Millions funnelled out of accounts of failed builder

Millions of dollars was funnelled out of the coffers of failed Victorian builder Watersun Homes and into entities related to its directors in the months before its collapse, liquidators believe.

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Fairfax Media can also reveal that former Watersun display homes held in the name of a separate company are being sold off – but liquidators are unsure if the profits can be claimed by homeowners and tradespeople hurt by the collapse.

The Victorian arm of Watersun Homes, WSH Group, left behind unpaid debts of around $20 million when it was placed into voluntary administration on February 28.

Now there are concerns that more than $3.6 million could have been recently withdrawn from its accounts.

The two directors of the company, Williamstown developer Gary John Caulfield and accountant Tanya Lewis, have so far refused to speak publicly.

But liquidators continue to investigate what money was transferred out of the company in the lead-up to the builder’s collapse, after an administrators’ report detailed multiple possible breaches of the Corporations Act 2001.

The report raised concerns $3.678 million in “potential unreasonable director-related transactions” in the six months before WSH Group was placed into administration.

It said money was given to “related parties” from the company’s trading profits and that it significantly contributed to the company’s insolvency.

“We note that some of these monies advanced were not recorded as loans in its financial statements,” the report said.

It is understood the related parties are companies linked to the WSH Group directors, rather than individuals.

Mathew Gollant from liquidators Rodgers Reidy said the liquidators had considered an attempt to freeze assets of these companies, but after legal advice chose not to “at this stage”.

He also confirmed that Watersun Land Holdings (a separate company that owns 17 properties in Melbourne, Geelong and Bendigo) was in the process of selling off former Watersun display homes.

Mr Gollant said it was not yet clear if the profits would go to the more than 800 creditors of WSH Group.

He said because the other companies associated with Watersun Homes may also have creditors – so even if their assets were sold off, there may be no money left.

“There have been monies transferred between these companies, as to whether we can recover these funds it’s too early to say,” Mr Gollant said.

“It may be difficult.”

Do you know more about this issue? Email journalist Aisha Dow here.

In the meantime, many Watersun suppliers and contractors are struggling with debt saddled on them as a result of the builder’s collapse. Around 45 creditors say they are owed more than $100,000 – including a Carlton landscape architect owed $370,000.

Records handed over by WSH Group reveal the company may have been struggling financially from mid-2013, when it posted a net loss of $584,000. It went on to post a net loss of more than $1 million in two subsequent years.

In a possible breach of the Corporations Act, the administrators believe the company failed to maintain adequate books and records to produce timely and accurate statements.

It had not lodged an audited financial statement since the June 2014 statement.

It is understood that WSH Group’s director Tanya Lewis, 44, is a chartered accountant who worked for consortiums behind the Eureka and Australia 108 tower developments.

Ms Lewis continues to work out of the office of financial planners Abound Group in Ascot Vale.

She has not responded to requests for comment and when Fairfax Media visited the Abound Group office last week, practice manager Vin Brown said Ms Lewis would not be commenting.

“I think we’ve said that before, that she has got nothing to say,” Mr Brown said.

Ms Lewis, a 2013 coterie member of Richmond Football Club, resigned as a director of The Abound Group 15 days before the Watersun collapse and does not appear on the company’s website.

Watersun Land Holdings (which owns the display homes) lists the Abound Business Solutions as its principal place of address.

Waratahs eyeing bonus-point win against Kings: Hooper

Waratahs captain Michael Hooper says it is imperative his men get off to a good start on Friday and has made it clear NSW will hunt a bonus-point win against the struggling Southern Kings in Sydney.

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Poor starts by the Waratahs this year have been well-documented, but they will have no excuses against a struggling Kings outfit that has recorded just one victory in 2017.

There will be a degree of confidence among the squad knowing the only time the Waratahs have played the Kings, it resulted in the club’s biggest ever win – a 72-10 thumping in Port Elizabeth in 2013.

Hooper scored a five-pointer that day as the Waratahs piled on six tries in a frenetic opening 28 minutes before finishing with an incredible 11 for the match.

“[There was] really good intent from guys carrying the ball in that game,” Hooper said. “It’s been tough going this season in our starts, so we know it’ll be a tough start tomorrow night. We want to put the Kings under pressure and make them start playing that loose, more risky rugby.”

The Waratahs are fourth in the Australian conference; one point behind the Force and nine away from frontrunners the ACT Brumbies.

They are the only team in Super Rugby without a bonus point to their name, be it a winning one or for coming within seven points or less of its opposition.

And against the Kings, as much as they won’t say it publicly, the Waratahs will be bitterly disappointed if they do not come away from Allianz Stadium with five points.

“You go into every game hoping to get five points, don’t you? Friday is no different,” Hooper said. “As the game plays out, I guess we’ll get a better indication of where we’re sitting as far as points but getting the win is paramount.”

