Former Hunter Business Chamber chief executive Kristen Keegan loses battle with brain cancer

Baird leads tributes to Kristen Keegan TweetFacebookfacebookSHAREtwitterTWEETemailwhatsappcommentCommentsMORE GALLERIES
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1234567891011121314151617181920212223 – MIKE Baird has joined business and community leaders in paying tribute to the Hunter’s first femalebusiness chamber chief executive Kristen Keegan, who has passed away after a short battle with brain cancer.

The 46-year-old was diagnosed with the aggressive condition midway through last year, and passed away in hospital on Wednesday morning.

Former premier Baird said he was “heartbroken” when he heard of Ms Keegan’s passing.

“All of us who have known her knew she was an incredible woman – passionate and inspiring – and believe she changed the city of Newcastle for the better for a generation to come,” Mr Baird said.

“I was proud to call her a friend and I join with everyone to give our deepest sympathies to her family and friends who are doing it so tough at this time.”

Formerpresident of the Hunter Business Chamber Richard Anicich, who worked closely with Ms Keegan during his three-year term, paid tribute to her passion for the region.

“Kristen was a passionate advocate for the entire Hunter Region through her work with the Property Council and then Hunter Business Chamber and also on the board of the Hunter Infrastructure Fund,” Mr Anicich said.

“Her untimely passing is a great loss to the region”.

Current chamber president Jonathan Vandervoort praised Ms Keegan’s legacy.

“Kristen leaves a strong legacy in the region and I know she will be missed,” he said in a statement to members.

Indicative of her wide reach,Muswellbrook mayor Martin Rush also paid tribute to the “untiring advocate for the Upper Hunter”, who grew up in Denman and attended St Joseph’s at Aberdeen.

“She was instrumental in securing significant project funding for the Upper Hunter and it was council’s great privilege to work closely with her,” Cr Rush said.

TRIBUTES: Former Hunter Business Chamber chief executive Kristen Keegan has lost her battle with brain cancer. She was 46.

“Her influence, advice and passionate advocacy made a material difference to the landscape of the Upper Hunter economy and its liveability.

“Kristen will be very sadly missed. Council extends its deepest sympathies to Kristen’s family and friends.”

Ms Keegan graduated from the University of Newcastle with a bachelor of law/administration and a graduate diploma in industrial relations before working for the university.

She was the regional director of the Hunter Property Council from 2006 to 2011, when she left to become the first female chief executive of the Hunter Business Chamber.

In May 2016she was announced as the chief executive of Dantia, Lake Macquarie City Council’s economic development arm.

Dantia chair Trent Bagnall said Ms Keeganwas a “great people person” and had wonderful insight into how to get people to work together.

“I think the outpouring of love for her since she fell ill shows the regard she is held in by people that have worked and been friends with Kristen,” Mr Bagnall said.

“She was a gun hand, strong, cheeky, funny and smart.

“She instilled great confidence in people.

“She was a great friend and above all irreplaceable.”

Former Hunter Business Chamber presidentKaren Howard said Ms Keeganwas“a fearless warrior” for the region.

“One was never left wondering what she thought,” she said.

“For this forthrightness she and her family paid a heavy toll. I will miss her (and her cheeky messages) greatly.”

Ms Keegan is survived by her daughter, sister and parents.

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Claire DunnDeep and meaningful watering

HIT AND MYTH: Make your watering deep and meaningful. Picture: Erin JonassonSpraying the hose around the garden the other evening, I wondered whether the activity was making me feel better more than the plants. Apart from harvesting, watering has got to be one of the most enjoyable parts of gardening. Recently though I have realised that I’m second guessing how much water the plants need to thrive. Am I force feeding them more than they require? Or is it barely skimming the surface?
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Too little water and the roots die from lack of moisture. Too much water and the spaces between soil particles remain filled with water, suffocating roots.

Wilting or rotting plants are obvious signs of extreme over or under watering, but, apart from that, how does one ascertain how much a plant needs?

With rain scarce and hot weather plentiful, the question is even more poignant. There are a few golden rules for watering that gardeners do well to watch. Especially in summer, early morning watering is far preferable than evening.

