Monthly Archives: January 2019

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Macka’s waits for hearing

Case: Bruce MacKenzie’s family company Grafil Pty Ltd has lost a bid to gain access to documents before a hearing into use of Macka’s Sand as an alleged unlawful waste dump.PORT Stephens mayor Bruce MacKenzie’s family company Grafil Pty Ltd has lost a bid to gain access to documents after alleging lawyers for the NSW Environment Protection Authority tried to influence experts in a prosecution against the company.
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There was no evidence the lawyers had been doing anything other thandischargetheir obligation to assistexperts address issues for the NSW Land and Environment Court case, Justice Brian Preston said in a ruling on Friday.

He rejected Grafil attempts to access emails, file notes and draft affidavits between EPA lawyers and several experts, including documents relating to the cost of work for the prosecution case, and said they were subject to legal professional privilege.

Grafil Pty Ltd and Mr MacKenzie’s son Robert entered pleas of not guilty to using Macka’s Sand and Soil at Salt Ash as an unlawful waste dump after they were charged in 2016 following a lengthy environmental crimeinvestigation.

The EPA acted afterinvestigations of alleged dumping from 2013,whenstockpiles of waste up to eight metres high, 40 metres wide and 100 metres long were found near and in waterways.

The EPA initiated the Land and Environment Court action after investigations in October, 2015found an additional 360 tonnes of waste at the Salt Ash site, in breach of orders made in 2013, with 10 tonnes found to containasbestos.

The EPA initiated the Land and Environment Court action on May 1, 2016, a day before announcing it hadfined Grafil and Macka’s Sand $15,000 for land pollution by asbestos waste.

A full Land and Environment Court hearing is set down for February.

In a hearing after Grafil applied to the court for the documents, the EPA agreed to waive legal privilege over a draft technical investigation report with the file name “Project Trojan Salt Ash Report”.

Grafil sought emails between the EPA and an expert whosereport discusses theenvironmental consequences of materials alleged by the prosecutor to be waste.

Chance to state cup claims

Chance to state cup claims SHOT: North Newcastle trio Bec Young, Caitlin Moran and Isabelle Kelly in NSW Blues camp this week ahead of Sunday’s Interstate Challenge, which doubles as a final World Cup trial for the Jillaroos squad. Picture: NRL Photos
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TweetFacebook North Newcastle trio Bec Young, Caitlin Moran, Isabelle KellyPictures: NRL Photos – Grant Trouville State supremacy is one thing but Caitlin Moran knows there is much more on the line.

Not only will NSW’s female playersbe paid for the first time when they tackle Queensland in Wollongong on Sunday but the Wallsend-based 20-year-old has a World Cup dream to achieve.

The Blues’ battle to retain the Nellie Doherty Cup doubles as the final Jillaroos selection trial for Moran and her North Newcastle teammates Bec Young and Isabelle Kelly ahead of this year’s international tournament in Australia.

“Being a World Cup year it’s massive,” Moran said.

“NSW versus Queensland is always the hardest game you play, but everyone knows what’s on the line so everyone will be going out there to give it their all.

“It’s the last chance to showcase and prove why you should be picked.”

Moran first joined the Jillaroos in Newcastle last year and along with Kelly attended the Auckland Nines in February. Young played in Australia’s breakthrough title campaign at the last World Cup in England in 2013.

All three combined forces in a 16-4 Test win over New Zealand in Canberra in May. Prior to that they lined up in the 2017 All Stars fixture at McDonald Jones Stadium and featured in last year’s Origin victory.

The main difference for Moran this time around will be the five-eighth position, having previously played fullback and centre during her representative career.

“I’m stoked with the opportunity to wear the No.6for NSW,” Moran said.

“It’s a bit of a change around, but it suits my style of game and I feelmore comfortable, more at home there.”

Kelly has been named in the centres andfront-rower Youngis on the bench.

The match kicks off at 11.45am.