Asked to put a figure on a winning margin if the Waratahs played to their potential, Hooper replied cautiously.

“I’m not one to put a marker on the game,” he said. “We really just want to have an 80-minute performance. If we do that, and we do the stuff we talk about, we’ll be in good shape.”

The Waratahs have won six of their last seven games at home against South African opposition.

Despite how poor the Kings have been this year, the uncertainty of whether they will be cut from Super Rugby will have an affect when the teams meet – something Hooper said the Waratahs had to be wary of.

“They’ve been told they’re out of the competition going forward so they’ve got everything to play for and want to show everyone they [SANZAAR officials] have made a mistake,” Hooper said. “We’ve got to be on our game. They’ll come with a lot of flair and it’s important throughout that regardless of what they bring and how the game can turn out, to stick to our guns, stick to what we know we can do if we do it right.”

A NSW loss would put extreme pressure on head coach Daryl Gibson, for the calibre of players the Waratahs possess should not be outclassed by the Kings.

Hooper said an emphatic win could kick-start the Waratahs’ season, in the mould of what happened in 2015 when they rallied from a slow start to make the finals.

“We’ve got to make a run for it to be a real threat in this competition,” Hooper said. “We finished the year second in 2015 with five losses and we’re on that mark now, so it’s really time to start kicking into gear.”

Decentralisation push risks hurting Canberra property market

New housing estate in the Northern suburbs of Canberra, Roof plumbers, residential property, trades, tradesman, building of new homes, house. skilled labour shortage, apprentice, generic hold for files, first use AFR please SPECIALX 0000014ATO, Finance, Treasury and Agriculture safe in Canberra: Barnaby JoyceCanberra’s median house price surpasses $700,000 for first time: Domain report

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The federal government’s push to decentralise the Australian Public Service could have major ramifications for Canberra’s housing market.

Property experts and stakeholders say the exact impact of the decision to move public sector jobs outside the ACT will depend on the scale of the clear-out.

However, ACT Property Council executive direct Adina Cirson warned uncertainty alone could have a detrimental effect on the property sector.

She said the growing confidence in the ACT highlighted by Thursday’s ANZ/Property Council survey was likely to take a hit.

“The threat of taking out the largest employer in town – even the mention of that – will create uncertainty,” she said.

“Commonwealth occupation represents 55 per cent of the office market. Needless to say, any move to relocate government departments away from Canberra would absolutely decimate the city.”

Ms Cirson said the property sector was the second-largest industry in the ACT and, along with education, health, retail and hospitality, would suffer from a bureaucratic shake-up.

“We are a public service town, they prop up other industries,” Ms Cirson said.

“Look back to 1996 and the 10 years it took to recover from what was a marginal reduction compared to this.”

The Housing Industry Association’s ACT and Southern NSW executive director Greg Weller also warned short-term uncertainty could hurt Canberra’s residential market as decisions to buy or sell may grind to a halt.

“Uncertainty can be real killer for the market as people put off decisions,” he said.

“Obviously the bigger the movement, the bigger the impact this will have on the housing market.

“What we can’t see is this dragging out into growing speculation over a long period of time.”

The federal government’s decentralisation push comes as Canberra’s median house price exceeds $700,000 for the first time.

The Domain State of the Market Report released on Thursday shows house prices have jumped 10.4 per cent over the past year to a new median of $705,059.

Mr Weller said higher-density housing may be more vulnerable to any economic impacts as a result of APS changes, given detached housing was largely driving the residential market’s buoyancy.

He said any net migration out of the nation’s capital risked investment in residential property however, the economy remained strong with a significant higher education sector and a growing private sector.

“What we don’t want to see is the rug pulled out from under that if things change quickly,” he said.

Nationals deputy leader Fiona Nash announced on Wednesday that all departments in the 155,000-strong APS would be assessed for decentralisation from Canberra and other cities.

About 57,500 public servants make up 37.5 per cent of the federal bureaucracy.

Since then, Nationals’ leader and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has ruled out moving entire departments from the ACT.

Mr Weller said he hoped the federal government wouldn’t “rob Peter to pay Paul” when moving public servants to other regional areas.

“If the objective here is to bring people into regional areas, that’s what Canberra is,” he said.

“A lot of these people working here are already living in regional towns, such as Queanbeyan, Yass, Goulburn and Cooma. It’s important the focus is not entirely on the ACT.”

Domain chief economist Andrew Wilson said he did not believe there would be a mass exit of public servants from the nation’s capital and Canberra was still well placed for further house price growth.

“I don’t think in the shorter term at least, or even the medium term, there’s a prospect of migration reversing to the point where it would have an impact on demand for housing and bring prices down,” Dr Wilson said.

“It’s still a very positive strategy to get into the Canberra market because I think prices are going to continue to grow.”

