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Businesses combined for crafters and community
Businesses combined for crafters and community

03 April 2024, 8:42 PM

It’s been a seamless transition for Wendy Simpson merging her two craft supply stores into one larger premises on Ōamaru’s Thames Street.For locals who remember the Ōamaru Silk Centre, before it became interiors store Design Federation, things have almost come full circle, with Rose’s Enhanced and Stitch on Tyne opening there this week.Wendy bought Enhanced in October 2022, two doors north of the new premises, and opened Stitch on Tyne in March last year, on Tyne Street.“I'm a big crafter,” she said. “I'm a dabbler. I'm an expert in nothing, but Oamaru has a strong crafting community.”Both shops stocked various haberdashery and craft items, and while Enhance had a focus on wool and knitting paraphernalia, Stitch on Tyne stocked fabrics, and sewing necessities. “We were finding that it wasn't busy enough for the fabrics down in the precinct. The tourists aren't up as much as they have been in the previous years . . . so, we thought, well, if we put them together, then we'd have kind of one big craft hub,” Wendy said.For almost five years, Wendy has also run Rose’s General Store on Tyne Street - the go-to for an assortment of sweet treats, fancy teas, useful knick knacks, traditional remedies, and the occasional show ticket.At no extra cost, you can also get the unofficial word on what’s going on around the town and where, when you’re lucky enough to catch Wendy in store (FYI - it’s Thursdays and Fridays).Wendy moved to Ōamaru from Auckland in 2006. She found it hard to be part of a community in the city, and threw herself into the one here, when she and her husband first arrived.“I worked in a cafe for a while, and then I got given the role of the event coordinator for the Victorian Heritage Celebrations, so that was my stepping into the community role and then I ended up working for Tourism Waitaki for nearly 12 years,” she said.Kathleen Shaw, who is part of that community, has nothing but nice things to say about her friend.“She's an amazing woman who just goes beyond and above the call of duty for everybody . . . she is just incredible,” she says.“She is amazing, and when I was on a committee with her she was an amazing font of knowledge, she had an amazing memory, and she knew everything and she was always kind to everybody, which is really important.”After two days of business at the new Rose’s Enhanced, Wendy has been busy with people calling in to wish her well.“It was really nice to see that the locals are happy about us moving.”The motivation behind all her businesses is to help people, she says. “If we don't stock [something], I'll try my best to direct them to another business. Because I think it's important that we all support our local businesses.”She is adamant, however, she won’t be opening any more.“This is my limit. I'm telling my husband if I have any other stupid ideas, he has to say no.” Moving the businesses was a “way bigger job” than she expected, and she was grateful for help from “wonderful people” over the Easter long weekend.“We took the four days to move . . . and it's still a work in progress.” The shop will be open 10am to 5pm Monday to Friday, and 10am to 2pm on a Saturday.Once settled in, Wendy is looking forward to having new wool arriving in for winter. She also has new fabrics coming in weekly.

Council to enter talks with Health NZ over hospital ownership
Council to enter talks with Health NZ over hospital ownership

02 April 2024, 12:11 AM

The priority of council negotiations with Health NZ over the Ōamaru Hospital ownership is to maintain its services, Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher says.A decision was made last week, in a public-excluded session of the Waitaki District Council meeting, to begin negotiations with Health NZ Te Whatu Ora over a potential transfer of staff and services back to the national health organisation.The decision was based on confidential advice and related information from Waitaki District Health Services Limited (WDHS). “We want to reassure the community that these negotiations start from the critical position of maintaining a hospital and health services in Ōamaru, for the Waitaki district,” Gary said.The public was excluded from last Tuesday’s (March 26) council meeting, due to commercial sensitivities regarding some details.The council also commissioned a review to consider options for the future sustainability of health services in Waitaki and established a working group to work with the review and support negotiations.This is not a final decision on the future of the hospital, but a decision to enter negotiations with Health NZ.If negotiations are successful, a proposal will be presented to council in the future for it to decide if it will transfer the services.“Waitaki District Council, through WDHS, has had operational control of Ōamaru Hospital since July 1, 1999. Without council and WDHS, Ōamaru Hospital would have closed in the 1990s,” Gary said. “Due to the stewardship of our council, we have been able to ensure Waitaki has had a hospital for 25 years.“Our community should not be paying twice for its hospital, through general taxation and rates. Ensuring the hospital service remains here is our priority and initial discussions with Health NZ have been encouraging in that respect.”Council chief executive Alex Parmley said as sole shareholder in WDHS, the priority of the council is to secure the long-term future of the hospital and its services, and to ensure hospital staff are looked after throughout any potential transition.“With council’s decision, formal negotiations with Health NZ can now begin. There is a lot to discuss and, if we can reach a proposal that works for our community, we will let our residents know what that looks like, before bringing it back to council for a decision on whether to go ahead or not.”Staff at the Ōamaru Hospital have been informed about the council’s decision, and further information will be provided in due course.Health NZ Te Whatu Ora Te Waipounamu (South Island) Local Commissioning group manager Aroha Metcalf said the organisation wants to make sure people living in rural communities have the services they need to live long and healthy lives, supported by a health system that meets their needs.  “Our focus is on ensuring ongoing sustainable health services for the local community and we wish to develop a joint transition programme with the Council on how the day-to-day operations of the hospital could be shifted to Health NZ. “We will work closely with hospital leadership and the hospital staff as the plan is worked through.”  Health NZ is supportive of the review that the council is going to commission, and in light of that, will also work with local leaders on the timing of the stakeholder and community engagement on Te Waka Hauora o Waitaki Health Futures project, Aroha said.“The aim of this project is to develop a health care model covering the whole mix of health care services in Waitaki, not just those managed by the council, so it is timely these discussions are being held to ensure service continuity. “This is in line with our place-based planning approach, listening to the voices of the community and working with service providers to share their local knowledge about what can be improved or developed.   “The local community is fortunate to have a wonderful team of dedicated healthcare professionals in Waitaki and Health NZ highly values the hard work that they do every day,” she said.Look out for a further in-depth Q&A with Mayor Gary Kircher surrounding this issue on the Waitaki App in the coming days.