I originally believed that this was because watering in the middle of a sunny day can cause leaves to burn under the mini magnifying glass of water droplets, but I’ve since learnt that this is an urban myth. The more important reason is that watering in the morning allows the ground to dry out over the day, rather than creating the fungal-friendly conditions of wet feet on a humid night.

Frequency and depth is important too. Rather than a quick fling with the hose, it’s far better to give your plants a deep and meaningful water. As tempting as it is to sprinkle the garden like a magic wand twice daily, it’s far better to take the time to water deeply every other day.

Adding water-saving crystals to the soil can be a lifesaver in hot weather, helping the soil retain the moisture at the root level.

We all know the value of mulch to retain moisture, but it’s not that simple. Many a do-good mulcher can dry plants out without proper preparation.

Horticulturist David Peterson from Heritage Gardens Nursery explained why.

“We certainly recommend mulching heavily this time of year, but the trick is to water the ground first before putting the mulch on. If you don’t do this, the water can end up only going as far as the top layer of mulch – leaving your plants high and dry,” David said.

“Because we haven’t had decent rain for such a long time the subsoil is drying up considerably, so even established trees need deep watering and mulching. You do need to keep the water up to seedlings, as well as liquid feeding them.”

If this all sounds too hard, you could always go with the trend of succulents and cactus that you can forget about for a week or two without much consequence, but you’ll miss out on the joy of nature’s original air-conditioner – a well-loved well-watered tree.

Claire Dunn is the author of My Year Without Matches: Escaping the city in search of the wild. You can contact her at [email protected]南京夜网南京性息

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Mayfield’s Emily Jones has captured the clouds on inskygram

Sky snapper: Emily Jones of Mayfield taking a photo of the world above every day for a more than a year. Pictures: Perry DuffinIF you summarise the average Instagram feed in a sentence, chances are it’ll read like the thought process of an overstimulated Bondi resident – coffee, designer dog, beach sunrise, “superfood” smoothie, coffee, music festival, drunk selfie, etc.
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But do the same to Inskygram2017 – or Emily Jones as her parents intended – and you’ll struggle to get past the word “sky”.

Emily’s feed is the result of a challenge she set herself late in 2015.

“I had a personal account, with photos of my dogs and whatever, but I kept overloading it with pictures of the sky,” the 28 year-old from Mayfield says. “So I decided to spend a whole year just doing that.”

She started a new account and set herself tworules: #1 The photos can’t have anything attached to the ground, and no trees, no power lines, no buildings – just sky, and #2No editing.

On January 1, 2016, at 7.06am, Jones walked outside of her Mayfield home, looked up and snapped a photo of the moon, tiny and ghostly white, submerged in a vibrant blue sky.

That was almost 400 days and 400 uncompromising images of sky ago. She said she never thought it would get this far.

“It’s changed the way I live,” she says.

“I get beeped at by cars a lot, I tend to walk into the road if the sunset is being too interesting.”

Jones saysshe’s blessed with an over-active imagination and can be a little prone to obsession, which no doubt helped her persist on those overcast days. But staring at the sky for hours each week hasn’t robbed her of perspective.

“[I will] be having a conversation, or walking, or driving and I’ll just stare at the sky because a cloud is being amazing,” she says.

On June 1 last year she snapped a photo from the Anzac Memorial Walk. A long, thin cloud streaked across the golden sky, like the Milky Way had appeared in the fading daylight, the colour of fairy-floss.

“To me, it looked like the cloud was pointing down to a certain spot in Newcastle,” she says.

“And, of course, my imagination got the better of me and I was thinking up all these different scenarios of what the cloud could be directing me to. I was hoping it was buried treasure.

“However logic reigned supreme and I quit daydreaming, or dusk-dreaming as it were, and reminded myself that it was just an accumulation of moisture in the sky.”

Feet still planted firmly on the ground.

Jones sayswhen she scrolls back through her own feed the memories of an entire day can come flooding back from the simple, cloud-flecked shots.

The people, events and geography of the last year are now all linked to the towering columns of vapor she chased each afternoon. The clouds, she says, have helped her notice parts of Newcastle she would otherwise have missed.

New energy: Emily Jones against a cloudy Mayfield skyline.

