Matt Brown

The popular Taylor River has a myriad of uses besides swimming, like the Five Buck a Duck Derby. File photo.

Sewage risk for Taylor River

Sewerage could still be leeching into the Taylor River from earthquake damaged pipes.

The popular river, that wends its way through the Blenheim town centre, is listed as unsuitable for swimming on the Land Air Water Aotearoa (LAWA) interactive swim map due to sewerage contamination.

Despite council plugging what was thought to be the main source of contamination, the Third Lane sewer main, other pipes are yet to be repaired.

Marlborough District Council team leader for water quality Peter Hamill says kilometres of sewerage pipes were damaged in the 2016 Kaikoura quake.

But council scientists say they’re seeing a slight improvement of water quality at the river with recent tests giving swimming the green light.

Peter says he would swim in the river; but only if it hadn’t rained recently.

“We want to make sure people can enjoy the amenities and we’re doing our best to make sure that happens,” Peter says.

The river has a long-term grade of poor, but latest tests say the quality is ‘good’ for swimming.

Peter says following the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake, kilometres of sewerage pipes were damaged causing spikes in e. coli in the waterway.

Escherichia coli (E. coli) is a bacteria commonly found in the gut of warm blooded organisms.

It can survive outside the body about four to six weeks in fresh water making it a useful indicator of faecal presence and the disease-causing organisms that may be present in faecal matter.

E. coli is relatively straightforward and inexpensive to measure, but the indicator bacteria isn’t particularly dangerous, Peter says.

“Campylobactor and giardia are expensive to measure,” he says.

Peter says the Taylor River is safe for dogs.

“What’s bad for humans isn’t necessarily going to have an effect on dogs.”

He says the biggest issue with the Taylor is what people put down their drain.

“Every stormwater grate along the roads – it goes into the Taylor River,” Peter says.

“Urban waterways are difficult, you don’t know what people are putting into their storm water drains.

“That’s why we put the blue fish – to remind people what goes down there ends up with the fish.”

Peter says the river looks to be improving.

“We want it to be available to swim all the time.

“Definitely we have an issue when we get rainfall,” Peter says.

It’s a wider issue for all Marlborough rivers, too.

He says excrement from sheep, goats, cows and even things in the bush like possums, are all washed into the region’s waterways following rain.

“That’s why we recommend people to not swim up to three days after rain,” he says.

Pelorus bridge is the only swimming spot with a long-term grade of ‘good’.

Ferry Bridge’s long-term grade is ‘fair’, while Craig Lochart has a ‘poor’ long-term status.

Peter says for swimmers, the thing to look at is the recent test results.

“At Ferry bridge, 92 per cent of the time it’s safe for swimming,” he says.

“Most of the time, our waterways are ok – it comes down to those rainfall events,” Peter says.

He says council is assisting farmers with fencing and planting and are constantly investigating contamination sources.

“We want people to be able to swim in the river,” he says.

“The council is constantly testing and looking for broken pipes – but it’s the general public that ultimately have the power over the cleanliness of our waterways.

“The key message is everyone in the community can make a difference.”

A century of service

Two long-serving volunteers are celebrating more than a century of serving up sustenance with Meals on Wheels.

Best Friends and Red Cross volunteers Janet Clarke and Bev Lucas from Blenheim first started with Meals on Wheels in 1969.

And the duo is still delivering meals as they get set to celebrate a milestone anniversary later this year, with 101 years of service between them.

They have seen a lot of changes over the years.

“In the early days we saw some very sad cases,” Janet says. “People now are taken care of better.”

Red Cross’s Meals on Wheels service help people all around New Zealand by providing them with a healthy meal every day.

Volunteers deliver around 620,000 hot meals a year, or nearly 12,000 every week.

Janet remembers her first day – it was the 19th of September 1969. “I was escorted by one of the Miss Bruns, who were sisters,” she says.

“In the days when we started, we had big metal cans with a hot plate in it – customers had to have a plate ready.”

Bev says customers often forgot their warmed plate, and they had some fussy eaters too.

