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Year In Review: June 2023

June 01

Two people were killed in separate crashes on Wairarapa roads. Emergency services responded to the first crash on Remutaka Hill Rd at 6.30am. Featherston Fire Brigade chief Colin McKenna said two cars collided on the No2 Bridge on the Featherston side of the Remutaka Hill Rd, killing one driver. The driver of the other vehicle sustained serious injuries and was flown to Wellington Hospital. An hour later, police reported the second crash at 7.30am on Kokotau Rd, on the outskirts of Carterton. Emergency services confirmed the vehicle veered off the road, colliding with a tree. Police said the driver died at the scene. Four hours later, another crash, this time involving four vehicles, including a police car, were caught in a pile-up in Masterton’s Totara St. Police said the police vehicle was parked at the time of the crash.

June 02

A series of violent incidents at Masterton skatepark sparked online outrage, but the two former kaitiaki [guardians] said a boycott is not what the skatepark needs. A boy was taken to hospital after a group of teenagers beat him up at the skatepark, kicking him and stomping on his head. The next day, police were alerted to an altercation between a group of youths near the skatepark, which led to a later assault away from the skatepark where a teenager was punched.

June 05

A local leader received a King’s Birthday Honour and was appointed as an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to health. Ria Earp, currently based in Wellington, led Māori health efforts, with multiple stints as acting chief executive of Te Hauora Runanga o Wairarapa. In the past three months, local police had received 60 stolen vehicle reports, mirroring the near-daily online outrage. Wairarapa Area Prevention Manager Acting Senior Sergeant Gill Flower said the thefts – generally for the purposes of joyriding – are still targeting the usual suspects. “We are seeing a wide range of makes and models being stolen, with smaller cars such as Mazda Demio and Toyota Aqua over-represented.”

Emergency services responded to a blaze on Kaka St and found a Trust House rental “fully involved”. The fire, which was not treated as suspicious, spread quickly throughout the house, with flames leaping from the windows and doors when brigades arrived on the scene. The entire back half of the house was a burnt-out shell, with the front half heavily smoke-damaged. The blaze took close to 20 minutes to be brought under control. Firefighters received a hosing down upon exiting the house due to the risk of asbestos in the soffits.

June 06

A Masterton father-of-two was left anxious and furious after biting into and choking on a sewing needle which allegedly came from a tub of store-bought ice cream. After dishing up four bowls of the ice cream, Shearman took a bite of his and began to choke. Shearman was shocked when he felt something sharp and proceeded to spit out a 40mm-long sewing needle.

Te Hapori Skatepark community group confirmed that funding had come through for Masterton’s skatepark kaitiaki roles, which were discontinued in mid-May when the money ran out. In a statement, Te Hapori said, with support from Masterton District Council, it had obtained external funding – “to enable the roles to return”.

June 07

Masterton District Council declared that its “final position” is that hot air balloons will not fly at Hood Aerodrome, except as part of the balloon festival. The decision was made after the council deliberated for three weeks on a risk assessment produced by members of the Hood Safety Group.

Wairarapa Mp Keiran McAnulty was made acting Transport Minister in the wake of incumbent minister Michael Wood being stood down pending the resolution of issues arising from his ownership of shares in Auckland Airport. McAnulty is also Minister for Emergency Management, Local Government, Racing, and Rural Communities, as well as being Deputy Leader of the House.

June 08

While responding to a call in Riversdale, Masterton Fire Brigade’s rescue tender – one of only two vehicles in the region carrying specialist equipment including ‘jaws-of-life’ – broke down. An issue with its alternator forced the 25-year-old ‘relief’ truck to the side of the road in Tīnui, and the crew had to make do with a four-wheel drive ute for close to five hours. Masterton firefighters never made it to the incident, with the Riversdale volunteer crew stepping in to respond. Just over 24 hours later, the truck broke down again. Multiple Masterton officers said the latest incident highlights the legacy issues with Fenz’s aged and failing fleet, which has led to trucks that aren’t fit for purpose being forced on crews.

June 09

Firefighters rushed to Kuripuni from far and wide after a fire broke out in the roof space of a retail store. The smoke erupting from the Queen St building could be seen from as far away as Lansdowne.

June 10

A married couple has been sentenced to intensive supervision more than three years after police found 115 cannabis plants growing in their backyard and shed. They admitted to charges of cultivating and possessing cannabis for supply, and the husband admitted to further charges of manufacturing cannabis oil for personal use and shoplifting $4500 of goods from several businesses, including Masterton Countdown and Mitre 10.

June 12

Retail thieves are increasingly targeting high-end products, and in some cases, it is thought that meat stolen in bulk is being exported and resold offshore. Wairarapa police are aware of the emerging trend. New World Masterton owner Clive Webber confirmed that the “theft of luxury items” is currently prevalent in his store, and he is aware other retailers are having the same issue.

New Zealand’s forestry contractors are approaching breaking point, and some Wairarapa businesses are already in liquidation – with many more at risk of losing their livelihoods as the price for an A-grade log has dived as low as $95 per cubic metre, according to industry insiders.

