A precious little earner

Peter Jackson’s Tolkien franchise generates millions of dollars for New Zealand’s tourism industry, writes Garry Maddox.
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Having seen how The Lord of the Rings movies attracted tourists from around the world, New Zealand is expecting Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy to inspire another boom.

From 1999 to 2004, the Oscar-winning filmmaker’s first journey to Middle-earth contributed to a 47 per cent jump in spending by international visitors to $5.7 billion a year.

And though just 6 per cent of all visitors cited The Lord of the Rings as one of the reasons for their trip, that would still be a significant boost for a country attracting 2.6 million visitors a year if it happened again.

“If we grew our tourism numbers by 6 per cent, that would be worth between $NZ400 million [$320 million] and $NZ500 million a year,” says the chief executive of Tourism New Zealand, Kevin Bowler.

The tourism authorities say the single most significant reason tourists cite for visiting New Zealand – outside the Rugby World Cup, at least – is the landscape.

“The films really help in that regard because they beautifully showcase that landscape,” Bowler says. “The level of integration of New Zealand and the films through the marketing that we do, Air New Zealand does and others do has really got that connection quite strong now.”

Bowler says The Lord of the Rings movies sparked visits by hard-core fans, who knew lines from the films, where particular scenes were shot and who wanted to have their photo taken at filming locations around the country. These were the kind of fans who flocked to Wellington in costume for the world premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in November.

Less-rabid fans are interested in seeing filming locations as part of a broader experience of the country’s landscapes. “What a lot of the operators have done really cleverly, particularly around Queenstown, is they’ve said ‘we’ll take you into the back country, we’ll show you gold-panning, we’ll take you in a four-wheel-drive and we’ll show you some locations from the films’,” Bowler says.

After the release of An Unexpected Journey, The Lord of the Rings tours around Wellington and Queenstown are likely to be popular as they no doubt expand to include Hobbit filming locations. The next two film instalments are due for release on Boxing Day in 2013, then July 2014.

Also expected to appeal to tourists is the improved hobbit village where Bilbo and Frodo live in Middle-earth, on a sheep and cattle farm at Matamata, 175 kilometres from Auckland.

After the location was used for The Lord of the Rings, the sets were dismantled. But the Alexander family turned the site into a tourist attraction, with tiny plywood and styrofoam hobbit homes, that attracted more than 260,000 visitors in a decade. When Jackson wanted to use the farm again for the Hobbit movies, the family had one condition: it had to be rebuilt as a permanent village. So the knighted filmmaker and the Alexanders formed a joint venture to rebuild Hobbiton.

As well as 44 permanent hobbit holes complete with gardens, orchards, smoking fireplaces and washing lines dangling hobbit clothes, the filmmakers have built a replica of the Green Dragon Inn, which serves hobbit beer and cider.

Follow Traveller at twitter上海夜网m/FairfaxTravel.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Molik sees bright future after jumping into captain’s hot seat

ALICIA MOLIK will succeed her former coach David Taylor as Australia’s Fed Cup captain, with one of the three unsuccessful candidates, Todd Woodbridge, appointed to a mentoring role. Nicole Bradtke will remain as coach.
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The popular Molik, 31, was unbeaten in doubles and compiled a 12-15 win-loss record in singles over 22 ties from 1999. Now forging a media career, she is a two-time grand slam doubles champion and Athens Olympic singles bronze medallist, whose opening Fed Cup assignment will be both difficult and immediate, for the opening world group tie will be played against reigning champions the Czech Republic in Ostrava in three weeks.

”Dave has left big shoes to fill and I am really inspired by the challenge. It is an exciting time in Australian tennis and we have the talent in this team to produce some great results,” Molik said. ”Of course we go in underdogs [against the Czechs], but undaunted. These girls showed against Germany in Germany last year that they are capable of playing wonderful tennis and winning ties that no one expects them to win.”

The other applicants were Rennae Stubbs and Nicole Pratt, with Stubbs – the most capped player in Fed Cup history – another to have broad support. Woodbridge, Tennis Australia’s head of professional tennis, will also travel with the team. ”Alicia has a wealth of experience at the top level and in Fed Cup and will be a great leader for this team,” he said. ”Alicia’s strong and recent involvement with the tour and Fed Cup give her a great perspective for the captaincy and her personality and leadership style will be an asset for the team.”

Meanwhile, former Davis Cup captain John Newcombe admits to the odd flashback to his chilly relations with Mark Philippoussis as incumbent Pat Rafter deals with the challenge that is Bernard Tomic.

”It’s a little bit similar,” Newcombe said on Friday when asked about the parallels with the Philippoussis and Tomic situations. ”Probably in some degrees it’s the same, so Pat had a look at it as part of the team [when he was a player], and now he’s getting it on the other side.

”It’s never easy on the other side, but I’ve obviously been talking to Pat through this and Pat feels that unless he can build a strong culture, he’s wasting his time. And it’s good to see everybody supporting him, because if he feels the culture isn’t right at the top, what chance has he got of creating the culture amongst the young ones?”

While backing Rafter’s firm handling of a situation that has been criticised by the likes of Paul McNamee, Newcombe said it was in Tomic’s best interests to heal his rift with Rafter, who overlooked the world No.43 for next month’s Davis Cup tie for attitude reasons. Tomic responded by declaring himself unavailable for the April fixture.

