Tu Meke BBQ owners Andrew and Melissa Poswillo are leaving town after an unsuccessful search for a home in Marlborough. Photo: Matt Brown.

Housing shortfall hurting families

Housing headaches are forcing people out of the region in a bid to find homes.

A lack of suitable housing has forced a young family to look for greener pastures.

And a young mum who cannot find a rental is facing the possibility of having to live in her car.

Successful business owners, husband and wife team Andrew and Melissa Poswillo, are packing up their young family after months of unsuccessfully trying to find somewhere to live in Marlborough.

“We had plans of putting down roots, but it all fell apart,” Mel says.

A passion for BBQ and six years of dreaming brought the couple back to the region from Australia to open their popular food truck, Tu Meke.

But rising house prices, a lack of properties coming to the market and stringent covenants in new residential areas have left the couple disillusioned.

“We’re leaving because we’re finding it so hard to find somewhere to live,” Melissa says.

New Zealand First Kaikōura candidate Jamie Arbuckle with party leader Winston Peters. Photo: Matt Brown.
New Zealand First Kaikōura candidate Jamie Arbuckle with party leader Winston Peters. Photo: Matt Brown.

“We’re gutted – we built our business really strongly here and we have had amazing support in town.”

Covenants in some new subdivisions outlawing sign-written vehicles on the street added insult to injury.

Trademe Property lists nearly 200 houses with three plus bedrooms for under $400,000 in Christchurch.

Blenheim has just six.

The online auction site has only 26 houses available for rent in the Marlborough region while Christchurch city has 1166.

Andrew fears the housing crisis will “get worse before it gets better”.

“We don’t want to live in a car,” he says. “We were all banking on this working out.”

“But you’ve got to roll with the punches.”

Mum of two Becky Corbett has been desperately trying to secure a rental property in Blenheim or Picton.

While money is not an issue, she says she has had no success.

“We’re a two-income family of four desperately needing a new place to call home.

“It’s horrible and the judgement and assumptions just make it so much worse.

“We can’t find a home, but real estate agents rent to single people who then rent the rooms to temporary workers in the area.

She has rented a caravan but needs to find somewhere to put it.

“I’ve managed to rent a caravan for my family while we look for a house. However, the campground no longer has long term sites available.”

“I’m literally about to be living in my car with my kids but no one seems to grasp the affect that has living with that thought,” she says.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, while visiting Blenheim on Friday, says the region’s lack of housing is a “perfect statistical storm which we can fix”.

“I wouldn’t have a bunch of Wellington bureaucrats working on a housing problem. Full stop,” he says.

“I’d go and see builders and get them to do the job.”

“We used to be the biggest house ownership nations in the world.

“We believe that the economic future of this country and the wealth creation of this country lies in the provinces and always has.”

Peters says he would change the planning laws “so that one third of your house building costs are not going to this needless red-tape bureaucracy.”

“Then look at the house commodity pricing market and ensure that duopolies are not controlling an artificial market.”

REINZ chief executive Bindi Norwell says houses are selling quickly; the average of 26 days is the fastest since August 2016.

“The number of properties being sold is exceeding the number of new listings on the market which is likely to be pushing up prices and contributing to the shortage of stock.”

She says Marlborough had the fewest number of houses for sale, 162, since records began.

Melissa says leaving was a hard decision.

“There’s a huge crisis here,” she says.

“Even rentals, there are just none.”

Booked events have been cancelled and suppliers informed of their impending departure.

“We’ve committed ourselves to leaving, but Tu Meke will continue,” Andrew says.

“We’ll be up here doing pop ups and events.

“Thank you all so much for the love and support you’ve thrown us over the past few months. It’s been amazing.”

Bohally school brainboxes Oliver Wakelin and Ted Small. Photo: Matt Brown.

Brainy Bohally boys’ TV quiz quest

Two young brainboxes are taking their quizzing skills to the small screen.

