Waimakairiri rubbish bags among most expensive in the land

Rubbish bags in the Waimakariri District appear to be among the most expensive in the country.

At $2.90, the retail price of a single Waimakariri rubbish bag is higher even than in Auckland, where the Auckland City Council advertises its bags at only $2.30 each.

The Wellington City Council charges $2.50 a bag, and the Dunedin City Council $2.65.

Salvation Army Rangiora Corps captain Nigel De Maine said the army was considering adding rubbish bags to its food parcels to take the stress off people’s weekly costs.

“We do know that there are people in the community who are struggling to afford them.”

The Waimakariri draft annual plan for 2017-18 proposes lifting the price even further, to $3 a bag or $72.50 for a pack of 25 rubbish bags.

Kaiapoi resident Jo Reilly said she would rather pay more in her rates and have a bin instead of a bag.

“I can only buy bags at [a] Kaiapoi supermarket but work in town so have to make a special trip to buy them.”

Kaiapoi resident Lloyd Matthews said the cost of rubbish bags was “reasonable” if they lasted a week. His family of three went through about one bag a fortnight.

Waimakariri District Council solid waste asset manager Kitty Waghorn said the council received “fewer than one complaint a month” about bag prices.

However, she said the number of complaints did increase during the feedback period for the council’s annual and long-term plans.

Waghorn said the council was considering a bin collection service, which would address the “health and safety risks of a manual bag collection” and deal with animals getting into the bags.

A proposal, which would be funded by rates rather than pay-as-you-go bag purchases, would be put out for consultation in a few months.

_Emily Heyward for The Press


Clarence River residents fear being trapped by weather-dependent access route

Clarence residents are gearing up for an isolated winter and the possibility of being trapped if heavy rain floods the only road out.

Shirley Millard has enough venison in the freezer to last a few months, just in case.

She has stocked up on food in the likelihood she will be trapped in the valley at some point over winter.

 “We’ve been trying to get out once a week for supplies, like fuel supplies and food supplies, and when we can’t get out, we can’t get those.”

The Wharekiri and Miller streams crossed over the road, flooding it when weather was bad and making it too hazardous to drive.

The weather-dependent road became a main route into the valley after the November 14 earthquake destroyed bridge access on the old entry way.

Clarence builder Gavin Clarke said he would have to leave his home if a new bridge was not built, as the regularly flooded access was unreliable for work.

Residents on the isolated side of the valley were not asking for much, Clarke said.

“We’re not asking for anything else except good, all-weather access.”

The streams crossing through the new route required some residents to buy four-wheel-drive vehicles, however the water took a toll on vehicle brakes, which Clarke said were starting to seize up on his truck.

Resident Lesa B’do said locals had taken it upon themselves to find other ways to leave the valley if necessary. After making an application for a Lotteries grant, they had received emergency helicopter rides.

“There seems to be a little bit of a lack of understanding around the fact that we have a completely different situation here and it really means that we are a lot more cut off and isolated than other people.”

Millard said a lack of communication between the Kaikoura District Council and residents had been a “big issue”.

Residents were told it would take three months to write a report on the bridge’s replacement and consult the community.

No report had been communicated to residents five months after the meeting, Millard said.

Council chief executive Angela Oosthuizen said a business case discussing options for the Glen Alton bridge was still being put together and residents would have input into the final decision.

The council was upgrading the road into the valley to a reasonable 4WD standard as an interim solution, and its status as either permanent or temporary would be assessed, Oosthuizen said.

_By Emma Beaven for The Marlborough Express

Night-owl students hail initiative

Stressed-out Otago University students now have somewhere on campus to go when they feel the need for some late-night study at exam time. Tom Kitchin went in search of night-owls for the Otago Daily Times.

It’s shortly before 2am on a Thursday. Students of the University of Otago are still awake, and still on campus. It’s exam time. This means high stress and high tension.

For the first time, the university is keeping the Link and University Union building open until  2am during the exam period. For extreme night-owls the central library is not an option as it closes at 11pm and does not reopen  until 7am.

Second-year students Justin Kim (19) and Tom Jeong (19) are studying for their physiology exam in the Union building. They have been there since 8pm. One might think they’d have an abundance of energy drinks in supply but this duo’s diet consists of mandarins and trail mix. They admit their sleeping schedule is a bit messy during exam time.

“It’s a matter of cramming,” Tom says.

“It’s too cold to get up in the morning and here has more heat.”

The St David Theatre complex is open to students  24 hours a day during exams. Just after 2am, about 20 students are dispersed around St David.

The atmosphere is quiet except for a faint buzzing of a drink fridge, the odd shuffle of papers, the patter of fingers on keyboards and the occasional whisper between mates.

Fourth-year law and politics student Jenny Coatham (21) sits alone in the complex. She has three exams close together over the next few days. She’s been on campus since 2pm and plans to stay until 6am. That’s 16 hours’ straight study. She will return home for a one-hour nap, then it’s back to the library at 7am.

“It’s kind of inevitable, especially with people that don’t have particularity good time management skills.

“We’re going to be studying at an ungodly hour. It’s good that the university recognises that.”

