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.

Mechanical compliance coordinator Duncan Jarvie. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Coal boilers to get heave-ho at hospital

Coal hungry boilers are set to be ditched as part of a $5 million fund boost to future-proof Wairau Hospital.

Over the last eight years, three old coal boilers have burnt through an average of 8,000 tonnes of coal.

Health bosses have pledged to help reduce carbon emissions by choosing greener alternatives instead.

Health Minister David Clark last week revealed Nelson Marlborough Health was one of several health boards around the country to benefit.

Revealing the funds boost, Dr Clark says the move was part of a wider initiative to move towards more environmentally friendly options.

“In Nelson Marlborough we’re future proofing our hospitals by replacing aging, dirty coal-burning boilers with modern, green alternatives

“Today’s announcement means DHBs can get to work now on the detailed planning work needed to make all these projects, and many more, a reality.

“That will mean better health services for New Zealanders, and a more sustainable and secure future for our public health service, Dr Clark says.

Nelson Marlborough Health chief executive Peter Bramley welcomed the move, saying the boilers needed to be replaced with “some urgency.”

“We need to replace the Wairau boilers with some urgency and welcome this funding announcement.

“While we don’t know exactly what fuel source or system will be best for Wairau Hospital, we can assure the community that it will not be coal-based.

“We look forward to a ‘greener’ future for our hospitals,” he says.

A three-month trial into using a wood pellet fuelled replacement has been postponed while engineering issues are investigated further.

No time frame for the replacements is yet in place.

Robbie Parkes with his family dog has a secured a diabetic alert dog to from Australia. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Alert dog from across the ditch makes dream come true

The family of a young diabetic boy saving to buy an alert dog from Australia have secured their special pooch.

Four-year old Robbie Parkes from Linkwater and his family have been fundraising for the $20,000 dog after the youngster fell seriously ill earlier this year.

Diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes, Robbie needs the new furry friend to alert his family to any major changes in his insulin levels.

The dogs are not available in New Zealand.

After three months of frantic fundraising the relieved family have raised enough to buy the dog.

Now they have turned their attentions to getting Robbie over the ditch to train with is new canine companion.

Mum Diane Parkes says she is very grateful for the community’s support.

“There are some very special people out there who have been so supportive.

“In just over three months months, we’ve raised $20,000 for the dog which is now ordered.

“We were lucky to have so many items donated for auction we had too much, so we are having this second fundraiser.

“The funds will go towards getting Robbie to Australia at the end of training and to pay insurance for dog etc,” she says.

A quiz and auction night will be held at the Woodbourne Tavern on 29 November at 7pm.

Tickets are $20 each for tables of eight people and are available from All About You lingerie shop on Maxwell Road in Blenheim or through Diane on: 021 525 630.

Puro cultivation director Tom Forrest believes Marlborough’s microclimate makes it ideal for growing medical cannabis. Photo: Supplied.

Marijuana moguls top half a million dollar mark

A bid to turn Marlborough into New Zealand’s largest medical cannabis producer has topped half a million dollars in just a few days.

Puro launched a fundraising campaign on Wednesday, selling shares in the fledgling company for $1each.

Less than four days later 168 people had pledged $610, 293.

Company bosses say the business is on track to become the first company to grow medical cannabis and hemp in Marlborough.

Puro director Sank Macfarlane says the company intended to grow medicinal cannabis in greenhouses in the Waihopai Valley and high-CBD (cannabidiol) hemp in Kekerengu, on the coast between Blenheim and Kaikōura.

“The feedback we’ve had so far has been incredibly positive – there’s a real mood out there that it’s medical cannabis’ time.

“But we’re not there yet – while we’ve raised enough capital to get started, we need more investment if we’re going to achieve what we’ve set out to do,” he  says.

Puro is looking to raise $2 to $4 million through crowdfunding and an additional $2 million through wholesale investors.

A minimum of $500 dollars is being asked for by investors.

The unique microclimates are ideal for growing high end cannabis says the company’s cultivation director Tom Forrest.

“Marlborough is ideal for growing cannabis on a large commercial scale.

“We believe the local climate, summer daylight hours, intensity and quality of light spectrum will provide a perfect location for healthy, high potency, flavourful cannabis.

