Maitland store Hyde & Silk specialises in clothing and giftware made in an ethical and fair trade environment

GOOD BUY: “I love the story behind every product and like sharing that with customers,” says Amanda Hyde, in her store. Picture: Marina Neil GROWING up on the Hunter River, lending a hand in her family’s commercial fishing business, Amanda Hyde was quickly immersed in all things environmental.
SuZhou Night Recruitment

“I was a deckhand on the prawn trawler and we just had smaller and smaller catches year after year and it led me to think about what’s happening in the environment and the impacts we have locally andglobally,” says Ms Hyde.

After completing an environmental science degree at the University of Newcastle, Ms Hyde worked in natural resource management for the Department of Fisheries and then in emergency management.

A chance conversation with a friend, however, led her to take leave toresearch and recently launch her first retail business, Hyde & Silk.

Located in High Street, Maitland, the shop stocks only fair trade and ethically sourced products from local and global suppliers.

“It follows on from my ethos of ethical and fair trade and having a minimal impact on the environment is important to me,” she says.

The business pursuit was developed when Ms Hyde was asked by a friend where she shopped “locally”.

“I replied, ‘I don’t’, because I like to always buy something a bit different when I travel,” she recalls. “I then thought if I open a shop with clothes that I like and want to wear then surely others have the same interests.”

Hyde & Silk –the silk is a reference to the fact all customers are given a silk bag with a purchase –stocks accessories, homewares and clothing in retro, boho and casual styles, including popular local brands that are made in ethical workshops in India, Thailand and Nepal.

“I am passionate about fair trade and ethically producted fashion as opposed to the recent increase in ‘fast fashion’ –cheap, mass produced and poor quality clothing that only lasts a season at most,” she says.

“The term ‘fast fashion’ implies that it is ok to throw away the item after wearing it only a few times but it is not ok and I hope to inspire shoppers to make responsible purchases that help others less fortunate while reducing waste.”

One of the brands she stocks is Happy Trunks harem pants, with each purchase of a pair assistingthe Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai Province in Northern Thailand.

“People can often not realise the impact of their purchase, but I call it ethical consumerism –it’s value adding when you can help a community through buying your everyday items,” she says.“I wantpeople to know that by purchasing anything here it really does value add to thecommunity it came from, they are not big companies I support, they are very small communities.”

Continue reading

Mystery Weston couple win over half a million dollars in Saturday Lotto bonanza

A Weston couplewho originally bought alotto ticket in the hope of purchasing a cattle truck are planning on retiring and paying off their mortgage after winning over half a million dollars.
SuZhou Night Recruitment

The division one prize of$500,446.24 was won inSaturday Lotto the day after Day.

One of eight division one winners from around the country, the couple were said to be overjoyed with emotion when told of the win.

The wife, who was running on a treadmill whenLotto officials rang, declared she was going to retire.

“$500,446.24! That’s us! Whoa! Wow! Oh my god,” she said.

“I can’t believe that! I’ve never won anything.

“I don’t think I’m going to finish my walk on my treadmill now, I’m going to have a beer!

“We’ll pay off the mortgage and I might be able to retire.”

Her husband added: “I told you it was our time to win.”

The lucky pair, who wish to remain anonymous, purchased their 24 game marked entry online atthelott苏州夜总会招聘.

Asked how they came up with their numbers, the woman revealed the quirky nickname for their entry.

“We have a property and we were trying to buy a cattle truck at the time so we picked all of our favourite numbers and nicknamed the entry ‘Cattle Truck’,” she said.

“We ended up buying a second hand cattle truck anyway, but have just kept the same numbers and kept playing them.

“The numbers were just dates of special occasions, special people’s birthdays and they are truly special to us now.”

The winning numbers were 4, 7, 11, 32, 40 and 1, while the supplementary numberswere 26 and 29.

The win continues a lucky string of lotto bonanzas across the Hunter in the past six months.

RELATED CONTENT

Lotto winner graduates from bingo and meat tray rafflesPort Stephens retiree oblivious to lotto winCessnock man’s $100,000 lotto win

Continue reading

OpinionAction needed to stop young deaths

The recent passing of Amy ‘Dolly’ Everett has struck a chord across , with thousands of people expressing their sadness over her death and sharing messages of support to her family.
SuZhou Night Recruitment

Our thoughts are also with the Everetts, Dolly’s friends and the communities to whom she was connected. Much coverage about Dolly in the news and social media has focused on cyberbullying, shifting the focus from the loss of a young life.

