Volunteers spent four hours picking 6kgs of gorse flowers. Photo: Supplied.

Gin fuels record gorse harvest

A key ingredient in a Marlborough-made gin is helping keep a notorious weed at bay.

Record hauls of gorse flower have been gathered at a community harvest event.

Six kilogrammes of the yellow flower were handpicked over four hours.

Twice a year, the team behind Marlborough’s new Elemental Distillery organise a local foraging event.

In a bid to entice people to pick the problem plant, which causes misery to hay fever sufferers every spring, Elemental Distillers co-owner Ben Leggett puts on a free BBQ.

But Ben himself is a big fan of the plant.

“I simply love it. Not only is it both aromatic, herbaceous and fruity but it’s somewhat of an anti-establishment botanical in a market already full of rogue exotic species.

“The only issue remaining is how to harvest it in peak flowering and in volumes enough to last until the following season,” he says.

The answer came in the form of eight off-road vehicles, one gourmet barbeque put on by Francis Nolan from Boom Chef, a large pine plantation, local volunteers and some very thick gloves.

Introduced around the early 19th century as a hedgerow for livestock by European settlers, gorse flourished in New Zealand’s temperate climate flowering twice a year compared to just once in the Northern Hemisphere.

Gorse also generates exploding seed pods which can travel over 6 metres from the parent plant and can lay dormant in soil for up to 50 years before sprouting.

Ben says thanks to a collaboration with Marlborough 4WD Club, 15 local volunteers headed up into Marlborough’s Kaituna Hills last month aiming for a 300-meter-high plateau located in Stoney Creek forestry.

“Without the support by Marlborough locals, we would never have been able to deliver a fresh botanical gin like that of Roots,” Ben says.

Project coordinator Alec McNeil is overseeing a nationwide initiative which could see people paid to recycle. Photo: Matt Brown.

Cash for trash

Marlborough could help lead the way in a national bid to help boost recycling levels.

The council’s solid waste manager Alec McNeil will oversee a pioneering project which could see people paid to drop off empty drink containers.

And he believes Marlburians will be quick to take up the initiative.

“Marlborough is used to source separation of recycling so the possibility of a future Container Recycle Scheme (CRS) should complement and add to our existing approach,” he says.

Council's solid waste manager Alec McNeil believes Marlburians will be quick to take up the initiative. Photo: Matt Brown.
Council’s solid waste manager Alec McNeil believes Marlburians will be quick to take up the initiative. Photo: Matt Brown.

Under the scheme, which was unveiled last week, plastic, glass and aluminium drink containers will carry a refundable deposit, potentially between 5-20 cents each.

Helping people cash in on their empties could be key to boosting recycling levels.

Alec says he believes any initiative would rely on being readily available.

“A key focus of the design will be ensuring equity of service provision across NZ that affords all communities the opportunity to engage with the system,” he says.

“At a more strategic level a CRS changes the way we think about containers by reintroducing a value back into the material”.

Marlborough and Auckland councils will carry out the project design together following a government funding boost of almost $1 million.

Alec, who is project coordinator and deputy spokesman is a trustee on the Agrecovery Foundation Trust Board.

He says the scheme will help keeps useful resources out of landfills and has the potential to create new jobs.

The two councils will work with the Ministry for the Environment and others including the beverage, packaging and recycling industries, councils, retailers, charitable organisations, Māori and consumer representatives.

The application was initiated from involvement with the National Resource Recovery Group (NRR).

The NRR was convened by the Ministry for the Environment to consider a response to the recycling challenges facing NZ.

“In lieu of the contraction of markets particularly post the ‘National Sword’ policy implemented by China,” Alec says.

China has introduced strict rules around importing solid wastes as raw materials. The policy bans various plastic, paper and solid waste.

Alec says a CRS scheme would impact on material flow.

“Auckland and Marlborough councils offered to submit an application to the waste minimisation fund to facilitate a working group that would design a CRS for NZ.“

A final design is due to be presented to the Government by August 2020 and rolled out in 2022.