“Combined with the existing farming expertise from the wine sector and local agricultural resources, Marlborough will make as fantastic location for commercial cannabis cultivation,” he says.

Puro secured a licence from the Ministry of Health for medicinal cannabis at the Waihopai Valley site.

The licence would be for research purposes only until the medical cannabis scheme is rubber-stamped.

The Ministry of Health will need Cabinet approval on the regulatory proposals which could see the proposed Medicinal Cannabis Scheme up and running by April next year.

“Cannabis is one of the oldest used medicines in history, says Thomas.

“Written evidence dates back thousands of years showing proven medical efficacy and usage for a vast range of serious ailments, alongside safe recreational use in many different cultures worldwide.

“Legal cannabis provides a valuable commodity for farmers and wide range of economic opportunities.

“Legalisation helps with socioeconomic challenges and is shown to decrease societal harms from hard drug use.”

Jane Kinsey oversees Mental Health Addiction and Disability Support Services. Photo: Supplied.

Mental health service under pressure from meth

The pressure is piling on mental health services as methamphetamine addicts seek crisis help.

Mental health services are coming under extra pressure as the number of people becoming addicted to the dangerous drug increases.

Health bosses hope to unroll a new, intensive outpatient treatment initiative before Christmas to help tackle the growing issue.

A report to members of Nelson Marlborough Health Board revealed use of the drug is a “significant cause or concern” for a service already feeling the squeeze.

Nelson Marlborough Health chief executive Peter Bramley revealed mental health services have experienced a high demand.

In a report to the district health board last week, he wrote: “The service welcomed our new psychiatrist to the CAT (mental health community assessment team) team.

“This is the first time the team has had a dedicated medical support which we trust will make a huge difference…

“We still have four vacancies in our teams … this unfortunately means we are heavily reliant on medical locums to give service coverage.”

General manager Mental Health Addiction and Disability Support Services Jane Kinsey says she has noticed more people needing their help.

Meth is a highly addictive stimulant drug available in pill, powder, crystal or liquid forms and has serious social, economic and even environmental consequences.

“We are certainly noticing more people seeking help and that’s good but there is a definite upward trend.

“As meth becomes become more embedded in the community it’s become more chronic –  and it’s harmful effects.

“Our referrals are increasing because of the demand. We want to be able to respond as quickly as we can,” she says.

A new drug treatment initiative based on a successful American outpatient initiative, the Matrix Model, will hopefully be rolled out in Nelson later this year.

Plans to expand the service to Marlborough next are in the pipeline.

Jane says the impact of the drug is making mental health issues worse in some cases.

“It makes any health issue worse, both physically and mentally. We hear some very sad stories.

“When people present with meth, we really want to respond before they change their minds.

“The ambition is to make contact and give them some ideas and strategies as soon as possible,” says Jane.

The first point of contact for anyone seeking help with methamphetamine addiction should be their GP.

As the country faces its biggest outbreak in 20 years, the number of tests for the highly contagious disease continue to rise. File photo.

Preschool’s measle warning as child falls ill

A sick pre-schooler is being tested for measles amid fears the outbreak has reached Marlborough.

The youngster, who attends a Blenheim preschool, fell ill displaying some of the symptoms of the potentially deadly illness.

Test results are expected back later this week.

Nelson Marlborough District Health Public Health have sent an advisory letter to all parents with children at the preschool, warning them of the possibility.

Nelson Marlborough Public Health Service’s Medical Officer of Health Dr Andrew Lindsay warned the disease is difficult to contain.

“This is the biggest outbreak in more than 20 years, with more than 800 cases to date.

“This is a serious, life-threatening disease that is very, very difficult to contain – as we’re seeing in Auckland.”

The virus, which spreads through the air is very infectious.

Keeping suspected cases in isolation is key, says Dr Lindsay.

“The last case of measles in our region was in November 2018, unrelated to the current outbreak.

“The person was placed in home isolation before reaching the point that they become infectious to others, and as a result no-one else caught measles. This demonstrates the importance of isolation,” Dr Lindsay says

As the country faces its biggest outbreak in 20 years, the number of tests for the highly contagious disease continue to rise.

Staff across the region are taking no chances when it comes to ruling out the potentially deadly disease.