Perimenopause workshop brings 'the gold' of sharing and support
Perimenopause workshop brings 'the gold' of sharing and support

28 March 2024, 1:39 AM

A workshop to help stop women over 35 from “slipping into doom mode” when it comes to approaching menopause will be in Ōamaru next week.Perimenopause - A workshop for the Journey of Transition, is being held at Ōamaru’s Business Hive on Thursday, April 4 at 7pm.The evening, being run by Alice Tabak, goes for about two hours, and presents women with the latest scientific research, followed by a chance for them to reflect and share.Numbers are kept to a minimum, making it perfect for those who prefer small group discussions rather than audience-style events or online forums, Alice said.Alice is also a facilitator for Celebration Day for Girls, a programme for 9-12 year old girls, offering them an holistic view of their bodies and an introduction to menstrual cycles.Branching out into helping older women through the transition out of menstruating is a natural progression of that.“In my years of women’s groups around this subject, my experience is women want to talk about it and to share their experiences.“Being better prepared for perimenopause can give us the resources, security and confidence to embrace this time of our lives more consciously.”“For some, slamming into the experience of menopause can be distressing, therefore arming ourselves ahead of time can serve us greatly.”The workshop is for women who may or may not yet be experiencing the impact of perimenopause, including (but not limited to) changes in sleep patterns, struggles with concentration, hot flushes, irregular periods, brain fog, and anxiety, Alice said.“This is a therapeutic space to discuss and learn about perimenopause, however it is not therapy. If someone is really struggling with this time in their lives they should seek professional one on one care.”The workshop helps women to view menopause outside a medical lens, although that is also an important part of addressing the symptoms and can be an area of frustration for a lot of women.“Finding a good GP who’s really up to date with the latest research around menopause can be difficult, there are good specialists available however, in Christchurch and online.“So if you are not finding much success, I would ask to be referred. “There is also a great excerpt in Lara Briden’s latest book Hormone Repair Manual about how to talk with your doctor. This is a great checklist to feel prepared when entering into these conversations with your GP,” she says.The workshop offers women the chance to connect and share with others with similar experiences in a supportive, relaxed, safe environment with an experienced group facilitator.It aims to confront inherited narratives of shame around ageing and menopause, Alice says.“That is where the gold is - when we share and support each other. That is what we base our workshop on, as well as the latest research, science, politics, workplace strategies, sex, spirituality and culture.”The workshop costs $45 and includes refreshments. There are still a few spots left. For more information or to register email Alice at [email protected]

Kiwiana show promises something for all ages
Kiwiana show promises something for all ages

27 March 2024, 10:18 PM

Ōamaru families are invited along on a 6000km road-trip, with the latest Arts on Tour NZ offering coming to the Opera House in time for the school holidays.In Land of the Long Long Drive, Gary the Glow-worm is having a rave in a cave for his birthday, and his mates Wēta, Tuna and Kārearea are determined to get there.The three friends face a number of trials on the road, and learn, despite their differences, they can achieve their goals by working together.The show is culmination of Kiwi talent, and brought to life through beautiful costuming from Royal New Zealand Ballet costumier Gridley by Victoria, and new waiata written by singer-songwriter Benny Tipene, with support from Capital E National Theatre for Children through their Creative Residency programme.Iconic New Zealand creatures and landscapes also have starring roles in this play which was named winner of the 3-8 year old section of Playmarket’s Plays for the Young Competition, but will entertain people of all ages.Land of the Long Long Drive brings you a laugh out loud, inspiring adventure of three unlikely heroes.One reviewer described the script by Catriona Tipene Rann and Ryan Cundy as “cool, silly and touching”, and the show features an actual moving, turning, Kombi van complete with functioning headlights.Land of the Long Long Drive is on at the Ōamaru Opera House on Monday, April 22, at 3pm. Tickets are an affordable $9.50 plus fees, and those aged one and under, are free seated on a caregiver’s knee.