ZIP’s Al Bramley and principal engineer John Wilks installing a prototype automated detection device for rats. Photo: Rory Harnden/Ink Digital.

Experts to help train trappers

Reinforcements have been called in to help slash Marlborough’s pest population.

Department of Conservation (DOC) staff have organised experts to hold a Top of the South trapping workshop.

The workshop, held in Picton on 22 September, will highlight a range of topics from new techniques to pest behaviour.

There will also be a chance for people to get some hands-on experience.

DOC ranger Wendy Sullivan says the workshops are geared towards all levels of trappers.

“Whether you are part of a community group, run your own trapline or have a trap in your garden, you will go away with a better understanding of pest behaviour, best practice trapping techniques and monitoring success,” she says.

Alongside Picton Dawn Chorus and Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary, DOC have arranged for special speakers.

Zero Invasion Predators (ZIP) operations director Duncan Kay is involved with research and development into trapping tools and techniques.

“Their approach to research and predator control is challenging our current mindset and helping grow our predator control ‘toolbox’ unlike we have seen before,” says Wendy.

Participants then have the choice of attending one of two sessions.

The back to basics session will cover how to trap to successfully.

This will be followed by a hands-on round-robin session on rat/mustelid identification, calibration and maintenance of traps, and an in-depth look at using ‘DOC series’ and ‘Good Nature’ traps.

The second session is geared towards community groups and larger trapping programmes.

DOC expert Phil Clerke will join Wildlife Management International Ltd’s Nikki McArthur to share tips on how to set up an effective monitoring regime.

“There will be an optional afternoon field trip to Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary for workshop participants.

With over 70 volunteers and 250 members, Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary is a great example of seeing community conservation in action,” Wendy says.

Boat transport is subsidised at $10 per person. Bookings for both the workshop and optional field trip are essential.

Please RSVP to Wendy at [email protected] by 18 September.

Marlborough Mayor John Leggett opened the Seddon water treatment plant in March. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Tap water woes over

After decades of boiling water households in Seddon have been given the go ahead to drink straight from the tap.

Residents have been given the all clear to stop boiling their drinking water, unless they’re making a cuppa.

The milestone move comes after the opening of a multi-million-dollar water treatment plant in April.

Marlborough District Council bosses yesterday revealed they had finally been given the all-clear from the Ministry of Health.

Council Chief Executive Mark Wheeler said this was a monumental milestone.

“Being able to turn on the tap and fill up a glass of water that’s safe to drink is something this community has been waiting a very long time for.

“Today, that day has finally come,” he says.

“I’d like to thank all of those involved in the treatment plant project over the years, particularly the Awatere Seddon Water Group, who worked tirelessly to bring it to fruition.

“Council’s water engineering team – Stephen Rooney, Stuart Donaldson, Mark Power, Erica Hobbs, and Robin Millard, Nelson Marlborough District Health Board staff, along with many others who put in the hard yards to deliver a world-class, modern water treatment facility.

“It’s great to see the community of Seddon benefitting as a result of everyone working together in a spirit of cooperation.”

Efforts to provide safe drinking water from the tap in Seddon have been underway since at least 1975.

From the outset, council and residents had to wrestle with the cost of modern water treatment for a small community.

Awatere Seddon Water Group secretary Liz Cleaver says the move is one more step on the road to recovery for the township.

“… our wee town is well on the way to recovery after the destructive earthquakes of recent years.”

Drinking Water Assessor for Nelson Marlborough Health David Speedy, acknowledged the huge effort put in by water treatment staff and technical advisors to collect and present the compliance information.

“The Council and community can be justifiably proud that this plant is working as designed and meets the Drinking Water Standards for New Zealand,” he says.

More than 7000 trees have been planted in six years as a result of the reserves initiative. Photo: Supplied.

Call for help to boost reserves

Restoring a scenic reserve will pay off for future generations of endangered bats.

Endangered long tail bats are set for a helping hand as conservation teams join forces to bring Ronga Reserve in Pelorus back to its best.

And an appeal has gone out for members of the public to help plant saplings that bats will one day roost in.

