Archives - January, 2019

14 Jan 19

Milked dry: Nabiac farmers Phillip and Jason Schneider will attend the ACCC inquiry into milk prices in Taree at noon next Tuesday, February 7 at Club West. WHEN Phillip Schneider would welcome primary school studentsto his farm they had one big question: ‘why do you get paid so little for your milk?’.
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“I couldn’t answer the question, but they could: greed,” said the Nabiac based farmer.Thesefarm tours were many years ago,andhad to be stopped due to the tragic loss of a grandchild to a rare tumour and subsequent poor health for Phillip.

But this question remainsand will be one of many taken to then Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) inquiryinto milk prices inTaree at noon nextTuesday, February 7at Club West.

Phillip, 62, has been a farmer for 48 years. His farmmilksaround 70 cows, which produce between 25 to 50 litres a day to milk supplier Parmalat.

In January,Parmalatannounced a two cent reduction on last year’s price, with farmers now told to expect an average price of 44.1 cents per litre in 2017.

“Twenty five years ago we were getting 54 cents –we need that all year around,” Phillip said.

“It’s tough, there’s no two ways about it. We can’t afford a flood or drought.”

Phillip saidthe latest dry period is the worse he’s experiencedin 48 years and the recent rain ‘saved’ them.

With other farmersin the area already make the tough decision to close down, the thought has crossed the family’s mind but for Phillip he couldn’t imagine leaving.

“What else would I do? I’ve built so much here, I don’twant to sell, I wantthis to be for my grandchildren.”

Phillip prides himself on his milk quality and has won district and State awards and is consideredin the top five per cent of for quality.

“I still try and run the farm the same–but it just gets tighter and tighter. I’m not cuttingcorners but it’s not easy,” Phillip said.

Due to a spine disease Phillip can no longer milk andhis son Jason is handling the milking.

Phillip does the farm work and helps care for Jason and his wife Kylie’s three children, as Kylie is an intensive care nurse.

Phillip said they are a strong unit as a family but he feels for those desperately struggling in the area.

“People come to meetings in tears,” he said.

“Wives have to be on suicide watch for their husbands.Things shouldn’t be in that position.”

Phillip and Jason will attend the inquiry.“It’s a start, it might not help us, but it’s a start in the right direction.”

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14 Jan 19

Great Scott, we’ve lost a decent bloke Scot MacDonald in thongs and trousers at the Bogey Hole. Pictures: Jonathan Carroll.
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Scot MacDonald in thongs and trousers at the Bogey Hole. Pictures: Jonathan Carroll.

TweetFacebookHerald on Monday as saying she wants to end Novocastrian “negativity”.

The thing is, one person’s negativity is another person’s positivity. Who decides what’s negative?

Sometimes when this Topics correspondent writes anews story, a person being interviewed will say: “Is the story going to be positive?”.

“Positive for who?”, wereply.

How do you define what’s positive anyhow? Some might say having citizens stand up for their rights, speak their mind and criticise, question and challenge governments,public officials, corporations, bullies and anyone in power is a positive thing.

But some politicians appear to want the people to be obedient, compliant stooges. We’re not saying Catherine thinks this. But if Novocastrians want to be “negative” about stuff they don’t like, that’s their choice. This isn’t China, North Korea, Russia or Saudi Arabia.

If Catherine is a politician worth her salt, she’ll accept criticism and respond constructively, hopefully withpassion. If she makes her argument well, some critics might even change their positions.

Vladmir Putin is a master of propaganda. He’s also known for murder and mayhem.

It’s been interesting to watch the hyper-sensitive Donald Trump berate and denigrate journalists in the US who write critical articles about him.

We’ve seen the same thing happen here, even at a local level. It’s not uncommon for politicians and senior bureaucrats to become dictatorial, autocratic and domineering.

Some of them panic like scared little children when they’re criticisedin the media.