Ōamaru public transport trial up for discussion in draft plan, ORC says
Ōamaru public transport trial up for discussion in draft plan, ORC says

27 March 2024, 3:12 AM

A public transport trial for Ōamaru is one of the proposed changes for the Otago Regional Council’s Long-Term Plan.The ORC is seeking public input on a number of proposals for rating changes which will affect every property in Otago for the next 10 years, chairperson Gretchen Robertson says.“The Long Term Plan is the cornerstone for setting the direction of key work programmes and it’s imperative all ratepayers have their say on these proposals. We really need people to get involved and contribute to this vitally important plan,” she said.The potential changes include how the council rates properties, including those with targeted rates, public transport in Dunedin and Queenstown, trials of regional public transport, flood protection and drainage schemes, river and catchment management, harbour safety, freshwater farm plans, wilding pine control and environmental projects.“We’re very conscious of people’s concerns in this challenging economic environment, where councils across the country are considering increasing rates,” Gretchen said.Because of that, she urges people to have their say now and tell ORC what their preferences and priorities are for the decade ahead.Council transport manager Lorraine Cheyne said public consultation on the possibility of regional public transport for a number of places including Ōamaru, will take place through the Long Term Plan discussions.“This provides the public the opportunity to provide feedback on their willingness to support a public transport investment. “Subject to the response that council receives, we will then work with and seek feed-back from the local council and community on the design of the service/s,” she said.Design considerations include the route, the location of stops, frequency of services and running times over the day/week.The frequency and service running times affect the overall cost of any option, so are shaped by the initial consultation through the Long Term Plan, Lorraine said.Input from respective district councils is essential and the earliest it is thought trials could start, is July 2025.All trials are reliant on the ORC receiving 51% co-investment from Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency.“Our Long Term Plan plans were made and approved by council before the current Coalition Government set out its transport investment policies in the new Government Policy Statement (GPS), March 2024. “The new GPS has a lower priority for public transport investment which carries some risk for new public transport trials anywhere in the country,” she said.The regularity and timetable of the regional routes will depend on the type of service and availability of funding.During the next 10 years it is proposed to spend $315 million in Dunedin and close to $194 million in Queenstown, so funds from both targeted rates and Waka Kotahi NZTA are required, Gretchen said.ORC wants to build on services in both areas in an effort to reduce congestion and carbon emissions - this includes upgrading the bus fleet to electric.The decision to look into trialling public transport beyond Dunedin and Queenstown has been made due to public demand.Along with Ōamaru, services will be trialled in Wanaka - both funded from a targeted rate - while Alexandra, Clyde, Cromwell to Queenstown, and Balclutha to Dunedin, including the airport - will all be funded from the general rate.“We want to strike a balance between improving public transport and keeping costs manageable,” she said.ORC is holding seven drop-in sessions for ratepayers across the region next month between April 10 and 18. Ōamaru sessions are being held on Thursday, April 11 at the Early Settlers Hall at 12-2pm, and 4-7pm. Moeraki ORC councillor Kevin Malcolm can also be contacted at [email protected] or on 027 838 3003.There are online and postal options available for public input and Gretchen is urging ratepayers to contact their council representatives directly.“Ratepayers shouldn’t be put off from giving feedback or making submissions given the large scope of changes, as they can choose areas of particular interest to them,” she said.Following public feedback, which can be provided from today (March 28) until April 26, final decisions on the plan are scheduled to be made at the council’s meeting in June.Proposed rate changesTen different rates are being considered for changes so rates can be “more fairly applied”, to have a more workable, transparent, and understandable process, Gretchen said.“The changes won’t impact on the current level of services we’re providing, it’s about how the work programmes are funded and who pays for them,” she said.There is a “significant focus” on public transport, large-scale environmental project funding and how rates are calculated.“The calculation changes will be different for everyone, depending on where in Otago people live. That can be complex, so we have created a rates estimator to use.”Consultation is open online at the ORC website. To see what the ORC rates could potentially be on your property for the 2024-25 year, under the new Long Term Plan, visit the Online rates calculator.Hard copies of the Long Term Plan are available directly from ORC offices and public libraries, and written submissions can be posted or dropped off to: ORC, Level 2, 144 Rattray Street, Dunedin 9016, ORC, Alta House, Level 1, Terrace Junction, 1092 Frankton Road, Queenstown.

Festival hits the right note
Festival hits the right note

26 March 2024, 10:19 PM

Another successful Harbour Street Jazz and Blues Festival has come to a close with music makers and music lovers alike packing Ōamaru venues, filling the street, and soaking up the atmosphere at the weekend.The weather played the perfect supporting role for the multi-gig event, which included almost 70 performances in and around town, from Friday evening until the grand finale on Sunday night.Festival co-ordinator Jacob Barwick said the weekend was amazing. "Venues throughout Ōamaru were standing room only. Harbour Street had a vibe all of its own, with people roaming town and listening to all the musicians," he said."The highlight for many was the spontaneous performances by The Traveling Blueberries, which packed Harbour Street."Alice Hore - part of the mobile musical madness that was The Traveling Blueberries, as well as starring in her usual gigs as lead singer of The Saggy Britches Band - also captured some photos on her travels, which she has kindly shared with the Waitaki App.Waitaki District Councillor and photographer extraordinaire Rebecca Ryan has also generously shared some photos.A huge thank you to them both, it takes a village!Harbour Street thronged with people, making the most of the music and the sunshine. Photo: Rebecca RyanThe Timaru Dixieland Jazz Band playing at the Harbour Street Collective Cafe. Photo: Alice HoreThe Merc 6 in form at festival headquarters in the Grainstore. Photo: Alice Hore.Craig Conlan of Ōamaru band Hot Mess. Photo: Alice Hore Ōamaru's resident Brazilian band Iara takes to the Ruby Marris Trust stage. Photo: Alice HoreThe Traveling Blueberries bring music to Ōamaru's main street. Photo: Rebecca RyanOne-man band Jed Jeffries outside the Steampunk HQ. Photo: Alice HoreVisitors to Ōamaru take a seat, while they soak up some tunes. Photo: Alice HoreThe Curio Club with their offering at the Grainstore. Photo: Rebecca RyanThe Traveling Blueberries on the road again. Photo: Rebecca RyanTrumpeting to the masses. Photo: Rebecca Ryan

