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Tourism ‘heyday’ in the North

THE NORTH is experiencing its tourism ‘‘heyday’’, with hoteliers reporting a record-breaking summer season.
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Latest hotel occupancy rates recorded by the Tasmanian Hospitality Association show accommodation providers have enjoyed the busiest January on record.

‘‘Occupancy statistics in Northern Tasmania have been consistently above the region’s rolling 12-month average for some time,’’ THA general manager Steve Old said yesterday.

‘‘It shows that visitors are getting into the region and staying there and that the occupancy growth appears to be a sustained trend.

‘‘That’s excellent news not just for accommodation venues but also for restaurants and pubs and the many people whom they employ.’’

Tourism Northern Tasmania chief executive Chris Griffin said hoteliers were giving anecdotal evidence that February was also a record month.

‘‘This is the summer we’ve been waiting for for quite some years,’’ Mr Griffin said.

‘‘It would overall be the best on record by the time we’ve finished.

‘‘It certainly is the heyday for tourism in the North.’’

Mr Griffin said the bumper season was down to a combination of a low Australian dollar, strong regional access through Launceston Airport and the Tasmanian destination appeal.

The region achieved an occupancy rate of 82.6 per cent, breaking the previous high water mark of 81.1 per cent in 2014.

Mr Old said the region’s growth in annual average occupancy from February 2014 to January 2015 led the state, up 3.58 per cent to reach 67.71 per cent, ahead of the North-West.

‘‘With the occupancy in Southern Tasmania softening during the 12 months to January, the state’s growth of 1.34 per cent is clearly being driven by increasing occupancy in Northern and North-West Tasmania,’’ he said.

Mr Old said it was important that the region hosted high-quality events and was resourced to provide services to visitors and locals.

‘‘As we head into the off-peak tourism season, major events become even more critical,’’ Mr Old said.

Steve Old

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Hamilton man to stand trial over fires

Simon Cross, 33, now of Mackinnons Bridge Road, Noorat, last Friday appeared in the second day of a two-day Warrnambool Magistrates Court committal hearing.A HAMILTON man alleged to have threatened to torch a neighbour’s home while it was being rebuilt after a fire has been committed to stand trial on arson charges.
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Simon Cross, 33, now of Mackinnons Bridge Road, Noorat, last Friday appeared in the second day of a two-day Warrnambool Magistrates Court committal hearing.

Magistrate Peter Mellas committed Mr Cross to stand trial in the Warrnambool County Court.

Mr Cross entered pleas of not guilty to two counts of arson and one charge of making a threat to kill.

The case has been adjourned until a directions hearing on April 17.

Yesterday Mr Cross’ former neighbour Wendy Monk told the committal how Mr Cross had threatened to burn her property while she and her daughter were at home.

She said over the years there had been incidents between her and her neighbours the Cross family.

Ms Monk confirmed she had nothing kind to say about the Cross family, that she thought Simon Cross was a sexual deviant, family members trespassed on her property, stole vegetables and their sewage was illegally connected to her system.

Barrister Vince Peters cross-examined Ms Monk at length about why she thought her house had been burnt down by Mr Cross when she was approached by police after the fire.

Ms Monk said in a statement to police that Mr Cross verbally threatened her between September and November 2013 while her house was being rebuilt after a fire in 2012.

She said Mr Cross was in the backyard of his family home when he said to her: “If you and your f…ing daughter move back into that house, I’m going to burn it down with you, or both of you in it”.

On Thursday a police covert operative told the committal hearing how Mr Cross confessed to burning both Ms Monk’s home and then his own family home in Scoresby Street on November 12, 2013.