There were a total of 16 suspected cases Nelson and Marlborough in September bringing the total number of suspected cases notified by GPs to the Nelson Marlborough Public Health Service for 2019 to 38.

Nelson Marlborough is one of just four district health boards across the country to be currently measles-free.

Programmes Manager – clinical services and integration, Marlborough Primary Health Organisation Glenis McAlpine says that the isolation of any measles cases is critical.

Parents need to be vigilant and check their children’s Well Child immunisation record (Plunket book) to see if their child is immunised.

If in doubt, they should call their GP or practice nurse to check their immunisation status, he says.

“Children and adults need to have had two doses of the MMR vaccine to be fully immunised, but one dose of MMR provides 95 per cent protection,” says Dr Lindsay.

If you have any questions about the vaccine, contact your GP, practice nurse or the Immunisation Advisory Centre on 0800 IMMUNE.

Heath and sister Piper are very close but have been separated while Heath is in Starship Hospital. Photo: Supplied.

Little boy’s mystery illness baffles medical experts

A little Blenheim boy is battling a mystery illness that has almost cost him his life.

Heath Johnsen, 2, suffers from severe digestive issue which have left him unable to eat since he was just two months old.

The youngster has been flown to Starship Hospital by LifeFlight in Auckland where his worried family hope doctors can discover what is making him so sick.

His aunty Emma McKinnon says the family have fought hard for answers after Heath fell ill at just two months old.

“He’s lost almost two years of his life; it’s taken too long and we do feel a bit of anger about that.

Heath has spent more than 150 nights in Blenheim, Nelson and Christchurch hospitals over the last nine months. Photo: Supplied.
Heath has spent more than 150 nights in Blenheim, Nelson and Christchurch hospitals over the last nine months. Photo: Supplied.

“We knew something wasn’t right but were told he would grow out of it.

“He would scream in complete agony, but it wasn’t until he was 15 months old and weighed just 7kg that people started taking it seriously.”

Heath has spent more than 150 nights in Blenheim, Nelson and Christchurch hospitals over the last nine months.

But medical experts are still baffled, Emma says.

“Things were on the improve for a little while then it all came crashing down.

“Heath went from okay to being bad within hours,” she says.

A permanent IV line provides the nutrition he needs, but his health is still fragile.

Emma says he recently needed two blood transfusions in three weeks as he deteriorated.

“He’s baffled the medical teams in the South Island.

“Heath was also given another blood transfusion on Wednesday which helped perk him up.

“It has now become very serious and extremely concerning with that being the second one needed in just 3 weeks,” she says.

Heath’s mum Jess McKinnon, is in Auckland with him while his sister Piper Johnsen,6, stays at home with Emma.

His father Tiri Johnsen is spending the majority of his time in Blenheim, where is starting up his own business.

“Family is everything at a time like this and some days you would never get through if it wasn’t for each other.

“A journey with a sick child you would never wish on anyone and some days are beyond tough while other days bring so much joy,” Emma says.

The family need ongoing support to help them while they spend time with Heath.

“With Heath’s future at this stage being so unstable we can’t thank people enough for their generosity.

“Let’s hope Starship can offer some answers and reassurance our little man is okay.

“Any financial donation whether it be $5 or $50 is greatly accepted.”

Donations can be made to Grovetown School Parent Support Group (PSG), ASB 12 3167 0143314 00. Reference last name and/or donation. Use HEATH as the code.

A diagnosis of Alzheimers changes life for the patient and their family. Photo: Models/Supplied.

A life-changing diagnosis – living with Alzheimers

September is World Alzheimers Month.  Below, a husband talks about his wife’s diagnosis and how it has changed their lives.

There are still many good days, moments the devoted couple of 60 years can enjoy ordinary moments they used to take for granted.

For a Marlborough husband and wife, who asked not to be named, an uneventful trip to the supermarket, or even watching TV and laughing together has taken on a special significance.

A diagnosis of Alzheimers for the wife earlier this year changed both their lives in an instance.

“It’s a real defining point, especially for the patient, I hate that word, but use it anyway.

“Once that word, Alzheimers, comes up, you’ve crossed the Rubicon and can’t go back. It took a year to come to terms with it,” he says.

Dementia affects nearly 80 per cent of New Zealanders in some way.

