Manaia Huntly, left with sister Tui and brother Taika, is celebrating being disease free. Photo: Supplied.

Manaia’s bravery saluted

The parents of a young boy who has beaten cancer have held a celebration with the community who supported them when their son was so sick.

Manaia Huntley, 8, from Seddon, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour in February 2019.

So, when doctors revealed the brave youngster was disease free his delighted family threw a party as thank you- a year to the day after the dreadful diagnosis.

Mum Laura Huntley says the event on Sunday was a way to mark the good news and to thank the community.

She says although the family have only lived in the village for three years, they were welcomed with open arms.

“They were absolutely awesome and with us all the way through. People just rallied around us as if we’d lived here for generations.

“This was a celebration for him [Manaia] now he’s feeling better and for all who helped us” she says.

About 50 people joined the Seddon School pupil alongside dad Tahu and siblings Tui,7, and Taika,4, at the neighbourhood barbecue which included bouncy castles.

Laura says it was great to have something to celebrate after such a tough year.

Manaia was diagnosed with a malignant tumour in the centre of his brain several weeks after he first complained of feeling ill.

He has since undergone surgery to relieve the pressure on his brain, endured four rounds of chemotherapy and five weeks of radiation.

‘He wasn’t quite right for months but nothing I could put my finger on,” Laura says.

“Then one Saturday he just went downhill so fast. I kept trying to wake him and he slumped to one side on the couch. I took him to Accident and Emergency at Wairau Hospital, and they knew then it was brain related.”

The night the tumour was found, dad Tahu was at a work event at Furneux Lodge. He got to the hospital just in time to see Manaia before he was flown to Starship Hospital in Auckland.

Laura spent months with her oldest son at Christchurch Hospital and at  Ronald McDonald House. The separation took its toll on the whole family.

“Tahu was at home trying to juggle working full time and arranging Tui to be picked up from school.

“There’s a real community feel to the town and we just knew people would be there and they were.”

Manaia has now returned to Seddon School four days a week. Laura says that even when he lost his hair, she knew he would never be teased.

“When he lost his hair, some of the children, about 20, shaved their hair off and so did some of the dads.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed, but hopefully there are better days ahead.

“People always turned up for us, dropping off meals, petrol vouchers and offering to help.

“We are just so grateful.”

Leicester Rainey gives the newest addition a whirl. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Piano the key to music therapy

A secondhand piano has been given a new lease of life after it found a home with some talented would-be players.

Staff at Care Marlborough and the Mental Health Advocacy Service have been on the look-out for a piano to use as part of a new music therapy programme.

While the initiative is still in the planning stages, the upright piano has taken pride of place at the support group’s drop-in centre on Percy Street in Blenheim.

Visitors have been quick to try out the latest addition which staff hope will benefit both beginners and more experienced players.

The centre’s activities co-ordinator says that some of their regular visitors had played in the past.

“The piano had only been here for 30 seconds when someone started playing it.

“It’s a way for people to change their focus and enjoy something different, she says.

Marlborough Moving & Storage staff collected and delivered the piano for free, much to the relief of grateful staff.

Care Marlborough and the Mental Health Advocacy Service is a community based mental health agency providing both a free advocacy service and a day activity programme for those living with mental illness.

For more information contact Care Marlborough on 578 0302 and MHAS on 579 5304

The Liu family on holiday in China are in self-imposed quarantine after returning home. Photo: Supplied.

Coronavirus caution for chippy family

A Blenheim family has placed itself in self-imposed quarantine after returning from China amid coronavirus fears.

Main St Fish and Chips owner Andrew Liu says he took his family to Guangzhou to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

Even though the family were forced to stay indoors for most of their visit, they have chosen to take extra precautions to protect the public, just in case.

“Most people were worried about it,” Andrew says of their visit where people are on high alert for the potentially fatal virus.

“We were told to stay home; the whole country is worried about it.”

Andrew, his wife Winnie and their three children, will stay in quarantine for the recommended 14 days.

The family arrived back in New Zealand on 31 January.

New Zealand Immigration has placed temporary entry restrictions into New Zealand on all foreign nationals travelling from mainland China to help stop the virus from spreading.

The restrictions do not apply to New Zealand citizens, permanent residents, residents with valid travel conditions and their immediate family.

Andrew’s popular Main Street takeaway shop, which temporarily closed before they left on holiday, will remain shut until the quarantine period ends.

The couple’s three children will not be attending school.

“No one is feeling sick,” Andrew says.

“It’s because we notice that when we came back, we should have self-imposed quarantine for 14 days.”

All travellers arriving in New Zealand out of mainland China, or any travellers who have had exposure to a confirmed case of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) are expected to self-isolate for a period of 14 days from the time they leave mainland China or were exposed to novel coronavirus.

A Nelson Marlborough Health (NMH) incident management team is on stand-by but not yet active. NMH has a pandemic plan and a health emergency plan in place.

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

Mother’s fight for life

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I went to my doctor so many times.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A grueling chemotherapy and radiation regime also took its toll.

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

Sharlese is pinning her hopes on immunotherapy drug Keytruda.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Be aware of the symptoms,” she says.

People will not be allowed to smoke at the Marlborough Wine and Food Festival. Photo: Supplied.

Winefest goes smoke free

The popular summer Wine and Food festival is giving fags the flick.

Land-owners Pernod-Ricard has banned smoking at the long-standing event and are asking smokers to leave their cigarettes at home.