The widespread exposure of the suicide of Dolly may have raised feelings of distress for some people. I would encourage anyone who is going through a tough time to seek support.Talking to a trusted relative or friend, a counsellor, GP, or online services such as Lifeline and eheadspace can help. It is important to recognise that suicide is rarely the result of a single event or factor and is a complex and multi-faceted issue. It is usually a result of a person feeling hopeless about life due to a combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors. It is heart breaking that any young person would feel like their only option is to end their life.

Emphasis should be on supporting young people who may be experiencing similar thoughts of hopelessness. We lose far too many young ns to suicide and we need to ensure that young people are supported and have help available so that we can prevent further tragedies.

LOST: The death of Amy ‘Dolly’ Everett has highlighted the need for sustained efforts to support young people with mental health issues, the author says.

n Bureau of Statistics data released in 2016, again identified suicide as the leading cause of death for school-aged children. Each week we lose eight children and young people to suicide and as a country we need to continue to work together to change this. headspace School Support teams respond to suicide notifications every week in secondary schools across . headspace will be expanding its work in schools as a delivery partner, along with Early Childhood , for the new mental health education initiative run by beyondblue. headspace also has 101 centres across providing mental health support services to young people aged 12-25.

In June 2017, the federal government announced that a new headspace centre will be opening in Katherine. Suicide rates of school-aged children in the Northern Territory are the highest in . Young people in the Northern Territory die by suicide at more than four times the rate of any other state or territory, with many of these being Aboriginal young people.

I would encourage anyone supporting a young person, as well as friends, to inform themselves so that they can recognise when someone might be going through a tough time. There are a number of resources available on the headspace website, as well as from many other organisations, that provide information and advice on mental health and other topics relating to young people’s wellbeing. With many young people heading back to school in the coming weeks, this message is particularly timely.

The need for sustained efforts to support young people with mental health issues is vital; because any life lost to suicide is too many. The responsibility to reduce suicide requires ongoing investment and lies with the whole community. In collaborative and supportive efforts, we can stop this tide of preventable deaths.

Jason Trethowan is the CEO at headspace, the National Youth Mental Health Foundation.If you or someone you know is struggling, visit headspace苏州模特佳丽招聘.au to find your nearest centre or call eheadspace on 1800 650 890.

Continue reading

W-League: Newcastle Jets boss Lawrie McKinna full of praise for coach Craig Deans

Even if Newcastle’s W-League side missed the finals, Jetschief executive Lawrie McKinna would have ratedcoach Craig Deans’ work this season as“amazing”.
SuZhou Night Recruitment

STARRING ROLE: Newcastle Jets boss Craig Deans was W-League coach of the year in 2015-16 and could well win the award again this season. Picture: AAP

And if the former Jets A-League assistant and interimcoach wants the job again next year, McKinna says it’s his.

In his third campaign as W-League coach, Deans has steered Newcastle to the finals for the first time since the competition’s inaugural season of 2008-09.The Jets sealed a top-four place with a 5-1 victory over Canberra on Sunday and play Melbourne City in the final round on Saturday night at McDonald Jones Stadium.

The play-off spot has also come in the team’s first season under the management and backing of the Martin Lee-owned Jets club.

McKinna said Deans’ work in assembling the squad during the change from Northern NSW Football to Jets’ control has been instrumentalin this season’s success and he hoped to have him in charge againnext season.

“If Deansy wants the job, he’s got it,” McKinna said.

“It’s as simple as that.

“To be fair, it’s been a one-man band. When we took over, Deansy had done all the player recruitment. He’d done an amazing job at the start of the season to get them all on board. Obviously we gave him back-up with signing and looking after the players, but it was Deansy who’s done an amazing job.

“And that is regardless of being in the finals or not. If he hadn’t made the finals, he wouldstill have done an amazing job.

“His staff came on board right at the end, but Deansy deserves all the credit.”

McKinna said the Jets had great support from Newcastle City Council, the Greater Bank and NNSWF to recruit the likes of Emily Van Egmond but “Deansy was at the forefront”.

“It’s been a long while and they just missed out last year, but it’s just great for the club and for Newcastle that ourW-League team is going to be in the finals,” he said.

In 2008-09, Matildas stars Cheryl Salisbury, Katie Gill and Joey Peters were part of a squad that finished second then lost 1-0 to Canberra in asemi-finalat McDonald Jones Stadium.

Newcastle willfinish second again and host a grand final qualifier if they defeat City and Sydney do not beat Western Sydney on Sunday.McKinna said McDonald Jones Stadium and No.2 Sportsground were potential venues for a home semi.

The Jets have made No.2 Sportsground their training base this season and also played one game, a 2-1 loss to Canberra, at the venue.After Saturday night, their remaining five home matches will have been at McDonald Jones Stadium as double-headers with the A-League side.