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Weekend of canine fun and fitness at Warrnambool’s Annual Obedience, Agility and Jumping TrialsPhotos

Weekend of canine fun and fitness at Warrnambool’s Annual Obedience, Agility and Jumping Trials | Photos Owners Sandy (left) and Gary Stockman with their successful charges Jet, Jay and Tai at the Warrnambool Dog Training School Annual Obedience, Agility and Jumping Trials held over the weekend. Picture: LEANNE PICKETT
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Gary and Sandy Stockman’s dogs Jay the Shetlan Sheepdog, Jet the Kelpie, and Tai the NZ Heading Dog. Picture:LEANNE PICKETT

Gary and Sandy Stockman’s dogs Jay the Shetlan Sheepdog, Jet the Kelpie, and Tai the NZ Heading Dog. Picture:LEANNE PICKETT

Norman Morcon from Melbourne with Crystal during Masters Agility. PICTURE:LEANNE PICKETT

Norman Morcon from Melbourne with Crystal during Masters Agility. PICTURE:LEANNE PICKETT

Norman Morcon from Melbourne with Crystal during Masters Agility. PICTURE:LEANNE PICKETT

Norman Morcon from Melbourne with Crystal during Masters Agility. PICTURE:LEANNE PICKETT

Norman Morcon from Melbourne with Crystal during Masters Agility. PICTURE:LEANNE PICKETT

Joan Murray from Adelaide with Ashem Hera during Masters Agility. PICTURE:LEANNE PICKETT

Joan Murray from Adelaide with Ashem Hera during Masters Agility. PICTURE:LEANNE PICKETT

Joan Murray from Adelaide with Ashem Hera during Masters Agility. PICTURE:LEANNE PICKETT

Ashem Hera during Masters Agility. PICTURE:LEANNE PICKETT

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Briefing sought on gallery plans

HOPES of a Liberal government commitment to the Newcastle Art Gallery development have been revived, but the party’s candidate says she wants a detailed briefing on the project to ensure it stacks up before making any promises.
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Under the Baird government’s plans to lease the ‘‘poles and wires’’, a $600million ‘‘cultural infrastructure’’ fund would be set up, opening up a potential funding pool for Newcastle’s gallery redevelopment after past attempts to secure state support failed.

Cathy Tate, part of the Save Our Cultural Institutions Committee, said the project now needed $14million, after a $7million federal grant expired and had to be handed back when the state government failed to match the support.

Without wanting to debate the merits of electricity privatisation, she said such a cultural fund, if on offer, should include a slice for Newcastle.

‘‘If the money is there, we want it,’’ she said.

This week the government also pledged $12million towards a Central Coast performing arts centre.

Mrs Tate said she expected it would be a ‘‘no brainer’’ for Liberal candidate for Newcastle Karen Howard to back the project, after pledging her support as an independent candidate for the October byelection.

But Ms Howard said on Friday she would seek a detailed briefing from gallery supporters about the status of the plans before committing to a position, and that the previous pledge had involved lending her support to the city’s cultural institutions rather than the gallery specifically.

‘‘I think I would be encouraging the Baird government to support anything that could encourage the city’s revitalisation,’’ Ms Howard said.

‘‘However, I’m conscious of the history with this proposal and the wildly varied cost estimates that are floating around.

‘‘I want to understand the facts before going further,’’ MsHoward said.

Labor has previously committed the $14million.

Despite questions about any part former lord mayor Jeff McCloy’s had in torpedoing state support for the proposal, a parliamentary inquiry found this week that the Liberal government had ‘‘never committed’’ to provide any funds.

The inquiry ‘‘did not consider that there has been any undue influence’’ on the state government’s position, and no evidence had surfaced to substantiate claims otherwise.

Tasmanian trials title to world champ

ENGLISH rider Alex Wigg showed the class that took him to the junior world championship by winning the open expert class at the Tasmanian Motorcycle Trials championship, which wrapped up at Mount Joy near Powranna yesterday.
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The two-day championships test riders’ ability to control their bikes and balance while traversing obstacle courses in natural terrain.

There was some close competition with about 35 local and interstate riders taking part across a number of grades.

Wigg beat Tasmanian Chris Bayles, who is ranked No.4 nationally, by 40 points in the open expert class.

Irish rider Shelley Hanlon was the other international competitor who finished third in B-grade.

The A-grade class was won by Brendan Smith, Brad Shadbolt took out B-grade while Angus Boud and Neil Burne were the C-grade winners.

Leading Tasmanian rider Chris Bayles in action at the Tasmanian motorcycle trials championships at Mount Joy, near Powranna. Picture: PHILLIP BIGGS

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