“We used to get people who would say, I don’t like peas, and we told them to eat around them,” she laughs. “We’ve had a fair experience.
It has been a very pleasurable thing – we’ve met an awful lot of people.”

Janet recalls delivering a meal to one Mrs Weaver following her hundredth birthday.

“She was so proud to show us her letter from the queen and the governor general,” she says.

And in all their time delivering meals, they’ve always done it together.

“She got me into all sorts of things – choir was one of them,” says Bev.

Janet says she has been a part of the Choral Society for 54 years.

“I introduced Janet to city shopping,” Bev says.

Holidays down the Sounds, choir and watching their children play sport – the pair have made a lifetime of memories following their chance meeting taking children home from school.

“I got her a fridge magnet that says, ‘you will always be my friend because you know too much.”

The pair have life memberships with Red Cross, recognising the many roles they have had with the organisation. Both are humble about their achievements and long-service, saying they did it for the pleasure of volunteering.

“We must be the longest serving Meals on Wheels drivers,” Bev says.

Their one bugbear – dogs that jump.

“Old ladies have thin skin,” says Janet. “We scratch easily.”

A bank-transaction gone wrong saw Cathy Hawker lose her life savings. Photo: Emma Filipov-Bell.

Caravan cash theft accused caught

A stranger who allegedly refused to return a Canvastown woman’s life savings she received by mistake has been caught by police.

The woman, who lives in the North Island, was caught by police investigating claims she had taken $8000 that was not hers.

Cathy Hawker spent years saving $8000 to buy a campervan.

But a mistake in making the payment means she has lost all her hard-earned money to the woman who then allegedly refused to return the ill-gotten gains.

The service station assistant wants to warn others that a simple mistake could cost them dearly.

“I wanted to have some adventure,” she says. “Go away. Have a bit of fun in life.

“It was something for me.”

Cathy says she transferred $8000 to her friend Johnny who she was buying the caravan from.

But when Johnny called to check when the money would clear, Cathy realised she had made a terrible mistake.

“I’d put in a double-oh (00) instead of 09,” Cathy says. “That was all my savings.

“I felt like a fool. How could I make such a mistake?”

Banking Ombudsman Nicola Sladden says getting money back from an incorrect payment can be a tricky process.

“It relies on honesty and goodwill,” she says.

“It’s very disappointing in this case the recipient didn’t return the funds,” Nicola says.

Police investigated the matter as theft and the woman is expected to appear in court on 24 February.

5Tapped owner Haydn Mearns is the inaugural winner of a national cider brewing competition. Photo: Matt Brown.

‘Cider the road’ takes top spot

A Marlborough publican and hobbyist cider maker has taken the top award in the inaugural NZ Cider Festival amateur competition.

Owner of 5Tapped Haydn Mearns walked away with the 2020 Amateur Cider Maker trophy – ‘Cider the Road’, beating eight other competitors from the cider capital, Nelson.

“The judges reckon the top three were close but judging by their reactions they were pretty impressed,” Haydn says.

“When you think of Nelson, and all the fruit over there, I thought there would be some tough competition.

Haydn, with his partner and brewing sidekick Nikky, made the mad dash to the Nelson cider festival earlier this month after completing a half marathon in the Marlborough Sounds.

“Nikky had run a half marathon, the Lochmara half, that morning,” he says.

“We water-taxi’d back to Picton then rushed over to Nelson.

“The festival was cool; they had a big range of cider, top notch food stalls and entertainment.”

His winning cider, which he made about 50 litres of, is made using foraged and donated fruit.

“It’s gone from surplus fruit on my property to foraging fruit from all over Marlborough.”

He says fruit is still abundant in Marlborough, and he just uses what’s available.

“There are no rules as far as I’m concerned.

“It’s a creative way of using surplus fruit.”

The wild-fermented apple-based cider took about four months of “tweaking” before Haydn was happy with the result.

“I don’t even know what type of apples I’m using,” he laughs.

“I just chuck anything in there – it is what it is.

“Often, I’m tweaking and adjusting as I go – adding sugar or back-sweetening.

“It had a few faults that I was able to fix.

“Because we’re getting good results, and now this award, I’m considering doing 100 or 200 litres a year.”