Plans for future of Ōamaru town centre making progress
Plans for future of Ōamaru town centre making progress

25 March 2024, 10:43 PM

Moves to revitalise Ōamaru’s CBD are about “community and council working together to design and deliver the future”, Waitaki District Council business attraction manager Mel Jones says.The second meeting of the central business district revitalisation workshop was held at the Ōamaru Opera House earlier this month, with 35 representatives from local businesses and organisations working together with the council to come up with a plan through “strategic doing”.The purpose of strategic doing is to find solutions to complex challenges and carry them out through collaboration and networking. At the last workshop five projects were identified to move forward on.Numat graphic design director Kelvin Cunningham, who has been in the workshops, thinks the strategic doing approach is “a great way to embrace the process of public and community networks and engagement, with the action needed to move faster toward achieving a desired outcome”.“All projects are a win in the face of the necessity to revitalise the CBD,” he says.The projects all address a way to develop spaces and activities that will encourage interaction and interest in the town.“These projects highlight and showcase our unique history, beauty and stories that would be otherwise unknown to some and the visitors to come. More engagement, more people, more business.”Having a variety of voices in one room for the workshops is a great start to bettering the CBD, he says.“We hope this will further encourage community engagement to continue to develop and build upon the momentum to make this town such an interesting place to go and spend time.Mel says revitalising the CBD to ensure it is a thriving centre of the Waitaki that is attractive for residents, visitors and businesses, is something the council is committed to.“The approach we are taking is to engage a selection of businesses and other organisations in co-designing what changes we make.”BuggyRobot creator Martin Horspool said being part of the process is “very exciting”.“It’s great to see what other people's ideas are. It’s great to see the focus on the historical and some of the unloved and underappreciated areas of the CBD.”Ōamaru Whitestone Civic Trust trustee David Wilson says the plan has great potential. “This is such a fantastic town to work with, and the ideas that have come out are going to build on and enhance a lot of the activity that’s been going on for a number of years.”Project teams are now working on refining their plans ahead of presenting them to the public.

Cool and windy weather forecast in lead-up to Easter
Cool and windy weather forecast in lead-up to Easter

25 March 2024, 8:39 PM

MetService is forecasting a series of fronts which will make their way over the country this week, bringing strong northwesterly winds and periods of rain, particularly for the South Island. On Thursday, a cold southwesterly flow takes over, and while it brings some clearer skies over the South Island, it also leads to lower temperatures.Overnight from tonight (Tuesday) into Wednesday a low-pressure system passes just to the south of the South Island, bringing another cold front onto the lower South Island,  MetService meteorologist Juliane Bergdolt says.“We see a repeating pattern on Wednesday as another front moves northwards up the country, reaching Christchurch around midday. “Much like Monday’s front, it is preceded by strengthening northwesterlies and potentially heavy rain. Severe Weather Watches may be issued . . .  in the coming days. However, this front is followed by strong and cold southwesterly winds, bringing a distinct dip in the temperatures just ahead of the long weekend,” she said.A strong wind watch has been issued for the Canterbury High Country for the six hours from 3am-9am tomorrow (Wednesday), with the possibility of Northwest winds approaching severe gale in exposed places.There is also a strong wind watch in place for Clutha and Dunedin, with the possibility of a west to southwest wind approaching severe gale in exposed places in the five hours from 5am-10am tomorrow.Looking ahead, the Easter forecast still has some uncertainties, with a low-pressure system to the northeast of the North Island that may have a part to play.The driest weather will be in the South Island, with Central Otago, inland Canterbury, and the West Coast most likely to see the sun. However, there will be a chill in the air so wrap up warm for any early morning Easter egg hunts.

Drivers urged to take care over long weekends
Drivers urged to take care over long weekends

22 March 2024, 1:06 AM

As we head into back to back long weekends, NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi is encouraging people to allow extra time on the roads.Otago Anniversary Day kicks off the shortened working week on Monday, with Good Friday at the tail end, leading into Easter.A number of Waitakians will be taking advantage of the chance to link two long weekends together to maximise holiday time, with Warbirds over Wānaka a likely drawcard, being held again for the first time in six years. The international airshow attracted 54,000 people in 2018 for its 30th anniversary, and the same number or more are expected this year after the Covid-induced hiatus. What this means for drivers is people will be travelling to the Queenstown Lakes District town from all over the South Island/Te Wai Pounamu.NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi Otago/Southland journey manager Nicole Felts encourages everyone to check their routes in advance. Some key times are likely to be much busier than others, based on previous years’ traffic counts.Travellers should add extra time to their travel plans, so they can remove angst and enjoy the drive, she said. “Coffee, snacks and toilet breaks will help you refresh and arrive relaxed. Share the driving if you can.” She also urges people to check their vehicles are warranted and registered and to plan for things like a flat tyre or bad weather, by checking the spare tyre and jack, the windscreen-wipers and carrying spare blankets and torches. “Follow the speed limits and drive to the conditions. If the weather is stormy, slow down and watch your following distances. “If you are towing a trailer or caravan, check behind you and be prepared to pull over at a safe spot to let others pass from time to time.”Keep up to date with traffic updates through Facebook, Twitter (X), Journey planner or by phoning 0800 4 HIGHWAYS (0800 44 44 49).