It will be played at WIN Stadium before the NRL fixture between the Dragons and Sea Eagles.

The NSW squad, which has been in camp in Kiama since Wednesday, is again coached by South Newcastle first grade mentor Ben Cross.

Knights new era: Wests, NRL finalise deal

CONFIDENT: Chief executive Phil Gardner believes the Wests Group can help the Knights become a thriving NRL franchise.THE salvation of the Newcastle Knights lies in the hands of 120,000 Wests Group members.
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A deal for Wests to take ownership of Newcastle’s embattled rugby league flagship has been agreed in principlebyNRL officials and the Wests’board of directors.

But Wests will not proceed unless their proposal receives endorsement from their members, who will be asked to vote at any of the group’s six licensed premises between July 31 and August 6.

It will not be a formal ballot, because Wests’ board has the constitutional authority to proceed with such a move without consulting the membership. But without a clear mandate, the takeover will not proceed.

If members approve, Wests would join forces with the NRLon August 15 for atransition period beforea full handover on November 1.

Wests would then own the Knights 100 per cent, in perpetuity, without having to pay a licence fee or any of the liabilities –estimated to be at least $5 million – accrued since the former owner Nathan Tinkler’s demise in 2014.

A new Knights board would be created, separate from the Wests board.

It is understood Wests would incur operational costs from August 15 onwards, but their main outlay will be $10 million towards a proposed rugby league centre of excellence at Broadmeadow.

Heading towards their third wooden spoon in as many seasons, the Knights are arguably at their lowest ebb.

But Wests Group chief executive Phil Gardner believes that, with prudent governanceand community support,Newcastle’s NRL franchise can be successfully reinvented.

“We hope our members will see that Wests cares, and we are doing this for the benefit of the community and the city, and they will come with us,’’ Gardner told the Newcastle Herald.

“If they say ‘no’, then the decision for us is really simple. We would understand that and accept their wishes.”

Asked what would happen if members voted overwhelmingly against the proposed takeover, Gardner replied: “Well, the NRL would keep it [the Knights] and it would be their call what happens in future.

“But we wouldn’t be putting this proposition to our members if we didn’t think there were real concerns about the Knights’ future.

“If Wests aren’t involved in the Knights next year, and the NRL are left to run it, there’ll be no money going into the club. The NRLdon’t have it.

“They wouldn’t spend the salary cap, they’d cut all the other expenses, and they’d be running a ‘shell’ of a football team until they either found an owner, or moved the franchise.

“The club can’t take too much more of what has happened over the last three years. It’s facing death by1000 cuts.I see that as a real outcome.

“That’s basically what we’re saying to members.

“If we don’t do something now, the Knights could be unsaveable.’’

Gardner believes that, with annual funding from the NRL to each club increasing from $7.6 million to $13 million on November 1, Wests could have the Knights running as a break-even operation within five years.

But he acknowledged the venture was not without risk.

“It’s a gamble and risk that we want the members to support us in,’’ he said.

“We’ve done our due diligence on the team, the finances and the game. The risks are enormous …butwe think those risks are manageable.”

Gardner said there would be no financial impact on members. If the proposal was rejected, Wests –which made a profit of more than $23million last year – would contribute the funds to other community projects.

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg describedthe agreement as “a great outcome” for the Knights, the Newcastle community and the game.

“We always said future ownership needed to be good for the club, the community and the game and we’ve secured that outcome through this agreement with Wests,” Greenberg said.

“When the NRL took over the Knights in 2014, we needed to secure the financial future of the club and then deliver the best possible future ownership to run the club into the future.

“Those goals have been achieved and there is now every opportunity for the Knights to become a powerhouse of the game in the years ahead.

“Wests are ideal owners of the Knights given their strong rugby league heritage and their strength in the local community.”