”He’s only 20 years of age,” Newcombe said. ”I think it’s very important for his future that he patches things up with Pat and that he becomes a part of the team atmosphere. If he embraces that and continues the way he’s going, he’s going to make a heck of a lot more money out of endorsements in the future.”

Tomic has been the shining light in a grim summer for the host nation, with the fact that only Tomic, Sam Stosur and James Duckworth reached the Open’s second round constituting the worst Australian result in the open era. ”I think in many ways this is taking a long time to regroup and rebuild, and it just shows you that the first half of the last decade how things weren’t right,” Newcombe said.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Greens push to ban drug company perks for doctors

DRUG companies will no longer be able to pay for doctors to travel to conferences under new laws proposed by the Greens to get rid of a multimillion-dollar gravy train believed to be contaminating medical practice.
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As concern mounts about the influence of drug and medical device companies’ largesse on doctors, Greens health spokesman Richard Di Natale said he would introduce a bill to the Senate to clean up the pharmaceutical sector’s interaction with health professionals.

The bill would ban payments for doctors to travel or attend education seminars and conferences domestically and overseas, as well as the sponsorship of educational meetings intended for Australian doctors overseas. It will also ban gifts and promotional items and require companies to report the names of health professionals and the fees they are receiving for services such as speeches or consulting.

In Australia, drug companies are spending about $65 million a year on hosting doctors at more than 35,000 educational events and some believe it is polluting medical practice with commercial interests.

”The public expect that when they are seeing a healthcare professional, they are getting advice based on the best evidence available and not on whether their doctor has been flown business class to a golf resort to provide particular information about a product,” said Senator Di Natale who has previously worked as a medical practitioner.

He said the bill would be introduced to the Senate in February so a committee can be created to hear submissions on the matter.

However, chief executive of Medicines Australia Dr Brendan Shaw said the bill was ”jumping the gun” as his organisation was working on greater transparency measures as part of the industry’s code of conduct due to be renewed in two years.

Last year, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission asked the group to improve transparency of payments and sponsorship made by companies to health professionals. A working party has been set up to do this.

President of the Australian Medical Association Dr Steve Hambleton said he wanted to examine the Greens’ proposal before commenting, but said ”engaging with pharmaceutical companies was an important form of education” for doctors who rarely experienced lavish hospitality.

However, several scandals have caused a worldwide push for greater transparency in recent years. Last year, a US government committee found medical device company Medtronic was heavily involved in shaping the content of medical journal articles written by doctors who were paid about $210 million over 15 years in fees, royalties and other payments. Critics say this influenced information being given to doctors about its product. Medtronic has disputed this.

In Australia, a former drug company representative last year spoke out about doctors receiving thousands of dollars in speakers’ fees and first class travel to attend conferences. On Tuesday, Fairfax Media reported a Geelong doctor had ”blown the whistle” on Pfizer flying one of his colleagues and his family business class to a conference in New York. The whistleblower believed this was influencing prescribing at Geelong Hospital and putting patients at risk.

However, the hospital’s medical director, Professor Tom Callaly, rejected this as a ”smear campaign” and said an investigation had found no evidence of unsafe prescription of drugs.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Grave concerns for sailor adrift on a life raft south of Tasmania as rescue described as a ‘very big if’

A lone French yachtsman adrift in a life raft south of Tasmania is facing 7 metre swells and winds of up to 75 kilometres an hour in a rescue described as a “very big if” by the captain of the vessel tasked to save him.
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A 63-year-old French national, Alain Deloard, an accomplished French sailor with 17 trans-Atlantic voyages under his belt, abandoned his fibreglass yacht after activating an emergency beacon on Friday.

“A plane has been able to pick up a signal from the sailor and he appears to be in a life raft, so there are grave concerns for his safety,” said Joel Katz, CEO of Sydney-based Orion Expeditions, whose flagship vessel MV Orion is scheduled to rendezvous with the life raft at 6:00pm tomorrow.

The Orion, the only vessel responding to the distress call it received on Friday, was 11 days into an 18-day Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic tour when it was asked to divert to the rescue. It is equipped with 10 Zodiacs and highly experienced crew perfectly suited to mount a recovery effort in heavy seas.

“It is going to be tough,” says Orion expedition leader Don McIntrye. “The forecast is for 30 knot winds gusting to 40 knots and the seas will probably be around 7 metres. He has to hang on until tomorrow night and that will be really challenging as his life raft could capsize at any time.

“His biggest threat won’t be sharks but the physical damage from the waves and hypothermia from the cold. Hopefully he will be wearing a survival suit. The French have a very good understanding of the need for survival suits. It’ll really improve his chances of survival.”

But Orion’s Captain Mike Taylor said finding the yachtsman could also be a challenge: “Now that it’s become apparent he is in a life raft and not in a boat, it has become more problematic because a life raft is harder to see. It’s a very big ocean out there.”

“Providing we can locate him – and that’s a very big ‘if’ – the plan is to put the ship as close to the raft as we can and launch a Zodiac,” Taylor said. “The Zodiac is about the same height as a raft, so it’s a simple case of tethering the two together and pulling him into the Zodiac. That’s it in a nutshell.”

