Archive for August, 2019

Macka tackles gator weed

Landfill: Port Stephens mayor Bruce MacKenzie plans to tackle alligator weed on his property, within the Williamtown RAAF Base contamination zone, by putting up to 200mm of landfill across it. PORT Stephens mayor Bruce Mackenzie has such an alligator weed problem on his Williamtown propertythat he needs a development application to deal with it.

But the landfill solution he has proposed, within the Williamtown RAAF Base contamination zone, has nearby residents, one of his councillors and Port Stephens MP Kate Washington concerned about the impact on surrounding areas.

Mr Mackenzie plans to scrape the alligator weed off the top of potentially 12 Williamtown lots of land and replace it with up to 200 millimetres of landfill. The development application will be considered for approval ata council meeting in March.

A council document shows the landfill proposal could include acreagesowned by Mr Mackenzie on Nelson Bay Road and Stockton Bight Track.

The Federal Department of Environment describes alligator weed as one of the worst weeds in Australia, responsible for the failure of small crop and turf farms in the Lower Hunter. It recommends repeated spraying to remove it.

Physical removal isdifficultand requirestakingweed material to a depth of one metre, and “deep burial” disposal, the department said.

Mr Mackenzie declined to comment when contacted by the Newcastle Herald.

Councillor Geoff Dingle described the proposal as extraordinary because of serious drainage issues in the area and concerns about any development within the Williamtown contamination zone that could potentially exacerbate the drainage issues.

“If you’re looking at up to 200mm of fill across such a large area, you’re talking about a very large amount of fill, and residents aresaying there’s flooding here that they’ve never seen before,” he said.

He also questioned the approach taken, saying it was contrary to material supplied to councillors recommending alligator weed be sprayed, or if removed from land that it should be “burnt or buried to a depth of up to five metres”.

Tomaree Ratepayers and Residents Association spokesman Nigel Waters said the development application showed the area proposed was “substantial” but there was “no estimate of how much fill would be involved”.

“It’s a bit of a mystery that the council would even consider such a proposal because it’s partly in the contamination zone,” Mr Waters said.

Ms Washington wasconcernedabout potential impacts from introducing fill into a known flood area.

A Port Stephens Council spokesman said the application was referred to the Environment Protection Authority which “raised no objections to the proposal subject to conditions”.

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Melbourne Victory hold Champions League dream, win praise from unexpected quarter

Right: Matthieu Delpierre’s calm demeanour, organisational skills and tactical understanding made the difference on the back line against Shanghai. Photo: Robert Cianflone Victory’s defence was excellent against Shanghai, with youngsters Nick Ansell and Jason Geria producing coming-of-age performances. Photo: Robert Cianflone

Melbourne Victory and coach Kevin Muscat have won praise from an unlikely source for their Asian Champions League triumph over Shanghai SIPG on Wednesday night – Melbourne City boss John van ‘t Schip.

Victory clawed out a 2-1 win over the big spending Chinese club, coached by former England manager Sven Goran Eriksson, in a thrilling contest played at a frantic pace.

Muscat’s team managed to quell, for the most part, Shanghai’s big name imports Dario Conca, Elkeson and Asamoah Gyan, and Van ‘t Schip was impressed with their organisation and strong will.

He was not, however, impressed by Shanghai, who, he said, looked less like a team and more a collection of individuals.

Granted the Chinese team was playing only its second competitive match since the Chinese Super League season ended last December, and it was trying to integrate players new players.

But, said Van ‘t Schip, the game showed how preparation and team spirit could take Australian teams a long way against superior technical opponents with much bigger budgets.

The Dutchman hopes to be in Muscat’s position next year, if City can nail one of Australia’s guaranteed two spots in the competition.

“To be honest, I think Victory deserved to win that game. Shanghai had some chances as well, but  I was very disappointed in the Chinese team,” the Dutchman, who was at AAMI Park to watch first-hand, said.

“You can see with less money and more team effort and a game plan you can still achieve a lot of things in the Asian league.

“Western Sydney is a good example, and yesterday was another. If you have players that are really wanting to make the effort and work with each other you can still get wins against teams that have maybe three or four individual good players, but the team doesn’t really work together.

“I think that was the key yesterday, that Melbourne Victory looked like a team and Shanghai didn’t .”

