Allan and Janet Udy are changing the way wool is bought and sold. Photo: Matt Brown.

Shear genius

A computer software company is helping keep one of the country’s oldest industries alive.

Blenheim-based software development company Golden Micro Solutions Ltd is helping give New Zealand’s wool market a modern twist.

Wool brokers and buyers are using an online platform created by husband and wife team Allan and Janet Udy.

And the move has helped strengthen the industry in the face of threats like COVID-19.

An online sale held last week was the first time independent wool brokers have used the system, breaking with over 150 years of open cry auction tradition.

Wool Online and Golden Micro Solutions Ltd co-director Janet Udy says the pandemic meant people couldn’t travel to Napier or Christchurch for the traditional auctions.

“The Covid-19 crisis has made everyone realise that there can be situations when it’s simply not feasible or desirable for brokers and buyers to travel.

“Level 3 and 4 lock-downs forced the cancellation of the traditional open-cry auctions in Napier and Christchurch, and this has helped focus the industry’s collective mind on the idea of increasing the volume of wool traded online.

The Wool Online system, a joint venture alongside Canterbury-based wool broker Wool Connextions Ltd, uses technology originally developed for Wool Marketing Nelson Marlborough in Blenheim in 1995.

A new auction mechanism has been added that more closely mimics the way an open cry auction works.

Developers used it as the foundation to build the new online sales software which was used at an auction in Napier last week.

After an initial glitch, the programme quickly proved its worth, says Janet.

“A technical issue in the first few minutes of the sale resulted in it being reset and restarted, but thereafter the auction proceeded well with more than half a dozen of New Zealand’s major wool buyers purchasing lots.”

Ryan Cosgrove, a buyer from John Marshall & Co Ltd, one of New Zealand’s wool exporters, says he was pleased with the way this week’s auction went.

“With the additional support of more brokers, merchants and buyers this certainly has the potential to be a staple method of sale in the exchange of wool in New Zealand.

“We hope that widespread adoption will help reduce costs while maintaining the same price discovery and transparency for growers, with the same efficiency for buyers, as open-cry auctions do.”

Skiers enjoying the Rainbow Ski Area last year. Photo: Supplied.

Ski area counts COVID cost

Rainbow Ski Area bosses are weighing up if opening this year will be possible after COVID-19 saw costs spiral.

The future of this winter’s season is reliant on community support.

And a one off $25 ‘Covid Tracing Fee’, to help cover coronavirus associated costs at the ski field, was scrapped yesterday.

The announcement of the fee was widely panned by commenters online but Rainbow Ski Area committee chair Mark Unwin says they’re on track to get the numbers needed to open.

“There are added costs we have to bear and we’re passing that on,” Mark told Marlborough Media last week.

But a post on social media last night saw Rainbow bosses ditch the controversial charge.

“We no longer have to employ staff for the bottom of the hill, put in connectivity and build the shed in the carpark,” it says.

Those who have already paid the fee will be refunded.

“We still need to be prepared in case we have to move back up the levels but at least we have the systems in place, ready, if we do,” he says.

The access road to the popular Nelson Lakes ski area was recently upgraded at the clubs’ expense – and Mark says skiers were subsidising other mountain users who use the road.

Rainbow Ski Area committee chair Mark Unwin.
Rainbow Ski Area committee chair Mark Unwin.

The planned ‘Covid Tracing fee’ was originally touted to cover costs of contact tracing, cleaning and to pay for the road upgrade.

“We’ve spent a lot of money on the road, we have increased costs and changed the ticketing system,” Mark says.

“It’s fairer for everyone using the mountain.

“No one wants to see extra fees but it’s all going to the mountain.”

“We’re a club field – we don’t have shareholder backing and we can’t take financial risk,” he says.

A flurry of posts on Facebook outlining the changes and increased fees attracted scores of negative comments with hopeful mountain-users raising questions about the affordability of visiting the local ski field.

“Is that per person? Not a bad price if you visit a lot in the season, will make it unaffordable for families who can only manage to go once in the season,” one commenter wrote.

Another posted: “What happened to making tourism activities cheaper for kiwis?”

Marks says they have put packages in place for non-skiers and ski rentals to lessen the burden on families and make it more affordable.

“We’d like to be able to do more, but it costs a lot of money to run the field,” he says.

“The alternative is to shut completely and see what happens next season – that just doesn’t seem like the right thing to do.”

Tickets are only available online and staffing levels have been slashed in a bid to stay a step ahead should the country be forced into a higher alert level.

Multi-day, half day and learners area only tickets have been scrapped to streamline administration and make contact tracing easier.

The field will also close two days a week to give the smaller crew an opportunity to rest.

“We normally have around 40 staff, this year we’re running about 20,” Mark says.

Usually about a third of staff are from overseas, but with borders closed that was not an option.