They appear to want total control and domination. They probably have total control over everyone else in their life. Not being able to control pesky journos and activists hurts their fragile egos and stokes their inner rage. Or does it just upset their inner child? (You know, daddy didn’t love them and mummy didn’t hug them).

If only everyone was like the sycophantic acolytes and propagandists that surround them, hey?

Mind you, some journos can fall under the manipulative control of pollies and others in power. They get fed “exclusives”, which sometimes leads to an informal, unspoken arrangement that these same journos won’t publish stories that criticise their sources. You know the drill – don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

It’s a cunning and devious way to stifle dissent. This is turning into a bit of a rant, isn’t it?

Anyhow, our point is, here at Topics, we urge citizens to express themselves. And we urge journos to report without fear or favour. And maybe Catherine could lay off on the positive psychology stuff.

Geez, now we’re feeling a bit self-righteous. Politicians must know that feeling pretty well.

Double NegativeWe just read Scot MacDonald’s last press release as the Hunter’s parliamentary secretary.

“I also urge the Hunter Labor MPs to move beyond their approach of negativity and protest,” he said.

No Scot, noooooooooo.

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14 Jan 19

Coober Pedy lives on. Photo: Kirsten RobbCoober Pedy is a different world.
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In fact, it looks so much like a far-off desert planet that it has stood in forMars in a series of Hollywood blockbusters. The pink sandstone formations rising out of the red dirt, framed by a sapphire blue sky, create anethereal beauty easily mistaken for outer space.

Dotted around the 100-year-old mining town, halfway between Adelaide and Alice Springs, are the abandoned props from those films: a dilapidated spaceship here, paper mache aliens there. The eerie celestial monuments punctuate the red streets alongside discarded mining equipment and weathered opal shop signs.

Why Coober Pedy is the opal of the n deserthttps://nnimgt-a.akamaihd苏州夜场招聘/transform/v1/crop/frm/GJZ5TVpAk84wrTzsQfLQRB/731c026e-c664-447c-80a8-d5b3baf14767.jpg/r2_0_618_348_w1200_h678_fmax.jpgNSW: Welcome to the opal capital of the world and the strangest town in .2017-02-04T13:30:00+11:00https://players.brightcove苏州夜场招聘/3879528182001/default_default/index.html?videoId=5297719634001https://players.brightcove苏州夜场招聘/3879528182001/default_default/index.html?videoId=5297719634001Welcome to the opal capital of the world and the strangest town in .

CooberPedy’s heydayis well behind it and it seemsfrozen in the ’80s –the last opal boom. Mining has declined sharply since the ’90s, as the old guard dies off and the town transitionsinto its new life as an offbeat tourist attraction.

But why would tourists travel into the guts of the n desert to visit a mining town past its peak? Perhaps to see for themselves the most peculiar part of all, and the thing most ns know about Coober Pedy: people here live underground.

Inside a Coober Pedy “dugout” house. Photo: Kirsten Robb

Digging itIt gets hot in Coober Pedy, really hot. The kind of heat that beats down on you, and then blows around you like you’re standing in a convection oven.

And it doesn’t make for a lively streetscape. On a 50 degree day – yes, they have those here – the whole town shuts down as people hunker down in ‘dugouts’.

Literally built into the side of the red and white mounds rising out of the otherwisethe barren plains, dugouts can be recognised by the thin pipes sprouting from the rocky knolls. They’re for ventilation and are covered in mesh so snakes don’t drop down into theliving room. The wide, older-style air shafts have been phased out because drunk miners used to fall into them walking home from the pub.

The air vents from an underground home. Photo: Mark Kolbe

“The old miners, when they came here, they realised they couldn’t live in a tin shed or a tent because you’d die, it’s too hot,” says miner John Dunstan, who’s been in the opal game for over 50 years.

“A lot of the old original dugouts, the miners actually tunnelled down a little drive into their mine and lived in there … later on they started buildingunderground homesand it’s the same principle – just a tunnel going into the hill and then some rooms.”

