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Year in Review: August 2023

The Times-Age reported on the first new state housing built in Wairarapa this century, Scuola Montessori childcare centre on Ngaumutawa Rd, Solway shutting down after an anonymous complaint, an extensive search and rescue operation for Michael MacGregor, who went missing in the Mt. Holdsworth area, and a man who threw a kitchen knife at a police officer, stabbing him through the face, avoids prison.

August 1

Masterton and Carterton Fire emergency services responded to reports of an electrical fire in the wall of a building on Queen St in Kuripuni. The initial call was made at 6.45pm, and the fire was extinguished and firefighters were standing down resources by 8.20pm. Masterton police confirmed they assisted fire emergency services by blocking off the Masterton street and that there were no injuries related to the fire.

The first new state housing built in Wairarapa in the 21st Century was opened at a ceremony in Masterton, and plans were announced for new state houses in Featherston. Housing Minister Megan Woods officially opened the 18-home Iorns St North development in East Masterton.

August 3

A man appeared in Masterton District Court accused of firing a gun at a vehicle. Dario Karaitiana, 22, was charged with committing a dangerous act with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, reckless discharge of a firearm, threatening to kill, and driving while suspended.

Despite a tireless effort from search and rescue parties, a man reported missing on Mount Holdsworth had still not been found. Michael MacGregor was last seen at Mount Holdsworth’s Rocky Lookout at 12.20pm on July 31.

Police responded to reports of a car – a Nissan Wingroad – floating down the Waiohine River in Ahikōuka. Fire and Emergency also attended the scene but left before 9am. The Times-Age found the car floating in the river shortly after 9.30am. It was banked up against some trees about 100m downstream of the Waiohine Bridge, where SH2 crosses the river. Police said they spoke to the registered owner of the car, who advised that it had been “parked up” and floated away overnight.

August 5

KiwiRail has confirmed the flashing lights and alarm at the Norfolk Rd railway level crossing will be out of action for two to three months after a recent train-car crash damaged the controls. In the meantime, there were stop signs, warnings, and a sign reading “alarms not working” on either side of the crossing, and a 10kmh speed restriction is in place for trains.

Scuola Montessori childcare centre on Ngaumutawa Rd in Solway has been shut down after an anonymous complaint. In an email sent to parents and seen by the Times-Age, the Masterton centre’s operators said its license has been suspended by the Ministry of Education after it was “deemed to be non-compliant in four areas, relating to our child protection procedures and policy”.

Masterton restaurant Saint Sebastian was no longer required to pay fines related to breaching covid-19 ‘traffic light system’ rules – although whether that’s due to a blunder or belated benevolence on the part of the bureaucracy [or a bit of both] was not entirely clear. Owner Caleb Kloeg had been in the gun for a total of $16,000 for two breaches, for which he received infringement notices from WorkSafe on January 14, 2022.

August 7

A fundraiser was started to support the search and rescue operation for Michael MacGregor, also known as Michael Namana, who went missing in the Mt. Holdsworth area. Over the weekend, more than 100 volunteers joined family, friends, police, land search and rescue [Landsar] in the search.

Farriers Dalefield booked their place in the Wellington Premier Women’s Championship final with a gutsy 4-4 draw with unbeaten leaders Northern United. Farriers Dalefield will meet Indians in the Wellington Premier Men’s Championship semifinal after their narrow loss to Hutt United at the National Hockey Stadium on Saturday.

August 8

A disabled woman and her family were living in a cold, wet rental property seven years into their wait for their promised forever home. Kāinga Ora Housing New Zealand had agreed to make custom changes to one of its new state houses under construction on George St in Masterton, but that block of houses was not due for completion until late 2024 or early 2025, with no exact completion date specifically given for the family’s home.

Wellington Free Ambulance received international recognition for its innovative approach to providing healthcare services for the Greater Wellington and Wairarapa region scooping up three awards at the annual Council of Ambulance Authorities congress as part of an award programme that’s designed to encourage and acknowledge innovations from ambulance services throughout Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea.

Ōpaki gardener Rachel Holdsworth, 54, appeared in Masterton District Court last week charged with careless driving causing injury and was discharged without conviction but was disqualified from driving. On November 29, 2022, Holdsworth drifted over the centre line while driving on SH2, south of Anzac Bridge near Eketāhuna. She crashed into a stationary vehicle parked on the side of the road, sending it flying 30 metres back onto the road. The victim dislocated and broke her wrist, broke her collarbone, and suffered a 20cm laceration.

August 9

A last-minute deal between Te Whatu Ora and the New Zealand Nurses Organisation [NZNO] has resulted in a planned strike action across New Zealand being averted, but a local delegate said important issues remain unresolved. Nurses voted to accept the public health agency’s 11th-hour offer.

August 10

Police announced that the active search in the Mt Holdsworth area for missing man Michael MacGregor had been “paused”. MacGregor, also known as Michael Namana, was last seen at Rocky Lookout on July 31 at 12.20pm.

The first solar development to be granted consent in the region has just been approved by Carterton District Council in the shape of a six-hectare “community-scale” solar farm. CDC did not consider that the application triggered any requirement for either public or limited notification, so it was processed on a non-notified basis.