“I specifically drove over to Stockton to take some photos from the bridge because I knew it was going to be a really awesome sunset,” she says, pointing to an image she took on April 5.

“I was on top of the bridge trying to get photos with my camera and my phone at the same time – while getting beeped at by cars.

“I struggled to hold my phone and camera still in the wind, it gets super windy up there on windy days if you didn’t know.

“But the clouds were not just normal clouds, they were also smoke clouds. There had been a fire out toward Tomago-Raymond Terrace-Williamtown.

“When the sun set the light went through the smoke and made such beautiful colours. It was amazing to see.”

While Inskygram was meant to be a year’s work for the budding photographer and cloud-junkie, Jones saysshe’ll continue for as long as the thrill rains down.

Follow her on Instagram at @inskygram2017Emily Jones

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Nelson Bay looks to higher callingpoll

NEW LOOK: An artist’s impression of a proposed eight-storey apartment building on Church Street, Nelson Bay. It is one of two new apartment developments inspiring confidence in the town after a decade of decline.
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THE Nelson Bayproperty market has been “static” for a decadeand the town’s apartment height limitsneeds to be lifted to spur development, a council paper has warned.

As property prices across the Hunter surge, the holiday town’s decade-long backward slide is prompting calls to see building heights in the CBD lifted to encourage development.

In December a council discussion paper about Nelson Bay’s progress suggested increasing building heights by almost 10 metres in some areas to spur development.

“It is well known that the residential unit market in Nelson Bay has been static and has actually declined over the last 10 years,” the discussion paper stated.

“This is due to a number of defaults and abandoned development sites stalling development activity and causing poor development sentiment. It is clear thatcurrent conditions are not allowing for re-development.”

Property data reveals themedian price for units in the Bay has been in decline since 2005, when it reached a high of $445,000.

The market for units in the town has subtracted insixout of the 11 years since, including three years of double-digit subtraction.

And while there are positive signs in the town –the market for units grew by 24 per cent in 2016, and long-vacanteyesores like the abandoned “Milan Towers”development on Church Street are pushing ahead –Port Stephens Mayor Bruce MacKenzie believes heights in the town should be lifted to allow the area to continue to grow.

“If they don’t go up, no one is ever going to spend their money there, that’s the bottom line,” he said.

“Thecouncil has been a bit lax in not dealing with it, to be honest,they seem to worry about the handfulof peoplewho worry about building high-rises in the proper locations.”

The discussion paper comes four years after the Nelson Bay Strategy was first adopted in 2012.

“Unfortunately…we’ve seen limited private investment in the town centre, despite this period being one of significant growth for the …housing industry,” the report states.

The discussion paper says building height rises that maximise “water views” without obstructing views or overshadowing existing developments.

Ryan Palmer, from the Tomaree Business Chamber, said increasing heights “in the right areas” was a smart move.

“It’s about getting the scale right,” he said.

“Business and community confidence in Nelson Bay is turning around [and] even though buildingheights arealways going to be contentious I know that the business chamber is excited about what’s coming.”

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Meet Foghorn’s Shawn Sherlock

GLASS HALF FULL: It’s the mission to create interesting new beers that drives Shawn Sherlock. Picture: Simone De PeakIN ancient Mesopotamia beer was considered a gift from the gods. It was said the porridge-like brew that the Sumeriansconsumed in 6thcentury BC was provided by Ninkasi, the goddess of beer, to “satisfy desire” and “sate the heart.”
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More than 2600 years after mankind first discovered the art of mixing grain, water, yeast and hops, brewing beerhas never been more popular. While only the most inebriateddrinker might consider an ale a gift from the gods in 2017, the master brewers within the burgeoning craft beerindustry areviewed with a deep reverence.

One man leading the development and sophistication of craft brewing is Newcastle’s Shawn Sherlock. For the past decade the former Australian history university lecturer has been turning heads and tantalising palates with his creations, firstly at Murray’s Craft Brewing Co at Bobs Farm and now at FogHorn Brewhouse in Newcastle.

“If you were to ask people in the know in the industry they put him right up the top as one of the very best brewers in the country, in the very top handful along with the guys from Feral or BentSpoke,” says James Smith, founder of websiteThe Crafty Pint, a leading authorityon craft beer in Australia.

