope to get a lot of local residents involved and are really in need of more support.

“This is something I’m passionate about and we’re excited to get started.

“I’m really looking forward to it and want to get people and interested and want to get people to help,” she says.

The initiative is being supported by The Havelock Lions Club who donated $400 which will be put towards traps and tunnels.

Charitable community support group Havelock 20/20 will oversee administration for the pilot project.

Volunteers are on hand to empty traps if needed.

To borrow a trap contact [email protected] or call 027 229 2486.