June 13

John Thompson, 92, appeared in Masterton District Court last, where he was convicted of careless driving causing injury, ordered to pay $2000 of emotional harm reparation, and disqualified from driving for six months. At 1.45pm on Christmas Eve 2022, Thompson hit the accelerator of his car while reversing out of a car park on Masterton’s Queen St. He struck a car parked on the other side of the street, pushing it up and onto the footpath, where it slammed a pedestrian against a shop’s frontage before accelerating forward and, in the process, hitting the same car and causing it to crash into another vehicle. He crossed the centre line again and hit another three vehicles before becoming wedged, causing an unintended burnout and smoke.

June 14

Bobby-Joe Kahle, a 40-year-old forestry worker with several prior convictions, appeared in Masterton District Court and was convicted on charges of dangerous driving, willful damage, and failing to stop for police after fleeing police and speeding across the region before smashing through a fence and doing burnouts in a paddock. Judge Jan Kelly disqualified him from driving for a year and sentenced him to nine months of supervision, as well as 40 hours of community work.

June 15

A pot of forgotten curried sausages left on the stove resulted in a Carterton resident receiving a frightening wake-up call in the form of the shrill sound of their fire alarm and the stench of burning. The occupant alerted fire services just before 1.30am as the house filled with smoke, and the swift arrival of two fire trucks prevented the situation from evolving into a house fire. The only damage was the severely charred pot of curried sausages.

June 16

One patient was in critical condition after a serious motorcycle crash on Opaki Kaiparoro Rd. Police were notified of the crash at 5.20pm and attended the scene with crews from Masterton and Mauriceville fire brigades and Wellington Free Ambulance. By the time first responders arrived, a local farmer had cordoned off the road at the intersection with Dreyers Rock Rd and was alerting oncoming traffic to take another route. Police said there were no other vehicles involved in the crash and that the road re-opened at 10.35pm.

June 17

Carterton’s Frederick St Water Treatment Plant upgrade was completed, meaning the town’s water demand would be met until at least 2043. Elected members of Carterton District Council’s Policy and Projects Committee commended the work done by council staff and contractors to reach the milestone for the project, costing about $921,000.

June 20

Half a dozen roadworkers on the SH2 safety improvements project between Masterton and Carterton were stood down after failing a routine random drug test. A source who alerted the Times-Age to the incident said work was delayed because so many subcontractors failed the drug test that the whole night shift crew was stood down from work for two nights in a row. However, Waka Kotahi NZTA regional manager Jetesh Bhula said that – although six subcontractor employees had been stood down for testing positive for drugs last week – the episode had not caused any delays to the SH2 roadworks.

June 22

A South Wairarapa dairy farmer was been fined $26,000 after breaching his resource consent for water taken from a bore. John Coveney was found to be uncompliant with his resource consent – issued by Greater Wellington Regional Council – on at least eight separate occasions between January and March 2021. He was also charged and found to be guilty of contravening an abatement notice during the period of low flow.

June 23

Two men are lucky to be alive, thanks to the heroic rescue efforts of three local fishermen after a yacht was caught in wild weather. Enveloped in darkness and thick fog, the yacht was pushed by a heavy current towards the rocky coastline. The Tai Kahu rescue crew – skipper Johnny Burkhart, crew member Mark Anderson, and Luke Mckay [a crew member from another commercial vessel] – made it to the yacht at about 11.45pm using boat lights and GPS. Burkhart believes there could have been deaths or massive injuries if they had arrived even five minutes later.

The announcement that Masterton will host the 2026 Golden Shears World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships was made at the Golden Shears World Council meeting in Edinburgh on the eve of the 2023 championships at the Royal Highland Show.

Secondary school students returned to school after the Post Primary Teachers’ Association called off all industrial action after agreeing to arbitration terms.

June 24

Police were investigating after a man used a counterfeit $50 note at a Masterton liquor store last Sunday night. The man exchanged the bogus note for a 12-pack of Cody’s Bourbon and Cola and $20 of real change.

June 26

Police have launched a homicide investigation following the discovery of a body in rural Carterton. At about 9am yesterday, the body of a man was found at the beginning of Te Kopi Rd, Carterton, which was the scene of intensive police enquiries. The entrance to Te Kopi Rd was in lockdown with a police cordon in place from the intersection of Te Kopi Rd with Te Whiti Rd, up to half a kilometre in.

A man was found critically injured on the northern side of Greytown and was airlifted to the intensive care unit at Wellington Hospital. SH2 between North St and Ahikōuka Rd was closed while emergency services attended. Police started an investigation.

June 28

Masterton District Council [MDC] appeared unlikely to recover payments of more than $267,000 made by MDC to Podular Housing Systems Limited to build the council’s youth hub next to the revamped skatepark site after the construction company collapsed.

June 29

Police received a report of a two-vehicle crash in Masterton yesterday at 2.35pm on Paierau Rd, Opaki. The road was temporarily blocked while the scene was cleared, and one crew from Masterton Brigade assisted with traffic management. A spokesperson from Fire and Emergency said the crash involved a “three-car pile up” in which three cars ran into each other nose to tail.

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