“He’s one of those guys that is consistently over the years, whether it’s at Murray’s or at his place, makingcracking beers and he does it across a broad range of styles.”

Others share Smith’s opinion. In 2012 theBeer & Brewer Awards crowned Sherlock the best in Australia for his work at Murray’s and just months after opening FogHorn in April 2015, the Sligo Extra Stout was voted the best dark ale at the Australian Craft Brewers Association awards.

James Smith on Shawn Sherlock MASH UP: Sherlock brews three 1800-litre batches of beer per week at the FogHorn. Picture: Simone De Peak

One of Sherlock’s craziest creations, remains arguablyhis most celebrated. In 2012 Smith enlisted Sherlock’s help to enter New Zealand’s Beervana Festival.

In order to blow the minds of the judges, Sherlock concocted a recipe for an imperial stout with Belgian yeast,200 green and blue-lipped mussels and 100 Port Stephens oysters. It was crowned Auld Bulgin’ Boysterous Bicep Imperial Stout and mayhave sounded a tad fishy, but the brew scooped Beervana with a perfect score of 45/45.

Murray’s later put theAuld Bulgin’ Boysterous Bicep Imperial Stout into production.

“That again showed me what a genius brewer he is because he can take all these strange ingredients and he understood how to put them together and make something that worked and was really tasty,” Smith says.

Sherlock’s road to untapping beer’s potential began like mosthome-brewers. The 44-year-old would tinkerwith his father Peter at their Waratah West house in the late ‘80s,attempting to turn Coopers home-brew kitsinto something drinkable.

“I just got bitten by the bug,” he says.“I always enjoyed it. There’s wasn’t much information around back then. It’s not like today where you canstart home brewing and like any hobby around there’s a thousandwebsites dedicated to it.

“Back then it was almost a secret society,” he says.“Someone’s dad or grandpa had been doing it for years and would pass down mysterious bits of information which waseither right or wrong.”

In his formative years brewing wouldremain a hobby. With the industry dominated by the big boys Lion Nathanand Carlton & United, brewing jobs werescarce.

The Broadmeadow High student instead focused on academia, completing degrees in English and history at the University of Newcastleand living overseas in Ireland where he further developed his love of stouts.

The talented drummer also pursued his rock star aspirations by playing inindie bandsVelvetine Dream and Einstein’s Wireless and the Irish-styled Tinker’s Curse. Eventually, Sherlock would complete his honours and a PhD in Australian labour history to become a lecturer and tutor at the university.

Yet the brewing bug was fermenting. Sherlock had long since bypassed the Coopers kits and was designing his own recipes,and in the process, winning competitions.

“I was getting more and more obsessed with the brewing side of it and at that time funding was getting cut from the arts and humanities in the university sector, so a lot of the full-time jobs were becoming harder and harder to get,” Sherlock says.

“I was in between contracts at the uni and an opportunity came up to take a commercial brewery job and my family backed me in.”

It was August 2006 and the brewery job was at little-known Murray’s, then only eight months old and based at Taylors Arm on the NSW mid-north coast. Sherlock was excited by owner Murray Howe’s vision and took the punt, moving north with his wife Karen and their daughters Ellie and Rosie, now 15 and 12.

Within two years Sherlockprogressed to head brewer, a role he excelled atuntil his decision to leave in 2014 and begin plans for his own brew pub with business partner James Garvey.

“From2009 to 2012 we were doing some really good stuff and it was a great experience and special to be a part of,” he says.“It wasn’t an easy decision to leave. There was no issue with Murray or Murray’s, I just wanted to start my own business.”

From the beginning Sherlock had a veryNovocastrian design in mind for FogHorn. Situated in the original Kloster Ford dealership, built in the 1930s, the King Street brew pub has named after the iconic coal ship horns which blastover the CBD and often rattlethe venue’s windows.

Inside the cavernous interior hang three flags commemorating the Newcastle Knights’ 1997 ARL and 2001 NRL premierships and the Jets’ 2007-08 A-League championship. The Knights tragic jokes “I won’t be needing another one for a while.”

However, what really catches the eye, is where the magic happens. The six fermenting tanks, which produce 1800-litre batches of beer three times a week, including porters, stouts, pale ales, IPAs, pilseners, wheat beers andBelgianand English ales.