McKinna said the stadium, which would be used partially,was available for the finals weekend andcost was not a factor.

”They’ve played at No.2 and got 1200-1300 for the stand-alone game, which was good,” he said.“And obviously we get good crowds for the double headers, compared to some other teams, so we’ll actually put it to the girls, ‘where would you prefer to play a final?’”

Continue reading

Samurai Beach Bungalows: 25 years of making manana better

Hands on: Sandy Munday cleaning the pool at Samarai Beach Bungalows. Pictures: Max Mason-HubersTwenty-five years ago, Sandy and Mark Munday, then in their late 20s, built a house for themselves in the Port Stephens area. Then the Mundaysleft and travelled around the world for the next 10 months.
SuZhou Night Recruitment

The trip was supposedly their last for a while, as when they returned they would build a few bungalows and start a small hostel business.

“We came back engaged,” Mark says. “We had our honeymoon before the wedding.”

Now, the bustling hostel in the bush is called Samurai Beach Bungalows, and since its inception, it’s been a place for backpackers and tourists from all walks of life to visit, andreturn to over and over.

The Hunter Tourism award-winning hostel just had their best January yet, and they’ve been mentioned in Lonely Planet, Rough Guide and German and French tourism guide books. Their occupancy rate thissummer is 86 per centand thewhole facility gets booked out several weekends a year for family and social groups.

A huge long-haired German shepherd named Bo can be spotted lounging around their small rainforest, along with kookaburras, tawny frogmouths, brush turkeys, possums, blue-tongued lizards and maybe a koala if you’re lucky.

Next to their reception and home is a lagoon-style saltwater pool. Nearby, nature activities are abundant, ranging from hiking to surfing to whale-watching.

On the map: Mark and Sandy Munday, owners of Samurai Beach Bungalows, an award-winning hostel mentioned in Lonely Planet, Rough Guide and German and French tourism guide books.

Unlike many accommodations in the Port Stephens area, this small habitat in Anna Bay was built for travellers, by travellers, with a design that encourages group interactions and communal mingling.

“Our catchphrase is ‘a touch of Asia in ’,” Sandy says. “People come in here and it’s a rainforest, its own eco-system, especially if they’re coming out of a mass-produced dorm room from Sydney where no one talks to you. There, it’s ‘here’s your number and key’. Here, we walk them to their room, and we know everybody by their first name.”

The bungalows built on three-and-a-half acres hold up to 31 guests. The Mundaysfirst built rooms One, Two, Three and Four. Later,they addedprivate rooms and even two cabins with an ensuite bathroom.

A large, covered bush kitchen complete with a massive barbecue sits in the middle of the accommodation, a great place for communal meals. The fire pit is perfect for a weekly campfire/pizza night where guests regularly swap stories.

INSPIRATIONThe vibe and design of their hostel was inspired based on the Mundays’ travels through Asia and Guatemala. They visited places in Thailand and Indonesia where the accommodation had high fences surrounding it to have total view control. Similarly, at Samurai, all the bungalows sit in a bit of a circle, facing inwards towards the trees and each other. This arrangements alsohelps minimize noise from the exterior.

Guatemala was the other location of inspiration for the Mundays. They visited fincas (farms) where they’d chill, sit around with other people and chat.

In Guatemala they stayed in treehouses and lounged hammocks. Structurally, Samurai is not the same, but a similar atmosphere is what they aim to create with a chilled, laid-back nature base.

“Guatemala is where we got the name ‘manana syndrome’,” Mark says.

Manana means “tomorrow”in Spanish. Onthe farms the Mundays wouldask their fellow travellers when they were leaving, and if theyresponded “manana”, theyknew they were having a good time.

“You want to make them feel welcome and at home. It’s the manana syndrome;you know you’ve done a good job when people want to stay another day,” Sandy says.

“I’ll spend 10 or 20 minutes checking someone in, because I want people to feel comfortable.”

“We like small places,” Mark says. “If someone walks past, it’s ‘how ya going, Frederic’, you remember people’s names.”

“It’s small enough to remember them when they come back,” he says.

The secret of success: “You want to make them feel welcome and at home,” says Sandy Munday. “It’s the manana syndrome; you know you’ve done a good job when people want to stay another day.”

The Mundays have many returning guests. Mark recalls a man named Roger who was Swiss and had a very distinct voice. Roger came back to Samurai two years later and before Mark had a chance to look up from the front desk, he heard Roger’s voice and greeted him by name.

The family vibe spills from professional to personal as well. Guests will occasionally have opportunities to volunteer on the property in exchange for accommodation. The Mundays refer to them as their “international children”.

