Wybong area rejects mine exploration

Wybong Action Group has submitted a detailed objection to the proposed exploration licence made by Ridgelands Coal Resources.
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NSW Trade and Investment is reviewing the 17 responses received during the 28-day public comment period for the exploration licence.

In the opening remarks of its submission, WAG proposes that “any and every application for a licence to explore the Ridgelands region should not be accepted.”

A proposed work program by Ridgelands Coal suggests drilling 180 boreholes with two thirds of the holes to assess coal seams and one-third to be partly cored holes for coal quality analyses.

The proposed exploration area is about 7890 hectares, 20 kilometres north-west of Muswellbrook.

In its nine-page objection, WAG says not enough information has been provided on activities to be carried out by Ridgelands Coal if the five-year lease is approved.

“The work program supplied by the applicant is non-specific and vague,” the objection says.

“It provides no detail on activities and there is too much uncertainty to be able to provide specific comment or on which to make a decision to accept the application.”

The application goes on to state, “the Upper Hunter Valley and in particular the Ridgelands [exploration lease area] is an area of biogeographical interest” and a major concern is that no comprehensive assessment of vegetation in the area has been carried out.

WAG suggests further social and economic losses to the Wybong community if the licence is approved.

“The fractured community that remain continue to be affected by operational noise, fine particulate airborne dust, dust deposition, tainted rain water etc and their properties and investments stripped of genuine market value,” the submission reads.

“For the rural landholder exploration represents an immediate loss of external marketable interest in their property and investment.”

WAG recommends that the department decline the exploration licence on grounds of insufficient information on the works program, environmental impacts and long-term effects to agriculture.

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Junior footy tipping master

LITTLE STAR: Blake Gallan, 3, with his dad DennisHaving never been to an NRL game and not studying the teams has not hindered the success of the top ranked tipster in the Muswellbrook Chronicle footy tipping competition.
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Leading the competition by two points is three-year-old Blake Gallan of Muswellbrook.

Blake has been on top of the ladder for the past three weeks, beating both his dad and pop, who are also entrants.

While Blake was reluctant to talk to the media about his success, his parents Dennis and Heidi said he wasn’t strategic in his choices.

“He picks by who sounds better,” Mr Gallen said.

Like other three-year-olds, Blake likes animals, especially sharks, so they are always his top pick.

Blake knows he is winning but rubbing it in that he is beating dad is more fun.

“He reminds dad all the time he is winning,” Mrs Gallen said.

Family and friends have asked Blake for help with their tips, but not even dad and pop can get any advice.

With the possibility of winning a big TV for his bedroom, who can blame him?

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No choice but to go online: fashion retailer

HOOKED UP: Muswellbrook business owner Heather Noble believes business need an online presence to survive. Going online makes smart business sense, according to a Muswellbrook independent retailer.
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Owner of Charizma clothing store Heather Noble said she did not think twice about putting her store online.

When Ms Noble opened up shop in Muswellbrook in July last year, her online store followed days later.

“You have no choice but to go online,” Ms Noble said.

“You need to move with the times and have to keep up; if you don’t you get left behind and that’s lost income.”

Ms Noble encouraged all small business owners to have an online presence to allow more access and convenience for customers, locally and even globally.

“I have customers from New Zealand and all across Australia,” she said.

“You can’t just rely on that foot traffic at your door.”

Ms Noble is also the administrator for the Muswellbrook Community Noticeboard Facebook page, which has a section to advertise links to business pages.

“Local people can find a business on there easier than through a Google search,” she said. “For businesses they can learn what the community is after and what the community is missing.”

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Postage increase linked to web sales

The number of incoming and outgoing parcels in the Upper Hunter region has almost doubled in two years.
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Australia Post said Australian residents have taken up online shopping in record numbers.

In the Upper Hunter, parcel volumes have increased by more than 40 per cent since 2010 with 70 per cent generated from online shopping.

Australia Post predicted this number to grow as population in the Upper Hunter expands.

Figures for parcel growth country-wide have jumped 13 per cent since July last year. Australia Post attributes this spike to internet shopping.