All beer is produced on site and doesn’t require freight, which allows for a minimum turnover of three weeks from brewing to the customer’s glass. Most bottleshops and pubs stock beer brewed months ago.

Speaking to Sherlock his passion for Newcastle is infectious. He views FogHorn as part of the CBD’s greater renewal.

“In an era when manufacturing is moving out of town and to some extent dying, bringing back a manufacturing trade into the centre of the city was something good, albeit in a new different way to the old days,” he says.

“When we took over the space, it’s a warehouse and light industrial space. We wanted to make it really nice and a comfortable space, but we didn’t want to turn it into Las Vegas. It’s not what Newcastle is and it’s not what this space is.”

However, FogHorn is not purely a Novocastrian story. Last year FogHorn Erina opened on the Central Coast. All beer is brewed in King Street and couriered down the M1.A third FogHorn remains in Sherlock’s final vision.

“We haven’t got any immediate plans and we don’t have a particular location in mind,” he says. “I would hope we can grow. With a brewery this size, we could probably stretch to a third one before we can expand the equipment itself, but there’s a lot of water to flow under the bridge yet.”

One area Sherlock is pushing to help FogHorn realise its full potential is changing the venue’s restaurant liquor license. Under its current license, customers must purchase food to buy alcohol.

Sherlock is a supporter of Newcastle’s lock-out laws and believes the city’s night-time economy has positively changed in the nine years since their introduction.

“We’re all adults here and surely we’re grown up enough in Newcastle that we can have a brewery where people can have a beer without necessarily needing to buy food,” he says.

“I can understand when we first opened people didn’t know what to expect, but I think for venues like us and others around Newcastle, if you freed things up a little, rather than problems coming back, you’ll actually find a more diverse and popular night-time economy.”

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Let the games begin

FISH OF THE WEEK: Darren Reed wins the Jarvis Walker tacklebox and Tsunami lure pack for this 60kg black marlin hooked off Port Stephens last Sunday.
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The weather forecast is positive, the fish have been biting and conditions are tipped to be hot on and off the water as we head into the Bigfish Bonanza this weekend.

FISH OF THE WEEK: Darren Reed wins the Jarvis Walker tacklebox and Tsunami lure pack for this 60kg black marlin hooked off Port Stephens last Sunday.

Hosted by Lake Macquarie Game Fishing Club, the event is the first game fishing tournament of the season in Hunter waters.

“Things are looking good,” Lake Macquarie Game Fishing Club president Garry Russell said, taking a break from preparations this week.

”We’re looking at 60 or 70 boats competing and over 150 anglers, with lots of cash and prizes on offer for the tournament proper and two bonus events for largest marlin over 200kg and largest shark over 1000lbs.

“We’ve got boats coming up from Botany Bay, and down from Port Macquarie, plus all the local competitors from Newcastle and Port Stephens game fishing clubs flying their colours.

“A lof of boatswill hang around and compete in the Shootout, Interclub and the Bluewater Classic coming up over the next month or so.”

There will be a few new features at this year’s event, including new certified scales and a representative on hand from Fisheries to do research for some university studies.

“We found it hard getting parts for the old scales so we’ve installed new ones this year,” Garry said.

“And DPI researcher Dr Nick Otway will be on handdoing samples on sharks for some university studies and adjudicating on captures.”

Competitors will gather at Belmont Yacht Club on Friday at 7pm for the briefing.

Competition starts Saturdays morning at 6am with the official cut-off each day 5.10pm.

“Saturday night we’ll be holding a spit with plenty of raffles at the yacht club,” Garry said.

“Thefeature meat raffles will be for two half beasts, coming via the good people at Teralba butchery, where two lucky winners will take half a beast each. The raffles are open to all with tickets on sale at the weigh station.”

Although the official cut-off for fishing each day is 5.10pm, members of the public are invited to get down to the weigh station from 4pm to see what’s going on.

“We’ll be processing tag and release cards and some people might come in early if they’ve had any luck.

“As well as that, we’ll be Running updates on Channel 80 and 94, our normal skeds. We’ll also have a progressive scoreboard being updated at the yacht club on Saturday night.”