Forest & Bird, Nelson Tasman Weedbusters and the Department of Conservation (DOC) hope people will pledge to assist as they get ready to plant rimu, totara and matai.

DOC ranger Wendy Sullivan say they hope the day will make a big difference.

“The 17ha Ronga Scenic Reserve is an important habitat for the endangered long tailed bats.

“The tiny rimu, totara and matai planted by volunteers will eventually become the giant trees required for bats to roost in.

Ronga Scenic Reserve, along with its more famous neighbour the Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve, are not only home to long-tailed bats, but are also ‘acutely threatened’ forests.,” she says.

The annual planting days have been organised by Forest & Bird and DOC for six years.

More than 7000 trees have been planted and, despite flooding and ongoing weed issues, has been lauded as a success.

It’s heartening to see the seedlings start to appear above the rank grass,” Wendy says.

Less than 1 per cent of this type of forest remains in the Pelorus District.

Wendy says the ancient podocarps are crucial to the survival of long-tailed bats.

“They need old hollow trees to roost and breed in.,” she says.

A community planting day will be held on Saturday 31 August.

Meet outside the Brick Oven in Rai Valley by 9:45 am. DOC will be providing a wild meat BBQ for a late lunch but feel free to bring a salad to share.

Bring solid shoes, warm clothes and a well-labelled spade. If the weather is bad, check out facebook/ronga reserve restoration for updates – postponement dates are 1 or 14 September.

Marlborough mayor John Leggett is please Government is taking a closer look at water quality. Photo: Matt Brown.

Water watchdog plan welcomed

Plans for a national water watchdog have been welcomed by the mayor – but with a warning.

Marlborough Mayor John Leggett has embraced government plans to approve a dedicated watchdog and new water regulations.

But he cautioned costs could be an issue for council trying to reach “new benchmarks”.

“The devil could be in the detail … “There is still a long way to go on this issue.

“Council will need to ensure the standards and timeframes are set appropriately so that Marlborough can afford the investment required to meet the new benchmarks,” he says.

Around 34,000 people across the country become ill from their drinking water every year.

Many thousands must boil their water to drink it safely, including Seddon where a boil water notice is still in place.

Marlborough District Council staff are working with officials from the Ministry of Health to ensure water from the new multi-million-dollar water treatment plant meets stringent safety requirements.

Mayor Leggett says the council supports a move from central government to “strengthen its leadership role.”

“It’s great to see that this step change, initially at the regulatory end, is finally occurring,” he says.

Minister of Health David Clark says public safety is a non-negotiable priority.

“Access to safe, clean drinking water is a birth-right for New Zealanders and a key concern for communities up and down the country. Wherever they live, consumers and communities expect to be able to turn on the tap and drink the water without fear of getting ill.”

Signs to educate the public are clearly seen at Cape Campbell peninsula. Photo: Matt Brown.

Beach access threatens cape

Vehicles are being blamed for the destruction of a pristine Marlborough beach by residents who want to see tighter controls.

The 2016 Kaikoura earthquake uplifted land around the Cape Campbell peninsula and the beach became a popular destination for four-wheel drive vehicles.

But Cape Campbell Experience manager Thomas Peter says the hike in numbers is putting the area at risk.

He says while people have been driving along the beach for years, since the earthquake it’s gone from “casual usage” to upwards of 50 vehicles on a busy day.

“With the Kaikoura quake, the area has had a real spotlight on it,” Thomas says.

The cape, well known for its lighthouse that guided ships around the dangerous reefs since 1870, is the native habitat for several native species including the banded dotterel.

Vehicles driving along the beach leave deep furrows and prevent the ecosystem from regenerating. Photo: Supplied.
Vehicles driving along the beach leave deep furrows and prevent the ecosystem from regenerating. Photo: Supplied.

“Being a peninsula, it’s a nesting site for quite a few birds and it has a seal colony on it,” Thomas says.

“You can see the tyre tracks going right through the middle of where the seals are.

“I know down the Kaikoura coast if a vehicle is within 20 metres, it must be stationary with seals.”