Suggested rates rise curbed at average of 13.73%
Suggested rates rise curbed at average of 13.73%

21 March 2024, 11:09 PM

A proposed average rates rise of 13.73% will be discussed as part of the 2024-25 draft annual plan, at next week’s Waitaki District Council meeting.Earlier this month, Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher and councillors approved having a 2024-2025 year Annual Plan, followed by a nine-year 2025-2034 Long Term Plan, rather than the usual ten years.This option was offered to council by the Government to avoid it having to make a significant amendment to the Long Term Plan next year, following the Water Reform Repeal Bill which was passed in February.The delay gives the council time to assess the Government's direction on what needs to happen with the district’s water assets and also allows for more certainty on what Waka Kotahi/New Zealand Transport Agency funding will be for the next few years.Water and roading are the two biggest costs for the council. The engagement document being discussed will provide the Waitaki with information about the future funding needs of the district, and present options on water, roading and other services for 2024-2025 and beyond.It acknowledges council income streams are not increasing fast enough to cover the rising costs of Waitaki’s growing infrastructure needs, a media statement from the council said.Work has been done stripping back some proposals, revising budgets and looking at what can be done later, or differently, to reduce the proposed average rates increase for the 2024-25 financial year.Initially when the budget for the 2024-2025 financial year was under scrutiny, the average rate rise for Waitaki properties sat at around 26%.This rise will vary according to property location and value.There are no easy options ahead if the council is to deliver what is needed for the district and communities in a way that is affordable for ratepayers, Gary said.“While we have worked hard to reduce the rating rise for this year, we want to discuss the implications of how we do that. There are still some tough choices ahead and it is important that our community has the opportunity to have their say.”Council chief executive Alex Parmley said the council was already well along the “transformation pathway”. “Which has always been about getting value for money for the ratepayer and living within our means. This puts us in a good position to plan ahead for the next year, and the next ten years.”Community feedback on the Annual Plan opens next Thursday (March 28) and runs through until Tuesday, April 30.The engagement document, supporting information and feedback form will be available online on Council’s ‘Let’s Talk’ engagement hub, with print copies available at the council office on Thames Street and Waitaki District Libraries.A series of Q&A sessions on Facebook Live and community meetings are being held around the district next month.

Harbour Street to come alive with the sound of music
Harbour Street to come alive with the sound of music

19 March 2024, 1:45 AM

With most of the hard work done, Harbour Street Jazz and Blues Festival co-ordinator Jacob Barwick is looking forward to sitting back and soaking up some music.The Otago Anniversary Weekend festival opens this Friday night, and draws to a close with the grand finale on Sunday.While the music is mostly centred around Ōamaru’s Harbour St, which will be jam-packed with artists both inside and out, venues from Weston’s Rockvale Gardens to Ōamaru’s Northstar in the north end are all joining in the party.“It really is just a big outdoor festival . . . It is a good wander-y festival,” Jacob says.The 30+ acts are free, except for the Grand Finale Fundraiser Dinner on Sunday night, being held at the Loan and Merc building. Tickets are $95, include dinner, and are available from Rose’s General Store and the Festival Headquarters.Irish-born Dunedin-based musician Stevie Rice, and 13-piece band Otepoti All Stars will feature on the final night, and funds raised help to ensure the ongoing success of the festival.Festival Headquarters is in the Grainstore, on Harbour St, and has a licensed bar, and merchandise for sale.It is never a problem finding musicians to play at the festival, and they are all paid for their time and talent, Jacob says.There is a mixture of acts from all over the Waitaki, and those who travel to play here - many returning from previous years.“We have more people wanting to play than we’ve got venues,” he says.“We've got Paul Ubana Jones, who's coming back, so he should be worth a watch. And the Curio Club, I am curious about them.”The event has major benefits for Ōamaru, especially food and beverage businesses.“It has a big impact, because it probably is the biggest weekend of the year in terms of people coming to town and going out, because we put so many bands into all the venues, the flow on is that they are full,” Jacob says.“And because it's a free event people have more money to spend.”The event is also a bit of a financial buffer for the businesses, coming into the slower winter months.“They'll all be full. Criterion will be full, Scotts will be full, you just know it's going to be full . . . they all sign up year after year without question,” he says.Jacob encourages the Waitaki community to come out in support of the event. “I want them to turn up, because we put it on for them.” Accommodation is in short supply, and Jacob has people messaging him asking where they can stay.“I tell them ‘you should have booked last year’, because a lot of people just roll with the accommodation year on year.”As well as performers to watch, there are various musical workshops to take part in for a koha. Most are being held at The Penguin Club, and dance workshops at the Scottish Hall.Programmes with all the necessary information on acts and workshops will be available for a $2 donation at most of the venues in town, and the information will also be available on the Waitaki App before the festival begins.There will be music in every nook and cranny around Ōamaru's Harbour Street, and further afield. Photo: Facebook

Rangatahi-led fund available to enable youth projects
Rangatahi-led fund available to enable youth projects