Snow descended again on the summit of SH2 Remutaka Hill. The snow flurries started early on Thursday morning and continued falling into the mid-morning, settling on the summit and treating motorists to a picturesque – if potentially treacherous – crossing. MetService said snow reached as low as 400 metres above sea level.

August 11

South Wairarapa District Council leaders have called out some locals’ harassment of council staff, and even councillors themselves. Concern about negative messaging by residents in comments on social media, on the telephone, and via email were expressed at Wednesday’s SWDC finance meeting, with attendees saying such interactions are distressing to staff.

August 14

A man was sentenced to community detention, community work and intensive supervision after recording 35 videos of his flatmate showering without her consent. Daniel Thomas Brown, 40, appeared in Masterton District Court recently, having admitted to 35 counts of making an intimate visual recording. Brown and the victim had been flatting together in Carterton for two years when the offending occurred.

Work began on Wairarapa College’s iconic front-facing Sutherland Block, which will be closed for several years for upgrade works. Housing the school’s original building, the block was completely fenced off while modernisation and earthquake-strengthening work occurred. The intended final result will be better-heated and more functional classrooms, a new lift, new bathrooms, and upgrades to the administration and staff area.

August 16

Over 80 Wairarapa children who need dental intervention requiring a general anaesthetic are facing a 10-month wait time.

The government lifted its last covid-19 restrictions, including mandatory self-isolation and the requirement to wear masks in hospitals. Wairarapa epidemiologist Roger Morris said it was doubtful whether these final restrictions had been making a substantial difference.

Wairarapa College A and Celtic United will meet for the third straight year in the final of Netball Wairarapa’s major club championship.

August 18

A building professional with more than 40 years of experience told Wellington High Court that Masterton District Council fell short in its processes relating to the construction of Wairarapa Hospital. Robert Tidd gave expert evidence in the case Te Whatu Ora [formerly Wairarapa DHB] has brought against MDC about seismic defects in the hospital.

August 19

A man who stabbed his pregnant partner with scissors has been sentenced to community detention after spending 289 days in police custody. Cohen Waitere-Grant, 28, was sentenced in Masterton District Court, having admitted to wounding with intent to injure, which carries a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment.

August 21

Farriers Dalefield held their nerve in a frantic final five minutes to seal a memorable fifth Wellington Premier Women’s Championship trophy in eight seasons.

It was third time lucky for Celtic United, winning a low-scoring Holmes Construction Wairarapa Netball Premier One final on Saturday, breaking a six-year championship drought.

Scuola Montessori childcare centre in Solway closed permanently. Owners David and Lorraine Mercer sent a notice to parents announcing the decision to close. “It is with great sadness we inform you that we have made the very hard decision to now permanently close our doors,” it said. The centre’s license was suspended two-and-a-half before its closure was announced.

August 23

St Matthew’s made it two in a row in the Manawatu Intercity Secondary Schoolgirls Division One Championship, winning an entertaining, high-scoring final 6–5 over Feilding High School.

August 24

A Masterton man woke to flames licking the side of his bed yesterday. If not for quick thinking on the part of his father, and a hasty evacuation, the blaze would have spread to the whole house. On arrival, crew found the house “well involved in fire”, so escalated the call to a second alarm, increasing its level of seriousness. “However, they managed to get it under control without the further trucks, with two crew and one water tanker.” A spokesperson said. It was believed that the origin of the fire was electrical, the result of an overloaded powerpoint.

Mākoura College welcomed its incoming principal Simon Fuller at a pōwhiri [welcoming ceremony], prior to him starting in the role in term four. The school has been without a permanent principal since Marion Harvey left last year, and it was announced in July that Fuller would take over the job.

August 25

Those who spent the year sleeping rough in Masterton might not have to suffer another winter in the cold, thanks to a significant community grant committed to the Kim’s Way Night Refuge. The Department of Internal Affairs has approved an $80,000 grant from the Wellington and Wairarapa Lottery Community Fund to go toward the refuge’s renovation, future security and employing a co-ordinator.

August 26

The teenager responsible for a 10-day crime spree last October that included a smash-and-grab robbery at Masterton’s Michael Hill jewellery store has been sentenced to three years in prison. Dontae Gray, 19, appeared in Masterton District Court yesterday for sentencing, having admitted to 16 charges, including assault, dangerous driving, and aggravated burglary.

August 28

A man who threw a kitchen knife at a police officer, stabbing him through the face, has avoided prison and instead been sentenced to home detention. Benjamin Richards, 30, appeared in Masterton District Court on Friday for sentencing after admitting to wounding with reckless disregard. Richards was sentenced to seven months of home detention and ordered to pay $800 emotional harm reparation.

Courtney Ewington, née Norman, said being crowned Wairarapa Bride of the Year at Saturday’s 53rd annual awards “was an absolute honour.” Ewington and her husband married in 2022 at Burnside Church in Pirinoa.

August 29

A repeat drunk driver has narrowly avoided jail but has been permanently disqualified from driving after a serious breach of his zero-tolerance license. Masterton 44-year-old Falefa Faiumu was operating on a zero-tolerance license when he blew 1035 mcg of alcohol per litre of breath during a police check on Crayne St in Masterton on July 1 last year. His reading of 1035mcg was over four times the legal limit for alcohol – 250mcg of alcohol per litre of breath – for a regular license.

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