‘Vote for Abbott, save the Barrier Reef’

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull warned voters in Warringah of a “hung parliament or a Shorten Labor government” if they did not vote for Tony Abbott in the frantic final week of the 2016 election campaign.

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The 11th-hour letter to voters in Mr Abbott’s seat, obtained by Fairfax Media, emerged after The Australian Financial Review reported on Thursday that, 10 days before the election, the Liberal Party polled 400 people in Mr Abbott’s seat and found the former prime minister could lose on preferences to independent James Mathison, Labor or Nick Xenophon Team candidate Marie Rowland.

That report prompted a renewed storm between the Prime Minister and the man he usurped, with Mr Abbott lashing out at the “sneaky, underhanded” leaking of polling data.

But senior Liberal Party and Labor strategists said on Thursday the intervention – which included a letterbox drop and robo-calls – saved the political career of Mr Abbott, coming as a direct pitch to wavering Liberals who were thinking of backing an independent or progressive candidate.

Mr Turnbull’s letter even promised “Barrier Reef protection” under a re-elected Coalition.

“Your protest vote, be it directed to Labor or Independent, could inadvertently deliver Bill Shorten as PM. That’s a recipe for chaos,” it said.

“I need every local vote for the Liberal Party, including yours, to ensure a stable MAJORITY Government for Australia.

“With the heavy targeting of this seat by pro-Labor activists, only a local Liberal vote for my colleague Tony Abbott ensures stable majority Government, with a clear and detailed plan.

“This plan will provide jobs and growth, real funding for the Aged, Education and our Barrier Reef protection project and Medicare guaranteed.”

Mr Abbott effectively confirmed the authenticity of the polling data, while saying just three people had access to the information at the time.

He thanked “everyone from the Prime Minister down for their efforts” in hanging on to Warringah but condemned the “sneaky, underhand business of leaking [which] needs to stop, it really does need to stop. It is absolutely corrosive of trust.”

“The polling in question was very, very closely held. I had it, [former Liberal Party federal director] Tony Nutt had it, the Prime Minister had it and I’m just very disappointed that someone has chosen to put it out there for self-serving reasons,” he said.

Mr Turnbull said the leaked polling was “regrettable” but said: “We put in a great team effort last year. I know there have been a few regrets about the election result … but we won the election, we’re getting on with the job.

“I’ll certainly make some inquiries [into who leaked it] but I’m focused on delivering for the people of Australia today.”

A senior NSW Liberal said phone calls and the letterbox drop “swung it back” for Mr Abbott.

But an Abbott loyalist in Warringah said the story was a “beat-up” and should be interpreted as a shot across Mr Abbott’s bow to curb his recent public commentary, which has been almost universally viewed as negative for the Turnbull-led Coalition.

“A drover’s dog could win Warringah for the Liberals. Even when the national swing is on, it does not happen to the same level in Warringah; look at the booths in Mosman and Forestville,” he said.

A senior Labor campaign operative said the Liberal panic in Warringah became clear about 72 hours from the election, when the letter from Mr Turnbull landed in letterboxes.

“Abbott would have had to green light this, there is no way the party would do it without his knowledge. We knew at that point that Abbott had accepted he was in trouble of losing the seat,” said the source.

Broadcaster Ray Hadley hit out at suggestions that he was “drafted in” to help Mr Abbott by trying to derail the campaign of Mr Mathison.

“It’s the greatest load of crap I’ve ever heard and it’s been planted by Malcolm Turnbull in order to discredit Tony Abbott,” he said.

– with Holly Monery

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Jakarta’s outgoing Governor Ahok may escape jail for ‘blasphemy’

JAKARTA, INDONESIA- APRIL 19 Indonesian President Joko Widodo with his wife Iriana cast their ballot the second round at a polling station in Jakarta, Indonesia on April 19, 2017. ?? photo?? Jefri Tarigan Photo: Jefri TariganJakarta: Jakarta’s embattled Christian and ethnically Chinese governor could escape being jailed for blasphemy after prosecutors only requested he serve two years’ probation for allegedly insulting Islam.

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A day after Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama was decisively defeated in a bitterly sectarian gubernatorial election by former education minister Anies Baswedan, he was forced to front the blasphemy trial that derailed his electability???.

Protesters outside the court erupted angrily when they learnt Ahok could escape prison for telling fishermen they had been deceived into not voting for him by his political opponents.

Prior to the alleged blasphemy, some Islamic groups had urged voters not to re-elect Ahok, citing verse 51 from the fifth sura or chapter of the Koran, al-Maida, which some interpret as prohibiting Muslims from living under the leadership of a non-Muslim

The provocative comments were opportunistically seized upon by Ahok’s opponents and mass rallies that threatened the political stability of Jakarta were staged – spearheaded by radical Islamists – demanding that Ahok be incarcerated and even lynched.