“We could get staff from New Zealand if we had to, but [a smaller staff] allows us to scale up and down if we need to.

“If everything changed and we had to shut down there’s less financial risk.”

Mark says the club has about 72 days to make money to pay for facilities.

The committee is also looking at opening over the summer months for tramping, mountain biking and other activities.

“It would be good to spread the cost over a longer period,” Mark says.

Staff are aiming to open the mountain on Friday 24 July provided enough passes are sold with staff saying they are about 90 per cent there.

With snow forecast Mark says they’re on track to open.

“Lots of people love the mountain. We’re hopeful that we will get the support.”

Marlborough Heritage Trust regional collections manager Logan Coote with the mystery bottle. Photo: Matt Brown.

Mystery museum find puzzles experts

A mystery bottle packed away on a museum shelf for decades has baffled experts.

While cleaning out cupboards at the Edwin Fox museum in Picton during lockdown, Marlborough Heritage Trust regional collections manager Logan Coote came across treasure.

But instead of an ornate locked chest, this treasure came in a plastic, orange nail box.

An old bottle, thought to have come off the wreck of the Edwin Fox, has the museum staff scratching their heads.

“It looks like a 1780’s bottle,” Logan says.

“I posted pictures on a bottle collectors’ website and we think it’s probably American.

“We don’t know why it would be on the Edwin Fox.”

Logan says most of the treasures from the ship were small – discarded bric-a-brac that had fallen through cracks in the deck.

The bottle’s method of construction tipped off the archaeologist to its origins.

“It could be from an American whaling ship and got mixed up.

“It’s a mystery – but it’s nice to have.

“We’ll keep doing research.”

The “cheap” bottle, which probably held beer, is too large to have fallen through cracks.

“There were collectors in the Sounds that didn’t necessarily record where they found things,” Logan says.

“It’s not made particularly well, but it’s functional.”

He says it could have washed up on the beach – but documentation with the bottle says it’s from the Edwin Fox.

“It can take a bit of unravelling.”

The bottle wasn’t the only treasure found in the dusty cupboards hidden amongst decades-worth of meeting notes and accounts at the back of the Picton museum.

Porcelain from China and Japan, nuts used for food, pipe stems and prisoner of war art all saw the light of day for the first time since the 80’s.

“The miracle is it’s been looked after,” Logan says.

Marlborough Heritage Centre executive director Steve Austin says the ship is a national treasure.

“The Edwin Fox is unique in the world and the focus of two PHD studies,” he says.

“We do everything to preserve objects – how they’re interpreted changes over time.”

Steve says the past isn’t any less complicated than today – and without the material objects no research can be done.

Constructed in 1853 the Edwin Fox sailed through to the 1880’s.

It transported trade goods, soldiers, immigrants, and convicts.

“It had a real mixture of functions,” Steve says. “It was the roots of the global economy in Marlborough.”

Logan says treasure comes in unassuming packages.

“There’s enough to get excited about,” he says.

Steve says their goal is to keep the best artifacts safe.

Marlborough Museum and the Edwin Fox Museum are both open, with staff encouraging locals to come, learn about the history of the region and explore your own back yard.

Nate Dyer, left, with Mike Newman from Meaters. Photo: Supplied.

Brave mum defies odds after horror smash

Seconds before the car struck, Jamie Miller, 29, closed her eyes and braced for the worst.

The Blenheim mum broke her pelvis, fractured her back and ribs and damaged both her windpipe and liver.

Now she has defied the odds, walking less than two weeks after a horror smash that could have killed her and her children.

The brave mum is already back on her feet, using a walker, and is back home with her family after being discharged from Wairau Hospital on Friday.

“I remember pulling out and seeing the car coming towards me and knew it was going to happen.

“We’re just lucky it turned out the way it did. It could have been much, much worse,” she says.

And the family want to pass on their thanks to the community for all their support, especially Mike Newman from Meaters of Marlborough who donated $250 of meat and $100 cash.

Jamie spent an hour trapped in the wreckage of their family car while emergency crews battled to free her. She was then flown to Nelson Hospital by helicopter.

“The hospital staff have all been amazing,” Jamie says. “Both our families have been really supportive too.”

Jamie was knocked unconscious by the impact of the crash which happened on 21 May at the the intersection of SH1 and Roadhouse Drive, in Riverlands.

She suffered severe lacerations to her head and has two black eyes.

She had just dropped her partner, Nate Dyer, off at Vent Mechanical Repairs where he works, minutes before the crash, she says.

“It was like I was dreaming, like a nightmare really. I remember asking about my children but don’t remember being in the helicopter or seeing Nate there,” she says.

“I was very, very lucky to be honest, as was the driver of the other car.

“Nate heard the sirens but didn’t think much of it until a truck driver told him it was me and the children and he just rushed to the scene.”