A large modern dug out. Photo: Kirsten Robb

Life undergroundAbout 65 per cent of the 1800 to 3000 people in town (much of the population travels, so it’s hard to get an accurate reading) live in dugouts. While many older ones are cramped, narrow spaces that would send a claustrophobic’s heart rate north, most of the modern ones are large, open and styled like any modern home.

“We’ve got four different doors you can get out of our place – there’s plenty of light, plenty of windows,” says Mr Dunstan.

Walking into a dugout on a 40 degree day, it’s easy to understand exactly why people want to live underground. It’s the kind of heat relief you get walking into an air-conditioned shopping centre: so noticeable that out-of-towners make an audible sigh of relief.

Coober Pedy miner John Dunstan found an $85,000 opal in his pantry. Photo: Kirsten Robb

Generally, heating or cooling isn’t needed – it stays about 25 degrees during summer scorchers and winter nights when it drops to minus two. It can be 36 degrees at midnight and residents sleep with a doona.

The older-style dugouts were built by hand. Explosives tore through rocks and homeowners would then pick and shovel them out. These days, tunnelling machines do the work and businesses trade on building them, although there’s not that much space for new homes – there are only so many rock formations left to carve out.

The bedrooms, usually at the back of the house, are so dark that dugout residents keep a torch next to their bed in case of power outages (which happen frequently in summer, thanks to the above-ground residents thrashing their air conditioners). Cool, dark and silent, any Coober Pedian will tell you it’s the best night’s sleep you’ll ever have.

“You don’t actually know dark until you’ve been in a dugout at night,” teacher Elyse Kowald says.

The sun sets at The Breakaways, just outside of the Coober Pedy’s town centre. Photo: Kirsten Robb

It literally pays to renovate in Coober PedyEverybody here bristles at the suggestion that dugouts are claustrophobic.

Real estate agent Misty Mance, of Lin Andrews Real Estate (the only agency in town), regularly sells dugouts and says people quickly fall in love with life underground.

“I had a family earlier in the year, when they first came to town their little boy, about 3 or 4, was very scared, he didn’t want to go underground,” she says.

“Two months ago they bought a family dugout from me and their kids love it … it was just that initial taking him to friend’s houses, getting him used to being underground, and now the little fella won’t look back.”

Signs still warn tourists of the literal pitfalls of the town. Photo: Kirsten Robb

Ms Mance says real estate has taken a bit of a dip in recent years as the opal boom has wound down. You can pick up a dugout anywhere from $130,000 to $250,000.

But houses here can actually make you money. When Mr Dunstan was renovating his home (by digging out new rooms from the side of the rock) he found an $85,000 opal – simply because his wife asked for a pantry.

Dugouts actually make better use of space than an above ground home, because if you need to fit a bulky TV cabinet or sofa, you can just blow out a customised hole in the wall.

Alien remnants from the film Pitch Black. Photo: Kirsten Robb

Opal dreamsSince 1915, people have been looking for opal in Coober Pedy. After World War II, a flood of European miners came, trying their luck on the opal fields. And you need luck to find opals.

Opal mining is so difficult and relies on such chance that companies don’t bother with Coober Pedy. If they tried to mine here, they would go broke. Opal mining is exclusively the domain of hard-working individuals.

But the lifetime miners – those who witnessed the town’s booming nightclub and 24-hour restaurant days – have gotten old. And despite a big resurgence in opal prices, due to interest from China and India, they rarely pass the difficult trade down to their kids.

John Dunstan’s opal shop on the main strip of Coober Pedy. Photo: Kirsten Robb

“Over the last 20 years, we’ve had hardly any new opal miners coming to town;it’s mainly us older blokes, still hanging on,” says Mr Dunstan.

Dimitrois “Jimmy the runner” Nikoloudis, a lifetime miner known to all in town, believes the “golden age of Coober Pedy” mining is long gone.

“In my years, the average mining age would have been something like 25 years of age.The average today would probably be 69-70,” Mr Nikoloudis says.