To stay alert, she has a bottle of energy drink she’s halfway through and a  chocolate bar. Anything else to keep her awake?

“Just a general love of what I’m studying,” she says.

Thomas Bell (18) is a first-year genetics student, sitting by himself in the complex. He has a human body system exam at 9.30am, just seven hours away.

“I’ve done lacklustre study up to the last couple of days. I [always] cram, whether I like it or not. It’s good to have a last resort that’s away from my own bed,” he says.

Alex Huo (19), a second year neuroscience student, is also studying at St David early the same morning.

“It’s considerate of [the university] to offer a warm and safe environment for us. The campus guards offer a ride home if you’re living far away. It’s really generous of them,” he says.

Justin, Tom, Jenny, Thomas and Alex can give credit to the Otago University Students’ Association (OUSA) for dreaming up the late-night study initiative.

OUSA provided 24/7 access to its recreation centre last year during exam time.

The initiative was considered  a success and up to 60 students were there at peak time, around midnight. President Hugh Baird said the goal was always to get the university to provide late-night access for study as it cost “a hell of a lot” to keep the recreation centre open.

OUSA convinced the university to open the Link and Union building until 2am and the St David complex 24/7. Mr  Baird said late nights were second nature for many students.

“A lot of students are genuine night-owls and are forced to go home to cold flats. The uni has been obliging.”

The university’s campus and collegiate life services director, James Lindsay, agreed that the late-night study areas were a good idea.

“Creating the late-night study areas help acknowledge the campus is not just a business-hours environment and we want to help people use the campus more outside those hours,” he said.

The late-night study space initiative started on Monday, May 22 and would continue until Wednesday, June 21. The first semester exam period began on Wednesday and runs until Wednesday, June 21.

As for  students like Justin, Tom, Jenny, Thomas and Alex  it’s one day at a time, one night at a time and maybe a couple of energy drinks at once. Maybe even some mandarins.

Nelson’s newest citizens welcomed at Civic House ceremony

Nelson has a diverse bunch of new citizens following a ceremony which saw 31 people from around the world declare their allegiance to New Zealand.

Daria Fechney, originally from the Czech Republic, became a citizen after six-and-a-half years living in Nelson.

Nelson felt like the right choice for Daria and husband Simon, originally from New Zealand, to settle down.

Fechney said she was really happy to be given the opportunity to become a Kiwi citizen.

“I want to respect the culture and contribute anything my personality can bring”, Fechney said.

The Vij family, originally from the United States, were also granted their citizenship at the ceremony at Nelson Civic House on Wednesday after moving to New Zealand 10 years ago.

Wife and mother Maura Vij’s interest in New Zealand was first sparked while on a University exchange programme at the University of Otago.

The couple moved to Nelson so their three daughters could grow up around their grandparents who already lived in the city.

Maura, husband Virat and daughter Uma all gained citizenship alongside one another. Maura said this was lucky as they could maintain a dual American citizenship.

“The focus on multiculturalism, peace, safety, and environment” influenced Maura’s decision to live here, particularly with concerns of the United States pulling out of the Paris climate agreement.

The new citizens represent a range of nationalities from countries including Belgium, South Africa, the Philippines, Germany, India, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Samoa, and Taiwan.

Each candidate was presented with their citizenship certificate and a native plant, which they are encouraged to plant or gift to family or friends. The ceremony was concluded with a performance by Clifton Terrace School’s Kapa Haka group.

_By Sarah Jadallah for the Nelson Mail

Community Law cuts hours in Marlborough

An essential community service in Marlborough is operating at reduced hours and with reduced staff due to budget shortfalls.

Community Law Marlborough has lodged a submission to the Marlborough District Council in the annual plan for $10,000 to cover the deficit.

Community Law Marlborough manager Stephanie Moses said the centre had to reduce its opening hours at the start of the year.

Before Christmas, the centre underwent a restructure and had to cut 20 staff working hours, which affected two staff.

Everyone had picked up a bit of work to ensure clients still got free legal advice, but it was not sustainable long term, Moses said.

“It puts a huge load on the staff that we’ve got. We don’t have the funds to increase staff numbers to go with the increase in work.”

Community Law Centres New Zealand chief executive Elizabeth Tennet said staff were very committed to helping those less fortunate, and that staff earned salaries below market rate.

She said the Government was taking advantage of staff.

“They are exploiting the goodwill that our staff have in wanting to give back to the community.”

Community Law Centres nationwide were funded by the Ministry of Justice.

Despite increased client numbers and operation costs, funding from the Government had remained static since 2008.

Tennet said the Government refused to give any extra funding, despite the fact the centres saved the Ministry of Justice money by resolving issues without needing to go to court.

Tennet said the Government, not district councils, was responsible for funding shortfalls.

“It would be very nice of council to cover it.”

The Marlborough District Council would meet on Monday to consider all submissions and their decisions would be incorporated into the final annual plan to be adopted on June 29.

The decisions would determine any change to the level of rates from July 1.

