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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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Blind Guardian go far beyond

Adding proof to the tired cliche about good things coming to those who wait is Beyond The Red Mirror, the tenth long-player from German symphonic metal maestros Blind Guardian.
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Put simply, Beyond The Red Mirror is a triumph. From the opening choral pomp of The NinthWave through to the metallic fanfare of Grand Parade, this album exudes class.

The band’s first outing since 2010’s At The Edge Of Time, it serves as a conceptual sequel to the 1995 epic release, Imaginations From The Other Side.

Considering the first instalment of the tale included such dazzling workouts as The Script For My Requiem, Mordred’s Song, Another Holy War and the mighty title track, following on from where it left off is a feat most bands would not dare consider.

But, most bands don’t possess the incredible abilities of vocalist Hansi Kursch and his cohorts.

Such is their knack for constructing multi-layered and truly fascinating soundscapes that it’s no surprise to find they have far surpassed their spectacular previous body of work.

Calling in no less than three internationally renowned choirs [from Budapest, Prague and Boston] and two full-scale orchestras to help create the atmosphere, nothing has been spared in bringing the new creation to life.

And it’s not a case of the odd orchestral hit here and a dash of operatic vocals there. The choirs and orchestras are recurring elements, adding extra instrumental narrative to the fantastic lyrical worlds created by Kursch.

Describing the Blind Guardian sound is rather tricky at best. There are classic metal elements – at times the melodic guitar influences of the likes of Iron Maiden are rather evident; there are heavy passages of harmonic vocal layering, which bring to mind Freddie and Queen; there’s flat out speed; and there are enough time shifts and bouts of fret board wizardry to keep the musical intellectuals smiling.

Where many bands of similar ilk seem to excel in one or two areas, Blind Guardian prove they are truly without peer.

If proof were needed, one need only take in track Prophecies. I fail to find adequate superlatives to describe it.

The hairs on my arm rose upon first listen and by the second I found it near impossible to refrain to singing along with the key chorus grab, ”once upon a dream ago”.

If good music transports the listener to another time and place, thenthis is a time machine.

Special mention must go to the stellar guitar playing of key creator and lead, Andre Olbrich and his six-string sparring partner, Marcus Siepen.

The pair exchanges enough slick licks throughout this release to once and for all assure their place in the hall of guitar gods.

While I could easily laud each of the album’s tracks, I will highlight in particular The Holy Grail. It is quite honestly one of the finest metal offerings I have ever heard.

Stunning riffs, dazzling speed and yet, still capable of inspiring emotion, it is exquisite. Again, there’s a feeling of pure bliss derived from adding to Hansi’s already deeply layered chorus and singing loud the line, ”the holy grail is on its way now”.

Other standouts include the classic Twilight Of The Gods, The Throne and the beautiful refrain, Miracle Machine.

According to a quote in the presser attached to the new release, Olbrich says that after 30-some years in the business, the band is still bent on surprisingand impressing.

”Nowadays, music tends to be arbitrary and predictable, but we want to keep developing our music,” he goes on to say.

Assuming that is the case, the future certainly looks exciting.

Rating: 10/10

Blind Guardian will tour Australia in June. They will play The Hi-Fi in Sydney on June 20. Tickets are on sale now.

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Bendigo blitz East in BBD grand final

Bendigo’s victorious BBD grand final team. Picture: LUKE WESTGRAND FINAL PHOTOS
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BENDIGO bolted away after afternoon tea on Sunday to win its second Bendigo Bowls Division pennant premiership in three seasons.

Bendigo proved too good for Bendigo East, which after winning two cut-throat finals to make Sunday’s decider ran out of steam and was beaten 102-83 at South Bendigo.

The grand final had been up for grabs at tea with East holding a two-shot buffer, 43-41, after 43 ends.

But in what was the equivalent of the third term of a game of footy – the premiership quarter – the first hour after the break belonged to Bendigo.

Bendigo was quick to establish a double-figure lead after the break and with its momentum continuing to build, quickly took a stranglehold on the grand final.

Ian Ross’ rink gave Bendigo an early spark after tea in its battle with Liam Crapper.

Crapper led 13-9 at tea, but Ross’ rink bounced back, winning the first seven ends after the break to take a 19-13 advantage.