The official presentation night will be held the following Friday at Swansea RSL

Garry was elected president last September and hiswife Toni is the new secretary.

Gary has been involved with LMGFC since mid 90s and has had his own boat for the last 12 years –Camelot, a 28ft Bertram.

As president, Garry won’t fish the tournament.

“I’ll be down at the weigh station in my capacity as the official tournament weigh master,” he said.

“Neil Grieves is the club’s official weigh master, but he will be busy running the radios, as he does each year.”

A lot of new sponsors have comeon board this year and Garry is keen to work in with them.

“We’ve got a lot of good prizes on offer for small fry and juniors in tag and release and capture -rods, stand up fight gear etc,’’ he said. “Onelucky lady angler will wina pink Penn reel and gear from Tackleworld.

“And the team from Sydney charter boat Lady Audrey are offering a full day charter for one lucky tag and release angler in the tournament, who will go into the barrell for the draw.”

Weather conditions are looking very good for the Saturday and not too bad on Sunday.

“We’ll probably get a bit of a nor-easterly blowing Sunday, but Saturday it will be possibly glassing out and hot,” Garry said.

“We’ve gone out of our way to schedule the tournament this weekend rather than last because we’ll get a mid-tide in the morning and the afternoon, which will assist the bigger boats heading out and coming in over the bar.”

Fishing reports have been promising over the last couple of weeks, with a couple of tiger and mako sharks pushing the 300kg mark, and the odd marlin upwards of 150kg tagged.

”The emphasis is on tag and release and there’sbeen a bit of action lately,” Garry said. “We’ve got warm water out wide and lots of bait. Recent reports from Harrington have seen marlin active in close, so that suggests they’re on their way down. Fingers crossed for the weekend.”

Local effortsWill Hiles, 12, landed an 86cm jew fishing the lake with uncle Deano last Sunday.

David Varley got a 46cm bream in the southern end of Lake Macquarie midweek.

Jack Pepper got a PB 86cm flathead fishing up near Foster.

Denman dynamos Angus Higgins and Jayden Blanch had a hot night fishing on Lake Macquarie last Friday.

Jayden landed a PB 96cm flathead and a maiden 72cm jewie. Angus also got a nice 83cm jew.

Nicholas Henderson hooked an 82cm mullowayon Friday night.

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Plans for Hunter Grange at East Maitland to go before Maitland City Council

Paul Unicomb at the site in March, 2016. Picture: Simone De PeakA proposed 450-lot seniors’village for East Maitland is a step closer to reality, after the NSW Department ofPlanning gave its consent for the major development to go ahead.
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The state authority issued a planning certificate for the $160 million projectdubbed Hunter Grange, which will be built on about 40 hectares nearMount Vincent Road.

Developer Paul Unicomb said his organisation, which has almostcompleted major work on Walka Grange atRutherford, was preparing a development application to submit to Maitland City Council for the first 134 units nearWilton Drive.

He said he hoped to submit the DA “within the next couple of weeks” and ground would be broken as soon as he received council approval.

“Our intention is, to take all our earth moving machinery [from Walka Grange] over to the site at Wilton Drive and getmotivated to start,” Mr Unicomb said.

“We’ve got 125 expressions of interest. We feel as though the site is in a commanding spot there.

“It’s an area where people want to be –we are straight out the door and not far from the new freeway [Hunter Expressway], not far from Green Hills so we’re really excited.

“With the success we’ve had with Walka Grange, we intend to continue that with Hunter Grange.”

Mr Unicomb said the first stage would involve developing the lower part of the site, which did not have any trees or other complicating factors.

“[The application] did take a bit of time and there were various issues that were addressed but we didn’t seem to have any great obstacles,” he said.

Mr Unicomb told Fairfax Media last year that he expected the project would create 150 jobs during construction and 30 ongoing roles once it was complete.

At the time, he described Hunter Grange as “a super senior’s living village” that would include club houses, independent living quarters and a nursing home facility.