“It has become a tourist attraction, about 10 per cent for miners and 90 per cent for the tourists. The mining? It’s just history now, we talk about it.”

Kirsten Robb travelled to Coober Pedy courtesy of SA Tourism

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14 Jan 19

TALENT: Michelle Smith, of Cake Craze in Warners Bay, has been selected to teach the finer points of cake making and decorating in the US later this year.
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Michelle Smith says she is “still in shock” after learning on Sunday that she had been selected toteach at two of the biggest cake shows in the US in October: Confetti Fest Cask Show in Seattle, and The America’s Cake Fair in Orlando.

Michelle operates Cake Craze at Warners Baywhichspecialises in wedding cakes, dessert products, cake decorating classes and decorating supplies.

“I’ll be teaching a couple of different classes which includevarious techniques like stencilling, lustreand ruffles,” she told Food & Wine.

“I set the goal for myself last year that I would like to teach overseas and put Cake Craze on the map, so I sent some emails and put myself forward and presented class ideas to various shows in the US. I was so excited when they liked my ideas and wanted to book me for the classes.”

She will teach this class at her Warners Bay shopon April 29 and 30. The cost is $250 per person andconsists oftwohalf days from 10am to 2pm. Bookings can be made at cakecraze苏州夜场招聘.au.

Love is in the airFor all the lovers out there, a gentle reminder. Valentine’s Day is on February 14 and many Hunter restaurants are willing to help you impress that special person in your life.

Sprout Dining, upstairs at the Crown & Anchor, is offering a three-course dinner for $68 per person, which includes a cocktail or beer on arrival. February 14 seatingsbegin at 6pm.

Hobarts by Lesley Taylor, at Wests New Lambton, will be openfrom 6pm for the special occasion. Aset menu will offerhouse-made breads, amuse bouche, two entrees and a main course followed by Hobarts’ signature dessert, The Monet. The cost is $85 person.

The Stag & Hunter Hotel is offeringtwo-for-one desserts on February 14 while The Cheesecake Shop is introducing The Couple Cake.Perfect for two, this mud cake is coated with silky smooth pink truffle chocolate, then finished with a chocolate glaze drip and topped with two strawberries. At a cost of $19.95, it canbe pre-ordered instore or online at cheesecake苏州夜总会招聘.au.

Restaurant Botanica at Spicers Vineyards Estate is offering a three-course menu, complete withFrench champagne, petit fours, tea and coffee. The cost is $95 per person, bookings on 6574 7229.

Nanna Kerr’s Kitchen at Pokolbin is offering a four-course dinner, kicking off at 5.30pm and at a cost of $99 per person. Children are welcome ($49 per child) and dietary requirements can be catered for, if advised at the time of booking.

Chinese New YearBillabongs Restaurant at East Maitland Bowling Club is celebrating Chinese New Year on February 12 with an evening of Chinese culture –think traditional lion dancing, martial arts and oriental dancing.Doors open at 5.15pm and bookings are essential on 4934 5590.

Black Sheep newsAmie Golding has decided to pass on her beloved Black Sheep Cafe & Bar to new owners. To say it was a labour of love for Amie is an understatement.

On Facebook she wrote the following: “The Sheep was a personal goal for me. I wanted to create an environment and brand which is about honouring humans who are determined to better the world as individuals or part of a collective.

My goal was created and it’s time to pass Sheep over to someone else who can help it grow and blossom. Black Sheep was a huge endeavour for one person and I can openly admit that.

“I have learnt that you should always go with the choice that scares you the most, because that’s the one that is going to require the most from you … I’m stepping out and taking this time to relax and see what else I’m able to create or other opportunities there are to offer.”

Time to partyMayfield’s Barrio 2304 is celebrating its seventh year in business on February 4 and you’re invited. For $35 per head you get beer or wine on entry, finger food and a DJ mixing tunes. Text 0423 265 692 to book.