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Diversity is the key

A diverse mix of businesses and exceptional service is Muswellbrook’s best chance of survival and combating competition.
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Business closures are always a concern for the Muswellbrook Chamber of Commerce and Industry and president Mike Kelly said the group was always looking at ways to help operators.

He said meeting market needs through a range of different businesses, supplying a wide variety of goods and services was key.

“The chamber supports a diverse business mix in Muswellbrook,” Mr Kelly said.

“This is our best way of servicing the local market and reducing leakage to other areas.

“It is important to have small independent businesses which give exceptional service and supply products which are different in quality, design and desirability to the offerings of the large stores and chains.”

He said the addition of the Muswellbrook Marketplace and Muswellbrook Fair shopping centres in the past 10 years had helped with the diversity offered in town.

Mr Kelly said the chamber was concerned with the impact of online shopping on retailers.

To be competitive, Mr Kelly said businesses needed to strongly consider online-trading, if they had not already.

“It is a decision for each business to choose the way it accesses the market,” he said.

“It would seem that in retail you need to have everything going for you with a mix of online trading, advertising and in store service.”

Customers decide which shops fail

CHhoosing where to spend your hard-earned dollar can make or break local business.

Muswellbrook Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Mike Kelly suggests customers think wisely about where they spend.

“It is interesting that many shoppers complain about to lack of diversity and mourn the loss of small businesses without analysing where they actually spend their money,” Mr Kelly said.

“I think most would be surprised if they did a weekly analysis and saw how much they spend with the large retailers and multinationals compared to their patronage of small local businesses.

“At the end of the day, it is the customers who decide who thrives and who fails.”

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Embrace internet or perish

Muswellbrook business advisor Julie Fibbins
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A Muswellbrook business advisor is concerned about the future of small business operators in town.

Hunter Region Business Enterprise Centre business facilitator Julie Fibbins said a number of factors were crippling Muswellbrook retailers.

Mrs Fibbins said the internet was making shoppers savvier but was a real competitor to small business owners.

“We all like a bargain, but at what cost to our retailers?” she said.

Mrs Fibbins’ comments come off the back of many businesses closing up shop in Muswellbrook in recent months – two in the Marketplace, one in Muswellbrook Fair and several in Bridge Street.

In the past 12 months, Mrs Fibbins has run 22 business-related workshops and offered advice to 231 new clients of existing or new stores.

She said she was constantly surprised at the number of business owners that have not embraced the internet as a business marketing method.

“I’ve been telling clients that if you don’t have a good, effective website then you are not in business,” she said.

Mrs Fibbins said with a wealth of variety and bargains on the internet, shoppers have replaced phone books for search engines.

“You can go online and do comparative shopping on anything,” she said.

Australian Bureau of Statistic figures from 2009 state 75 per cent of 25-to 34-year-olds and 45 per cent of over 65-year-olds buy online.

“This is what retailers don’t get,” Mrs Fibbins said.

“Business operators need to be aware of these kinds of figures.”

However, Mrs Fibbins said internet shopping was just one impact.

She also listed shopping out of town, people choosing to increase savings, poor customer service and business models as other factors.

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Muswellbrook teen dies in weekend crash

Police have confirmed that a Muswellbrook teenager was killed during a car crash at Curlewis on Saturday.
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Daniel Horton, 19, died when the reportedly stolen Hyundai car he was driving left the road and hit a tree, the Northern Daily Leader reports

Emergency services were called to the Kamilaroi Highway at Curlewis, near Gunnedah, about 5.15am.

It is understood the car drifted on the wrong side of the road for 60 metres before crashing.

Police believe Mr Horton fell asleep at the wheel.

He suffered leg and chest injuries and died at the scene.

A 16-year-old female passenger survived the crash, suffering facial injuries, and was taken to Tamworth hospital for treatment.

An investigation is under way surrounding the circumstances of the crash and a report will be prepared for the coroner.

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Nominations flood in for Easter Monday racing

Muswellbrook Race Club has received outstanding nominations for its family race meeting on Easter Monday at its popular Skellatar Park Racecourse.
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The seven-race program attracted more than 170 nominations from trainers over a wide area – north, south and west of Muswellbrook.

Eight races now seem likely with the possible division of the Coolmore Australia Class 1 Handicap over 1000 metres, which attracted 34 nominations.

