Community afire in aiding blaze victims

From an oil exploration announcement, to cancelled business awards, and a bizarre drink-driving conviction sidestep - Manawatu was full of news in September.

Barn fire kills ponies Whinnies of terror, the smell of smoke and the intense heat of the flames that destroy their barn and kill two of their ponies are memories that will stay with the Kaye family forever.

But help comes from unexpected places for the Palmerston North horse-racing family after fire destroys a large part of their livelihood.

On the morning of the fire Tony Kaye is woken by his daughter about 3am when she gets up and notices a glow coming from their barn, which houses a workshop full of tools and wood for furniture-making, stables, tack, hay and their children's two ponies.

Mr Kaye suffers serious burns to his arm and leg trying to get into the barn to save the animals. In the five weeks after the ordeal donations of labour, money, tack and feed supplies come in from the community and people the Kayes don't know.

Drunk businessman escapes conviction

In a rare, possibly precedent-setting court case, a Dannevirke businessman caught drunk behind the wheel avoids a conviction because the nurse who took his blood sample isn't technically authorised to do so.

Daniel Wayne Phillips, 36, was pulled over by police on May 19 and found to have a blood-alcohol level of 88 milligrams. The legal limit is 80mg.

Phillips was to have defended a drink-driving charge in the Dannevirke District Court in September. However, the hearing isn't necessary because police offer no evidence and the charge is dismissed.

Business awards cancelled A lack of entries forces the cancellation of the biggest night in Manawatu business, leaving organisers to contemplate making the event biennial.

The 2013 Westpac Manawatu Business Awards were to be judged in October and presented at a gala night at the Silks Lounge at Awapuni Racecourse on November 15.

But in September, Vision Manawatu regional business manager Mark Hargreaves says the awards will not go ahead because "we did not receive sufficient entries to make it a contest".

Ashhurst oil exploration opposition Any oil companies planning on looking for oil around Ashhurst could encounter staunch opposition, with locals and council representatives pointing to the area's strong group of environmentalists and organic farmers.

The Government's 2014 block offer for oil exploration potentially includes land north and south of the Manawatu town.

The block would be part of more than 3000 square kilometres of land, stretching from Waipukurau to Pahiatua, and from the east of Dannevirke to Ashhurst.

The Government is to consult with iwi and councils before areas are finalised, with successful tenders from oil companies announced by the end of next year.

First same-sex marriage Rain fell but the sky did not at Manawatu's first same-sex marriage.

In a watery Shannon garden Opiki couple Fran Wolber and L-J Baker became the first gay couple to wed in the region, a month after a law change afforded them the same marriage rights as heterosexual couples.

There was elegance as the couple were showered with a circle of lavender, and deliberate irony as the "only man" John Wylie - rather than the best man - handed them their rings.

Two trucks blown off road A truck and trailer unit is blown off State Highway 57, north of Shannon, as strong winds buffet the region.

The crash, on a section of SH57 notorious for trucks having difficulty with high winds, occurred north of Okuku Rd.

The hard-sided truck was empty when it was hit by a gust of wind.

It appears some of its wheels had left the road and the driver lost control as he tried to correct the vehicle, Constable Matt Nieuwenhuis, from the commercial vehicle investigation unit, says.

Days later a second truck is blown over in Horowhenua, this time slightly further north at the intersection of State Highways 56 and 57.

Death prompts St John changes The results of an inquest into the death of a Marton toddler who drowned in a family swimming pool are released in September.

Hannah Maree Thomsen, aged 22 months, drowned in the pool while playing with her siblings unsupervised by adults at her family's Marton home on January 2, 2011.

Investigations into the actions of the emergency services personnel who attended the scene and their attempts to resuscitate Hannah are brought into focus by Palmerston North coroner Carla na Nagara.

In particular, Ms na Nagara looks into whether resuscitation attempts, which lasted about 10 minutes, had ended too soon.

St John Ambulance procedures have changed following the death, with resuscitation now stipulated at a minimum of 20 minutes following cardiac arrest.

Local body election debate heats up Rates, parking, wastewater, legal highs and community engagement are among the issues tackled by three Palmerston North mayoral candidates vying for voter support at a Manawatu Standard-hosted local body election debate.

Two-term mayor Jono Naylor sits between challengers Lew Findlay and Duncan McCann as the three men try to define their points of difference before an audience of about 80 people.

Debate moderator and Manawatu Standard editor Michael Cummings fires the big-issue questions, with the audience adding their own about community development, Broadway Ave, youth unemployment and the future of the railway station.

Mr Naylor went on to win a third term with a large majority.

Student union saga continues An under-fire student union leader stonewalls calls for a vote of no-confidence, causing outrage among members who take their concerns to university management.

Massey University Extramural Students' Society president Jeannette "JV" Chapman is at the centre of the saga, which sees the annual meeting failing to get a quorum, the departure of executive members, allegations she earns more than $50,000 part-time, a call of no-confidence, and an employment dispute.

Manawatu Standard