High TeaOn the first Sunday of every month The Lucky Hotel will host a High Tea in its divine Champagne Room. The first High Tea will be held this Sunday, February 5, 2pm to 4pm. The cost is $39 per person which includes sweet and savoury canapes and coffee or tea. For $49 you will also receive a glass of sparkling wine on arrival. Bookings essential on 4952 8888.

New deli ownerPork Ewe Deli in Mayfield has a new owner. Samantha Glover opened the doors to the popular deli on Tuesday and is looking forward to meeting both regular customers and new faces.

Previous owner Shannon Davis has turned her attention to raising a family.

Glover has worked in the hospitality and Hunter wine-making game for many years and describes herself as a “tragic foodie from way back”. She told Food & Wine it would be business as usual at Pork Ewe Deli because “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. More on Samantha and Pork Ewe Deli in Food & Wine soon.

Table 1 expandsMerewether cafe Table 1 Espresso is branching out to Warners Bay.

Table 1 Espresso Warners Bay will open at the former Brown Dog restaurant, on The Esplanade in Lake Village Arcade, looking out over Lake Macquarie.

Owner George James says he’s “nervous, scared and losing sleep trying to organise another cafe” but can’t wait for it to open. He picks up the keys this week, will do some minor renovations and open in mid-to-late February. He is also looking for staff.

The cafe will be open for breakfast, lunchand, down the track, for dinner.

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14 Jan 19

Dungog Shire Mayor Cr Harold Johnston.Questions have been raised over whether proposed council mergers will go ahead, after a shake-up inside the NSW Government that introduced new blood in decision-making positions.
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But Dungog Shire Mayor Harold Johnston says the appointmentof a new Premier, Deputy Premier and Local Government Minister have made the situation more confusing.

New Premier Gladys Berejiklian named former Attorney General Gabrielle Upton as Local Government Minister, after a reshuffle of Cabinet on Sunday.

Ms Upton takes the place of Nationals MP Paul Toole who, along with former Premier Mike Baird, had beenweathering a storm of criticism from councils and communities across the state that had possiblemergers looming over them.

Ms Upton was sworn-into office on Monday.

Dungog Shire Council is at the heartof two merger proposals –one with Maitland and the other with Port Stephens –after it failed to classify as “fit for the future”.

A spokesman for Ms Uptonwould not comment on the Dungog merger proposalswhen contacted by Fairfax Media on Monday.

Questions about whether mergers wouldproceedintensified after Sunday’sreshuffle, which came little more than a week afterDeputy Premier John Barilaro, who became the Nationals leader in November,said his party would stand against further forced council mergers in regional areas.

Cr Johnston has previouslyexpressed a desire for Dungog to remain a stand-alone entity, despite the challenges the local government area faces.

He said on Monday that the change of minister and government leadership had not given him heart that a merger proposals would be quashed.

“We know what the National Party is saying about no more forced amalgamations but we don’tknow whether that’s the policy of the government, so we really have to wait and see,” Cr Johnston said.

“It’s added to the confusion. I hope it’s done in a prompt way so we have a direction. I think the community is tired of it, the council is tired of it –we just want to get on with it.”

The Mayor of Maitland, Cr Peter Blackmore.

The Mayor of Maitland, Cr Peter Blackmore, said it was“still early days”.

“The new Cabinet was only announced on Sunday and these sorts of decisions will have to go before a full Cabinet before a final decision is made,” he said.

“At this stage I think they are just flexing their muscle and testing the water.

“As far as Maitland Council is concerned we are down to business for the new year with the view that mergers are on the back burner and there are other things that are more important to concentrate on.”

Local Government NSW –the peak body for the state’s councils –welcomed the announcement that Ms Upton would be the new minister.

“I previously commended the Premier on her commitment to running a government which will take more time to listen the community, and I believe this appointment is a key step towards that,” President Keith Rhoades said.

“Deputy Premier and National Party Leader John Barilaro has spoken out strongly in defence of regional councils, saying it as time to end forced amalgamations in the bush. He’s listened to the community, and I am confident the new Minister will do the same.”

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