18 March 2024, 8:58 PM

Young people with big ideas for youth in the Waitaki are encouraged to apply for financial help, with applications for the Rangatahi-Led Fund closing on Sunday.The Otago Community Trust provides grants for youth-led projects that benefit young people, in the Waitaki, South Otago, Central Otago and Ōtepoti Dunedin, as part of its $10 million Tamariki and Rangatahi Strategy.Rangatahi leaders from each region are at the helm of the fund, steering its purpose and criteria. They will collaborate with the Otago Community Trust on the final funding outcomes for grants of up to $5,000 to support innovative youth-led initiatives administered by eligible organisations.Alex Anderson from Balclutha said he appreciated the opportunity to be a part of something he knows is helping other young people, because he can see the effects.“Having something where rangatahi can go and actually run a whole project or event themselves and have that independence is just so so cool.”Full details and how rangatahi can get involved are available on the Otago Community Trust website.Leading the fund in the Waitaki are Blayde Forbes, Sophia Sam, Siara Sam, Ellen McAtamney and Sophie Notman.The intentions behind the fund is to make the Waitaki a more fulfilling place for youth to live and get them excited about living in the district. It encourages active participation in the community, and aims to bring people together and provide equal opportunities.People of all cultures, abilities and ethnicities under-25 can apply online, for a maximum of $5000 per project.For more help, people can email [email protected] or chat to one of the roopu (group) members on 0800 10 12 40.The fund does not cover scholarships or sponsorships, retrospective costs, and political parties or groups aligned with political parties.

Horse trainer/employee pairing on track thanks to scheme
Horse trainer/employee pairing on track thanks to scheme

17 March 2024, 11:17 PM

Another successful employee/employer pairing is off and racing thanks to the Mayor’s Taskforce for Jobs.Ōamaru woman Jayda Loper, was placed in employment at Brad Williamson Racing through the scheme, and she loves it.“It’s definitely a different kind of job and vibe, but I’ve learned a lot. “I wouldn’t have imagined myself working here, and didn’t think I’d come back to horses, but I used to ride when I was younger. “I love the people here, they’re supportive and nice, and I even get to have a drive which is great fun.”Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher and members of the Mayor’s Taskforce For Jobs (MTFJ) visited Brad Williamson Racing last week, to see Jayda and her employer Brad.Brad is one of Waitaki Sports Hall of Fame inductee Phil Williamson’s three sons. The two, together with Phil’s other two sons, Matthew and Nathan, have driven more than 3000 winners in harness racing, and train horses at their North Otago stables.During his visit, the mayor was taken on a run around the track on a sulky, led by Greta, one of the Williamson’s winning horses.“The Mayor’s Taskforce for Jobs is about getting great outcomes for young people and employers in our district,” Gary said.“Brad and the Williamsons are just one of the wide range of different employers in Waitaki, and being able to work with them, and find the right person for the job, demonstrates that when local communities are given responsibility and funding, they can find better local solutions to local problems.”This visit is the second of three the mayor is carrying out, to help spread the word of the scheme’s success in the district. Last month he visited Network Waitaki, and hopes to visit one more employer in the coming weeks.Each year the MTFJ has exceeded its targets of placing young people in apprenticeships and employment across the district. Funded by the Ministry of Social Development, it is hoped the scheme will continue to help find local solutions to employ local young people in local businesses.Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher, horse trainer Brad Williamson, and employee Jayda Loper. Photo: supplied

Water worries first focus of online sessions
Water worries first focus of online sessions

17 March 2024, 8:59 PM

It is hoped questions will flood in, for the first in a series of online council-run Q&A sessions around planning for the future, which focuses on water.In preparation for the 2024-25 Annual Plan, and looking ahead to the 2025-34 Long Term Plan, the Waitaki District Council is hosting a series of Q&A webinars over the next seven weeks.The first will be held via Facebook Live tomorrow (Tuesday, March 19) at 7pm and cover the three water networks owned and maintained by the council - drinking, waste and storm waters - and the future cost to upgrade them all.A short explainer video about this, and subsequent issues will be on the council Facebook page prior to each session, and community members can ask questions in the comments section, or submit them during the webinar.Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher says this is not a normal annual plan, due to the challenges of increased costs and rates affordability for the community.“We are not alone when it comes to the challenges facing our district by the significantly higher standards for water services - many councils are working hard to find ways to do the required work and keep rates affordable.“This Q&A is a chance for the community to find out more about their water network. We’re looking forward to talking about roads, affordability and service levels in the coming weeks.”Along with the explainer videos, the council will also be setting the record straight around any misconceptions to with the different topics each week.There will also be a series of community conversations in Palmerston, Ōamaru, Duntroon and Omarama in April once consultation opens for the Annual Plan.