Thomas says to protect the area; the answer is to look nationally – to other councils around New Zealand.

“They’ve effectively put a lot of bans and controls over timing and allowances of vehicles and speeds,” he says.

“Look to Wellington, they’ve put bans over huge proportions of the beach now.

“Auckland, even 90-mile beach now, I understand you can’t drive on it like you once could.

But Marlborough 4WD Club captain Tony Ashworth says no area should be closed off to Kiwis.

“The locals are trying to get everything banned down there,” Tony says.

He says the beach has always been driveable and claims landowners have only started complaining about access since they haven’t been able to charge.

“We do everything with a tread lightly mindset. You can use the area without destroying things.

“I know there are people that go out on their own, but we don’t condone that.”

The club has organised an annual Cape Campbell 4WD trip for about 27 years, Tony says.

“The older members of the club always talk about it.”

A community group formed to protect and enhance biodiversity of the area wants to work with the community to find a solution.

Marlborough East Coast Protection Group secretary Heather Davies says they are working closely with DOC and MDC to educate the public.

Information signs and temporary fencing to protect particularly sensitive areas are in place.

“People are going further along and disturbing native birds and the formation of dunes,” Heather says.

She wants the region’s residents to share a sense of responsibility.

“That what they are doing, they have an impact. That people understand that these are Marlborough’s unique species.

“Those animals live there,” she says.

A council spokeswoman says the council is aware of the broad nature of ecological, economic, and social values that are central to the community that require a balanced approach to management.

Ben Preece and grandfather James Wilson who has written a book about becoming a vegan. Photo: Supplied.

New chapter for vegan farmer

Fear of suffering a fatal bleed has compelled a fourth-generation Picton farmer to ditch meat for good.

Dawn Chorus chairman James Wilson, 78, suffered two embolisms and believed he was at risk of an internal bleed.

Scared he might die, the conservationist made a nerve-wracking decision, to stop his blood thinning medication.

Once a confirmed “anti-vegan” the father of four adopted a whole-food plant-based lifestyle (WFPB).

“I suffered a pulmonary embolism after an operation for a snapped Achilles tendon.

“Twenty years later I suffered a second, more minor embolism, and due to my history, I was put on warfarin “for life”.

“My health and well-being were less than adequate on this medicine and I worried that I might well suffer a fatal internal bleed.

“Despite medical warnings to the contrary, due to the damage of blood vessels around my heart, I resolved to go off Warfarin, he says.

James, who says he has lost 20kg, has written a book, Plant Paradigm, about his efforts in a bid to encourage others to follow in his footsteps.

“Plant Paradigm, while forcibly putting the case for a whole-food plant-based lifestyle, includes practical answers to many of the frequently asked questions expressed by people considering a change to their way of living,” James says.

A radio interview was the catalyst for his new eating regime.

James says he heard an interview where a doctor spoke of damaged blood vessels being repaired in people following a whole plant food-based diet.

It took him six weeks to settle into the new regime and says he has noticed a dramatic cut in the number of viral illnesses he gets.

“As soon as the interview was over, I made an immediate switch, I was lucky that I was driven by the fear of death.

Subsequently, I feel something like ten years younger than I did, I have suffered almost no colds, no flu and no other similar ailments that I had previously suffered from and considerably less than are normal for a man of my age,” he says.

James says while most of his friends have stuck to their non-vegan ways, some are “closet” vegans.

“I also was upset by many people who were super critical of me in the early days and wanted them to read my reasons for going vegan.

“Then as I aged and became interested in the ecology and finally recognised the cruelty imposed on all farm animals by all farmers.

“So, I guess I started writing it with anger, but by the time I published it the world had moved on

“Ultimately I published it to simply encourage people to go vegan for the pragmatic reasons of health, environmental relief and the avoidance of animal cruelty.”

Marlborough Media has two copies of James Wilson’s new book, Pant Paradigm, to give away.

To be entered in the draw, email [email protected]

Kea Energy's Naomi and Campbell McMath. Photo: Supplied.

Solar farm project powers-up

A Christchurch company is making the most of Marlborough’s sunny reputation with plans to install a two-megawatt solar farm.