_By Milly Smith for the Marlborough Express

Tasman man plants 17,000 native trees on his property to bring back birds

Steve Anderson has planted 17,000 native plants on his Tasman property. EMMA BEAVEN.

A Tasman district man is undertaking the mammoth task of restoring native habitat to three hectares of his property.

Steve Anderson bought the land in Ngatimoti about a year ago and has since planted over 17,000 native plants of 40 different varieties, in an effort to support wildlife endemic to the area.

“I want the native plants to do well, but I’d really like to increase the population of birds, insects and reptiles.”

He hand-planted over 8500 plants and received help from his son and other workers for the remaining half.

Anderson also trapped predators to aid the wildlife recovery process. In the latter six months of last year, he trapped 128 pests using his 26 traps and bait stations.

As the area was originally wetland, Anderson wanted to recreate a similar ecosystem. He removed pines and used a digger to mould ponds on the property where the creek would have originally flowed, before it was moved to create room for farmland.

In 10 years, he hopes to see the place flourishing and be forging paths to walk through bush.

However, he said the plants still required a lot maintenance for about five years, as weeds competed with them for moisture and sunlight, so he used guards, spray and weeded by hand to protect them.

The Tasman District Council subsidised some of Anderson’s plants running along the creek.

The council’s river and coastal engineer Giles Griffith said it was able to subsidise restoration efforts of waterways on residents’ properties if they paid the relevant river rate.

These efforts helped increase biodiversity of waterways, gave better water quality, and created greater long-term erosion protection compared with pasture.

Griffith said Anderson’s planting was a “major project”, but he would like to see more people planting like he has.

He said its river team, along with its community facilities department and other reserves, were planting 15,000 natives a year along various maintained rivers in the Tasman district, such as the Waimea, Wai-iti, Moutere and Motueka Rivers.

_By Emma Beaven for the Nelson Mail

Seven months after the 7.8 quake, Graham Collins still finds broken pipes in his farm paddocks

As Graham Collins walks around his Kaikoura dairy farm, he still finds broken pipes underneath paddocks.

Wells he only recently cleared had three metres of sediment in them.

It is almost seven months after the November earthquake destroyed his milking sheds and irrigation systems. His grain silo, with 20 tonnes of feed for the cows, toppled in the earthquake.

Graham Collins reckons it will take him six months to get to the “new normal” stage for farmers in the region.

In the days after the earthquake, he dumped about 14,000 litres of milk day because trucks had no access.

Collins had to cut back to milking once a day.

Graham Collins’ grain silo, with 20 tonnes of feed for the cows, toppled in the earthquake.

The farm is “probably never going to be back to the old normal”, Collins says.

He said even next season he would milk at a reduced rate, with his damaged milking shed still a long way from being functional.

He leased a nearby milking shed to keep his operation going, but the heavy traffic wearing on the road made it difficult to get his stock there.

Graham Collins had to cut back to milking once a day after the November earthquake.

While grateful the damage was not worse, he reckoned getting to the “new normal” would take at least another six months.

His situation is not isolated.

Fonterra North Canterbury area manager Mike Hennessy said long-term issues made it hard for earthquake-affected farmers to recover their lost income from last season.

Destroyed or damaged milking sheds forced farmers to reduce milking to once a day, or stop milking entirely.

Dairy cows usually produced milk until as late as May, but some farmers stopped milking as early as December last year, leaving them with no income for months.

Two farms sill could not produce milk.

“Unless the other farmers do really, really well, we won’t hit that same level [as before the earthquakes] because, simply, there are fewer cows.”

At this stage, it was hard to tell what the new normal would be, said Hennessy.

The character of the land changed after the earthquake, he said, and drainage issues which were now a common problem.

“Paddocks have changed, springs have come, creeks have started running that haven’t run before.”

Many farmers faced the extra cost of upgrading “band-aid” temporary fixes to more permanent infrastructure, with less income to work with.

He was confident the region would get back to its old milk production, eventually.

“It’s just going to take time.

“What that amount of time is, we don’t know,” he said.

DairyNZ Canterbury regional leader Virginia Serra said although farmers were seen as resilient people who “just get on with the job”, the reality could be different.

“It’s still very challenging for many in Kaikoura.  Some still have the stress of dealing with damage to their homes, infrastructure on farms, and the land itself,” she said.

“As the people of Canterbury know, the effects of an earthquake can remain for a long time.”

Being largely cut off by road made it difficult for some people with operational farms to find employees for the season.

Bob Balanos, a dairy farmer from Rangiora, helps migrants find work in New Zealand.

He said Kaikoura farmers approached him to help them find workers.

“Part of the problem is it’s far away,” he said. “People think because of the damage to the road that it’s isolated.”

Hennessy said the whole town was still suffering from being so cut off, but the opening of State Highway 1 and the boom in milk prices helped Kaikoura farmers’ morale.

“The attitude and atmosphere certainly changed,” he said.

The good dairy market alone is not enough to get Kaikoura farmers back on their feet.

“There’s still a long way to go for a lot of people, it’s not over yet, and there’s a lot of work still needing to be done before normality, whatever that looks like, kicks back in.”

_By Skara Bohny for The Press