“It must have been a hell of a job to launch the raft in the kind of conditions he faced earlier on. So my assumption is he is going to be in a traumatised state.”

Taylor has experience in maritime searches – he was on the ship that recovered the kayak of Australian adventurer Andrew McAuley who disappeared, presumed drowned, 35 miles off the coast of the South Island of New Zealand during an attempt to kayak solo across the Tasman Sea in February 2007.

The moment the yachtsman is brought onboard, he will be attended by Orion’s chief medical officer Dr Chris Bulstrode, an emeritus professor in trauma at Oxford University with extensive work experience in Haiti, Gaza and other disaster zones.

“The first thing I will want to know is if he is conscious,” Bulstrode said. “If he is, I will have very little to worry about other than warming him, giving him fluids and sorting out any injuries he’s got. It’ll be very straightforward.”

Bulstrode said a regular passenger would almost certainly perish under such conditions, but in this case the chances of survival are high.

“He seems to be a very experienced sailor and they are tough buggers, so I would put his chances of survival way higher than most, perhaps as high as 75 percent,” he said. “With all his experience, he must have experienced some similar kind of disaster in the past.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

General Electric bullish on 2013

US industrial giant General Electric has closed out 2012 with a better-than-expected quarter and offered a bullish outlook for 2013.
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The US conglomerate said fourth-quarter operating earnings, the number most closely watched by analysts, came in at 44 US cents per share, one cent above the 43 cents forecast by analysts.

Net income, which includes non-operating pension costs, came in at 38 cents per share.

General Electric, which builds power generation equipment, wind turbines and other industrial products, said all of the sub-units of General Electric’s industrial division showed year-on-year gains, with double-digit percentage increases in oil and gas, energy management, aviation and transportation.

GE Capital, the company’s financing unit, posted 9 per cent year-on-year growth, the company said.GE said it repurchased $US2.1 billion ($2.00 billion) in stock during the fourth quarter, and in December raised its quarterly dividend by 12 per cent to 19 US cents per share.

Chief executive Jeffrey Immelt gave a bullish outlook for 2013, pledging double-digit industrial earnings growth and promising to return ‘‘substantial cash’’ to investors.

Immelt at one point even seemed to suggest the company could undertake acquisitions, noting that it would have a ‘‘tonne of cash’’ over the next three years.In December, Immelt spoke of an ‘‘investment pause’’ in some sectors, partly linked to the protracted Washington DC policy debate on the fiscal cliff.

Analysts during a conference call observed that GE’s new orders in the fourth quarter appeared to be somewhat more robust than implied by the company.Immelt acknowledged that the end of the company’s quarter came in ‘‘very strong’’ with orders ‘‘probably above what our expectations were’’.

Immelt also said the end of 2012 saw orders from China strengthen again, adding that ‘‘we believe the China momentum will likely continue into 2013’’.Strong sectors in China included the company’s power and water, health care and aviation divisions.

A note from Deutsche Bank characterised the quality of GE’s results on Friday as ‘‘better than expected’’. A Bank of America note predicted that GE’s quarter ‘‘should give the Street reassurance that it is on track to hit its growth target’’.

GE shares closed on Friday at $US22.04, up 3.5 per cent.

AFP

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Morgan Stanley bet on wealth management pays off

Morgan Stanley chief executive James Gorman said the bank has turned itself around and can meet its goals for profitability, his boldest pronouncement yet about the near-term potential for a company that has long lagged its peers.
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The investment bank and wealth manager on Friday posted fourth-quarter earnings that beat analysts’ average estimate by a wide margin, helped by a big jump in trading revenue and stronger performance in its wealth management group.

Morgan Stanley’s fixed-income trading business performed worse than its rivals, and its overall return on equity, a measure of how efficiently the bank wrings profit from shareholder money, was less than half that of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. But Gorman told investors the bank was “working aggressively” to improve its return on equity.

In current market conditions, the bank’s return on equity can reach 10 per cent, Gorman said on a conference call. Analysts said the figure is the bare minimum that many investors demand, but it is far above Morgan Stanley’s recent performance, and Gorman’s statement marks the first time Morgan Stanley has said it can meet that goal even if business doesn’t pick up.

“After a year of significant challenges, Morgan Stanley has reached a pivot point,” Gorman said in a statement. “Our firm is now poised to reach the returns of which it is capable on behalf of our shareholders.”

Morgan Stanley’s stock climbed as much as 8.2 per cent on Friday, to $US22.46, the highest price since August 2011 and marking the biggest intraday jump since June, before closing at $US22.38.

“I think Morgan Stanley has turned the corner,” said Joe Terril, president of St. Louis-based money manager Terril & Co, which invests in bank stocks. “I believe they’ll gradually improve quarter after quarter – it’s not a one-time event.”

Morgan Stanley said its wealth management division delivered a 17 per cent pretax profit margin in the quarter, exceeding an internal target months ahead of schedule.

The wealth management division is closely watched by investors because Gorman is staking the future of the bank on it, arguing that more stable returns there will help offset volatility from trading and investment banking.

Morgan Stanley is one of several Wall Street banks using layoffs and compensation cuts to help boost its bottom line. The firm paid out 44 per cent of adjusted revenue to employees in its securities and investment banking business last year, down from 53 per cent in 2011, chief financial officer Ruth Porat said in an interview.