Early warning signs include forgetting conversations or denying they took place, repetition, misplacing items and forgetting where to find household objects.

The disease affects whole families. Models/Supplied.

There is a gradual decrease in socialisation and, latterly, confusion over family, time and place.

For the husband, looking back, the signs were all there.

“The first signs began about five years ago. She was forgetting conversations or that we were going out for tea and would say I hadn’t told her.

“I had a feeling that this was more than just forgetting things, something was out of kilter but as I didn’t really know what was going on, I had to find a way to adjust.

“The worst thing for me, apart from the terrible time my wife is going through, is that there are two of us in this situation. I’ve no experience with this and the impact is huge,” he says.

One of the first tasks he undertook was to contact Alzheimers Marlborough.

The support and information they have provided has proven invaluable, he says.

Almost 70,000 Kiwis are living with dementia. More than 170,000 Kiwis will be living with dementia by 2050

Dementia also impacts women at a higher rate, showing a 30 per cent greater prevalence.

In a cruel twist of fate, the slow progress of the disease in this case means the woman in question is aware of the changes and the likely course the illness will take.

“She’s aware [of what’s happening]. It would be easier if she wasn’t. Being aware and having to come to terms with it is the difficulty,” her husband says.

“Between 70 and 80 per cent of the time we can carry on a semblance of a real life.

“No two days are the same. There may be two days when it’s calm and everything is nice and peaceful. You learn to make the most of the good days.

“My wife still has hope from time to time and will sometimes think that she’s not actually as bad as she was.

“I can’t hope like that,as I know that this condition is irreversible

Likening the illness to a photograph album that is gradually losing its pictures, the retired husband says routine is key when it comes to helping minimise distress.

Where once this committed couple were ardent travelers, the illness has effectively clipped their wings.

“Travel is an upsetter. Travel was a big and important part of our lives, it’s still something she sometimes looks forward to but also has the nouse to know that long distance travel is not an option anymore.”

Alzheimers NZ represents people living with dementia at a national level.

The organisation provides information and resources, advocates for high quality services, and promotes research about prevention, treatment, cure and care.

Being open with the couple’s children, all of whom live overseas, the couple’s friends and neighbours has helped.

There is no point in pretending it’s not happening, he says.

But having to be selective about what information he passes onto his wife has been “difficult”.

“The subterfuge is difficult. Sometimes you have to simply let them believe wholly that something that isn’t true is true or indulge in small white lies.

“I feel bad about that but after a while you get used to it, you do. What you’re doing all the time is thinking for two people,” he says.

Picking his battles has proven key.

“Sometimes at the supermarket we’ll end up with three items of the same thing, it doesn’t really matter if she’s happy.

“You need to choose your time to walk away. If there’s a hint of an argument, her focus narrows and becomes more self centred.

“I’m more often in the wrong now and the simple thing is to become the bigger person. The most important thing for me now as the ‘carer’  is to have time out to relax or indulge in another activity.

“You cut your losses and give in if it doesn’t really matter,” he says.

The future is very much on his mind and ultimately, he knows there is no happy ending.

“I think about it all the time, it’d be foolish if I didn’t.

“You can’t make any definitive plans you can only take guesses. You do have to think about the ultimate; there’s no answer to that at this stage.

“I just have to keep an open mind; hope for the best but know to expect the worst. For further information, help or advice visit or contact 03 577 6172.

Alzheimers Marlborough are holding a Memory Walk on Saturday 21 September, leaving the Munro Street Car Park at 10:00am. Registration is completely free and can be made prior to the day by phoning the office – 577 6172. Wear something purple. The Memory Walk is for people of all ages and abilities to remember family and community members that have been or are affected by dementia.


Robbie Parkes needs a diabetic alert dog to help manage his Type-1 diabetes. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Boy’s best friend a life saver

Four-year-old Robbie Parkes desperately wants a dog, not just any dog however, a dog that will potentially save his life.

After falling dangerously ill in May, the Linkwater boy was diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes.

With no history of the condition in their family, mum Diane Parkes says they have been left reeling by the shock diagnosis.

Robbie has been accepted as a potential candidate for a diabetic alert dog from Australia- but the farming family need $20,000 to make the dream a reality.