Bohally school pupils Ted Small and Oliver Wakelin will stretch their thinking abilities in upcoming episodes of popular TV2 children’s quiz show Brain Busters.

But don’t ask them how they went, they’re not allowed to say.

“It’s an awesome experience. At first, I was really nervous. Once I started getting the questions right, I was okay,” Oliver says.

The year 8 student filmed at the Christchurch studio about a month ago – his episode is scheduled to air next Wednesday.

Ted says he can’t wait to make the trip to Whitebait Media’s filming space, tomorrow (Wednesday) with one of his parents.

“I’m not super nervous. The fact I even got on the show is pretty good,” he says.

It’s not easy to make the cut – the selection process to compete in the quiz is tough.”

The two students are both in Bohally’s FPSG – Future Problem Solving Group – and they say the entry quiz, used to determine a student’s suitability, is on the “harder side”.

“If they think you did well enough on the quiz, you get an audition,” Oliver says.

Studio executives then gave the young quizzers a Skype or Zoom call.

“They asked our name and interests and had us complete some practice questions,” Ted says.

The new quiz show challenges year eight and nine students through various rounds of  quiz questions with the final two contestants racing on an obstacle course.

“The quiz is only half the show,” Oliver says.

The first round, with all four contestants, test their general knowledge. Then they pick a specialist subject – Oliver’s was history and Ted’s, mathematics.

“I was worried I was going to do really bad, that I was going to bomb out,” Oliver says.

He says it depends how the questions fall, especially with pop culture – pointing out that he wasn’t born when Friends first aired on television.

“A guy on my show was asked a question about Shortland Street – none of us had any idea,” he laughs.

Then comes the physical challenge – a course with puzzles, ziplines, obstacles and a race to the finish.

Finally, the winner from the obstacle course gets the opportunity to win money in a final quick-fire question round.

“You get $100 regardless, and you can earn more if you make it to the final round,” Oliver says.

Ted says he’s aiming for the number one spot and isn’t sure what he will spend his prize money on.

“It’s cool all the effort that goes into it,” he says.

Oliver’s looking to invest in metal detecting tools.

“It’s the best quiz show – mainly because I’ve been on it.”

Dogs may become a common sight in Blenheim’s town centre. Brodie, Maisie and Hadley MacDonald with Kip. Photo: Matt Brown.

Barking up the right street

Dogs could be allowed in Blenheim’s town centre after council loosens the leash on a blanket ban.

At a meeting of council’s Environment Committee this morning, a review of the region’s Dog Control Policy and Bylaw was approved.

Now the public will get the chance to have their say.

Council have approved the appointment of a subcommittee to hear opinions on the review, headed up by councillor Jamie Arbuckle.

It’s important to recognise the role that digs play in peoples’ lives, Jamie says.

“We want to ensure that our bylaw is up to date and fit for purpose.

“The council recognises the positive role that dogs play in the lives of their owners and the community, but we need input from dog owners and the general public.”

Councillors Barbara Faulls, Thelma Sowman and Nadine Taylor will also sit on the review committee.

If it gets the final go-ahead, the bylaw will allow leashed, under control dogs into the CBD.

Councillors are also recommending that the restricted area around playground areas increases from 3 to 10 metres.

But Blenheim’s Pollard Park and Ward Beach will remain off limit to pet pooches.

The public consultation period will begin on Friday 18 September and will run for six weeks, before closing at 5.00 pm on Monday 9 November.

Hearings are scheduled to take place in early December where members of the public will have the opportunity to speak to their submission.

The Sub-Committee will then review all submissions and make their final assessment before presenting the proposed policy and bylaw amendments to the Environment Committee. Once adopted by the Environment Committee, the policy and bylaw will be presented to the full Council for final adoption early next year.

All dog owners will receive a letter advising them of the policy and bylaw review and how to make a submission should they wish to.

Council is required to review the policy and bylaw every 10 years. The last review was completed in 2012.

Today’s decision is subject to ratification by the full Council on Thursday 17 September.