Ahok, who assumed the role of governor in 2014 when Joko Widodo was elected president, had been considered a shoo-in to win the gubernatorial elections until his slip up last September. Initial polls reflected wide support for his effective governance of the city and can-do attitude.

This was acknowledged by the prosecutors who said their sentencing request reflected that Ahok had been involved in the development of the city.

The maximum jail sentence for article 156 of the blasphemy act is four years’ jail but prosecutors requested he be given two years on probation with a one year jail sentence if he reoffended.

They said Ahok had created uneasiness in the community and his comments caused “misunderstandings between groups in Indonesia”.

An editorial in the Jakarta Post on the eve of the election described the campaign as “the dirtiest, most polarising and most divisive the nation has ever seen”, saying the use of religion and race had been a “troubling aspect”.

Analyst Charlotte Setijadi from the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore said the most successful and dangerous aspect of the anti-Ahok campaign had been the “reductionist and divisive rhetoric – that a vote for Ahok was a vote against Islam”.

“Likewise the Jakarta election has been widely portrayed and analysed as an ideological battle between Islamic piety and pluralism. Policies and track record count for little,” she said.

Ahok’s lawyer, Wayan Sudirta, said the fact prosecutors only requested probation meant they were unsure of his guilt.

Mr Anies, who won about 58 per cent of the vote according to quick count surveys, had campaigned on education, no-deposit home loans, and opposition to Ahok’s forced evictions for flood mitigation and reclamation of Jakarta Bay.

However he was also accused of a dog-whistle campaign that saw him courting extremist groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front, which had long called for Ahok to be ousted from power.

On the eve of the election, Mr Anies compared the gubernatorial election to the Battle of Badr in 624 CE, considered a turning point in the Prophet Muhammad’s struggle to establish Islam and defeat his pagan opponents.

However both Mr Anies and Ahok called for unity after the election result, with Mr Anies pledging to be a good leader not just for Muslims and his voters but the whole of Jakarta.

NRLNorth Queensland star Michael Morgan backs teammate Kalyn Ponga

FLYING HIGH: North Queensland fullback Kalyn Ponga will play against his future Newcastle teammates for the first time on Saturday. Picture: Getty Images

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North Queensland rookie Kalyn Ponga has already proven he has the temperament to become an NRL fullback, according to Cowboys star Michael Morgan.

Ponga’s ascension to first grade faces another pressure test this week when he faces future employers Newcastle for the first time since signing his multi-million deal in the pre-season. But Morgan insists the 19-year-old will handle the big occasion with the same cool head he has shown since deputising for injured No.1 Lachlan Coote for the past fortnight.

“He’s not ahead of himself in anyway, he’s not arrogant or anything like that. He’s very level-headed and sensible,” Morgan said.

“He fits into the group really well and I think that’s why the team at the moment has embraced him, is happy for him to be playing first grade and having an opportunity to do well for us.”

Ponga has been close to the Cowboys’ best in the past two games, carrying the ball for an average 185 metres per game, and totalling 15 tackle breaks. Morgan has been impressed with his teammate’s attention to detail.

“He does all the little things right – he’s good under the high ball, he’s getting a lot better defensively, and talking. He’s been good,” he said.

“Like everyone in the side though, he’d still want to work on a few things and try and improve. It’s only three games in playing fullback at NRL level. It is hard to get used to doing.”

Morgan himself admits he has yet to reach peak form in 2017 and vowed to step up his involvement in the absence of three-quarters of the team’s spine.

Regular fullback Lachlan Coote (calf), skipper Johnathan Thurston (calf) and hooker Jake Granville (leg) remained sidelined for at least another week.

Morgan was mentioned by Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga as a candidate for the upcoming Test in May should Thurston be kept out, but declined to discuss his representative claims.

“I don’t feel like I’ve gone bad. I just haven’t been in the games enough I suppose, doing enough and helping the team out,” he said of his form.

“I just have to simplify things and go back to what works for me.

“Whether it’s my running game or using my back-rower and trying to play off the back of him, I think as a team that’s what we’ve spoken about doing and I can take that on board.”

Cessnock Stomp Festival 2017PHOTOS, VIDEO

Food, wine and sunshine at Stomp Festival | PHOTOS, VIDEO Lauren Kate

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Great Cessnock Stomp contestants Fiona Smith (Cameron Park), Joey Smith (Cameron Park), Teegan Ratcliffe (Buff Point), Jenny Ratcliffe (Buff Point), Pradanya Mandale (Newcastle) and Jozef Kariko (Budgewoi) at the Cessnock Stomp Festival on April 23, 2017. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Great Cessnock Stomp contestants Fiona Smith (Cameron Park), Joey Smith (Cameron Park), Teegan Ratcliffe (Buff Point), Jenny Ratcliffe (Buff Point), Pradanya Mandale (Newcastle) and Jozef Kariko (Budgewoi) at the Cessnock Stomp Festival on April 23, 2017. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Great Cessnock Stomp contestants Fiona Smith (Cameron Park), Joey Smith (Cameron Park), Teegan Ratcliffe (Buff Point), Jenny Ratcliffe (Buff Point), Pradanya Mandale (Newcastle) and Jozef Kariko (Budgewoi) at the Cessnock Stomp Festival on April 23, 2017. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Daniel Repacholi, of Nulkaba, Mark Murphy, of Bellbird, and Luke Kermode and Emily Hunter, both of Cessnock, at the Cessnock Stomp Festival on April 23, 2017. Picture: Krystal Sellars