Old Ghost Road pilgrimage like 'microcosm' of life with MS
Old Ghost Road pilgrimage like 'microcosm' of life with MS

15 March 2024, 12:36 AM

Talking to Ōamaru woman Kirsten Dixon, you can’t help but be struck by her vibrancy. You can tell she is a woman who loves life. (8-minute read)She is also a woman who has multiple sclerosis (MS). Kirsten was diagnosed almost exactly three years ago, at age 42, but she probably had the neurological disorder for about 20 years before she knew what it was. Something she says is not uncommon.“So you sort of might have little sensory indications, neuropathic pain, because the form of MS that I have, which is relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis, is episodic, so you can have an episode.”MS happens when your immune system attacks the myelin (protective coating) of your central nervous system, and that can be anywhere in the brain, spinal cord, or optic nerve.These attacks or relapses cause inflammation and lesions on the nerve fibres, and scarring occurs as they heal. With progressive MS - deterioration is much faster.“Multiple sclerosis actually means many scars, that's what it translates to, which makes a lot more sense as to what it is. So people with MS have many scars in the central nervous system. “And what that means is that it can become increasingly difficult for your brain to send messages to different parts of your body, depending how significant those lesions are, and how many there are. So, MS can look very different for every person with it, I guess, depending on where, and how severely, and how good your brain is at creating new neural pathways.”Kirsten was finally diagnosed after she lost sensation from her hips down during a major relapse in March 2021.“A lot of the time, [I was] just completely numb. Sometimes something similar to pins and needles, but constant over a number of days. However, it didn't affect my function. So I could walk, I could drive my car - I just couldn't actually feel my legs or my feet.“At first it was kind of amusing and I thought I'd, like, pinched a wee nerve . . . so I spoke with a good friend of mine who's also an osteopath, and when I rang her, she said, ‘no, you need to go see your GP’.”It was decided Kirsten needed an operation, and at the hospital she was sent for a “quick” pre-surgery MRI so the orthopaedic surgeon could see exactly what was going on and where it needed to be fixed. “I spent three hours in that MRI . . . So they kept calling over the speaker to say, we're just going to do the rest of your spine now, and now we're going to do your brain.”Kirsten knew then, the radiologist had found something different from what they had been looking for, and that they were now looking for something else.“I just chose at that time to think, ‘well, I'm actually in the best place I can be’. I was really scared, but what can you do?”The next day she was told she had multiple sclerosis, but at that stage she didn’t really know what that meant.Kirsten’s then lack of knowledge, is why she is eager to share openly about her condition now. MS is relatively common in New Zealand - an estimated one in a thousand people have it. It is more prevalent in Caucasian people, and also in colder climates. There are more people with MS in the South Island than the North.“That's a really high number of people. And it strikes people in their prime, between ages of 20 and 40 predominantly, and mostly women, not limited to women, but on the whole, the majority are women,” she says.For many with MS, the condition is “invisible”.“We're living with a disability that other people cannot necessarily support us with, unless we learn to speak up and say what our needs are. And we're kind of conditioned to not do that - I'm still learning.”Kirsten completed a two-night solo hike at Mt Somers in November last year. Determined to make the most of her mobility while she still has it, this weekend Kirsten is planning to walk the Old Ghost Road on the West Coast, an 85km track from Lyell Gorge to Seddonville. She will complete the walk with her good friend Kim Burgher, who also lives in Ōamaru.It is a five-day, four-night hike, and she has been supported in her preparation by Mastering Mountains - a charitable trust set up to support people with neurological conditions - particularly MS and functional neurological disorder (FND) - and help them with outdoor adventures.Mastering Mountains was created in 2015, by Christchurch man Nick Allen, an avid lover of the outdoors, and himself a sufferer of FND.It offers funding for mentoring and physical rehabilitation to give people the tools, strategies and gear they need to overcome obstacles their condition might create, and enable them to sustain long-term access to the outdoors.Kirsten is one of three recipients of a 2023 expedition grant. The group meet regularly to support and encourage each other towards their goals, and their stories are all up on the Mastering Mountains website. “For some people some goals have needed to change as well, so we just journey that with people as new information comes to light,” she says.Kirsten’s spirituality is important to her, and as a way to stay positive with her MS, she had been considering a Camino de Santiago walk - a type of spiritual pilgrimage. However, she requires monthly IV infusions of an immunosuppressant medication in Dunedin to help keep her MS in remission, so a trip to the other side of the world is not an option.“So, when I read about the Mastering Mountains grant, I was really challenged to see how I thought I could curate a pilgrimage that is available to me.“Instead of feeling sorry for myself that I can't go and do what thousands of pilgrims do every year, I said, ‘well, what would it look like to create one for me that I can do?’ And I stumbled across the Old Ghost Road.”The Old Ghost Road is a long-forgotten gold miners’ road which, over a number of years, has been revived as a mountain biking and tramping trail. It connects the unfinished old dray road in the Lyell (Upper Buller Gorge) to the Mokihinui River in the north.She discovered the story behind the trail’s construction, and the years of effort, driven by a man named Marion Boatwright, that had gone into completing it.“They ended up taking these deviations and creating these other ways and finding these solutions, and as I read about that, I actually felt really connected to it, because I was like, ‘oh, that's what my central nervous system's doing’.“It's like there's this map, but actually there's like these landfalls here and there's these reasons we can't get here, and my body, my brain, is so clever, that it's creating new ways to create that path.“So my goal is, as I walk that - because there's these massive viaducts and swing bridges and windy steps and all these things that are beautiful, and they've built them, and I'm like, ‘wow, that's a little bit like my insides, you know?’, like, I don't have to see this as something awful. My body is doing the very best that it can, to keep me mobile and walking - and so I'm going to go walk, while I can, for as long as I can.”Kirsten has required more training than she initially thought, and Mastering Mountains has fully funded personal trainer and nutritionist Mel Smith and exercise physiologist Stacey Pine, who both work out of Ōamaru’s The Movement Hub, to help her.