Former Sony Music Executive Paul Ellis is returning to Marlborough to set the stage for an annual music festival. Photo: Supplied.

The sound of music

From Cyndi Lauper to Sarah McLachlan etc he’s worked with some of the biggest names in music.

Former Sony Music executive, New Zealand Idol and NZ Got Talent judge Paul Ellis is back home in Marlborough.

And he has his sights set on bringing more top music talent to the township of Linkwater- making the Summer Sounds concerts an annual event.

While Paul says he can’t divulge any artist names yet, he can reveal they’ve one of the acts has had had four number 1 albums.

“It’s all under contract”, he says.

Swapping the big city of Auckland for the small rural township, the former Queen Charlotte Sounds man is excited to be back, organising the Summer Sounds gigs.

Supporting long-time friends and Queen Charlotte Tavern owners Mary-Ann Surridge and Jane Tito, Paul has been hitting up his contacts.

He’s also on the lookout for some local support music talent to support on the day.

“I have been away from Marlborough on and off for a long period, but I am keen to hear of any top of the south acts, let me know,” he says.

Paul’s signings include Bic Runga, Dave Dobbyn, Shona Laing and The Strawpeople.

“The location lends itself to a great place to enjoy a day of music. There’s tons of off-street parking and the opportunity to camp overnight”

“It’s not too big, it’s intimate and you have the incredible vista of the sounds hills as a backdrop,” he says.

Kicking off on Saturday 19 December, the first festival which will herald a mixture of New Zealand music royalty – with names to be revealed soon.

On 16 January 2021, the debut South Island performance of one of the hottest and exciting acts to emerge in NZ in the last 18 months will take to the stage, Paul says.

“As well as the music there will food and beverage stalls. If you want to camp overnight, it’s included in the ticket price.”

As Vice President of A&R for Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Paul runs his own PR and music consultancy firm and last year bought OpShop Lead Singer Jason Kerrison to Linkwater.

“As well as the music there will food and beverage stalls. If you want to camp overnight, it’s included in the ticket price, Paul says. “I want people to be able to relax, have fun and enjoy this beautiful slice of paradise.”

Tickets for the R18 events are $55 plus booking fee on Eventfinda.co.nz

“It was important that the tickets weren’t too expensive, we want this to be within reach,” Paul says.

Email Paul Ellis at [email protected] if you know of any local music talent. Tickets on sale today. Go to Eventfinda.co.nz

James Galloway, Alina Joe, Lucy Bridgen, Maisie Davison and Dave Pauling, with Elijah Galloway and Andrew Kubis, front, take delivery of new technology. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Top up for local schools

A Marlborough based fuel company is helping keep hundreds of school children topped up with technology & sports equipment.

Southfuels a New Zealand wide bulk fuel distribution company has donated $80,000 to schools across the Marlborough region through their Fuel for Schools sponsorship programme.

The nationwide initiative has helped put more than $1 million dollars of resources into more than 350 rural schools in the last twelve years.

Pupils at Richmond View School in Blenheim are the latest to benefit, with a special technology package worth over $5000 delivered on Thursday, this package included 11 Chromebooks, an iPad and other technology for the classroom.

Southfuels Marlborough account manager Maisie Davison says customers nominate a school to receive 50 cents for every 100 litres of bulk fuel they have delivered.

“I’d like to give a big shout out and massive thank you to all our customers throughout the Marlborough region who contribute and all the schools who take part.”

Southfuels customers and programme supporters, O’Donnell Park Barging and Kenny Barging manager James Galloway and Amber-Lousie Connor from Waikawa Fishing Company were at Richmond View School to hand deliver the children get their new technology packages.

“One of our values is betterment for all and we do that in a number of different ways; we have a community van and of course, donate through Fuels for Schools’ says James.

“Being able to see just how much there is and how excited the children are is great. It’s like Christmas.”

When a participating school reaches a $1000 in donations they can pick between a technology or sports package.

Richmond School principal Dave Pauling says the donation makes a big difference to students.