At the time of writing they have a couple from South Africa volunteering at Samurai, and an American woman just left. These volunteers sometimes stay for a while, helping out with gardening, cleaning, and leading guest activities.

In exchange for their hospitality, the Mundays often get the royal treatment when they go abroad. They just returned from Germany and didn’t pay for accommodation. They stayed in Berlin with the parents of a German backpacker who volunteered in their garden when he was 18. His parents had gone on holiday and gave the Mundays their home for the duration of their absence. The Mundays said that previously their son came back to Samurai five or six times, and once he even stayed with them for a year-long while attending Newcastle Uni.

“He was in our house, he was just like a son,” Sandy says.

The two have been on some spectacular holidays throughout the years, including a trip to Machu Picchu, Croatia, Turkey, Portugal and even seven-month trip around in a caravan with their son and their dog. Their next holiday will be in Bali for their 25th anniversary.

When not travelling, the Mundays never really stop working or get much time off because they live on location.

To go with their bungalows, they also have some land, cows and cabins on the Allyn River which they host people via Stayz or through their own website. Between holidays, these two properties keep the Mundays very busy.

But the ongoing work doesn’t seem to faze them. Together the two have worked hard for decades to craft a life that they want while also helping visitors have experiences up to par with their own.

“They call them lifestyle businesses; this is our life business,” Sandy says

Continue reading

VIDEO: Crawford Brothers are focusing in on pop ambitions

ON A MISSION: Hinton duo The Crawford Brothers are aiming for the stars with their latest single Highlife.
SuZhou Night Recruitment

THE Crawford Brothers aren’t hiding it. They’re crystal clear about their intentions.

They want to become certified pop stars and enjoy all the spoils it entails –the fame, the women and the money.

The Hinton duo’s latest single Highlife, completewith the self-produced and self-fundedHollywood-style music video, perfectly encapsulateswhat Ben and Zac Crawford are aiming to achieve.

Think limousines, country mansions, yachts with bikini girls, fancy hotel suites and lots and lots of cash, and you’ve got the idea.

“The original melody for the chorus, my brother [Zac] came up with it in LA,” Ben said.

“It was a spontaneous melody and then we started putting themesaround it. We had the general lyric about the highlife andextravagant lifestyles and the pinnacle of success. Something everyone can relate to.”

The Crawford Brothers have had plenty oftime in LA since 2015honing their craft among music industry representatives fromAtlantic Records andUniversal Music Group.

It’s spawned a debut self-titled EP which featured the track Feel thatwon the rock category of the 2016John Lennon Songwriting Competition, set up by the late Beatle’s widow Yoko Ono.

The Crawford Brothers are no strangers to accolades. They were formerly known as rock band Powerage, whowon the2010 YouthRock, a statewide competition that helped propel Silverchair to fame.

While Powerage and even early Crawford Brothers songs focused ona traditional rock sound, Highlife embraces aslicker pop instrumentation with elements of funk, soul and hip-hop aimed to get dance floors pumping.

Ben promises the secondsingle You and I will be a different beast.

The Crawford Brothers – Highlife“The girls will love it. It has more love themes,” he said.“I think Highlife is appealing to the fellas, or everyone really, but Youand I is more of a heartfelt tear-jerker.”

The Crawford Brothers were previously a four-piece featuringdrummer Adam Harris and bassist Ben Lawrence, but two years ago the two blonde-haired siblings made the decision to go it alone and handle allduties in the studio.

“It seems to just work a lot easier,” Ben said.

“My brother and I are on the same page and we’ve been at it together for 13 years now so it’s a lot more smooth sailing and not too many minds in the one pot.”

For the upcoming tour to support Highlife and You and I The Crawford Brothers will be joined by Newcastle drummer Hudson Wallace and Mexican bass playerRocko Van Köperen.They met VanKöperen in LA after he travelled from Mexico to Californiato follow his dream of joining a band.

“We ended up connecting with him on a brotherly level, it was crazy, and we did a heap of shows around America with him and at the end he had to sadly depart andgo home,” Ben said.

“We kept in good contact and we’re going to bring him over this year and tour and then jet back to the States and tour there.”

Continue reading

Bombers target AFL finals win: Merrett

AFL BOMBERSEssendon Bombers star Zach Merrett has set the bar at winning a finals game in 2018.
SuZhou Night Recruitment

After collecting the wooden spoon in 2016, John Worsfold’s side surged into the finals last season after welcoming back the core group of players who served doping bans.

But they came crashing to earth with a 65-point elimination final loss to the Sydney Swans.