Muscat can feel delighted that his side got off to such a positive start, even if Eriksson felt his team did enough to secure a point.

Winning home matches is vital in such tournaments, and if Victory can now pick up a point away to Gamba Osaka next week its chances of making it past the group stage will multiply.

The club is one of a number of A-League sides said to be chasing Socceroo winger Tommy Oar after he ended his contract with English Championship team Ipswich Town last month, citing homesickness.

Club officials confirmed on Wednesday night that Oar was on their radar, most likely as a replacement for Kiwi wide man Kosta Barbarouses, who is expected to move to Wellington for a big-money marquee player contract next season.

While Oar could undoubtedly assist with a rebuild at Victory, Muscat must surely wish he could persuade veteran French defender Matthieu Delpierre to reconsider his decision to head back to Europe at the end of the season.

The former Stuttgart captain has said he plans to return to live in Germany at the end of his contract later this year and his will be huge shoes to fill when he goes.

Delpierre was immense in the win over Shanghai, hardly losing out in any contest.

Victory’s defence was excellent through the night, with youngsters Nick Ansell and Jason Geria producing coming-of-age performances.

Delpierre’s defensive attributes – he is strong and good in the air and the tackle – are one thing. But his calm demeanour, organisational skills and tactical understanding make him the outstanding  leader of a backline that often features younger players.

Muscat would love to have him for one more season, both as a player and as a mentor to his youthful defenders like Ansell, Geria, Scott Galloway and Thomas Deng.

“Jason’s season has been interrupted with international duty, we are still not going to see the best of him, he is still finding his feet because of his fitness,” said Muscat, predicting further improvement from Geria.

“Nick and Matthieu were outstanding, and both Nick and Thomas are gaining so much experience from playing alongside Matthieu. It will be hard to persuade him to change his mind, but lets enjoy watching him for the rest of the season,” Muscat said.

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From goats to goannas, 2500 rescued

HOME: Facebook pet rescue page founder Melissa Wilson with bearded dragons Slayer (large) and Mary (hatchling). Picture: Max Mason-Hubers.WITH a cattledog,kelpie,fosterdachshund and twobearded dragons at home, Melissa Wilson couldbe forgiven for decidingquite enough creatures are inher care.

But in the eightmonths since she foundeda Facebook pageforlost pets, Ms Wilson and herbandof volunteershavereunited 2500 animals with their owners.

“There were 91 on New Year’s Eve alone,” the LostPetsNewcastle,Hunter Valley&Surroundsfounder said.

“Wehelped reunite a cat after two-and-a-half years. We’ve organised horse floats in flood-affected areas,had goats and sheep stay the night ina volunteer’sbathroom.”

Armed with microchip scanners and the will to crawl under houses,Ms Wilson’s team issummoned daily bythe Facebook page’s 11,000 members to deal with lost and frightened animals before the authorities do.

A simple “lost dog” notice that appearson the page will, Ms Wilson said, resultin success 90 per cent of the time.

Her most recent high-profile clientwasa goanna seenscurrying towards Lambton’s Mark Hotel and,it turned out, socialmedia stardom.

The fugitive goanna was corralled away from traffic as Ms Wilson rapidlycalled the Native Animal Trust Fund, put out a Facebook alert and madeherbest attempt atreptilian reassurance.

Despite a cut to its head, the goanna was expected to fullyrecover.

Then there’sScooter.

The Maltese terrier was found onthe streets of Charlestown on Boxing Dayin what looked like a textbookcase oflost dog, until Ms Wilson scanned his microchip.

Scooter was500 kilometres from home,thetown of Tottenhamin the state’s Central West.

It is now believed Scooterwas takenby someonepassingthrough Tottenham whobroughthim to Charlestown to live out his days, untilhe escaped.Michelle Owen, hisowner, was beside herself with relief.

The family own a petroleumcompany, and a truck was dispatched to retrieve Scooter in the night.

On Thursday, an appeal wasmade on the Facebook page fora lost male chihuahua.

He had escaped from Wangi, wearing a blue collar.

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New Atlas robot from Google’s Boston Dynamics shows off human-like qualities

Boston Dynamics — the Google-owned engineering company dedicated to creating robots that move like animals — has shown off a updated version of its human-like Atlas design with a new video.

Standing 175 centimetres tall and weighing 82 kilograms, the new Atlas has long arms, short legs, a tiny cylindrical head and is designed to operate outdoors as well as inside buildings.