The Cheshire Cat, the March Hare, Tiffany McMillan, of Cessnock, the Mad Hatter, and Cassandra Turnbull, of Cessnock, at the Cessnock Stomp Festival on April 23, 2017. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Pub Stomp challenge contestants eagerly await the results at the Cessnock Stomp Festival on April 23, 2017. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Khartoum Hotel manager Sandra Stewart and Pub Stomp Challenge winners Simone Hancock, Bec McWhirter, Lydia Craft and Emma Drummond at the Cessnock Stomp Festival on April 23, 2017. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Pub Stomp Challenge winners from the Khartoum Hotel (back) Simone Hancock, Sandra Stewart, Lydia Craft, (front) Bec McWhirter and Emma Drummond at the Cessnock Stomp Festival on April 23, 2017. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Dylan Knipe, 8, of Cessnock, in the ‘selfie stomp’ area at the Cessnock Stomp Festival on April 23, 2017. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Contestants in the first round of the Great Cessnock Stomp competition. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Cessnock mayor Bob Pynsent opens the Stomp Festival on Sunday morning. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Crowds gather in Vincent Street on Sunday morning for the opening of the Cessnock Stomp Festival. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon addresses the crowd at the Cessnock Stomp Festival on Sunday. Picture: Krystal Sellars

The Cessnock City RSL Pipes and Drums band performing at the Cessnock Stomp Festival on Sunday. Picture: Krystal Sellars

The Cessnock City RSL Pipes and Drums band performing at the Cessnock Stomp Festival on Sunday. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Contestants in the first round of the Great Cessnock Stomp competition. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Contestants in the first round of the Great Cessnock Stomp competition. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Contestants in the first round of the Great Cessnock Stomp competition. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Caitlin Cassidy, of Lochinvar, and Emma Baillie, from Jam Packed Parties, at the Cessnock Stomp Festival on Sunday. Picture: Krystal Sellars

The Cessnock Stomp Festival fashion parade. Picture: Krystal Sellars

The Cessnock Stomp Festival fashion parade. Picture: Krystal Sellars

The Cessnock Stomp Festival fashion parade. Picture: Krystal Sellars

The Cessnock Stomp Festival fashion parade. Picture: Krystal Sellars

The Cessnock Stomp Festival fashion parade. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Finnian Johnson performing at the Cessnock Stomp Festival on Sunday. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Veronica Lee-Thompson, of Auckland; Peter Black, of Sydney, and Johnny Hilditch, of Coleraine, Northern Ireland, at the Cessnock Stomp Festival on April 23, 2017. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Andrew Drayton, from Ironbark Hill Brewhouse; and Katie and Russell Burns, of Cessnock, at the Cessnock Stomp Festival on April 23, 2017. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Kris Viner and Katherine Land, with Charlie, at the Cessnock Stomp Festival on April 23, 2017. Picture: Krystal Sellars

The Mad Hatter and the March Hare with Helen Johnson, of Killingworth, Bev Dowling, of Quorrobolong, Ray Johnson, of Quorrobolong, and Garry White, of Killingworth, at the Cessnock Stomp Festival on April 23, 2017. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Ross Wilson and Kerryn Rhodes, of Ernest Hill Wines, with John Perry and Cassandra Cagney, of Paxton, at the Cessnock Stomp Festival on April 23, 2017. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Peterson House ‘Bubble Lane’ was a popular attraction at the Cessnock Stomp Festival on April 23, 2017. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Miss Cessnock City, Emma Myers at the Cessnock Stomp Festival on April 23, 2017. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Char MacDonald, of Abermain, with Shelby Craig and Alyce Hodgson, from Wynwood Estate, at the Cessnock Stomp Festival on April 23, 2017. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Trinity Woodhouse performing at the Cessnock Stomp Festival on April 23, 2017. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Julie Hickey and Pat McCarthy, both of Bellbird, enjoying a glass of the Hunter’s finest in Peterson House Bubble Lane at the Cessnock Stomp Festival on April 23, 2017. Picture: Krystal Sellars

More than 20 wineries were on show at the Cessnock Stomp Festival on April 23, 2017. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Stilt walkers at the Cessnock Stomp Festival on April 23, 2017. Picture: Krystal Sellars