A recruiting spree that netted Jake Stringer, Devon Smith and Adam Saad followed, fuelling optimism at Bomberland.

“To add three pretty quality players … hopefully means we will improve,” Merrett told SEN on Tuesday.

“The expectation is to improve which means we obviously need to win a final.

“Losing pretty poorly to Sydney last year was really disappointing.

“I think a lot of guys will still be holding onto that loss, I guess improving would be to win a final and experience winning those big games.”

Merrett is keen to take his game to the next level after winning the club’s best-and-fairest award in 2016 and earning All n honours last season.

He was eager to learn as much as he could when he rubbed shoulders with some of the game’s greats in the most recent international rules series.

“I spent a lot of time with Nat Fyfe actually … he sat next to me most of the time,” Merrett said of the Brownlow Medal winner.

“To pick his brain and work out how he goes about it was great, but I certainly made sure I sat there and didn’t say too much.

“I listened to the way (Joel) Selwood and Paddy (Dangerfield) went about their work and tried to take in as much as I could.”

Essendon kick off their 2018 season with a Friday night clash against Adelaide at Etihad Stadium on March 23.

Continue reading

Ben Folds adds flight risk to request show

BEN FOLDS PORTRAITBen Folds is asking his audience to take aim at him.
SuZhou Night Recruitment

Halfway through his set, the musician will watch as a sea of paper aeroplanes float through the concert hall and land on his stage.

It’s risky, not least because of the potential paper cuts, but because each plane bears a song request which Folds is expected to play. In fact, the whole second half of his show, which kicks off in this week, will be dictated by whatever song he sees written on these airborne suggestions.

“It’s good and scary. I like to be scared,” Folds told AAP in Sydney.

Scary because Folds is often expected to remember songs he hasn’t even released.

“There are some of them that I wrote when I was 16 years old that come up. I guess they got out on the internet,” he said.

However, being put on the spot like that seems to be something he relishes when he’s alone on stage with his piano. His only concern when those teenage songs are requested is that he doesn’t bore the audience.

However, that hasn’t happened yet.

“By design it’s always a success because it makes every show absolutely unique,” he said.

“The prettiest part of that to me is the stage just littered with paper aeroplanes. There’s something really interesting about it. It looks like a set design that somebody would have thought up.”

Folds’ last album release was the semi-orchestral So There in 2015 but he’s not working on another record yet. His next project will be a book, a way to educate people about music through his own story.

“I’m writing a book that’s basically sort of in memoir form but it’s lessons. I’m working on that tightening it up and trying to make it a real book.”

* Ben Folds kicks off his n tour in Sydney on Thursday February 1 at the Sydney Opera House, then heads to Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide, Perth, Hobart and Melbourne.

Continue reading

Drought in the Lower and Upper Hunter

Farmers in survival mode: Hunter battles awful drought | PICS, VIDEO WATER SHORTAGE: Dams on the Stork family property are in crisis. Four out of the five dams are empty.
SuZhou Night Recruitment

DROUGHT: Farmer Danny Stork stands on the family property at Glen Oak pondering the landscape. Pictures: Belinda-Jane Davis

DRY TIMES: Brown grass everywhere.

CREEKS ARE DRY: Farmer Danny Stock in the creek bed that should be full of water.

CREEKS ARE DRY: Farmer Danny Stork in another dry creek bed.

DAM: A dam that is almost dry.

DRY TIMES: View of the landscape at Glen Oak.

CREEKS ARE DRY: Another dry creek.

HOPE: Some green grass shoots among the dead grass. They will also die if there is no rain soon.

BROWN GRASS: Farm dogs take a stroll on the grass.

DRY TIMES: View of the landscape.

VEGGIE GARDEN: Pumpkin crop is looking for water.

VEGGIE GARDEN: Pumpkin crop is looking for water.

DRY TIMES: View of the landscape.

DRY TIMES: View of the landscape.

DRY TIMES: View of the landscape.

DRY TIMES: Corn crop looking miserable.

DRY TIMES: View of the landscape.

DRY TIMES: View of the landscape.

DRY TIMES: View of the landscape.

DAM SUPPLY: The water level in the dam has dropped significantly.

DAM SUPPLY: The water level in the dam has dropped significantly.

FOOD SHORTAGE: Cattle at Glen Oak.

FOOD SHORTAGE: Cattle step into the shade to cool down at Glen Oak.

FOOD SHORTAGE: Cattle step into the shade to cool down at Glen Oak.

DRY TIMES: Another dry creek bed.

DRY TIMES: Another dry creek bed.

DRY TIMES: Another dry creek bed.

DRY TIMES: View across the paddock at Glen Oak.