Across the entire company, compensation costs fell by $US711 million, or 4 per cent, in 2012 as Morgan Stanley cut nearly 5,000 employees from its payroll.

One senior employee might decide to leave. The Obama administration is considering Porat for a position as Treasury deputy secretary, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters, which could leave Morgan Stanley shuffling the decks in top management. Porat would not comment.

Overall, the bank reported fourth-quarter income from continuing operations of $US573 million, or 28 cents per share, compared with a loss of $US222 million, or 13 cents per share, in the year-ago period, when it took a big one-time charge.

Excluding a charge related to changes in the value of Morgan Stanley’s debt, the bank earned $US894 million, or 45 cents per share. On that basis, analysts’ average forecast was 27 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

In sales and trading, adjusted revenue more than doubled from a year earlier, to $US2 billion from $US867 million. Fixed-income, currency and commodities trading revenue was $US811 million, adjusted for accounting charges, compared with a loss of $US493 million a year earlier.

Glenn Schorr, an analyst at Nomura, said Morgan Stanley’s fixed-income currency and commodities trading business posted an increase of 26 per cent in adjusted revenue, while peers reported an average gain of 43 per cent.

The division suffered because of historically weak revenue in commodities trading, which faced unexpected price movements related to weather and lower prices in its storage business. The unit reported its worst results since 1995, Gorman said on CNBC.

Curbs on banks trading with their own money and the impact of fracking lowering prices for certain commodities have eaten into banks’ profits in commodities, a once-lucrative trading business for Wall Street.

Merger advisory revenue rose 12 per cent to $US454 million, while stock and bond underwriting revenue rose 62 per cent to $US771 million.

Morgan Stanley is the last big US bank to report earnings this week. Rival Goldman Sachs on Wednesday said it cut compensation costs 11 per cent in the fourth quarter, helping boost returns to shareholders.

Reuters

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Woods, McIlroy miss cut in Abu Dhabi

The world’s top two golfers, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, both missed the cut in their first tournament of the season at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship on Friday.
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McIlroy finished well outside the cut line, while playing partner Woods appeared to have squeezed into the weekend before he was hit with a two-stroke penalty for a rules infringement that sunk his challenge.

By the time the dust had settled, England’s Justin Rose was the leader at the halfway stage at eight under par after a 69, with rising Danish star Thorbjorn Olesen (69), Jamie Donaldson of Wales (70) and Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (67) all a further stroke back.

But it was the astonishing double demise of McIlroy and Woods that was the story of the day.

Playing for the first time in competition with his new Nike clubs after signing a mega-money, long-term deal with the US sportswear giant, the 23-year-old McIlroy clearly failed to get the hang of his new sticks.

Starting the day well down the field after an opening 75, McIlroy had three straight pars but that failed to steady his ship and three bogeys in the next four holes sent him spiralling to six over, well outside the projected cut line.

He birdied eight and nine to pick up some hope, but bogeys at the 10th and 14th all but sealed his fate in a tournament where he was runner-up last year with his old Titleist clubs.

Another wild drive into desert scrub at the last summed up his day as he eventually came in with another 75, which left him tied for 99th position and with no hope of making it through to the weekend.

The last cut McIlroy missed was at the US Open in San Francisco last June, which ended a run of three missed cuts in four tournaments.

It was shortly after that that his game suddenly picked up again and he went on to win the USPGA title at Kiawah and the money lists on both sides of the Atlantic.

”I knew it was going to be a tough week with everything going on, but I was just looking forward to getting to the golf course and getting back to what I do and what I am comfortable with,” a clearly frustrated McIlroy said.

”It just didn’t work out like that.”

Playing partner and Nike stablemate Woods also struggled to find his game as he bogeyed four of the first five holes.

But the 37-year-old world No.2 produced a battling back nine with three birdies in a row from the 14th to get back to level par. A bogey after another wild drive at the 17th popped him over par, but he shot regulation on the last to come in with a 73.

That left him at one over for the tournament, with the cut projected at two over. But it was then announced that he had been hit by a two-stroke penalty for a rules infringement in sand at the fifth hole, turning a five into a seven.

That was enough to seal his fate.

”It’s tough because I didn’t get off to a very good start today and I fought and got it back,” he said of the penalty stroke drama.

AFP

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Evolution of a modernist

Robin Boyd said he intended the building to challenge what motel chains stood for.Adaptive reuse is a term architecture has co-opted to describe buildings that were one thing and have been remodelled to have a second life for another function.
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Factories and warehouses converted to residences are the prime examples of recycled structures that often retain and celebrate old bashed up features amid their modern layouts and facilities.

An iconic Queens Road building by the increasingly revered mid-century Melbourne modernist architect, author and teacher Robin Boyd, was an adapted building from the start. And since it opened in 1962 as Melbourne’s first ”motor inn”, swank enough to hostel the Rolling Stones during their first Australian tour in 1965, it has been re-adapted several times. It has been a hotel crossed with a motel, a bank training facility, a college for ambulance officers and, since 2000, a rooming house with accommodation for 67 people who need affordable or supported housing options.