The new video shows Atlas walking confidently past other members of its robotic family — including WildCat and BigDog — and heading straight out the door before wading like a terrifying idiot through a stretch of snow.

Boston Dynamics is renowned online for its quirky videos of new robots that don’t seem quite ready to handle the tasks they’re attempting — stumbling like babies over rough terrain or being shoved and kicked by researchers until they fall flat on their metal face.

The uneven nature of the robots definitely makes the videos palatable – without something to laugh and point at most of Boston’s creations would be more than a little scary – but it’s also the most impressive aspect of the machines.

Staying upright while navigating uneven terrain and adjusting for unexpected complications is an extraordinarily involved process, requiring constant adjustment that’s difficult to come by without a brain and central nervous system. Mastering this will be required for most tasks mobile robots will be used for, be it search and rescue, military applications or travelling back through time to track and assassinate humans.

What makes Boston’s robots so interesting to watch is that, when faced with an obstacle or a swift kick, they tend to react in an eerily similar way to a dizzy human or quadrupedal animal.

Walking is not Atlas’s only trick however. The video also shows it lifting and stacking boxes, reacting appropriately when a box is cruelly moved out of its reach at the last moment, and managing to right itself after being knocked to the ground.

Previously shown Boston designs include BigDog — seen cutting an empathetic, scuttling figure in the above GIF — and Sand Flea, a tiny car that can leap 10 metres in the air. The firm has also developed a Cheetah-like robot that can run 45 kilometres per hour, and at Christmas last year posted a video showing a troupe of prancing reindeerbots towing a sleigh.

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Jamie Gao’s phone was picked up by someone hours after his death, court hears

Misaki Takebayashi told the court that an unknown person picked up Jamie Gao’s phone hours after he was allegedly murdered. Photo: Facebook Jamie Gao was last seen by his girlfriend on May 18, 2014. Photo: Facebook

Glen McNamara leaving the Supreme Court in custody on Wednesday. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

Roger Rogerson has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Jamie Gao. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Jamie Gao wanted to be a gangster, court hearsCCTV footage from the day of Jamie Gao’s murder​Rogerson and McNamara blame each other for Gao’s death

Just hours after university student Jamie Gao was allegedly shot dead and stuffed inside a surfboard bag, his girlfriend was desperately trying to call him when someone picked up his phone.

The voice said “hello” in Chinese and then hung up.

A few minutes later someone sent a text message from Mr Gao’s phone.

“I’m his friend, he’s lost his phone, his phone is on me,” the text message allegedly said.

A Sydney court has previously heard a friend of his found the phone after Mr Gao went missing.

When Misaki Takebayashi tried to contact Mr Gao later on the night of May 20, 2014, she could not get through to him.

This was what Ms Takebayashi told a jury during the murder trial of Roger Rogerson and Glen McNamara on Thursday.

The pair are charged with murdering the university student on May 20, 2014 inside a southern Sydney rental shed.

The prosecution’s case is that Mr Rogerson and Mr McNamara were part of a joint criminal enterprise to murder Mr Gao and then steal the 2.78kg of methylamphetamine he had brought to sell to them.

Both men have pleaded not guilty to murder and supplying a large commercial quantity of prohibited drugs.

Wearing a black turtleneck jumper and pearls, Ms Takebayashi gave her evidence via video link from Japan to the NSW Supreme Court.

She spoke of how Mr Gao had met with Mr McNamara several times including three days before his death at a pub in Hurstville.

“I recall times where I would be shopping in Hurstville with Jamie and he would receive a call on his mobile from Glen wanting to meet,” part of her police statement, read out by Crown prosecutor Christopher Maxwell QC, said.

“Sometimes Jamie would be gone for hours.”

She said on May 17 she was with Jamie when he got a phone call from Mr McNamara.

“He went away for 30 minutes to one hour to meet Glen and then he came back,” she told the court.

The last night she spent with Mr Gao was at a party in Hurstville and then the pair stayed the night at Mr Gao’s house on May 18.

The next day Ms Takebayashi said Mr Gao went to study at the University of Technology Sydney and she went to TAFE.

She never saw him again.

In the days after Mr Gao’s death, a devastated Ms Takebayashi and her close friends went to where his body was found at Cronulla and threw flowers into the water.

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