The Cessnock Stomp Festival drew more than 10,000 people to Vincent Street on April 23, 2017. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Char Dan MacHassett

Jacinta Lidwinski

Kayla Nichols

Rachelle Corcoran

Amanda Ekert

Amanda Ekert

Melissa Attwood

Michelle Page-Johnson

Sharon Howell

Amee Bailey

Amee Bailey

Maree McCusker Mossop

Maree McCusker Mossop

Maree McCusker Mossop

Maree McCusker Mossop

Maree McCusker Mossop

Maree McCusker Mossop

Maree McCusker Mossop

Lauren Kate

TweetFacebook PHOTOS: Cessnock Stomp Festival 2017 +58MORE GALLERIES

facebookSHAREtwitterTWEETemailwhatsappcommentCommentsFood, wine, beer and sunshine proved to be the perfect blend in Cessnock on Sunday for the city’s second annual Stomp Festival.

About 11,000 people attended the inaugural event in 2016, and by 2pm Sunday the organisers estimated this year’s crowd was even bigger.

The Cessnock Chamber of Commerce founded the Stomp Festival as a wayto showcase the town as the gateway to Hunter wine country.

Chamber president Geoff Walker said the day was a great success, with a lot of visitorsfrom Newcastle and Sydney.

“It’s really fantastic –the beauty of it is bringing the vineyards into town, and sampling all that’s on offer in Pokolbin and Cessnock in one spot,” he said.

Festival highlights includingthe Mad Hatter’s High Tea, live entertainment and grape-stomping competitions.

A new addition to this year’s festival was the Drayton’s Wines Pub Stomp Challenge, which was taken out bytheteam from the Khartoum Hotel, Kitchener.

Check out videos from theDrayton’s Wines Pub Stomp in the posts below.

Pub challenge heatPost by Pub challenge heat.

Pub challenge grand finalPost by Pub challenge grand final.

The Jane Austen Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary

Who knew that Regency clothes, customs and culture could be so popular in Canberra? The Jane Austen Festival is now in its 10th year and attracts people from around Australia and overseas eager to step back in time for three days and nights beginning on Friday.

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Husband and wife John and Aylwen Gardiner-Garden are behind the festival – she is the director, he teaches and runs the dances which take place every night. It grew out of the period dances they have regularly held as part of their dance group Earthy Delights for the past two decades on themes ranging from Pirates of the Caribbean to Shakespeare in Love.

John Gardiner-Garden said one of the dances was a Pride and Prejudice Ball that fell in April and has grown every year into the present three-day festival This would be the third year it would be held in the Albert Hall, he said, and as well as the dances it will feature lectures, games such as proto-croquet and proto-bowls, classes in watercolours, necklace-making, improv theatre with a Regency theme. and much more/ It was, he said, a time when ladies were ladies and gentlemen were gentlemen – a clue, perhaps, to Austen’s enduring appeal, as well as her wit and social commentary.

“We have people coming from all around the country,” he said. In the past people had travelled from countries such as the US, England, Indonesia, and New Zealand to take part in the festival.

Aylwen-Gardiner-Garden said the music, subjects activities ranged from the early 1700s to the mid-19th century, covering the period before and after the life of the celebrated novelist Austen (1775-1817) to increase the range of what could be covered. She noted that 2017 was the 200th anniversary of Austen’s death but said ladies need not wear black dresses to the festival.

“I’m not.”

Camille Landy is from France but has been studying in Canberra for the past few years. She read some Jane Austen books in an English literature course at the University of Canberra and watched the related films and enjoyed the the music and dances.

“They’re so beautiful and elegant,” she said.

“I Googled it – ‘Jane Austen dance Canberra’ – and found [Earthly Delights] at ANU,” she said. She enjoyed the experience so coming to the festival was an obvious next step. Landy will be presenting hairdressing techniques while there.

Julie Ho, a nurse from Hobart, heard about the festival through the Folk Festival of Tasmania. She had tried contradancing in June and was a fan of Jane Austen so she came up to experience this and the National Folk Festival. As well as “a lot of dancing” she said she intended to try bonnet-making, attend some lectures and morning-tea talks and other activities to make the most of her time here.

The Gardiner-Garden’s 15-year-old son Alcuin has also been a part of his parents’ activities for, as he put it, “my whole life”. He said he liked the period dancing because “it’s active” and presented many opportunities to meet new people.

As for Jane Austen, he said, “She’s not that bad.”

The Jane Austen Festival is on at Albert Hall from April 21 to 23. Bookings essential. janeaustenfestival苏州美甲学校苏州美甲学校网.

Surfer Russell Bierke saved by pro Kelly Slater near Port Campbell beach

Russell Bierke (left) owes Kelly Slater his life after an accident near Port Campbell. Pics: Rob Gunstone and iStockA young professional surfer owes his life to some of the sport’s biggest names after a dramatic rescueon Wednesday.