It is 50 years old and its revolutionary-for-the-time sweepingly curved skeleton roof frame has been visually overwhelmed by all the high-rise development that has occurred and is still taking place around it. Yet, apart from the gardens that have grown weedy, this beautifully formed six-level structure made of grey concrete block in an overtly expressed concrete frame, and a Boyd signature of vertically massed ribbon windows, is as fresh and strong a piece of architecture as it was when Boyd first adapted the structural grid of a building initially intended to become serviced apartments.

In the early 1960s, when 35 per cent of Australian households had saved up to buy a family car it made more sense to the developers of the 2024 square metre corner block on Queens Road and Lorne Street and overlooking Albert Park Lake to offer drive-in-drop-off and park underneath traveller accommodation.

Boyd was asked to take on the adaptive design and achieved a remodelling so effective that the building now known as ”the former John Batman Motor Inn” is heritage listed and considered of state significance ”as a rare attempt in the early 1960s to inject a memorable visual image (ie, the spectacular curved roof) on to a building”.

Boyd said he intended the building ”in its own way, to challenge practically everything motel chains stood for”. Explaining the choice of unadorned concrete materiality, he said he had wanted to create a building that was ”highly urbanised” yet at the same time, highly sophisticated. He had ”aimed at higher tastes”.

Under the mantling canopy he set a two-level honeymoon suite. Underneath the whole building he set in an unusual recessed porte cochere, or car drop-off entry point.

Throughout, Boyd chose the carpets and colours and designed much of the furnishings.

In the past decade, Melbourne has gone gaga for mid-century modernist architecture and particularly if properties carry the Boyd imprimatur. Until it ceased operating as a motor inn in the early 1970s, this Boyd was considered the height of cool and, through all the subsequent re-adaptions, has lost none of that cachet. A building that has gathered no ”period” moss stands as quiet justification of the reputation of Robin Boyd (1919-1971) to be considered one of the true greats of Australian architecture.

The former John Batman Motor Inn, 69 Queens Road, Melbourne. Melway 2L B12.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Peterhansel, Despres on verge of Rally win

Stephane Peterhansel will be crowned Dakar Rally champion for an 11th time on Saturday while French compatriot Cyril Despres should wrap up a fifth motorcycling crown on the day’s final stage.
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Defending champion Peterhansel, a four-time auto winner and a six-time victor on two wheels, will tackle Saturday’s short, 128km timed run into Santiago with a 44min 38sec lead over South Africa’s Toyota driver Giniel De Villiers.

On Friday’s penultimate 441km stage from Copiapo – the longest of the two-week, 8,000km event – Peterhansel finished in ninth place.

”We had to get through this stage without any problems, so there was a lot of stress in the car, first when we were crossing the first dunes,” said Peterhansel.

”We didn’t take any risks at all and we only lost a few minutes, but we managed to protect our lead this way. We know how it goes: something could still happen right up until you cross the finishing line.

”Even if it’s a small special, we still have to get it over and done with.”

American NASCAR driver Robby Gordon claimed the stage honours in his Hummer with his 3hr 40min 53sec time good enough for a 22sec advantage over France’s Guerlain Chicherit in an SMG. Chile’s Orlando Terranova, in a BMW, was third.

Despres virtually wrapped up a fifth motorcycling title when he finished second on the stage to open an overall lead of over eight minutes.

The 38-year-old, the champion in 2005, 2007, 2010 and 2012, was 5min 25sec behind Chile’s Francisco Lopez who hasn’t given up hope of catching his rival on home turf.

With KTM teammate, and overnight title rival, Ruben Faria slipping into third in the standings, Despres will go into Saturday’s final dash into the Chilean capital with an 8min 15sec overall lead over Lopez.

”The bike race isn’t just about strategy. It’s also about rally-raid sport: we’ve just rode 440 km and I was feeling good on the first section,” said Despres.

”Afterwards, I saw that I’d got some time back on Francisco and that he wasn’t going to disappear into the distance over 140km. So I thought I had better be careful with the engine.

”Since I ate quite a bit of dust in the morning, I preferred to make sure and take it easy. There were two or three tricky bits of reading to select the right track. As for celebrating, we still have 220km to the bivouac today and with 690km tomorrow, it’s not going to be a walk in the park.”

For Honda rider Lopez, it was a fourth stage win on the 2013 race and 10th of his career.

AFP

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

No Heart stopper this time

WITH Melbourne Heart, it ain’t over till it’s over. John Aloisi’s side has provided its fans with a roller-coaster ride all season, squandering leads when in positions to win matches and losing games in stoppage time when a draw was the least they deserved.
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So even when they were coasting towards a three-point outcome against a disappointing Adelaide at AAMI Park on Friday night, no one in the 7181 strong crowd, least of all the head coach, could be quite sure that they would go on and finish the job.

Memories of last weekend, when they were a goal up with five minutes remaining in Sydney against the bottom-of-the-table side only to lose 2-1, were still too sharp for any complacency.

This time Heart kept its nerve, shape and structure and saw the game out comfortably enough to notch a 2-0 victory.

The win takes it into fifth spot on the table overnight, although it could drop to seventh by the end of the round depending on Perth Glory’s result with Melbourne Victory and how Newcastle fares against the Mariners.