DRY TIMES: View across the paddock at Glen Oak.

DRY TIMES: Dry creek bed.

SHADE: Cattle sitting in the shade.

SHADE: Cattle sitting in the shade.

SHADE: Cattle in the shade.

DRY TIMES: Cattle are being fed with forage to survive.

DRY DAM: A dry dam at Glen Oak.

DRY DAM: A dry dam at Hinton.

WATER SHORTAGE: A dry lagoon between Phoenix Park and Largs.

TweetFacebookBelinda-Jane Davis reports

HUNGRY: Cattle are looking for food at Glen Oak. Picture: Belinda-Jane Davis

It’s strange to look around and the leaves on the trees are the most vibrant object on the horizon.

Drought isn’t a scenario we encounter often in the Lower Hunter.

I’ve lived on the land my whole life and I’ve experienced way more floods than droughts, but here we are battling a crippling drought that resembles the dry times of the early 1990s.

HUNTER DROUGHT: 33 per cent of the region is in drought, 39 per cent is at the onset of drought and 28 per cent is borderline and could slip into drought or recover. Picture: NSW Department of Primary Industries

The further you travel into the countryside from Maitland the more the landscape dramatically changes.

There are barren pastures, dry dams andhungry cattle.

Already two Slow Food Earth Market Maitland farmers are totally out of water and another is relying on suitable salinity levels in the Hunter River to keep vegetable and lucerne crops alive.

Vegetable growers Tom Christie and Dominique Northam, who have a farm near Dungog, had been using a dam to irrigate their crops until it went dry. Now they are praying for rain.

Dams are drying up and cattle are hungry across the Lower Hunter.Somefarmers around Dungog and Gresford have already run out of water and been forced to sell their cattle despite prices being right down.

Read more:How you can help Hunter farmers battle the drought

Read more:Dairy farmer paying $100,000 a month to keep his herd alive

As more cattle hit the market the price declines, and right now farmers are losing $200 on an average animal.

Take a drive west to the Upper Hunter and things are just as dire–the landscape looks like a desert. Farmers are hand feeding, dams are dry or drying up and winter, which will bring even more challenges, isn’t far away.

Read more: Everybody’s looking for rain

ARID LANDSCAPE: Farmer Danny Stork stands among the dry pastures at Glen Oak. Picture: Belinda-Jane Davis.

Maitland has recorded its driest January since 1932, with only 6 millimetres of rain.Paterson has done little better with 10 millimetres of rain –it’s lowest January rainfall since 1903.In Cessnock things are not quite as dire, with the driest January in fifteen years recorded after only 6 millimetres.

“The dams are dry everywhere around here,” Ms Northam said.

“We haven’t had decent rain since autumn last year,” Mr Christie added.

Oakhampton farmer Austin Breiner has lost most of his crops because of a lack of water and is carting water to the property to keep some tomatoes and eggplants alive.

WATER SHORTAGE: Tom Christie and Dominique Northam pictured at the Slow Food Earth Market in Maitland during better times last year. Picture: Jonathan Carroll.

Matthew and Liam Dennis are closely monitoring salinity levels in the Hunter River so they canirrigate their crops.It’s the driest Matthew has seen it since he moved to East Maitland 28 years ago.

After months with little –or no rain –the land isscreaming out for it.

Unrelenting hot weather during January has also burdened farmers, ripping moisture out of the groundand forcing the grass to die more quickly.

BIG DRY: The hot weather helped killed off pastures more quickly. Picture: Belinda-Jane Davis

While it often brought storm clouds, and lightning shows on the horizon, there was precious little rain and on the rare occasions when it did fall, it wassporadic.

When grey clouds formed this week hopes went up, but there is barely any rain predicted.

It’s a frustrating situation for the Stork familyat Glen Oak -29 kilometres out of Maitland – who desperately need decent rain.

Five of their six dams are dry and the many creek beds are barren.

WATER SHORTAGE: Five of the six dams on the Stork property at Glen Oak are dry. Picture: Belinda-Jane Davis

The paddocks are scorchedand there are only 20 bales of hay left in the shed.

Their 100 head of cattle are being hand fed light rations in the hope that rain will come soon.

If it doesn’t, and they run out of water, they’ll be forced to sell the entire herd.

If their water supply holds on they can buy in hay, but that’s a very expensive, short-term option.