He says there are hundred of breweries making amazing beers, but New Zealand brewers aren’t putting the same effort into cider.

“If you look at cider in the supermarket, there’s only half a dozen brands and a whole aisle of beer.

Haydn says he was “quietly confident” about doing well at the festival.

“I had no idea how I would do – although I had a feeling we had a pretty good brew this year.

“I was quietly confident.

“I’m very much still learning.”

Marie Large and Abbie Large from Large's Rose Nursery. Photo: Malinda Boniface.

Tempting fete

Wet weather failed to dampen spirits at this year’s popular Rapaura Springs Garden Marlborough a fete as hundreds turned out in support.

The annual market featuring an array of stall holders from across Marlborough and further afield was held at Blenheim’s Pollard Park on Sunday.

Umbrellas and gum boots were the order of the day for many after a bout of wet weather overnight.

Showers cleared as the day progressed, with people happy to be out and about.

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) general manager border and visa operations Nicola Hogg. Photo: Supplied.

Crisis looms for $2b wine industry

A horticultural disaster is looming as a lack of vital workers threatens the region’s $2billion wine industry.

Imported workers under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme are in short supply, with less than half of the potential 14,400 workers currently in the country.

And one employer is warning the situation will only get worse.

Seasonal Solutions chief executive Helen Axby says the ideal solution would be a travel bubble with Vanuatu.

“There’s been a shortage of labour and there’s going to be a shortage of labour.

“A lot of places where RSE staff come from are Covid free,” Helen says.

RSE workers who are currently outside of New Zealand are not allowed in until Covid border restrictions are lifted.

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) general manager border and visa operations Nicola Hogg says there are about 1700 RSE workers in Marlborough, with the number is likely to change as workers move around the country.

But Helen says that number will drop.

“For our RSE staff we made the decision to charter an aircraft two weeks ago – that took 340-odd home.

“Not because we don’t need them for work – but we feared for their mental health.

“They’ve been stranded here.”

About 3000 workers are needed to complete the harvest and pruning – and there are not enough Kiwis to fill the shortfall.

“One RSE worker is worth one and a half other workers, at least,” Helen says.

“Some of them have eight or nine years experience.

“They think it’s going to be a little easier to recruit Kiwis, but there won’t be enough.”

In August, the government extended RSE visas by six months for those still in New Zealand and unable to return home.

“This allows RSE workers with visa expiry dates between 18 August and 31 December 2020 to stay and work in New Zealand,” Nicola says.

“This visa extension gives approximately 6,700 RSE workers still in New Zealand, and their employers, more certainty about worker availability for the coming season.”

She says the RSE worker cap of 14,400 will not be increased this year as planned due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month the government also announced that around 11,000 Working Holiday Scheme visa holders who are in New Zealand, with visas expiring between November 2020 and March 2021, will be automatically granted Supplementary Seasonal Employment (SSE) visas.

“This allows them to work until 30 June 2021 in horticulture and viticulture seasonal roles where there are not enough New Zealanders available to do the work,” Nicola says.

“Immigration New Zealand (INZ) recognises the impact that COVID-19 continues to have on businesses and migrants and their loved ones.”

Helen says the critical issue will come next winter.

“This is when staff demand is at its height.

“It will become a critical issue.”

She says the industry won’t have the luxury to utilise staff stuck in New Zealand come next pruning season.

“Next year’s pruning will come up us much sooner than we expect.”

Helen says in a perfect world, the government would recognise Covid-free countries.

“These guys [RSE workers] are very experienced in Covid-19 because they have lived and worked through a level 4 lockdown,” she says.

“They’ve travelled between regions with all the special permissions.

“On returning home, they’ve done a 14-day quarantine.

“They have a lot of experience looking after themselves and remaining Covid-free.

“A bubble with Vanuatu would be the ideal situation.”

About 65 members of the NZ Alvis Club, including Marlburian Ashley McKenzie, pictured, will treat the region to a rally of the iconic vehicle. Photo: Matt Brown.

Alvis rally comes to town

A rally to celebrate the 100th birthday of a popular vintage car will take to the roads this weekend.