For Adelaide this was an ordinary performance and a poor result. It will remain second on the table whatever happens, but the Mariners could stretch their lead to beyond the current two points if they see off the Jets, while a win in the west would bring Victory snapping at their heels.

Heart got off to just the sort of start needed to settle any nerves, Josip Tadic striking in the fifth minute to provide the impetus for his side to take charge.

In the build up, David Williams, restored to the line up after suspension, played a short corner to Fred, whose cross found the Croatian forward and he converted with his head for his sixth goal of the season.

Heart has scored plenty of early goals this season but has failed to capitalise. Few teams have been as adept as them at surrendering leads and their long-suffering fans have learned from bitter experience not to count their chickens, so despite the glow from such an early goal no one was getting ahead of themselves.

Aloisi had spoken at length during the week about the need for his players to counter their second half fade outs by concentrating more, working harder and maintaining the intensity that has so often put them in such good positions. He also demanded that they show more tactical awareness by working together, talking and advising each other in pressure situations.

His message seemed to have penetrated, especially in a first half where Heart pressed hard to deny the high flying Adelaide time and space on the ball in the forward third and worked effectively to maintain possession themselves, while also putting together some threatening moves.

The skipper, Fred, is so often the talisman for his team. When he plays well, Heart has a tremendous record but when the Brazilian is absent the results are in sync.

He was up for this contest – at least until his dodgy hamstring curtailed his involvement just 10 minutes into the second half – and he worked with his trademark enthusiasm to press and crowd opponents in their own half, sliding in for tackles and seeking to keep the flow moving by playing quick passes, even if at times his final execution was awry.

His presence and that of the effervescent Richard Garcia gave Heart plenty of purpose. Williams, who has looked a lively option all season, was another to pose problems for the opposition on the left flank as Heart spread the ball to the wings.

Adelaide had few chances in a game enlivened by a fascinating contest between the skilful Adelaide winger Iain Ramsay and Heart’s tyro defender Jeremy Walker, determined to make the vacant right back spot his own following Michael Marrone’s move to China last week.

Certainly Aloisi has shown faith in the Tasmanian teenager in recent weeks and it was not misplaced in this game as the youngster broke even with a player who has proved an Adelaide matchwinner in the past.

Still, John Kosmina’s team should have got back on level terms before the interval when Dario Vidosic blasted a clear chance over the bar from close range.

It was a miss that proved even more costly four minutes after the restart when Matt Thompson won the ball in midfield from Adelaide’s Evan Kostopoulos and powered on to the penalty area before rolling a pass to the unmarked Garcia, who calmly stroked the ball past Adelaide goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic.

It was Garcia’s second goal in two games and it effectively killed off an out of sorts Adelaide.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Land of the free

Away from it all … Veronica and John Hutson with their horses on their property.There is a growing band of Sydneysiders who are fed up with the rat race and are after a quieter and more rural life, but want to remain within commuting distance of the city.
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Many of these ”urban refugees” are not looking to do anything with their rural land – just having space around them is enough, some agents say. But there are others who want the full farm experience of keeping animals and growing vegetables, of having to close the gate behind them and strain to hear their neighbours.

These properties are generally less than five hectares, although there are many farms around Sydney that are hundreds of hectares. Despite the city’s growth, which is gobbling up a lot of rural land for urban development, there are still more than 125,000 hectares of open land in Sydney’s metropolitan area, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

In 2010-11, it found there were more than 44,000 cattle and 23,000 sheep on several thousand farms in the metropolitan area. Most of these are on the western edges, an hour or more from the city. But it’s possible to find sheep and horses grazing on land 20 kilometres north of the harbour, in Oxford Falls.

The exodus is being encouraged by improved infrastructure, such as shopping centres, roads and train lines. Camden, on the south-eastern fringe, 65 kilometres from the city centre, is one. The ABS found it had the second-highest population growth of any area in Sydney.

”We’re certainly seeing people moving out looking for that larger plot of land,” says an agent at Ray White Camden, Stuart Davies.

”As the infrastructure continues to develop to support the growth that’s going on out here, you’re likely to see more people choose it as an alternative lifestyle.”

Agents in others areas, such as the Hawkesbury, say new train lines and better roads are not expected to make much difference to travelling times. But despite commute times of about 90 minutes, rural-minded buyers are still coming. Elizabeth and Roy Ansted are one such couple. With their 10-month-old son, Archer, they have just moved from a two-bedroom house in Carlingford, which they sold for $650,000, to a 4.5-hectare property in Kurrajong, which they bought for $775,000.

”We just wanted Archer to have a better life than suburbia can offer,” Elizabeth says.

”We wanted a huge place where he could run around, and where we could be part of a community.” In their old house they could hear the ping of the neighbours’ microwave and the whir of the airconditioners. On the farm they can’t hear anyone. They’ve started an organic garden, and plan to have a ”menagerie” of animals, she says.

Both still work in Sydney – he at Meadowbank and she as a sales rep based in Cammeray – but the extra time spent travelling is worth it, Elizabeth says.

”Once you head over the Hawkesbury River, all your stress and worries just wash away. And we are lucky enough to live there.”