“It helps enormously. We know what we need, and we get to choose.

“Some of these things go to children who might not have them otherwise.”

There are a number of schools in the region whom have benefited from the Fuel for Schools programme in recent times, including Mayfield School, Seddon School, Witherlea School, Linkwater Primary, Ward School, Spring Creek School, Fairhall School, Wairau Valley School and Riverlands School.

To get involved or find out more call Maisie Davison on 0275936229, and start supporting your local school today.

Flaxbourne farmer John Hickman at the edge of Lake Elterwater. Photo: Matt Brown.

Flaxbourne farmer’s protester challenge

A Marlborough farmer fed up with a lack of action from climate change protesters has challenged them to walk the walk.

Fourth-generation Flaxbourne farmer John Hickman is looking for people to help pioneer change in a practical way.

The forward-thinking farmer wants to give people the chance to help – by getting their hands dirty.

“What got me going was the climate change protests,” he says.

“People were protesting to council and government – and I don’t think that’s the right way to get things done.”

To get the ball rolling, the Taimate Angus co-owner has fenced wetland on his 750-hectare farm and ordered 2000 native plants.

All he needs now is people power to help get the project underway.

He says people should take responsibility for the environment, but that many don’t know where to start.

“I want to give people who are anxious, who are worried about the future, an outlet – something to do that will make a difference to the environment for both habitat restoration and potential climate mitigation”.

“It’s up to each person but a lot of people simply don’t have the means.

“We have the land and the plants, but we struggle with the time,” John says.

Several years ago, John a neighbour and another worker spent weeks planting 6000 natives around Lake Elterwater – which his farm borders.

He says a flood in the first year buried the plants in debris, then it got so dry he and the neighbour had to pump water via a fire pump from the lake to keep them watered.

“It’s a hard environment to get things going, southerlies and northerlies roar through here.

“But we’re now building on a strong base.”

The lake, now boasting healthy lowland totara, kanuka, manuka, Carex, Oleria, Hoheria, cabbage trees, kowhai and flax attracts birdlife that people travel from throughout New Zealand to see.

“The lake’s a showcase area but there are other areas around the farm, other habitats that can be restored,” he says.

The programme has inspired John to replicate the success in other areas in the farm – with hopes to take it even further.

“So, I’m getting the ball rolling and getting things going from here.”

“I wanted somewhere that could link farmers and people that want to help.

“It’s also a way for farmers to do a larger area of planting and brings their cost down.

“At the same time, it helps the urban people that are feeling helpless.”

John says it will also help to break down the rural/urban divide.

“I’m a farmer.

“I don’t consider myself a massive environmentalist, but I do consider myself a protector of the land.”

The first planting day is organised for 9 August.

To get involved email [email protected]

“People, instead of protesting, can come help us out.”

Blenheim School principal Denyse Healy with St Andrew’s Craft Group members Dicky Willemsen and Raewyn Buchanan. Photo: Matt Brown.

Winter woollies welcome

A craft and knitting group are putting their passion to purpose by keeping young heads and feet warm this winter.

St Andrew’s Craft Group members knitted more than 100 winter woollies for Blenheim School pupils.

And Blenheim School principal Denyse Healy says the timing couldn’t have been better.

“With the start of the term we have our camps coming up,” she says.

Students will be heading off to Mistletoe Bay and Pine Valley, and in the cold weather the slippers “keep feet so warm”.

She says they will continue to be used throughout the term in class, to keep mucky boots of 93 children outside and combat winter chills.

St Andrew’s Craft Group member Raewyn Buchanan says their group love knitting and the finished product going to keep kids warm is a real bonus.

“We’re thrilled to give these to Blenheim School,” she says.

“We’ve made about 40 beanies and 60 pairs of slippers.

“Knitting doesn’t have to be expensive – I got two skeins from an opshop for $8 and I’ve made uncountable slippers from them,” Raewyn says.

Raewyn says the craft group has already begun on the next batch.