Relic dug up in rail work

A heritage specialisthasbeen enlisted to look at more relics unearthed on Newcastle’s old heavy rail corridor.
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Discovery: National Trust Hunter Region chair Keith Parsons at the Steel Street site, where more brickwork has been uncovered. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Several experts The Herald spoke to this week believed the brickwork uncovered near Steel Streetwas part of the former Honeysuckle railway station –which was built in 1872. Part of the platform was uncovered only a few metres down the rail corridor last July.

Transport for NSW announced on Wednesday that it planned to connect Steel Street, between Hunter Street and Honeysuckle Drive, next year.

The newly exposed brickwork is in the path of the road, on the proposed light rail corridor.

Hunter archaeologist Paul Rheinberger said the remnants were likely to be part of the old station, which was “unique” in NSW.

“It was a split station –the platforms were not opposite one another,” he said.

“The southern platform extended west of the beautiful wrought and cast iron foot bridge, the northern platform extended from at least the same place.

Unique: Honeysuckle station, built in 1872, was one of the oldest in the Hunter. Picture: The University of Newcastle

“I would say there was never a set of platforms, elsewhere in NSWat least, that was set up that way.”

Mr Rheinberger said the find should, at the very least, be archaeologically recorded –photographed, planned, drawn andput in a spacial position.

He said it would be suitable to re-bury the relics if they were properly documented.

“I don’t think they’re going to get away with not recognising its significance,” he said. “They are essentially just footings, so what certainly needs to be done is that they be archaeologicallyrecorded.”

The National Trust’s Hunter Region chairKeith Parsons said the remnants should not be moved.

At work: Honeysuckle Railway Station, pictured in 1908. Picture: The University of Newcastle

“I think our preference would be to try to keep them where they are,” he said.

“Even if it’s going tohave a road going over them, at least bury them so they can be perhaps, at some future time, interpreted.”

A Transport for NSW spokesperson saidNewcastle light rail manager Downer EDI had engaged a heritage specialist to assess the brickwork and determine its significance.

“Proper processes are in place to formally record all finds and manage them as work continues,” the spokesperson said.

“Given Newcastle’s rich history, it is not unexpected to uncover items like these during construction.

“Heritage finds are either re-buried where they were found, placed on display for the public to enjoy, or, where appropriate, respectfully re-purposed.

“In the case of sandstone blocks unearthed from the former Honeysuckle Station, work is ongoing to look to integrate them into an urban design element for light rail.”

Optus spends $1b to boost regional mobile coverage

Optus is spending $1 billion building 500 new mobile base stations around regional Australia to compete better againstTelstra and Vodafone.
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The moneywill be spent within one year and includes upgrading 1,800 existing 3G sites to 4G technology. The $1 billion spend includes the cost of spectrum licenses in regional areas and 114 towers built with funding from the federal government’s Regional Mobile Blackspots Program.

File photo

“This represents one of the single largest investments in regional mobile infrastructure in Australia’s history,” Optus chief executive Allen Lewsaid on Friday.

“Optus is building out its mobile network in the places where people live, work and travel…Importantly, we are densifying the mobile network to provide better download speeds for data-hungry applications such as video streaming.”

The competition watchdog recently decided it will not declare regional mobile networks as share infrastructure, which means Optus will not be forced to sell access to competitors.

WATCH the announcement from Tamworth hereBoth Telstra and Optus argued publicly to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission they were unlikely to keep investing in regional areas if they were going to be forced to grant competitors access at regulated prices.

Mr Lee made the announcement in Tamworth, NSW, where Optus will build 16 new mobile towers, of which nine are shared with another mobile carrier.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, whose electorate includes Tamworth, said “it is great to see this investment by Optus and I look forward to working with them and other telcos to improve local mobile coverage.”

During the debate about regional roaming Telstra confirmed it invested in regional areas not because each tower is commercially viable, but because it gives them an overall marketing advantage. Analysts estimate this network advantage allows Telstra to charge about 15 per cent more than other telcos.

And Optus currently has exclusive rights in Australia to content like the English Premier League football. However, consumers will only subscribe to content like this if they have access to a reliable mobile network.