One century on from the first commercial Alvis running off the production line in Coventry, England, about 30 of the 1920-styled vehicles will be touring through the region.

Alvis aficionado Ashley McKenzie has helped organise the rally and hopes the public will turn out to admire the vintage vehicles.

“I want to show the passion and dedication that people put into their vehicles,” Ashley says.

About 65 members of the NZ Alvis Club, from Kaitaia to Invercargill, will enjoy local roads and tourist venues, including a mailboat cruise through the Marlborough Sounds.

Ashley says Covid nearly put paid to the rally, and about five participants from overseas had to pull out.

“What overseas entrants that were here have left the country.”

But New Zealand’s Alvis showing is strong, with the oldest vehicle from 1925 to one of the last 1967 models expected to be on display.

Ashley’s 1952 Alvis TA21 needs strong arms as power steering is uncommon on early British cars.

Its 3-litre 6-cylinder 100bhp engine posts a top speed of about 95 miles per hour – about 150kmph.

“It’s a very drivable car,” Ashley says, although there’s a bit of a knack to getting in the front suicide doors.

“You sort of do a half circle and get in,” he says.

Ashley came by the car by chance in the 70s.

“I went to the wreckers on Main St on a Friday. The wrecker said, this is the car you should have.

“I took it away for $50.

“I hate to think what it’s cost me since.”

The 3-litre 6-cylinder 100bhp engine.
The 3-litre 6-cylinder 100bhp engine.

The Alvis Car and Engineering Company produced racing cars, aircraft engines, armoured cars and other armoured fighting vehicles.

Ashley says cars were secondary to the company, behind their military contracts.

“The majority of them [cars] were bought for their performance; even in the 20’s they were way above the market in terms of performance.”

Alvis were ahead of their time in many ways, pioneering front-wheel-drive vehicles, independent front suspension, servo-assisted brakes and the world’s first all-synchromesh gearbox.

Ashley says there are a lot of Alvis vehicles in New Zealand, despite the factory only producing 23,000 vehicles in its lifetime.

“New Zealand was their largest market outside the UK – their biggest sales area,” he says.

“There was a strong dealer network here.”

The vehicles are still being found in barns and garages around the country.

Ashley says one recently sold in Nelson that had just one owner since the 1950s.

“They’re generally pretty well priced.

“There’s one online now for around $18,000 – you wouldn’t find a more quality car.

“They’re sought after.”

Keep your eyes peeled for a convoy of the 1930’s styled vehicle this weekend, and for a closer look head to Patchett’s

Green, just behind the Vintage Car Club rooms at Brayshaw Green, on Sunday from 9am to 1pm.

Petition organiser Mia Yealands with her terriers, Archie and Wolf. Photo: Matt Brown.

Petition for pooch freedom

Dog owners are biting back against a proposal which could see dogs confined to leads along parts of the Taylor River.

Marlborough District Council are set to tighten bylaws around dogs roaming free.

The move would see pets put on a lead from The Quays, near Raupo café to the Burleigh Bridge.

A group of dog lovers have started a petition against the proposed bylaw changes.

Petition organiser Mia Yealands says it would be sad to reduce the size of the central off-leash dog park.

“We come here for the run, the water and the wide-open spaces.

“If it changed it would affect so many people.

“We don’t want this to happen.”

Mia reckons tensions between cyclists and dogs (and their owners) are to blame for the potential change in rules.

“Since council increased the footpath, there have been a lot more bikes and they go too fast.

“They [cyclists] treat it like a training path,” she says.

Animal Control contract manager Jane Robertson says the area is where they see the most conflict between different users

“We have had instances of uncontrolled dogs and also owners not cleaning up after their dogs in this area,” Jane says.

Other proposed changes in the draft bylaw include allowing dogs into Blenheim’s CBD if they are on a leash and under control and increasing the restricted area around playgrounds for dogs from three to ten metres.

Prohibiting dogs from Blenheim’s Pollard Park and Ward Beach, is also proposed.

“We want input from dog owners and the general public to make sure our policy and bylaw works for everyone in our region,” she says.

Following the consultation period hearings will take place in early December when submitters will have the opportunity to speak.