“Man, they are experts in their field, and I'm so grateful and in awe of the amount of research that they've done into neurological health for me,” she says about the two women.“It's all evidence-based research, which is super important to me.” She has been working with Mel and Stacey for nine months, and at the same time is receiving mentoring and coaching from Nick Allen personally, around preparation and decision making when living with neurological disease.“Because we can experience cognitive decline quite quickly sometimes. So that's been super helpful and really motivating.”Kirsten completed a solo hike into Mount Somers in November last year for two nights, to learn self-reliance and to reassure herself of her capabilities.Adventuring with friends.“I've walked with so many different people, people I know, people I don't know, and we've had so many different adventures . . . it's created a bit of a community and other people have then gone on and done other walks . . . Which is part of the contagious nature of being outdoors that I think Nick and the Mastering Mountains Trust really hope for.”Living with MS can look different for every person who has it, depending on where the lesions form.Kirsten is grateful none of the lesions have affected her brain so far, although she still occasionally experiences brain fog, similar to what people have experienced post-Covid, she says. She has an MRI every six months to keep an eye out for possible new ones.She isn’t angry it took so long for her to get a diagnosis. While she had a long history of neuropathic pain, with sensory changes and cognitive decline, those symptoms can indicate a number of things, she says.“So the diagnostics of it is challenging until it's, I guess, until it's obvious.“It gave me a lot of relief though, because I presented in hospital numerous times over 20 years, and with no clear answer: ‘Yes, we think there's something not right, but now it seems much better’, and that was unsettling for me.“And so to actually have a name for it was relieving, though I also would rather not have MS.”It’s hard to know if being diagnosed sooner would have had any benefits. Disease modifying therapies are improving all the time, and the medication she is on at the moment would not have been available 20 years ago.What ifs are also no help to Kirsten mentally, although she remembers the frustrations when she was having an episode, and she would wonder if there was something wrong with her psychologically.“I think the emotional and psychological toll of that was quite hard for me, and also I think that again is not uncommon, and it's just something that we need to live with.“I really believe that every specialist who has worked with me has had the intent to do their very best.” She is also aware, if she had been diagnosed earlier, her family might look quite different.“I have three children, and actually, if I had been diagnosed when I was younger, pregnancy is a risk factor for a relapse.“My neurologist is amazing at empowering us to make our own decisions, but with a lot of information around that . . . it may really have brought about some very different decisions, and my kids are perfect, and they’re meant to be here.“I know some younger women who are making decisions about what [MS] means for the size of their family.” Kirsten describes her children - Alex, 14, Josh, 13, and Louisa, 11 - as “amazing, resilient, gorgeous, young people”.The Dixon whānau (from left) Trent, Alex (14), Kirsten, Josh (13), and Louisa (11). Photo: supplied“I don't think I can ever really know how finding out their mum has a chronic illness has or will impact them. I'd like to think that it inspires them, but I'm sure at times it's very hard for them too.”Every time Kirsten has a relapse, even after it goes into remission, it leaves residual damage. She is always trying to stay well to avoid them. There are lifestyle recommendations to follow, but she can be doing everything right, and they will still happen.She is particularly affected by cold weather, which brings on symptoms - and also times of high stress and change.“And then sometimes, just because.“I still experience neuropathic pain in my right leg when I'm fatigued or particularly tired or cold.“I'll experience something that we call foot drop, so a lack of control over my foot, or I'll start to maybe scuff my foot. I have a very interesting twitch in my shoulder that sometimes flares up.”Kirsten “quite likes to fix things” and so her MS diagnosis is one she struggles to get her head around.“There is no cure, and despite my best efforts, it is likely to progress in my body.”She is still coming to a level of acceptance about that, knowing at some stage down the track she will probably need mobility aids or to use a catheter, and potentially have to give up her career in dispute resolution and communications coaching - a job she loves.“It's been a very interesting parallel journey for me to look at really . . . I support people to live the best life that's available to them, and now I have professionals who help me do that in a very different way with a very different skill set.“It feels sort of, it's not directly reciprocal, but there's something that helps me recognise my place in the world in that, and how we are really all inter-related and that inter-reliance is very, very important. You can't do it all by yourself.”Kirsten is excited about beginning her walk on Sunday. The weather is looking “perfectly overcast”, and what will be, will be, she says.“I know that I will find some challenges and some hard things along the way, and I know that they'll be different to what I think they're going to be, and this is the story of life. “It's like a wee microcosm of life, and that's what pilgrimage means to me, to go out on a journey, be prepared to encounter something, and to overcome it.”After the Old Ghost Road, she wants to continue adventuring as long as she can, and find new challenges and ways to keep active, as her MS progresses.Kirsten sees her diagnosis as “information about what might not be available to me in my future”.“So, instead of saying, ‘oh, one day I'd quite like to go tramping’, or ‘in the future I think I would like to . . .’ I'm just pulling them forward and going, ‘well, if I'm serious that I want to do them, then I need to do them a bit sooner’.“These things might be available to me for a very long time, and I hope that they are, but I'm also aware that if I, you know, eventually do need mobility aids or support in other ways, there is still a full life available to me, just not some aspects of life.“So yeah, it's probably made me realise too to focus on what I can do and not what I can't.”For more information on multiple sclerosis or to donate, visit the website here.To find out more about Mastering Mountains or to donate visit the website here

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