However, Crapper’s rink rose to the challenge and reasserted its authority, winning the last five rinks, including picking up a five on the 25th end.

Crapper was the only winning skipper for Bendigo East, with his rink continuing its solid late-season form with a 28-19 win over Ross, whose rink has been the most dominant for Bendigo this season.

Bendigo’s Andrew Brown took down East’s No.1 rink this season, that of David Keenan, with a 29-21 win.

Scores had been level at 13-all at tea, while after four ends after the break, Keenan led narrowly by one, 16-15.

However, Brown grabbed control of the clash on the 17th end when he picked up a five and the rink wouldn’t surrender the advantage for the rest of the game.

The Bendigo rink of Barry Anset bounced back from defeats in its previous two games to topple Brad Holland 27-19.

Anset’s rink was instrumental in Bendigo gaining the upper hand after the break.

After scores had been level at 13-all after 13 ends, Anset’s rink picked up 10 consecutive shots, starting with a five on the 14th not long after Brown’s five to heap more pressure on East.

The biggest margin of the grand final was the 12 shots Bendigo’s Gary Carberry defeated Paul Moller by.

Carberry’s rink won 27-15 after earlier holding a 10-6 advantage at tea.

Carberry flew out of the blocks after tea, outscoring Moller 10-3 in the first six ends to help set Bendigo on the path to its 32nd division two premiership.

After going 33 years without a premiership, Bendigo has now won two of the past three after ending its drought in 2013, also at the expense of East when it won 92-88.

“It’s a sensational feeling, especially for a couple of the guys,” Ian Ross said.

“Mick Manning has been at the club for 30 years and never played in a premiership before today.

“And he got to play in it with his son (Lee), which was just unbelievable.

“We also had Ian and Andrew Brown as another father-son in the team, so that was great as well.

“And then there’s Barry Anset, who before today had never won a flag.

“He comes over to Bendigo and in his first year wins one, so that’s great as well.

“We really lifted after the break and got on a roll and played some tremendous bowls right across the four rinks.

“I can see a lot of good things for our club. We’ve got six under the age of 25 and they are the future.

“We’re a happy club and that’s what makes all the difference.”

Meanwhile, earlier in the day, Bendigo East won the midweek pennant grand final with a convincing 86-56 win over Inglewood.

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Sky is the limit for Desley and Emily

SKY HIGH: Emily Meyers, 13, with her grandmother Desley Meyers, 63, were among 100 women to take to the sky over Bathurst yesterday. They are pictured with chief flying instructor Chris Stott in a Cessna 172. Photo: CHRIS SEABROOK 030815cairprt3MOST grandmothers read books to their granddaughters, but this dynamic duo took to the skies yesterday to celebrate International Women’s Day.
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Emily Meyers, 13, and her grandmother Desley Meyers, 63, were among 100 people to enjoy a free light aircraft flight over Bathurst as part of the fifth annual Women of Aviation Worldwide Week.

Women With Wings was hosted by Central West Flying and Bathurst Aero Club, with each participant receiving a 15-20 minute flight above Bathurst.

The day was open to females aged between 11 and 99 years of age, with the duo buzzing with excitement after they landed from a flight in a Cessna 172.

“It’s the first time I’ve flown in a small plane,” Emily said.

“They teach you about the controls and what to do and how to do it. The houses looked like boxes and you can see everything [from the sky].”

Just as excited after she came back down to earth was Emily’s grandmother who grinned with delight at her time in the sky.

“It was really fun, they let me take off and I flew it for a fair bit up there,” Mrs Meyers said.

“I saw the sign of Mount Panorama, about 10 years ago my son Benjamin [Meyers] painted it when he first became a painter.”

She might only be 13-years-old, but yesterday’s flying experience has already inspired Emily to pursue a career as a pilot.

This is exactly the type of reaction chief flying instructor Chris Stott was hoping for from the people involved in the event, which is now in its second year.

“The focus is to give girls the opportunity to experience a flight so they might take it up as a career or as a recreation,” he said.

“Generally speaking we find people in Bathurst are quite adventurous and outgoing and they’ll come and have a go.”