Related content:

450 aged care units for Maitland

First stage of Walka Grange almost sold

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House of the weekMurrays BeachPhotos

House of the week | Murrays Beach | Photos TweetFacebook House of the week | Murrays Beach A relaxed vibe finds a perfect home in this beach beauty. Photos: Kirsten Woodforth +14A relaxed vibe finds a perfect home in this beach beauty. Photos: Kirsten Woodforth facebookSHAREtwitterTWEETemailwhatsappMORE GALLERIES
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1234567891011121314 – When the first lots of land came up at Murrays Beach, seaside-loving locals Holly and Paul Fox seized the opportunity to build a family home.

“We started building back in 2008,” Holly says.

“We were probably about the fifth house, or the fifth lot of people to move in around here.

“I grew up at Blacksmiths and my husband grew up at Belmont and we were always travelling down this way to go to the beach at Catherine Hill Bay.

“We loved the quietness of it down here.

“When the subdivision came up … we bought our block.”

Despite being first-time builders, the couple had a clear idea of what they wanted from their new home.

“We wanted something that was open-plan but had a real beach house sort of feel to it,” Holly says.

On the must-have list was lots of natural light and functional space for the couple’s two children, now aged 10 and 7.

To achieve this, the house is designed with lots of windows to create “beautiful natural light,” Holly says.

An open staircase with a large void fulfils this purpose too.

The home’s ground floor is all living space, which looks on to the yard.

“So we can see the kids, wherever we are, in the yard,” says Holly.

It’s a real plus for the home’s design.

“That’s probably one of the big things for me,” she says.

Much of the family’s time is spent at ground level.

“It’s all downstairs living,” Holly says.

The interior space at the front of the house is used for the children and is set up with their games and toys.

This second living area has access to a double garage.

At the rear is a combined living, dining and kitchen area, which opens up to an entertainment deck out the back.

The entertainer-style kitchen has a breakfast bar that opens to the living, dining and alfresco areas.

Holly loves this part of the house.

“Probably my favourite space would be the back living area and we’ve got big bi-fold sliders that open up to the deck so we’ve got that inside and outside living,” she says.

Upstairs are three bedrooms and two bathrooms (an ensuite and a family bathroom).

As well as the bedrooms and bathrooms, the upstairs area has a study nook.

The spacious master suite (featuring a walk-in wardrobe) has a deck and a leafy outlook.

“Our bedroom is quite big, quite spacious,” Holly says.

“It has a deck that looks into the trees so it’s quite beautiful.”

The couple embraced the bushland surrounds of Murrays Beach creating gardens and adding greenery to their property.

The colours and materials chosen for the house also reflect the natural surrounds and a relaxed waterside feel.

Different tones of grey are used outside, while inside the colour scheme is beige, with timber floors.

The windows are white.

“We just tried to keep everything very neutral,” Holly says.

The exterior materials are a combination of weatherboards and brickwork (finished with a Taubmans Moroka texture coating), while the interior paint colour is Taubmans Foxtail.

The flooring is an engineered, click together material that can be sanded back, rather than hardwood boards.

“It’s one step up from stock standard laminate,” Holly says.

The flooring was sourced from Independent Carpets at Bennetts Green, as was the carpet upstairs.

Having built a beautifully relaxed and functional family home, the Foxes are ready for their next project.

They have sold their Murrays Beach residence.

The new owners, a retired couple, snapped up the property in its first week on the market.

But the Foxes plan to stay local.

“We won’t be moving far,” Holly says.

They hope to find a “fix-er-upper” house in nearby Caves Beach or Swansea, to be closer to public services.

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The NSW scripture in schools debate is not about religion, it’s about child protection

Concerns: NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes “does not have the power to control the contents of SRE under the current provisions of the Education Act”.Blind faith: the trouble with consentDead animal dissection and scriptureSCRIPTURE in public schools is not an issue about religious views or what you believe about the historical accuracy of the Bible, which is where a lot of the argument seems to settle these days given the heavy involvement of evangelical Christian churches.
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The scripture debate is abouta more basic issue than that – child protection.

For more than three years the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has considered how institutions –churches, schools, sporting organisations, welfare providers, government departments, police, the justice system –have responded to child sexual abuse.

What can be said today, without any doubt, is that an institution with responsibility for children that fails to make child protection the top priority, is an institution where children are potentially at risk.

As a principle, child protection includes protecting children from sexual, physical and emotional harm.