Marcelo Lopes, left, with sons Vitor, centre, and Lucas at their newly-rebranded Blenheim gym. Photo: Peter Jones.

Pandemic puts pressure on local martial arts instructor

The sign on Marcelo Lopes’ Blenheim gym wall says “Built Under Pressure”.

The slogan refers to the diamond, symbol of the SJJA Jiu Jitsu Academy, but could just as well apply to the latest ventures of the Marlborough martial arts instructor and his family.

Marcelo has recently joined forces with the Australian SJJA, spearheaded by multiple world champion Bruno Alves, a fellow Brazilian who is based in Sydney and now oversees 13 teaching bases across that country.

The Blenheim SJJA is the first in this country, with Marcelo re-branding his Stuart St-based martial arts organisation in line with the hugely successful Australian model.

Marcelo met Bruno two years ago and felt they were on the same wavelength regarding the type of programmes they could offer.

So, earlier this year they decided to join forces. Marcelo and his son Vitor were training in Australia, then competed at the Brisbane and

South East Queensland Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Championships, where they both picked up multiple gold and silver medals representing SJJA.

At the same time, Marcelo and Bruno were in the process of setting up another SJJA facility, this time on the Gold Coast. They had fitted out the gym when COVID-19 struck, leaving them high and dry. Fortunately they had not finalised their lease, so were able to put the project on hold without a crippling cost.

Most of the Lopes family remained in Australia during lockdown on the Gold Coast while elder son Lucas ran the Blenheim business until it was forced to close as the Kiwi lockdown kicked in.

Marcelo had plans to continue with on-line instruction, charging a small fee to keep some income flowing in. However, the company that organised on-going payments at the gym shut down completely, meaning he was unable to follow that plan through.

Undaunted, he and Vitor set up some instructional videos which they put on-line for free for five weeks. The Zoom classes had a large following, in both Australia and New Zealand.

As the effect of the virus lessened on both sides of the Tasman, Marcelo and Vitor were able to return home and re-opened their Blenheim gym in mid-May.

They closely followed spacing, sanitising and cleaning protocol for the first two weeks, but are now back to full-contact training.
Marcelo says class numbers are still not back to previous levels, suggesting some parents are not yet totally comfortable with close-contact work.

But he is confident numbers will grow, especially with the additional programmes and benefits gained through the Blenheim business’s association with their Aussie partners.

He plans to journey back to the Gold Coast when border restrictions are lifted and finish the work needed to open the new gym there.

“We have come back to New Zealand to regroup,” explained Marcelo, “[the virus] came at the worst possible time for us. It affected both our Gold Coast plans and the exciting new association with SJJA we have back in Blenheim. Things are picking up quickly though … diamonds are definitely built under pressure.”

Next up for Marcelo and his sons is the NZ national champs, their date yet to be confirmed.

Derek and Maureen Waller long to stay in New Zealand to be nearer to their family and friends. Photo: Matt Brown.

Rule change costs couple life in NZ

When Derek and Maureen Waller moved to New Zealand, they found happiness in the wake of tragedy.

The husband and wife, originally from England, were devastated when their only son died suddenly.

They made the move to Renwick to be closer to their daughter who had immigrated to New Zealand.

But now the couple may be forced to leave their family behind as they face deportation after five years of calling the community home.

It is a terrible blow say the stricken pair whose only grandchildren are in New Zealand.

‘We’re totally desperate about what to do next,” says Maureen. “We’re so well known in Renwick; it’s such a gorgeous community and people help each other out.

“It’s devastating and people keep asking us what we’ve done wrong.”

The couple lost their son David, 42, when he suffered a heart attack in 2011.

When their then son-in-law was headhunted for a job in Christchurch, they knew they had to leave the UK.

“We couldn’t lose both our children,” says Derek, a retired engineering teacher.”

Both had fallen in love with the country on previous holidays and were told by an independent immigration agent they would have no problem getting residency.