For mum Diane, the new addition to the family would be much-needed peace of mind.

“The do can be with him 24/7, on the tractor, when he’s playing, and a big thing is that the dog can be with him at nighttime too.

“It would make such a big difference to our lives.”

Four-year-old Robbie Parkes desperately wants a dog, not just any dog however, a dog that will potentially save his life.
Four-year-old Robbie Parkes desperately wants a dog, not just any dog however, a dog that will potentially save his life. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Dad Gareth is a stock-truck driver and is away for long stretches of time, so Diane checks on Robbie’s glucose levels every two hours throughout the night.

After making an emergency trip to Blenheim when Robbie first got sick, the prospect of a pet who could warn her when her son was ill would be “life-changing”, she says.

“The dogs are trained to wake or get the attention of someone else if they sense something isn’t right.

“They sniff out if levels are too low or too high 10 minutes before it actually happens.

“If the dog was with Robbie all the time it would give me peace of mind,” she says.

Camped out on a stretcher bed in Robbie’s room, Diane has not had a full night of sleep since his diagnosis on Mothers’ Day when he was admitted to Wairau Hospital for three nights.

Looking after the family’s farm, calving and home-schooling Robbie’s two older siblings, means there is little spare time in the day.

An energetic boy who loves to play outside, Robbie needs constant monitoring.

From crying in fear each time he had to have a finger-prick test done, the brave youngster can now do them himself four times a day.

“He had blood test after blood test and needles and drips, but he’s been very brave and we’re really proud of him.

“His body was basically shutting down, he was almost unconscious and couldn’t stop vomiting.

“It would be wonderful to think that an assistance dog would help stop him having to be in hospital again,” Diane says.

The family are holding raffles to help fundraise and have also set up a donation page on Facebook.

“I haven’t liked to ask for the full amount so am trying to raise $5000. It would be an amazing start,” Diane says.

To donate visit

Mobile dental clinic Seddon patients, from left, Hadley, Maisie and Brodie MacDonald. Photo: Summa MacDonald.

Dental clinic smiles over miles

Tooth savvy children in rural Marlborough towns are giving dental therapists plenty to smile about.

Nelson Marlborough Mobile Dental Clinic has proven a popular draw for children in Renwick, Seddon and Ward, with almost 100 per cent up-to-date with appointments.

This has helped free-up dental therapists to focus their attentions in town clinics to help alleviate a backlog.

The Nelson Marlborough Mobile Dental Clinic was due to visit Renwick, Seddon and Ward one more time this year for annual check-ups.

But youngsters have been so good at showing-up for appointments it won’t need to return until next year, health bosses say.

Nelson Marlborough Health Community Oral Health Service clinical director Phil Sussex says Marlborough mobile clinic users keep most appointments.

“Across our whole service only 9 per cent of appointments are not kept.

“We consistently find this is much lower for the Marlborough mobile clinic users and we think this reflects how much our rural communities value the service.

“Parents understand how important it is to make sure children get their annual check-up”.

The Ministry of Health wants district health boards to aim for less then ten per cent of children to be overdue for an appointment at any one time.

In Marlborough the percentage has dropped from 11 per cent in 2017 to just 2 percent so far this year.

Phil says 1856 children are seen through the two-chair Marlborough mobile service each year.

He credits both parents and staff for helping children keep their appointments.

“It also takes the co-operation of parents and the support of schools who host the mobile clinic on specially-built parking bays with connections for internet, electricity and water.

“Our friendly, experienced dental therapists are very much part of the success of the clinics – they go to great lengths to make sure a child has a positive experience at their appointment,” he says.

The clinic usually makes regular 6-monthly visits to each area. The mobile unit can do the same treatments and preventative measures that can be done at the community hub in Blenheim.

Phil says there continues to be a gradual improvement in the children’s oral health and enrolment rates across the NMH service.

“Different populations do have different rates of tooth decay and it is still sugar, particularly sugary drinks that drive this.

“Our preventative messages about kids drinking only water and milk to keep teeth healthy are up against some fairly difficult competition from advertising.

“Hopefully the kids will be passing this advice on to the adults who could benefit as well,” Phil says.

The mobile clinic will return to Renwick, Seddon and Ward in January next year.