Mia says moving the areas where dogs can run off lead – down the Burleigh end of the Taylor River – would make it difficult for dog owners with mobility issues to exercise their companions.

“One of the concerns we have is there are a lot of elderly who would find the terrain difficult.

“Dogs are a part of the community, too,” she says.

“They help people, they’re good for your mental health.

Consultation on the Marlborough District Council Dog Control Policy and Bylaw is underway and will run for six weeks, closing at 5.00 pm on Monday 9 November.

Gardener Kirsty Wraight. Photo: Matt Brown.

Glorious Marlborough gardens on show

A blossoming passion for plants has seen a husband and wife team open their garden up to help charity.

The St Andrews Annual Garden Tour is gearing up for another spectacular spring show.

And keen gardener Kirsty Wraight is ready to share her slice of paradise, Willows Garden, in Fairhall to help raise money for charity.

She says she still has a lot she wants to do in her three-year-old garden.

“It’s getting done slowly. It’s a real hobby for us,” she says.

Kirsty and her husband David spend a lot of their free time pottering about in the garden.

“We love it [the garden] and the fresh air.

She says after introducing David to gardening, he’s now surpassed her in skill.

“David is the number one gardener, he does all the hard work,” she laughs.

Visitors can look forward to seeing a wooded walkway complete with camelias, rhododendrons and hydrangeas.

Kirsty says their native lake-side plantings have become a priority as the couple welcome more native birds to their garden.

“We get a lot of bird life, which is nice,” Kirsty says.

“We’re getting a lot of Tui at the moment.”

“It’s something we both love and get a lot of joy from.”

Willows Garden is one of ten gardens on this year’s tour.

The St Andrew’s Church Annual Garden Tour is on the 17th and 18th of October, from 10am to 4pm.

Tickets and programmes are on sale at Roselands Pet and Plants, Devon Nursery, Selmes Trust, Islington Gardens, Morgans Road Nursery, Cresswells and the church office.

Included in the $20 ticket price is a scarecrow competition and display.

Entries for the scarecrow competition can be handed in to the church office.

Problems with the Ōpaoa River Bridge build will delay completion. File photo.

Defects discovered on multimillion-dollar bridge

Routine tests on Marlborough’s multimillion-dollar bridge have uncovered road defects that will delay completion.

A problem with the asphalt on the Ōpaoa River Bridge was discovered by road workers carrying out standard quality control tests.

The construction company will have to pay for vital repairs delaying completion on the 10-metre wide bridge until the end of the year.

Originally expected to open in mid-2020, the bridge was set to cost around $21 million but has jumped to almost $22.7 million.

Waka Kotahi senior manager for project delivery Andy Thackwray says rigorous testing is carried out to find any potential problems.

“During construction, as road surfacing work is carried out, the pavement is subjected to robust testing so we can identify and remedy any issues before a project is completed.

“In this case, the top surfacing asphalt layer on the bridge was found to have deficiencies that, if left, would have resulted in replacement being required much sooner than its expected design life.

“The cost of remedial work will be at the contractor’s expense,” he says.

Final work on the bridge is expected to continue until mid-October with road bosses hoping to celebrate completion late this year.

Waka Kotahi has kept project delays to a minimum over the Covid-19 lockdown.

While pavement works will be completed in mid-October, smaller projects, including landscaping, work on the heritage bridge, and reinstatement of the holiday camp below the new bridge will continue into November.

“With the project progressing so well we’re now starting to plan how we can properly celebrate the completion of this important regional project alongside our partners, stakeholders and community,” Andy says.

“This will be a truly spectacular asset for the community.”

Motorists are being warned to expect delays while works continue.

Drivers are asked to please plan and be patient while the essential works are completed.

In the likelihood of bad weather, these works will be postponed for the next fine day.

  • Monday 5 October – Friday 9 October: Day-time STOP/GO from 8:30am-2:30pm each day (excluding Friday and Saturday days)
  • Monday 12 October – Friday 16 October: Day-time STOP/GO will be used anytime between 8:30am-2:30pm each day (will only be in place whilst concrete is being poured)