What we also know from the royal commission is that institutions need to be crystal clear about lines of responsibility when it comes to the care of children. In too many cases we’ve heard evidence from people unclear about their responsibilities, unaware of rules and regulations,unable to obtain information and ultimately, unresponsive to the risks faced by children in their care.

The operation of scripture in NSW today ticks just about every box on that list, which is why I keep writing about it. What is the point of campaigning for a royal commission when we appear to be deaf, dumb and blind to the fundamental messages it is telling us about keeping children safe?

How many parents know that the scripture material their children are taught is not investigated, vetted or approved by the Department of Education? How many parents know the Minister for Education Rob Stokes “does not have the power to control the contents of Special Religious Education (scripture) under the current provisions of the Education Act”?

Without knowing the above, how can we say parents signing their children’s enrolment forms –and remember these are Department of Education forms giving parents the sense that everything involved is approved/endorsed by the department –have given informed consent?

Why is that an important issue? Because under current arrangements responsibility for what parents have signed their children up for, is up to parents. It is parents’ responsibility to contact the scripture provider to find out what their children will be taught.

The provider –and finding who or what that is, is an exercise in itself –will point you to a website with a curriculum framework. Go to the Youthworks websiteand see its scripturecurriculum framework. Then read Newcastle Herald articles about what isactually taught to children, and decide for yourself whether parents are actually able to make an informed consent.

The duty of care for children in public schools ultimately rests with principals. Butas has become clearthis week, a disturbing number of principals appear unaware that scripture material is not approved or vetted by the department. And that’s ultimately an issue for the department.

Scripture has been in NSW schools for a long time, but the influence of evangelical Christian groups with a strident reliance on long-ago laws to maintain their “right” to have access to children is, as Anglican priest Rod Bower said, “an echo of a bygone era” that needs to be reconsidered.

It will require legislative change. Ultimately this is a test for the NSW Parliament.

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Tanya Plibersek agrees schools funding is a moral issuepoll, video

Funding: Shadow Education Minister Tanya Plibersek with St Mary’s Catholic College, Gateshead students and Shortland MP Pat Conroy. Ms Plibersek says schools funding should be looked at as a moral issue. Picture: Marina Neil.SHADOW education minister Tanya Plibersek says schools funding is a moral issue when seen through children’s eyes, in response to questions about Labor’s controversial support for more than $215 million in overfunding to some of Australia’s richest private schools.
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During a visit to St Mary’s Catholic College at Gateshead on Wednesday, Ms Plibersek said children’s perspective of who is valued and not valued under the current system was “a very good way of looking at it” after years of education funding being a political football.

Although initially saying she did not “think kids are paying much attention” to funding impacts, including the $215 million in overfunding to some schools, Ms Plibersek later said she was sure children were aware of the differences between facilities in schools.

“I’m sure children are awareif they go to a school that’snot got a 50 metreswimming pool and the school next door has a 50 metre swimming pool, I’m sure they are aware of those differences,” she said.

St Mary’s school is one of a number of Shortland schools which shared $11 million in additional federal funding under the Gonski agreement. But Shortland MP Pat Conroy said the electorate would miss out on an additional $33 million because of the government’s failure to commit to the largest allocations under the later stages of Gonski funding.

Hunter region schools will miss out on $140 million. One of St Mary’s Gateshead feeder schools is St Pius Primary School at Windale, which has one of the highest rankings for disadvantage in the state. Maitland-Newcastle Diocese provides significant fee subsidies for both schools.

St Mary’s principal Larry Keating said the Gonski funding had been a huge benefit to students, and was allowing the school to expand to include years 11 and 12. In 2016 the school won the science and engineering challenge national championship, after years of dominating the competition.

Ms Plibersek said the $30 billion in cuts because the Gonski model will miss out on the highest funding years to disadvantaged schools would “hurt schools”.

“The whole purpose of these funding arrangements was to bring all schools up to a minimum, and then provide additional funds to disadvantaged schools,” Ms Plibersek said.

Challenged on Labor’s controversial failure to condemn continued overfunding of $215 million to some of the country’s richest private schools, and whether it undermined attacks on the government over the Gonski funding, Ms Plibersek said Labor was happy to reconsider if the government had a proposal to deal with overfunded schools.

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