Their youngest child, who turns 2-years-old in July, broke her collarbone, and fractured her arm. The 3-year-old broke his femur and the 7-year-old suffered a hit to his head and two black eyes.

Jamie believes the child car seats saved their lives.

“The two youngest were in their car seats and the oldest was sitting in between them wearing a seatbelt.

“That’s what saved him, his siblings’ car seats, they saved his life.

“I blamed myself at first, but it was a freak accident, nobody’s fault

“It makes you think a lot about life and what matters.”

A Give a Little page has been set up to help with costs while the family recover.

To make a donation visit https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/nathans-story

Koromiko Honey owners Matt and Catherine Wells. Photo: Matt Brown.

Goodbye cheese, hello bees

A 102-year-old building is being given a new lease of life by a couple determined to honour its historic past.

On a small road in Koromiko sits a white building, its rather nondescript exterior gives little hint of its colourful past.

The buzz of bees drowns out the distant highway and colourful hives dot the front lawn.

Once the home of Koromiko Cheese, now the century-old building houses sticky sweet honey and hordes of bees.

Now in the process of a loving restoration by Koromiko Honey owners, Matt and Catherine Wells extracted honey for the first time at the factory and say they’re on the “brink of greatness”.

“We’re on the brink of greatness – well, on the brink of something,” Catherine says.

The building was a jewellery studio, an engineering firm, a plastic extrusion plant and a seafood processing plant throughout its 100 years.

But when Matt and Catherine moved in – it was nothing but a “concrete bunker”.

“We’re bringing it back to life,” Matt says.

The dairy co-op in the early days. Photo: Supplied.
The dairy co-op in the early days. Photo: Supplied.

“It’s probably a 20-year project.”

The couple bought the property from Picton man Kevin Cooper – he acquired the property in the mid 80’s.

“He liked to invest and help people out,” Matt says.

“He was a gorgeous person that gathered people up and helped them,” Catherine added.

“Everyone in Picton seems to know him.”

Matt says the factory was decommissioned from cheese in 1985.

“It wasn’t up to scratch,” he says.

“It closed down and moved to Tua Marina.”

The couple set up Urban Bees, leasing hives to townies in Blenheim and Nelson. It was the first programme of its kind in New Zealand.

“In the first year we had 40 sites in Blenheim and another 40 in Nelson,” Matt says.

Matt took a beekeeper course when he was a teenager.

But he says it didn’t pay the mortgage.

“I got a trade – bought a house – then beekeeping got more popular.

“Now, bees have boomed,” he says.

Matt says he wants to keep his operation small – and the “iconic” building is part of their plan.

“It’s iconic, this place.”

Koromiko Cheese lives on in Marlborough legend, if not fridges.

The annual Southern Jam Youth Jazz Festival attracts a wealth of talented musicians. File photo.

Sound of music silenced as festival postponed

A top Marlborough music festival has been forced to cancel amid safety concerns.

The Southern Jam Youth Jazz Festival has been called off due to coronavirus fears.

But organisers have promised something fun to fill the gap.

Uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic left “too many unknown variables” for the festival to proceed, organisers say.

The week-long youth jazz festival and competition, featuring young musicians from high schools all around the South Island, has been a staple of the Marlborough event calendar for many years.

“After careful consideration and in close collaboration with the Marlborough District Council, the decision has been made to cancel Southern Jam this year,” the announcement, on Facebook, says.

The festival would see students performing at bars and restaurants before a gala performance at the ASB theatre.

“The safety of our students, staff and the public continues to be our number one priority and the current uncertainties regarding the COVID-19 situation leaves too many unknown variables at this point in time.”

Dinghy rescue after Cook Strait adventure

A teenager rescued by police after crossing Cook Strait in a small dingy was trying to visit his brother in Wellington.

Tachyon Hutt, 18, left Kenepuru Sound at 10pm on Friday to make the 100km plus trip.

But after his motor died, he was forced to call for help.

He was rescued by police after emergency crews used the signal from his fast fading cell phone to trace him.

Police say the overnight conditions were “rough” for a small dingy and are warning people to ensure they have all the necessary safety equipment.

Senior Sergeant Dave Houston says the cell phone saved the teenager’s life.

“If we didn’t have the mobile locate, we would have had a massive search. The mobile literally saved his life.

“While this was a good outcome and no one was injured, we’d like to remind people the Cook Strait is a dangerous stretch of water.”

Emma Flanagan won a national art competition during lockdown level 3. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Award-winning COVID art

A school student’s creative take on lockdown has won her a top place in a national design competition.

Fourteen-year-old Emma Flanagan from Marlborough Girls’ College entered a Radio New Zealand competition to design a T-shirt to mark the Covid-19 lockdown.

Her flower-powered entry was picked from thousands to join four other winning designs to be made into T-shirts.

The Year 10 pupil entered the competition at the beginning of May, as the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus began to drop.