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Big wave surferRussell Bierke, 19, from Ulladulla in NSW, was surfing with matesat Port Campbell, Victoria, when he was knocked unconscious by his board.

The group –which included the likes of including American proKelly Slater, Ross Clarke-Jones,TomCarrolland Ryan Hipwood – was winding up a session at the popular two milebreak when the incident happened.

Kelly Slater helps save mate at Port Campbellhttps://nnimgt-a.akamaihd.net/transform/v1/crop/frm/GJZ5TVpAk84wrTzsQfLQRB/4d17a406-0537-4003-948b-3d7d87fee3a9.jpg/r5_0_1915_1079_w1200_h678_fmax.jpgVIC: He’s an 11-time world champion now Kelly Slater can add life saver to his CV.2017-04-20T15:53:00+10:00https://players.brightcove.net/3879528182001/default_default/index.html?videoId=5404127767001https://players.brightcove.net/3879528182001/default_default/index.html?videoId=5404127767001Bierke wasunder water for about 45 seconds, taking on litres of seawater.

“It’s super vague,” Bierke said. “I remember seeing a wave coming and then I was on the beach on all fours spewing (up water). I can’t remember the ski ride.”

Bierke said the group was attracted to Port Campbell for the big swell.

“They (the waves) were15 to18 feet,” he said.

“The conditions don’t come together like that very often. They were really big and there were light winds and it was really sunny and it was nice and warm.

“We were all having a lot of fun. It was nice and clean and big. It was pretty muchwhat we came for. That was my last wave. I remember saying to the boys I want to go in. I was tired and hungry and wanted to get some food.

“(I’ve been told) I caught a wave and Hippo (surfer Ryan Hipwood) was in the channel and apparentlyjust started screaming. Hippocouldjust see my board floating then and I think Hippo said anotherwave passed.

“It was one of the smaller waves of the session. Hippo said it was thesmallest waves we caught all day.

“It was a freak accident. I don’t really remember but the wave did something big like dropped out and myboard must have hit me.”

His mate Ben Serranoput him on a jetski sled andSlater accompanied himto shore.

Bierke was blue when he was brought to shore and said he had no recollection of what happened except for what he’d been told by witnesses.

Lucky: Pro big wave surfer Russell Bierke is recovering in the Warrnambool Base Hospital, after an incident at Port Campbell where he came close to drowning. Picture: Rob Gunstone

“I know I’m pretty lucky from everyone I’ve talked to. It’s probablygood I don’t remember much. (I woke up this morning)and I was trying my best to remember but can’t really. The way everything came together was pretty lucky for sure.

“Everyone out in the line up really helped, the paramedics and the crew and the hospital.”

A femaleparamedic who was walking past gave him oxygen from the nearby Port Campbell Surf Lilfesaving Club.

Moyne Shire councillor and Port Fairy surfer Jordan Lockett, who was attending a training day at the surf club,was one of the people who helped.

“Kevin Leddin one of our (Moyne Shire) directorssaid ‘I swear I just saw Kelly Slater carrying someone’ so I ran outonto the balcony,” Cr Lockett said.

“I yelled out and there was about four or five people standing around a body and I said ‘do you want me to call an ambulance?’

Kelly Slater helps save mate at Port Campbell NO FEAR: Russell Bierke won the Red Bull Cape Fear big wave surfing event after receiving a perfect score on one of his finals waves. Photo: Getty Images.

CHAMP: Russell Bierke holds up his trophy. Photo: Magnum & Co.

GNARLY: Russell Bierke. Photo: Red Bull Australia

SURF’S UP: Russell Bierke has a swell time in the surf. Picture: Getty Images

READY: Russell Bierke in the surf where he is most at home. Picture: Getty Images

TweetFacebook Pro surfer Russell Bierke in action +5MORE GALLERIES

facebookSHAREtwitterTWEETemailwhatsapp“Kelly said ‘call an ambulance’ then I was relaying down the phone what Kelly Slater was telling me–the vital signs. He’s got a pulse, he’s breathing but he’s not well. He was very disoriented. I grabbed the oxygen and ran outside.

“There was Slater, three or four other surfers and (Bierke)was just vomiting up water like flat out.

“He had really bloodshot eyes and he didn’t know where he was, who he was or what was happening. He was blue. He was like a smurf or an avatar.

“So we got the oxygenon as quick as we could. He had a really big cut (across his neck/jawline) which was swollen sothey were applying pressure to that but that was obviously restricting his breathing so that was tricky.”

Bierkewas bleeding from a cut on his neck near his jawline where theninefoot long board which weighs almost 10 kilograms struck him. The force dentedthe board.

“Kelly was talking to him and said ‘It’s alright brother, help’s on its way’,” Cr Lockett said. “I let him know the ambulance said they would be under 10 minutes. They arrived, they were really quick.”