Farmer Danny StorkEveryone’s in survival mode waiting for that good fall of rain. We have to get a break in the weather and we have to keep our eyes looking to the sky and hoping. We want 100 millimetres pretty much straight away. We usually get a break in February so let’s hope that happens,

Tony Bowe

Continue reading

Premier defends NSW school-building plan

GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN SCHOOL VISIT SYDNEYNSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has defended her government’s education infrastructure plan amid claims it isn’t keeping up with Sydney’s burgeoning population.
SuZhou Night Recruitment

As more than 800,000 students began to walk through the school gates on Tuesday, Ms Berejiklian and Education Minister Rob Stokes visited the newly-built Wentworth Point Public School in Sydney’s west.

It was an example of the 1500 classrooms to be delivered through new or upgraded schools in the next four years, the premier said.

Opposition Leader Luke Foley claims NSW is in “crisis”, with an additional 280,000 students needing classrooms over the next 15 years.

But Ms Berejiklian said there had already been a net increase of 600 classrooms since her party formed government.

“We’re able to do this because we’ve worked so hard to have a strong budget position,” she told reporters.

“We’ve done a lot so far but we’re re-doubling our efforts over the next few years.”

The Wentworth Point school has also been criticised because classrooms are not air conditioned.

Mr Stokes said the site used passive design principles and its waterfront location to help ease the heat’s impact in summer, referring to it as “deliciously cool”.

“As and when air conditioning is required, of course we will look at it and we have a clear policy in relation to its provision,” Mr Stokes said.

Ms Berejiklian said the government had inherited policies that dictated when air conditioning should be installed, including a school’s location, average temperature and demographic.

“This is part of good sustainable development which will last us another century,” she said.

The Wentworth Point project took longer than anticipated due to remediation works on the site and local government approvals, Ms Berejiklian added.

New syllabuses in English, mathematics, science and history will be taught for Year 11 students in 2018.

Continue reading

Trump to tout strong economy in address

USA GOVERNMENT AZARPresident Donald Trump, battling a probe into his campaign’s alleged ties with Russia and struggling to sell Americans on his leadership abilities, will take credit for US economic gains in the past year in an address to Congress.
SuZhou Night Recruitment

Facing a looming deadline on an immigration controversy amid strong Democratic opposition, Trump on Tuesday night will also call for a bipartisan compromise of the type that has eluded him during a turbulent first year in office.

Aides said the Republican president would use the televised speech to take credit for advances in the economy since he took office and tout the benefits of a tax overhaul approved by the Republican-controlled Congress in December that was his first major legislative victory.

But the atmosphere in the House of Representatives chamber where Trump will speak could be tense. Several Democratic lawmakers have said they would boycott the event. Some Democratic women who will attend plan to wear black in support of the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment.

Ahead of Trump’s speech, Republicans and Democrats were deeply divided over immigration. Lawmakers are facing a February 8 deadline to try to reach a compromise on the issue and pass a new budget measure to avoid a second government shutdown.

To attract Democratic votes for an immigration deal, Trump has said he is open to letting “Dreamers,” a group of immigrants brought into the country illegally as children, stay in the United States.

In return, he has demanded funding for a wall on the border with Mexico and measures to curb family sponsorship of immigrants, proposals that have failed to gain traction with Democrats in the past.

Trump will also promote a $US1.7 trillion plan to rebuild America’s aging roads and other infrastructure, but he is not expected to offer many details.

He will speak at a time when he is being buffeted by a drumbeat of headlines about US Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump or his aides colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential election.

US intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia interfered in the campaign using hacking and propaganda to attempt to tilt the race in favour of Trump. Russia has denied meddling. Trump has denied any collusion with Russia and has called the Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt” and “hoax.”

Americans, at the same time, are voicing concerns about Trump’s fitness for office. His job approval ratings are about 40 per cent, an alarming number with congressional elections coming in November that will determine whether Republicans maintain control of the US Congress.

Trump is expected as well to address the various global crises that have persisted during his watch, such as North Korea’s nuclear challenge and Iran’s clout in the Middle East.

Trump’s drive for more reciprocal trade with China and other countries is also expected to be a dominant theme.

Continue reading

Foo Fighters review: Grohl & Co live up to high expectations

One of music’s more affable, often flat-out hilarious frontmen in Dave Grohl. Photo: James BrickwoodFoo Fighters
SuZhou Night Recruitment

ANZ Stadium, January 27

Reviewed by George Palathingal

★★★½

It has been noted before that American rock titans Foo Fighters might be incapable of giving a bad show.

They’ve been pretty consistent with their output for nearly a quarter of a century, with at least a couple of enormous tunes coming with every album, so they have plenty of songs from which to choose. They’ve been touring long enough to have honed their craft as a live unit to a formidable standard.

Plus, of course, they have one of music’s more affable, often flat-out hilarious frontmen in Dave Grohl.

Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters. Photo: James Brickwood

Sure enough, the band explodes out of the blocks with a dizzying barrage of anthems that forms perhapsthe best start to a rock concert you’ll see.

The riotous roll of their latest song built for stadiums,Run, heads straight into the meaty guitar riffery ofAll My Life, Grohl screeching with such larynx-shredding intensity you wonder how he’ll make it through the first 10 minutes, let alone an entire tour.

The dazzling opening continues with the irresistibleLearn to FlyandThe Pretenderbefore another tune from last year’sConcrete and Gold,The Sky Is a Neighbourhood, holds its own in such exalted modern-rock-classic company with its blistering, seedy stomp.

Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters. Photo: James Brickwood

Then, however, things take an unexpected turn.

Grohl had warned us that there would be lots of jamming on this night but by extending the already underwhelmingRopeinto a 10-minute snoozefest complete with drum solo, the realisation dawns that this is going to be a different kind of Foo Fighters experience; maybe even that unthinkable bad gig.

What is confirmed for longer subsequent stretches of the show than you’d hope is that on this tour, this group of ultimate crowd pleasers isputting their own enjoyment before their audience’s.

Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters play Sydney at ANZ Stadium, Homebush Sydney. Photo: James Brickwood

This may not sound unreasonable but, for all Grohl’s casual boasts of three-hour sets, you can see in the relatively static audience during, say,Let It Diethat a few track omissions and significantly less jamming might have made this evening even more fun for everyone.

But there’s plenty of that anyway. The band intros come with mini-covers of rock classics (the opening of Van Halen’sJumpfor keyboard player Rami Jaffee​, the Ramones’Blitzkrieg Bopfor guitarist Pat Smear, and more), while Grohl gives us an unparalleled thrill by playing the opening drum riff of his old band Nirvana’sSmells Like Teen Spiritduring a cameo behind the kit.

Poignant nods to the country we’re in come with Grohl’s gorgeous acoustic instrumentalThe Ballad of the Beaconsfield Minersand a scorching full-band tribute to the late Malcolm Young in AC/DC’sLet There Be Rock,while the audience’s spine-tingling backing vocals onBest of Youadd to an unforgettable climax.

The Foo Fighters, then: incapable of giving a bad show indeed.

Continue reading

Tomic may never play for China again

Ten Davis AustAfter all but ruling Bernard Tomic’s Davis Cup career over, Lleyton Hewitt admitted he is not sure whether the controversial tennis star will even continue playing the sport.
SuZhou Night Recruitment

n team captain Hewitt said he doubted whether Tomic would play Davis Cup again after causing a stir since joining reality TV show I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here.

Tomic told Network Ten that could not win the Davis Cup title without him and that Hewitt knew it.

Tomic’s comments didn’t go down well with two-time major winner, who is preparing a Nick Kyrgios-led team for their Davis Cup first-round tie against Germany in Brisbane starting on Friday.

Asked if Tomic would play for again, the former world No.1 said: “It’s highly doubtful.

“He’s made some mistakes. It will be a long way back.

“He’s digging a big hole for himself that he may never get out of.”

Kyrgios joined the squad on Tuesday but Hewitt said team members already in camp had laughed off Tomic’s claim that they needed him to be successful.

“I don’t watch a lot of those kind of shows but a couple of boys have kept a close eye on it (I’m a Celebrity) and it keeps them in good humour at night and gives them something to talk about,” he said.

“The team camaraderie is as good as I have seen for a long time.

“We believe we can go a long way and I back these boys.”

Asked if could win without Tomic, Hewitt said: “Everyone knows he couldn’t help us right now”.

Baffled by Tomic’s reality TV stint, Hewitt said the former Wimbledon quarter-finalist had to commit to the sport to ever be considered for Davis Cup again.

“It’s strange. You either want to be a tennis player or you don’t,” he said of Tomic’s TV reality show appearance.

“I don’t know (if he will play again). He still wanted to play the n Open and tried to qualify and good on him for that.

“But it is pointless if he is playing in quallies and you are not committed to the sport.

“He’s wasting not only his time but also everyone around him.

“He’s got to commit to the sport if he has any chance of coming back.”

Tennis CEO Craig Tiley said it was up to Hewitt to assess Tomic’s Davis Cup prospects but admitted “he’s got some work to do to get back”.

“It’s not the first time I have heard Bernard make negative comments toward the organisation – I can pretty much guess what Bernard is going to say,” Tiley told SEN Radio.

The draw for the first round tie at Pat Rafter Arena will be held on Thursday.

lead 4-3 in head-to-head Davis Cup clashes but Germany won the last tie, a 2012 World Group playoff 3-2 in Hamburg.

Continue reading