They arrived in New Zealand on a Parent and Grandparent Visitor Visa and have spent $30,000 trying to get residency.

A change in rules after they arrived in the country meant they could only stay up to six months at a time, with a maximum total stay of 18 months in 3 years

Only a 1000 people a year can apply for residency under this scheme.

A last-ditch attempt to persuade immigration to let them stay failed and the pair have been told they have to leave in September.

“We fell in love with Marlborough, the climate and the people,” says Derek.

“Our 4-bedroom house means we have plenty of room for our daughter and grandchildren when they come and stay.

“We have private British pensions, have savings and pay for health care privately. We don’t rely on the government for anything.

“This has caused us both a lot of stress and worry.”

Both Derek, 76, and Maureen, 73, do volunteer work in Renwick, with Derek a committed member of the Men’s Shed.

“There are people who rely on us, people who are distraught for us,” says Maureen.

Under immigration rules, the couple must be sponsored to the tune of $160,000 a year.

After their daughter and son-in-law separated, the pair faced a shortfall in sponsorship.

But offers of additional financial sponsorship from friends have been turned down by immigration officials, says Derek.

“We’ve been told we’re out of options and will have to leave and go back to England in September.

“We have no idea how we will start again.”

Chairman of the Renwick Men’s Shed Rick Gleeson says Derek has been a valued member of the team since 2016.

“Derek has a lot of skills to contribute, is very passionate, loyal and always willing to help anybody or with anything that needs doing.

“It would be of great loss and sadness to myself, all of our MenzShed members and to the local community to lose Derek and his wife Maureen who also helps out a lot in our community, the Renwick School, one of the local Marae’s school and helping with our BBQ’s at Bunnings.”

Big changes ahead for Little Theatre

Over the decades, thousands of performers have trodden its boards, but Picton Little Theatre was on shaky ground.

The historic venue needs earthquake strengthening to bring the landmark building up to modern building codes.

And a funds boost from Marlborough District Council means vital reinforcing work looks likely to go ahead.

Committee Chair Carmen Gimpl helped secure a $7,000 grant from the annual plan this month to put towards theatre funds.

Combined with $5,000 left over from last year’s successful $26,000 bid, the charitable trust now has enough to approach other agencies for money.

“We’re keen to do it quickly.

“It [the theatre] constantly needs work so we really want to keep going while the momentum is there,” Carmen says.

From left, Chrissy Powlesland, Val Griffith-Jones, Joy Fletcher, Allison Hargrave, Sheira Hudson and Phil Crawford are looking forward to seeing the Little Theatre get some vital strengthening work done. Photo: Paula Hulburt.
From left, Chrissy Powlesland, Val Griffith-Jones, Joy Fletcher, Allison Hargrave, Sheira Hudson and Phil Crawford are looking forward to seeing the Little Theatre get some vital strengthening work done. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

To be eligible to approach agencies such as Rata for funds, the group must have $11,000 of the $33,000 needed to strengthen the building.

National Building Standards says if a building’s seismic resistance capacity is calculated as less than 34 per cent it is considered earthquake prone.

The engineer’s report gave the old theatre, built about 1886, a 26 per cent rating.

Reinforcing work will take around two weeks and should hopefully be finished by the end of the year, says Carmen.

The building hosts professional and amateur theatre, concerts, meetings, table tennis, dance classes and private functions.

Carmen says the 8-strong committee have great plans for the theatre.

“We put on 10 professional shows a year and really want to upgrade the bar area and see more people use the theatre.

“The theatre has been part of the town for a long time, so it makes sense to make sure it’s still here for generations to come.”

The committee have planned a Monster Garage Sale for 27 June to help raise funds for future improvements.

Carmen says it would be great if people can show their support by donating goods or turning up on the day.

Donations of household goods, tools, clothes and books can be dropped off on the day at the theatre on 9 Dublin Street or the night before between 4 and 6pm.

“Please come along and support the theatre and find out more about what we do too. We’d love more members,” Carmen says.