Ron Coleman, from Richardson and Wrench Windsor, says the demand for properties in the area rose in the second half of last year. ”If you’d asked me six months ago how many acreage properties I’d sold, I could probably tell you straight away – one or two,” Coleman says. ”But in the past six months we’ve probably sold six or seven, and that’s unusual – we’re a small office.”

Rural buying Median priceYoY changeKurrajong$845,000+15.2%Dural$1.55m-10.9%Oakville$945,000-10%Arcadia$1.32m+18.9%Bringelly$990,000+1.5%Kenthurst $1,245,000+ 3.1%Breath of fresh air in Kurrajong

John and Veronica Hutson moved to Kurrajong, at the foot of the Blue Mountains, just over 15 years ago in search of the freedom and fresh air they had when they were growing up.

Both had lived on the land in Africa and were keen to have that life again. So with only one of their three children still at home, they decided to leave Denistone, in Sydney’s north, for a more rural existence.

”We always cherished the open air and freedom and were keen to get that lifestyle again,” John says.

They finally found it on a nine-hectare farm, with an 1860s weatherboard farmhouse, workshop, sheds and stables, perched on a hill with fine views from the mountains to the plains.

”Initially we drove past it thinking it would be beyond our financial ability, until a real estate agent suggested we look at it,” John says.

It was in a central spot for John’s work, which was based in Parramatta but took him all over the state. And it had everything they were looking for – large enough for the animals they wanted but without too much upkeep. The couple have horses and chickens and a vegetable patch. But now, with all their children living interstate or overseas, the Hutsons have decided to sell up and move to Queensland to be closer to two of them.

The farm – on 4.5 hectares – is for sale at more than $849,000. The other 4.5-hectare lot is for sale for $595,000, or together at $1.39 million.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Getting the most from the coast

The house was built to maximise the beach views. The original dwelling.
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The new beach house.

Evan Gledhill and his wife, Maree, had a goal – to build a holiday house where they could handle the ebb and flow of visiting family. With five children, their five partners and 10 grandchildren, this would not be cheap. Fortunately, Gledhill, who previously headed a construction company, had a few thoughts on how he could build a solution.

In 2005, the couple, based primarily in the Hunter Valley, started hunting for a coastal block to buy. They looked at every beach between The Entrance in the north down as far as Pearl Beach in the south. What they found was a rundown three-bedroom shack on an elevated block in Wamberal. Price tag: $3,065,000.

”At the time, it was a good price,” Gledhill says. The original property had plumbing issues and was effectively uninhabitable, so the real work was still ahead.Digging in

Gledhill quickly realised renovating was out of the question.

”We looked at renovating but with the poor quality of the foundations and the new rules from council, it just wouldn’t have been worth it,” he says.

So he enlisted Andrew Vingilis of Corben Architects to draw up plans for a four-bedroom house, split between two pavilions, that would do justice to the beachside block.

With plans in hand, Gledhill took over. He wanted to build the house himself with the help of subcontractors but to do that he would have to be close by.

”I actually lived next door,” he says. ”The Catholic Church has an old hostel on the beach and they gave me a room in there for the year.”

As indicated by the cost breakdown, the first part of construction was the most expensive and most important aspect. Construction on a sand dune requires substantial digging in, and you can forget the traditional beach tools of a bucket and spade – Gledhill spent $176,000 driving foundations into the ground with a piledriver.

From then on, things went pretty smoothly for the building veteran, who has more than 30 years of experience under his belt.Sunny days

The end product is called ”Nautica” and it is a fusion of timber and stone that is both elegant and understated.

But as the name suggests, the house is not the star of the show. On an elevated block, the 180-degree ocean views from Forresters Beach to Terrigal Haven will grab your eye long before you notice things such as the designer kitchen, the sandstone fireplace or the 600-bottle cellar.

The finished house has allowed the couple to embrace a new lifestyle involving morning swims, walking their Labrador on the dog-friendly beach, frequenting the cafes of Terrigal and a whole lot of sitting back and looking at the view.

But logistics were also important to the couple, who wanted the house to be enjoyed by the whole family. That is why it is split into two pavilions – you can have two or more families staying in the same house, both in comfort and with a large degree of privacy.Moving on

Having had their time in the sun, the couple have decided to sell Wamberal and head back to the Hunter Valley permanently – though Gledhill is quick to point out that ”it’s not because we don’t like Wamberal; we love Wamberal”.

”Our children have moved to Sweden, Victoria and the Hunter Valley, so we don’t use the space as much,” he says.

The property is now listed for sale for more than $4.5 million through McGrath Central Coast.In a nutshell

Time

Design and council approval: 10 months.

Construction: 12 months.

Land size 816 sq m.

Architect Andrew Vingilis – Corben Architects, 9904 1844.

Builder Owner-builder.

Green pointsDesigned to maximise natural light.Insulation and automatic aluminium louvres.Heat-pump hot-water system with two 3000-litre grey-water tanks servicing the toilets and laundry.A 20,000-litre rainwater tank for hosing and irrigation.Installation of fixed aluminium louvre blades and New Guinea rosewood shutters on the western elevation windows and a large, sail-covered area.

Favourite feature

Evan Gledhill says: ”The 180-degree views up and down the beach, they are beautiful. Also, the main thing for us was being away from the busy area of Terrigal but still within walking distance of the shops and cafes.”