The family-owned power generation company Kea Energy is currently in talks with local energy distributor Marlborough Lines to deliver renewable electricity.

Consents have been granted by Marlborough District Council for the solar farm up the Wairau Valley.

Kea Energy managing director Campbell McMath says the solar farm project is slowly coming together.

“We’ve done the initial application [with Marlborough Lines] and they’ve requested some information about the effects that the solar will have on the system”.

The proposed plan for the two megawatt solar farm. Photo: Supplied.
The proposed plan for the two megawatt solar farm. Photo: Supplied.

An engineering company is analysing the effects on the power network with a report due within the fortnight, Campbell says.

“We’re trying for two megawatts but it’s all negotiated with Marlborough Lines.”

“If the power lines can’t handle that, we’ll have to reduce it or find clever ways to store it or send it out at non-peak generation time.”

Campbell says two mega-watts is enough energy to power up to 500 homes.

“During the peak times, it would be powering the Wairau Valley.

“Wairau Valley would be fed from solar,” he says.

Kea Energy own and operate hydro and solar plants in Christchurch, generating around 2.2GWH of electricity every year – close to 30 per cent of Christchurch’s locally generated energy.

Wairau Valley would be fed from solar if the proposed solar generation plant goes ahead. Photo: Supplied.
Wairau Valley would be fed from solar if the proposed plant goes ahead. Photo: Supplied.

“If it was a dirty energy, we wouldn’t be doing it,” Campbell says.

“It’s economical and green which attracts us to it.”

He says Kea Energy take control of all aspects of the production of the powerplant, which allows them to build the solar farm for cheaper.

“We do all the importing of the panels, the importing of all the equipment, we do all the installation ourselves and we do all the engineering ourselves,” Campbell says.

“Once this goes ahead, we’re going to do some analysis and if that’s all promising we’re going to start looking at a much larger one.

“We’re still determining the area, whether it would be in Tasman or Marlborough or up in the Hawkes Bay area.”

Miss Malcolm the falcon has made a full recovery. Photo: Supplied.

A brush with death

A native falcon has been nursed back to health after a near-fatal fight with three magpies.

Marlborough woman Michelle Parkin was sitting inside, reading a book on a rainy day, when she witnessed a vicious magpie attack on a hill above her property.

“Usually, [the falcons] are able to handle that sort of stuff but it was raining, and her feathers had got waterlogged, she was not as agile as she normally would be,” Michelle says.

Michelle says the Kārearea, known to most as the bird on the $20 note, was rolling down the hill “screaming”.

Michelle rushed out to help the juvenile bird.

“We shot up the hill and wrapped her in a polar fleece sweatshirt, very gently,” Michelle says.

“We carefully bundled her up and put her in the vehicle and took her to see Diana at the Marlborough Falcon Trust.”

The Kārearea, named Malcolm by Michelle before they were told that she was a female, spent a week at the trust, “basically in hospital” on antibiotics.

“We called her Malcolm the falcon because it rhymes, but now we know she’s a girl, we call her Miss Malcolm.

Marlborough Falcon Trust falconer and aviculturist Diana Dobson looked after the wounded bird and delivered daily reports on her recovery.

“She’s an amazing lady,” Michelle says.

Michelle says Miss Malcolm didn’t look like she had any outward wounds but thought she had sustained a puncture wound to her chest.

“She wasn’t looking very good for a few days.

“There was a possibility she was going to have to go to the wildlife hospital at Wellington Zoo.”

On Thursday night, the “absolutely beautiful” falcon made a turn for the better.

A week later, Michelle picked her up and took her back to her home in a cat cage.

“She’s now returned to her life in her environment,” Michelle says.

“She’s flying around and looking happy.

Michelle says it’s special that the small falcon is “hanging around”.

“It’s totally her environment, we’re lucky to be sharing it with her.”

She says the native falcon, which is rarer than the kiwi, has quite a profile in the community.

“She makes herself known. We see her around and the community sees her.

“She’s pretty neat,” Michelle says.