More than 30 horses were entered for the 1280-metre Maiden Plate.

The main race on Monday is the Arrowfield Stud Open Handicap over 1280 metres.

Trainers represented in this race include Dubbo’s Peter Nestor (Boomerang), Scone’s Luke Griffith (Ay Dee Bee) and Peter Broomfield (Scussy Moola), and Muswellbrook’s Dale Riley (Flaming Circle).

All runners mentioned above should be prominent at the finish line.

The next highest-grade race is the SubZero Services Benchmark 60 Handicap over 1750 metres.

The picturesque grounds at Skellatar Park will come under close scrutiny from the children searching for chocolates in the big Easter egg hunt.

There will also be a free jumping castle for the youngsters.

An all-day barbecue will operate.

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Devils draw in round one

FIRST GRADE
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Denman have kicked off their first-grade rugby league season with a draw against a new-look Aberdeen side.

The Tigers took Denman by surprise when they surged to an early lead at Denman on Sunday.

Denman hit back with a Brent Wood try.

Scores were be 20-all at half-time, the heat having a big effect on both teams.

Gary McKeon initiated the try of the match when he caught a chip kick and drew talented fullback Swan to send Dyllan Stannard in under the posts.

Aberdeen hit back with a try, before Isaac McCormick picked up a loose ball to run 80 metres to score.

Denman again scored from a Gary McKeon kick, to put Denman in a safe position.

But never-say-die Aberdeen hit back on the bell, to make the score 30-all at full-time.

Denman’s try-scorers were Wood (2), Stannard, McCormick, McKeon and Dean Amos.

Amos also kicked three goals.

Awards went to McKeon and Tyson Bruns.

RESERVE GRADE

In a competitive match, Denman dug deep to run out winners 28-18 in the reserve-grade match.

It was great to see 20 players in the Denman squad.

Last year’s first-grade lock Brady Stair played his first game in reserve grade.

His relentless defence was outstanding in the heat.

Aberdeen was on top early in the game, but when new player Michael Gibson came off the bench, the game turned around, with his powerful runs and solid hits.

He has come to Denman from the western town of Narromine and has brought some Western division grit with him.

Brodie Smith, Nathan Toole, Josh Laing and Miller scored tries, with Toole and Smith kicking the goals.

Awards went to Toole and Stair.

NEXT GAMES

The Denman Devils’ next games are against Singleton at Singleton in all three grades on Sunday, April 15.

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Rams go down in thriller

ON THE BALL: Jacob Pottinger from the under 18s Rams passes the ball to a teammate during the season opener at Olympic Park on Saturday.The Muswellbrook Rams first-grade rugby league squad went down to last season’s premiers Singleton on the bell on Saturday.
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The Rams started strongly in front of a large crowd at Olympic Park.

With strong attacking raids deep in the Greyhounds’ area, the Rams were first to cross out wide.

With the conversion, the Rams were up 6-0.

Play went from one end to the other with both sides showing strong defence.

Mistakes from Singleton gave the Rams another chance to capitalise.

With Zac Solman sin binned in the 28th minute, the Rams crossed over in the corner to skip out to 10-0 with 10 minutes to go in the half.

Singleton started to control the ball better.

On the stroke of half-time, the Greyhounds scored in the corner to narrow the gap at 10-4 at half-time.

The second half stated the same as the first. The Rams gained the upper hand and extended the lead to 18-4 with a try and penalty goal.

With possession starting to flow the Greyhounds’ way and better control, Singleton found holes in the Rams’ defence and crossed for another try.

Play went from one end to the other and the Greyhounds crossed again to narrow the gap to two points.

After a scuffle in the 25th minute, Muswellbrook’s Simon Harmer and Noel Tupou were sin binned.

This opened up the game for both teams and the Rams scored a try near the posts to lead 24-16 with 10 minutes to go.

A try out wide again narrowed the gap to 24-20 with seven minutes on the clock.

Mistakes cost the Rams.

Strong ball control from Singleton with a minute to go allowed them to barge over under the posts.

The conversion sealed the victory 26-24.

Strong games from KJ Wood and Jeff Saarikko provided Muswellbrook the go-forward missing from last season.

Other good performers were Corey Holman, Daley Boney and Cade Boney.

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