Flowers in her designs represent a kinder chapter in people’s lives, Emma says.

“I decided to do a face mask as all the nurses and health care professionals were wearing them.

“The flowers are about growth during lockdown and how people were being kinder to each other.”

Emma also hid a teddy bear, toilet paper, a loaf of bread and a bag of flour in her penned drawing.

Five dollars from every sale will be donated to Emma’s chosen charity, the Kiwi Can initiative run by the Graham Dingle Foundation in schools across Marlborough.

The Year 10 student says she wanted to choose a local charity so money raised would benefit people in her community.

All remaining profits from the $45 shirt go back to the t-shirt producers in Kolkata, India to ensure they have an opportunity at a better way of life.

Emma says she is a keen supporter of the Kiwi Can programme as her mum, Sal, is a teacher at Redwoodtown School where the initiative is run.

Graeme Dingle Foundation Marlborough Regional Manager Kelvin Watt says he is grateful for Emma’s support.

“It’s so touching that Emma, as a young person herself, is in turn benefitting other children and teenagers here in Marlborough,” he says.

To buy a T-shirt featuring Emma’s work visit https://liminal.org.nz/collections/lockdown-t-shirt-competition

Three siblings were hurt after a two-car crash in Riverlands. Photo: Supplied.

Children recovering after car crash horror

Two young children are being cared for in hospital following a horror car crash that has left their mum in intensive care.

Jamie Miller and her three small children were hurt in a serious car accident at Riverlands on Thursday morning.

The devoted mum was flown by helicopter to Nelson Hospital suffering severe injuries and faces six months in a wheelchair.

She has since transferred to Wairau Hospital where two of her children are being looked after breaking bones in the crash.

Partner Nathan (Nate) Dyer is taking time off work to care for his family wjho have also been left without a car following the smash.

A Nelson Marlborough Health Board spokeswoman says both children and their mother are at Wairau Hospital in a stable condition.

The two-car accident happened at the intersection of State Highway 1 and Roadhouse Drive, in Riverlands at around 8.20am as people were driving to work and school.

Nate’s mother Lianne Budny from Blenheim has set up a Give A Little page to help the young family with ongoing costs.

“It’s hit this young family very hard,” she says.

She says Jamie faces a long recovery time.

“Jamie was flown to Nelson Hospital and was rushed to ICU with severe injuries and is unable to walk.

“She will have a lengthy time in hospital and a long recovery. The two youngest are still in hospital recovering from broken bones.

“The money raised will contribute towards rent and ongoing bills as Nathan is unable to work while Jamie is recovering as he will be taking care of the kids.

“His work, Vent Mechanical Repairs have been very supportive.

“We would appreciate any kind of help or donations through this tough time and long recovery, thank you.”

A police spokeswoman says investigations into the crash are ongoing.

To donate, search givealittle.co.nz/cause/nathans-story

General manager Mental Health, Addictions and Disability Support Services Jane Kinsey. Photo: Supplied.

Help for addicts as wait times slashed

Supporting drug and alcohol addicts to detox at home is slashing wait times for people desperate for help.

Marlborough patients were waiting almost two months as staff shortages slowed access to addiction services.

But a new detox nurse employed across the district is providing planned treatment faster than ever before.

Nelson Marlborough Health Addictions Service in Blenheim was struggling to keep up with demand, with 32 people waiting six weeks plus for help in April.

General manager Mental Health, Addictions and Disability Support Services Jane Kinsey says the new appointment is already having a positive effect.

“Treatment can be provided more quickly because, with a detox nurse’s support, it can be provided in a person’s home and doesn’t rely on the availability of hospital beds, or beds in a residential service in another part of NZ,” she says.

The regional service has facilities in Blenheim, Nelson and Golden Bay and, among other tasks, helps with community detox, screening and intervention for patients admitted to Wairau Hospital.

Staff can also refer people for in patient care and assist with an opioid substitution treatment plan.

The wait list in Blenheim is currently longer than Nelson primarily due to staffing vacancies.

“We have been providing phone support from Nelson for people on the Wairau waitlist and we have recently recruited to a position in Wairau,”

“This is making a difference and we are starting to see a reduction in the waitlist time,” Jane says.

There are currently 13 people on the waitlist in Blenheim and can usually be seen within two weeks, on average.

Jane says finding staff for Marlborough vacancies can be difficult.

There is a current vacancy for one full-time nurse and a part time service coordinator.

“We still have vacancies in the team and while it can be challenging to recruit qualified staff like this to the Marlborough region, we are confident we will find the right people,” Jane says.

Addictions service clients may also have appointments and treatment plans with staff in other services.

There are 16.4 (full time equivalent) staff employed by the service in Nelson, which also covers Motueka and Golden Bay and 11.8 (full time equivalent) in Marlborough.