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Big George Rose ready for oncoming Storm

George RoseMelbourne may be his former club, but Dragons big man George Rose admits he has little to offer his new teammates in the way of inside knowledge ahead of their round-one clash on Monday night.
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Rose managed just nine games for the Storm last year after winning a premiership and player-of-the-year gong in an eight-year career with Manly.

He hasn’t had to wait long for a crack at his former club after earning a starting berth for the season opener. He’ll be one of three former Storm players lining up for the Dragons alongside Gareth Widdop and Dane Nielsen.

For many years coaches have wondered how to stop the big three of Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater but Rose – famously self-deprecating – said he had little to offer new coach Paul McGregor.

‘‘I was a bit ordinary there last year and didn’t know half the plays anyway,’’ Rose joked.

Jokes aside, Rose admits last season was not his best and he’s entering 2015 with a point to prove; though he has no grudge against the Storm.

‘‘Going against your old teams it’s always a little bit of an extra motivator,’’ he said. ‘‘But I’ve really put last year behind me and I’m more focused on the season ahead.

‘‘I’m just thinking about what we’re doing as a group and winning games with this team rather than holding any grudges or anything like that.’’

Rose will enter the season high on confidence after picking up the highest individual honour of his career when he was named man of the match in the Indigenous All Stars’ 20-6 win over their NRL counterparts.

‘‘It was definitely one of the best moments of my career,’’ Rose said.

‘‘I don’t think I’ve had too many man-of-the-match awards in my career and to get one one in that arena, in that game, obviously means a lot to me.’’

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Teenager wins Black Opal

Ballarat’s Liam Procaccino marked a career-high as he won Sunday nignt’s Bendigo Bank Black Opal 400m at the Bendigo International Madison.
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The 17-year-old said his victory in the country’s richest 400m was a “dream come true”.

PHOTO FINISH: Liam Procaccina, blue, lunges to win the Black Opal final. Picture: BRENDAN McCARTHY

After starting on the 14m mark, Procaccino was able to catch limit marker Michael Voumard (38m) right on the line.

The race winner was mobbed by stablemates from the POD squad at the line.

“Sam Baird from our stable won this race two years ago. He’s an inspiration,” Procaccino said.

Teenager’s Black Opal triumph

The latest Black Opal champion said trainer Peter O’Dwyer was a great influence.

“I have developed a lot more this season. There’s been more work on technique and greater intensity at training.”

Those gut-busting workouts at training paid off, especially in the dash on the Tom Flood Sports Centre home straight.

“At 200 metres to go I was still a fair way behind. The 120 is a sharp bend and the lactic acid was building.”

Procaccino won in a time of 45.97 seconds from Voumard, 46.01, and Dion Paull (25m) in 46.12.

A year 12 student at Ballarat Grammar, Procaccino has sights set on the Stawell Gift carnival at Easter.

The night’s athletics action included victory by Catherine Hibberd in the Flack Advisory-backed Bendigo Thousand Women’s Vase (120m).

Hibberd started off limit of 21.25m and could not be caught.

“The key was to get away to a good start and run as fast as I could.

“The wind picked up, but it meant I had less wind to run in than the others.”

Hibberd won the final in a time of 14.12 seconds ahead of Samatha Hargreaves (19.75m) in 14.19, and Ruby Klemm (17.25) in 14.22 seconds.

SPEED DEMON: Catherine Hibberd, pink, takes out the Bendigo Thousand Women’s Vase. Picture: BRENDAN McCARTHY

The Women’s Vase champion said trainer Angela Phillips had played a big role in the lead-up to Bendigo and to other meets on the Victorian Athletics League circuit.

The 30-year-old from South Yarra was rapt to have won the sprint duel at one of the most prestigious athletics meets in the country.

Hibberd sizzles in Vase

Away from the athletics track, Hibberd is an orthopaedic surgeon at Royal Melbourne Hospital.

She will aim to keep the winning run rolling at Euroa, Ringwood and Stawell.

Other winners on the athletics across the Bendigo International Madison carnival included Tim Potter, open 70m; Dylan Moore, under-20 120m; Scott Shillito, masters 300m; Meg Deane, novice 400m; Tom Hecimovic, frontmarkers 800m; and James Colllier, backmarkers 800m.

Strathdale’s Jacob Nolan put in a brilliant run to win the frontmarkers mile.

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