Cr Lockett said the response made him proud to be a surfer.

“Everyone helped and thank God that paramedic was there,” Cr Lockett said.

“I was talking to Kelly (Slater)after it and he was saying how could not have done it ifthe jetski wasn’t there. It would have been, given he’s an 11 time world champion and he’s fit,a 20-minute paddle minimum.

“I personally don’t know if hewould have survived if it wasn’t for the jet ski because thebloke was blue, and that was getting rushed in on the jetski.”

Cobden and Port Campbell police andambulanceattended the scene which was reported at 1.30pm on Wednesday.

Bierke was taken totheWarrnambool Base Hospitalintensive care by ambulance and will remain in hospital until the weekend.

“My chest and ribs feel pretty bruised andsore and my jaw’s definitelypretty swollen and achy right now,” Bierke said.

“Without the jetski it would be a lot different. There was a safety crew out there, I think the local boys had that out there and we were trading between surfing and sitting on the ski.

“It was definitely good to have a safety crew there because it’s a long paddle. It’s over one and a half ks. We paddled out. It was a long way and there were lots of currents.”

The professional big wave surfer surfs atHawaii, Ireland and all around Australia.

“I’ve surfed a lot bigger and a lot more dangerous waves than yesterday,” he said. “I’ve broken my foot and done a few little things but nothing like this,”

Bierke said he was “definitely”keen to get back in the waterwhen he recovered.

Intensive care unit managerTina Johnstone said any more time underwater and he would have died.

“It wouldn’t have takenlong (for him to die). (Being underwater) it’s different to holding your breath because when you breathe again you can take in oxygen. (The water) starts to affect the heart and other different things.

“He was a close drowning. He was unconscious so he was very lucky. His lungs have shown he did consume a lot of sea water which is why we’re keeping an eye on him in intensive care for infection.”

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Shooters Party says 18 months long enough to light rail extension business casepoll

THENSW government has had long enough to complete a business case for an extended light rail network in Newcastle and it’s time for answers.

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‘Where is light rail extension plan’: Shooters TweetFacebookMORE GALLERIES

facebookSHAREtwitterTWEETemailwhatsappcommentCommentsThat’s the message from the Shooters and Fishers Party, who say that18 months after the government committed to the study in exchange for the party backinglegislation to remove Newcastle’s heavy rail line, they want assurances the city isn’t being “dudded”.

Shooters MP Robert Brownsaid the party would raise the issue with the government in parliament.

“In terms of whether they’re going to fulfill their promises I guess it’s more of a wait and see at the moment,” he said.

“Thatwill the subject of a question to the Premier,because by now they should have had that business case concluded.”

Mr Brown, who said he was pleased to see Mr Constance announcewire free light rail on Hunter Street, said he wasn’t sure of the status of the commitment but would be“makingsure the bastards aren’t dudding people in Newcastle”.

The government agreed to the study in a dealwith the Shooters in October 2015 to pass legislation to remove the heavy rail line.

It would look at the options for expandingthe light rail network to places like Broadmeadow, Hunter Stadium, Adamstown and Mayfield.

TheNewcastle Heraldreported more than a year ago that the state’s transport department had begun investigations into the possibility of expanding the network, but during a visit to Newcastle this week, Transport Minister Andrew Constance said the work was still progressing.

“There’s plenty of great points around the entire city where light rail can go and we want to get that right,” he said.

“We’re still working through that long-term transport master-plan.

“Transport are starting that process and we’ll be out later this year with our entire state plan but we need to get specific with it.

“In the future ministers will need to make the call about how you might build it and where you might build it to, but at the moment lets just get the first stage of the project down which is Hunter Street.”

But the Property Council of Australia’sHunter Director,Andrew Fletcher, said it was “reasonable” to expect the business case would be completed sooner rather than later.

“There have been commitments made by this government to invest in extendingthe light rail network … so I think it’s reasonable for the communityto expect the results of some of that planning to be, if not completed, very near to completion,” he said.

While the government has said it believes the line should be extended, Mr Constance has made it clear it is unlikely to happen anytime in the near future.

But Mr Fletcher said turning the system into a broader network, particularly extending into Broadmeadow,was essential to make it “sustainable”.

Broadmeadow ‘obvious’ choice for light rail extensionMr Fletcher said Broadmeadow –identified in the government’s 20 year blueprint for development in the Hunter as a vital “strategic centre” was an obvious choice for any extension of the line.

“Our stated position is that we believe the next extensionof light railshould run from Wickham to Broadmeadow …basically along Tudor and Belfords Streets,” he said.

In 2016 the government released a document outlining a blueprint for the future of the network which included nine options to extend the line.

Option “A” linked Wickham to Broadmeadow, with the network eventually extending out to Hunter Stadium, the John Hunter Hospital, Callaghan, Newcastle Airport, Glendaleand, eventually, Merewether.