Insider’s tip

Gledhill says: ”Select your architect and builder well. Check that the architect has done similar projects and that the builder has done the quality of work that you are looking for.”

What went right

The build came in on budget.

What went wrong

The market for coastal properties has readjusted since the couple’s purchase in 2005.Costs

Insurances $10,000

Architect $62,000

Civil and structural engineer $38,000

Geotechnical engineer $7000

Preliminaries $123,000

Demolition $11,000

Piling $176,000

Excavation $16,000

Concreter/ formwork/reo $198,000

Brick and blockwork $61,000

Structural steel $30,000

Metalwork $36,000

Automatic louvres $38,000

Mount White stonework $32,000

Carpentry $113,000

Joinery $98,000

Windows and doors $121,000

Door and window hardware $17,000

Roofer $108,000

Cement render $24,000

Plasterboard $92,000

Ceramic tiler $41,000

Glazier $6000

Stairs $15,000

Timber floors $31,000

Carpet $6000

Painter $49,000

Landscaping and water tanks $24,000

Plumbing and drainer $61,000

Airconditioning $46,000

Electrical $65,000

Security $6000

Total $1,761,000

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

A breeze with Chinese money

The Breeze apartment development at Drummoyne is one of many new Chinese investments.China is a key driver of the Australian resources boom, and it’s becoming an increasingly important player in quality apartment development in Sydney.
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Chinese investors are involved in at least eight large projects in the city and suburbs, and indications are we haven’t seen anything yet.

”We’re definitely seeing more and more all the time,” says the chief executive of Urban Taskforce Australia, Chris Johnson. ”There are a lot of people in China who are interested in investing in Australia, and a particular favoured model is to invest in apartments, which they are used to back home.”

Among the new high-profile developments with Chinese interests are the 270-unit The Quay in Haymarket, the 95-unit Jasmine on the Park at Botany, the 15-storey The Castlereagh overlooking Hyde Park, the 12-storey Futra in Mascot, the boutique 11-apartment Breeze in Drummoyne, the 20-townhouse Sovereign at Sylvania and the Gateway at Kingsgrove.

Johnson says there are several reasons for the Chinese investment in Sydney. The Chinese government is slowing construction in that country, Australia is one of only seven countries to hold a AAA rating by credit agency Standard & Poor’s and the Sydney residential market is seen as stable with some growth in the offing.

Easing the visa requirements for foreign investors has helped, and several Australian companies are happy to become involved in joint ventures.

”We will see this more over the next three to five years,” says an Australian architect with PSEC project services, Eric Chan, who often works with Chinese developers. ”The newcomers are developers in China looking to expand their business, enterprise owners in China moving into development in Australia, or investment groups that get together to work on projects.”

But while the projects are Chinese-developed, Chan says, they use Australian builders, usually Australian architects – who have a great reputation after their work on the Beijing Olympics – and often have Australian partners and Australian consultants. Australian banks help them prepare packages, and they may have companies registered in Australia.

The investors are sound financially, Johnson says – either high-net-worth individuals or companies with huge assets. ”After all, China is currently helping to prop up the world,” he says.

Good locations and great quality are usually priorities to build a reputation here. ”Quality is very important,” says the managing director of Lenland, Benny Deng, who is working on The Castlereagh. ”That’s why most of our buyers are local customers.”

Architect Tony Owen, who designed Breeze for Chinese developer QY Group, as well as Sovereign and The Castlereagh, says that’s certainly been his experience.

”They want a good brand name, so they’re ready to really press for the kind of quality local developers might be more hesitant about, worried they might not get their money back,” Owen says. ”With Breeze, for instance, they’re designed with wide frontages right on the harbour, beautiful kitchens and spectacular open bathrooms.”

Agent Craig Moore agrees. ”Breeze has marble floors, timber feature walls, timber louvres and lots of beautiful stone,” he says.

Buyers can always ask for any developer’s capability documents, says Moore, which show previous work and experience. ”Some of these Chinese companies have been developing hundreds, sometimes thousands, of apartments in China, so they’re very specialised.”

Breeze apartments range from 174-301 sq m internally, with external spaces from 20-95 sq m and panoramic views. Prices from $2,464,000 to $3,383,000, breezeliving上海夜网m.au, phone 0409 225 959.City vibe seals it

When Jessica Kim and her husband, Soon Kweon Lee, were looking for an apartment to buy, their focus was on a city location and a quality build. Chinese developer Lenland’s The Castlereagh, due for completion in 2015, satisfied both criteria.

“We were really impressed by the quality of what they’re planning,” says Kim, 37, a quantitative manager at a bank. “There are timber floors and the design is good, and it’s all very well organised.

“We also liked the location. We’ve been living in the north-west suburbs but it’s so far from everything, and this means we’ll be very close to work and everything Sydney has to offer.”

Kim and Lee, 38, a bridge design engineer, have bought a two-bedroom apartment on the 10th floor of The Castlereagh, with views of Hyde Park. Two-bedders in the tower start at $820,000.

Originally from South Korea, the couple say they’re used to apartment living. “Originally we wanted a more famous and well-known developer so we could be sure they were good,” Kim says.

“But we think this developer is really good. We looked at everything closely, and I have good instincts about it.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.