Poor visibility disrupts flights

At least four flights in and out of Blenheim Airport were delayed yesterday morning because of low cloud over the region, an Air New Zealand spokesman said.

Two return Eagle Air services between Wellington and Blenheim were delayed about one-and-a-half hours in the morning because of the poor visibility, while another flight from Wellington was delayed about an hour because of the delays to the earlier flights, the spokesman said.

The first flight from Wellington was due to arrive at Blenheim Airport about 8.20am carrying Labour Party leader David Shearer, but he cancelled his trip after waiting nearly four hours.

The delays yesterday followed flight disruptions on Tuesday caused by fog.

The region has also been hit by rain for the past three days.

Marlborough District Council environmental scientist Val Wadsworth said yesterday the Wairau River was flowing at 825 cubic metres per second. The heaviest rain fell at Rai Valley, where 150mm to 160mm had been recorded since rain started about 6pm on Sunday, Mr Wadsworth said.

The rain was fairly well spread so had not caused major problems.

More than 100mm fell on the north bank of the Wairau River and about 50mm in the Waihopai Valley, Wairau Valley and top of the Taylor River, he said.

Some minor surface flooding was reported around the region, including the Waihopai Valley.

In Canvastown, Trout Hotel manager Karen Cresswell said the river hadn't broken its banks but she wasn't sure how it would hold up over the coming days.

"We have no concerns at this stage, we'll just take it as it comes."

Rai Valley Tavern owner Brian Turner said there had been no major flooding problems.

"The river is a bit muddy so there probably won't be any trout fishing for a while," he said.


Low cloud puts end to visit by Shearer

A low-lying blanket of cloud over Marlborough airport smothered the Labour Party leader's plans to visit the region yesterday.

David Shearer was stuck at Wellington airport for nearly four hours from 7.30am but his flight never left the tarmac. So he decided to return to Parliament and join the debate over sales of state-owned assets.

Mr Shearer said he was disappointed not to have made his appointments, which included visiting Bohally Intermediate School, speaking to the Marlborough Chamber of Commerce and the Marlborough Grey Power annual meeting, and visiting Wither Hills winery and Crossroads.

"I am trying to work out a date ... certainly this year, to come back and spend some time in Marlborough," he said from Wellington later in the day.

He had planned to speak to Grey Power about Labour's stance on the sale of state-owned assets, retirement and how to prevent New Zealanders from moving overseas, he said.

"One thing I am asked more than anything from Grey Power members is how we can keep their children and grandchildren in New Zealand."

Labour was pushing for more research and development funding to create new opportunities within primary industries, which would attract young people to stay in the country, he said.

"Marlborough has some very good ideas to do with increasing the value of primary production and we would like to get behind those entrepreneurial companies that will bring in energetic, creative and talented people."

Bohally Intermediate School head boy and girl, student councillors, kapa haka and Te Awa Tea groups were on standby at 10am yesterday to welcome Mr Shearer with a low-key powhiri.

Principal Andrew Read said it was disappointing not to have the opportunity to air his concerns about education with the Labour leader.

"[National Party MP] Colin King visited recently and engaged in some interesting conversations about the future of New Zealand education, so it would have been interesting to see what he [Mr Shearer] had to say."

"Any group in opposition to the status quo is often more receptive to hearing our concerns," Mr Read said.


The Marlborough Express