And even vapes have come on the chopping block – with the entire site right to the road flagged as smoke free.

Wine Marlborough event coordinator Loren Coffey praised the initiative, saying New Zealand had been heading in this direction for a while.

“None of their [Pernod Ricard] workers can smoke on their site – so it’s fair to extend it to events,” she says.

In recent years, smoking was confined to a designated area. But this year those areas have been canned. “If anyone’s smoking on site they will be politely told to put it out,” Loren says.

The policy, part of Pernod Ricard’s 2020 sustainability plan, was shared with wineries attending the festival at a briefing last Thursday.

Loren says stallholders were supportive of the initiative.

Destination Marlborough general manager Jacqui Lloyd. Photo: Matt Brown.

New look website the perfect match

Marlborough’s online profile has just been given a makeover in a bid to woo more admirers.

Destination Marlborough has unveiled a new-look website dedicated to show off all the region has to offer.

MarlboroughNZ.com includes new sections sharing the ins and outs of living and working here.

Destination Marlborough general manager Jacqui Lloyd says visitors who have a good time here could be inspired to make the region a permanent home.

“Travellers who have a positive holiday experience in the region are more likely to be inspired to consider returning to live, work or do business here.

“Having one site that can seamlessly serve up the right information to encourage this will be invaluable.”

The project is a partnership with Marlborough District Council and supported by multiple regional agencies, Jacqui says.

“It’s been built to provide an online portal to showcase Marlborough in a way that doesn’t duplicate what organisations are already doing, but instead, strengthens and underpins their activity.”

Until now, the website has been tailored towards attracting holiday visitors to the region, generating more than 31,000 visits a month.

Marlborough Mayor John Leggett says the new website fills a much-needed gap for people thinking of relocating, working or investing here.

“The site even has a section on film production, showcasing the amazing opportunities for filmmakers here in Marlborough,” he says.

Marlborough Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Hans Neilson says the site will be a valuable tool support business.

“It means that anyone wanting to find out more about doing business here is directed to the right place and given a range of organisations to connect with, based on their desired pathway and supporting businesses to attract talent into the region.”

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

Cat death prompts warning

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

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

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

She is warning other pet owners to be on their guard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He wasn’t a wanderer.”

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

“The dog is innocent,” she says.

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

“The owners have a lot to answer for.

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

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

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

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

Assets and services manager Richard Coningham. Photo: Supplied.

Council to get picky over Potholes

Paula Hulburt and Chloe Ranford/LDR

Problematic potholes across the region could be getting fixed faster.

Marlborough District Council has awarded a seven-year road maintenance and renewal contract worth $160 million jointly to Fulton Hogan and HEB.

And service staff have pledged to put “greater emphasis” on ridding the region of potholes.

Assets and services manager Richard Coningham says there will also be more road inspections.

“There will also be increased CBD street cleaning and unsealed road and motorcycle route maintenance.

“Greater emphasis will also be placed on maintaining Marlborough Sounds’ roads,” he says.

Council invests over $12 million each year in roading maintenance and renewal projects around the Marlborough region.

As the owner of the local roading network, council is responsible for maintaining 242km of footpaths, 917km of sealed roads, 630km of unsealed roads and 367 bridges.

“We’ve worked with Marlborough Roads to ensure we are getting good value from this contract – we’ve kept any cost increases to a minimum,” Richard says.

New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) top of the south system manager Andrew James presented his report on the roading contract to the council’s assets and services committee meeting on Thursday.

He says he expects to see a lift in performance.

Under the new contract, footpaths in Picton and Blenheim’s town centres would be cleaned “at least once a week” by a scrubbing machine.

Picton Business Group chairman Graham Gosling floated the idea during last year’s annual plan.

​Councillor Gerald Hope says Blenheim’s town centre was looking a bit dowdy.

“Look at the amphitheatre … The synthetic grass is filthy, and the birds don’t help. As good as the contract is going to be, we have to lift the standard in the CBD,” he says.

The contract starts on 1 April 2020.

Mark Smith Reserve in Blenheim is one of four parks set to benefit from an upgrade. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Cash boost child’s play for council

A Picton playground will get a $60,000 revamp in a bid to make it accessible to all children.

Victoria Domain play area off Hampden Street is set for an upgrade which will include a new basket swing.

The swing makes it easier for children of all abilities to play together.

The old black matting will also be replaced with bark to make it safer and improve appearance.

Marlborough District Council’s Assets and Services Committee has agreed to fund improvements to the tune of $241,000 across four parks.

Deputy Mayor Nadine Taylor says funding for the upgrades was allocated at the Land Subdivision Account meeting in August last year.

“These upgrades are really great news for families and children across Marlborough and follow the opening of new playground facilities at Pollard Park, Renwick Domain and Mark Smith Reserve last year.”

Westwood Reserve, Ballinger Park and Mark Smith Reserve in Blenheim will all benefit from the funding boost.

The new park Westwood Reserve has been in the pipeline since the subdivision was developed in 2016.

Council staff have been working with community representatives on a suitable playground design.

The new playground will feature a landslide platform, climbing wall, fireman’s pole and a timber-framed swing.

A new flying fox will go up in Ballinger Park off of Budge Street and a new pathway at Mark Smith Reserve will be built to connect to the Taylor River tracks.

The committee decision is subject to Council approval on 27 February.

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

Steps in the right direction

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

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

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

“It’s a huge adventure,” Ivan says.

“Every day is extraordinary.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s been an amazing experience.”

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