TIGHT HEADS: Wanderers find another gem, ref reaches milestone and Tahs welcome returns

RD 12: Hamilton v Singleton, Wanderers v Nelson Bay, Southern Beaches v University, The Waratahs v Lake Macquarie, Merewether Carlton v Maitland.Wanderers coach Viv Paasi will have some selection headaches after the debut of flankerSam Schmidt in the 43-23 win over Singleton on Saturday.
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Schmidt, a coal miner,came to the club this year after moving from Mudgee for work. With Bailey Hefren out with a leg cork, Schmidt was given his chance in the top grade against the cellar-dwellers and delivered a man-of-the-match effort.

“His work rate was really high and everything he’s been taught over the last few months, he was able to bring that to the table in first grade,” Paasi said.“It felt like he’d been there for a while.”

He said Schmidt would get another chance but Hefren had also been in top form.

“He’s definitely earned his jersey for this weekend and that’s where we are at at the moment,” Paasi said of Schmidt.“We’ve got a lot of guys coming back from injury and whatnot and there’s a lot of really good competition for a jumper from one to 15, so it’s exciting times.”

** Rob D’Elboux will join an exclusive group when he referees the Merewether-Maitland match at Townson Oval on Saturday.

D’Elboux willbecome the seventh referee to control 150 Premier 1 games. He officiated his first in2006 and has gone on to Country level.

** Waratahs coach Carl Manu welcomes back prop TalanoaTaufaao and winger Chase Hicks from suspension for the crunch match with Lake Macquarie on Saturday.

Both missed the 25-all draw with Merewether last week and their return will soften the blow of losingDylan Heins (back) and fullback Pat Ingall (concussion). Fly-half Dane Sherratt passed a concussion test.

Former RDA Hunter and Newcastle Permanent chairman Michael Slater dies

Michael Slater.THE Hunter’s business community is in mourning after the shock passing of Michael Slater.
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Mr Slater, a married father of two sons, is understood to have died on Tuesday morning after a short illness.

He had recently stepped down from his roles as chairman of the Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation and Regional Development Hunter.

Newcastle Permanent chief executive officer Terry Millett said his staff were“devastated”.

“Mike was Novocastrian to his bootstraps,” Mr Millett said.

“He was so proud of the community and wanted so much to make a contribution.

“He was a person who cared –a lot –and was very hard working and diligent.

“He could be stubborn and hard to move on some things, but you knew his heart was in a great spot.

“Mike was also a great dad, heused to talk to me about his family and how much he cared about them.”

Mr Slater, 71, was the longest servingchairman ofNewcastle Permanent Building Society, a role he held foralmost 10 yearsuntil he stepped down in October 2016.

He was also involved with theNewcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation from its inception to March 2017.

He was still on the board of directors for both the building society and the foundation when he died.

“Mike’s been part of the organisation as a director for more than 15 years and made an incrediblecontribution, so we are devastated,” Mr Millett said.

“When he came to the organisation it was less than one third of its current size, now it’s an $11 billion organisation. We would not have beenin the position to achieve what we achieved without Mike.

“He’s going to be missed for his wisdom, good humour and wise counsel.

“We’re now thinking ‘Wow, we’re not going to have Mike’.

“The grieving process will be intense and long. He was so well loved.”

Mr Millett said he last saw Mr Slater in May and understood his illness had been “quick and severe”.

“The fact he pushed on and was still an active board member tells you about commitment of the guy.”

Newcastle Permanent chair Jeff Eather said he admired Mr Slater’s “knowledge, passion and tenacity in the boardroom as well as when carrying out his many other roles in community organisations”.

“Mike demonstrated an unsurpassed passion for continuous improvement, robust governance and corporate philanthropy,” Mr Eather said.

“His stewardship of the Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation over the past 10 years further demonstrated his passion for supporting the community and his commitment to making a significant difference to less fortunate people in our community as he helped the foundation to become what we believe is the largest of its kind in regional .

“Mike’s contribution to Newcastle Permanent can’t be overstated, and we know his loss will come as a heavy loss to the Hunter and broader NSW business and not-for-profit communities.”

Mr Slater told the Herald last yearbusiness leaders should not fail to take on a challenge.

“I believe all business leaders, whether they operate a small enterprise or govern a large organisation, have an obligation to represent the interests of the community and give back to it in any capacity they can,” Mr Slater said.

RDA Hunter acting chair John Turner said Mr Slater had been the organisation’s “driving force” throughout his tenure, fromJanuary 2015 to April 2017.

“His vision was very good for RDA because he knew the Hunter so well,” Mr Turner said.

“The implication was he would be the first invited to anything going, because he knew how the Hunter was ticking. He could pinpoint areas where we could be looking to put our attention to.

“Where his leadership came in was in relation to programs like the STEM program, which was looking at developing technology based businesses for employment purposes, and the ME program for getting young kids involved.”

Mr Turner said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull invited Mr Slater to launch the STEM program in Parliament House “as an example of what he would like to see with STEM programs rolled out across ”.

“Without his drive we would not have achieved the runs on board we got for those programs,” Mr Turner said.

“He will be remembered as a leader within the Hunter community.

“He influenced many spheres and organisations and was respected by allof the bodies he touched.

“He was developing RDA Hunter into one of the leading RDAs in .”

Mr Turner saidMr Slater was “very friendly, gregarious and the proverbiallife of the party”.

He said he last saw Mr Slater about three months ago, when they discussed the job handover.

Mr Turner said Mr Slater was planning to travel to Europe.

“He was frail but in good spirits and looking forward to the trip,” he said.

“We’re all shocked to hear of his passing –he’llcertainly be missed in Newcastle, there’s no question of that.”

Hunter Business Chamber CEO Bob Hawes expressed the chamber’s sympathies to Mr Slater’s family, friends and colleagues.

“He made a significant contribution to the region over a long period of time,” Mr Slater said.

“I personally met Michael back in the 80’s and he was a very impressive man then who kept on growing and kept on giving.

“It is always a tragedy when we lose a significant business person such as Michael who gave a significant contribution to this region.”

Mr Slater, an accountant, graduated from the University of Newcastle with a Bachelor Of Commerce in 1972 and Master Of Business Administration in 1985.

Mr Slater was named last yearas the Hunter Business Chamber’sBusiness Leader of the Year.

He also took home the NSW Business Chamber’s Business Leader of the Year 2016.

Mr Slater was a member of Surf Life Saving for 50 years and a patron of the Hunter, North Coast and Mid North Coast branches.

He was also on the Westpac Rescue Helicopter board of directors for more than 19 years.

Government pays $262 million to buy half Watermark exploration licence as coal plans firm

SHENHUA has taken a massive step forward in its plans for the Watermark coal project at Breeza, on the Liverpool Plains.
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NSW Government announced this morning it had reached a deal with the Chinese miner to excise half of the area covered by Shenhua’s exploration licence, reclaiming high value cropping country, includingblack soil floodplains.

Despite the move to protect farmland, it willstir fears the remaining tenement will be extended into an underground mine.

Map shows Shenhua’s reduced exploration area.

In return Shenhua gets a $262 million refund from the original $300m exploration fee paid to government by the company in 2008.

Shenhua has previously received development approval for the Watermark mine, but the project has languished for years

Shenhua still requires Commonwealth approval of management plans for water, biodiversity and environment.

NSW must also issue a mining licence, which is largely a legal formality now development consent has been granted.

Excising the strategic agricultural leaves in play the area planned for Watermark’s westernmost of three open-cut coal pits, which have been approved under the planning process to remain an open void when mining stops.

Shenhua may be able to tap about just one third of the coal resource available under the initial exploration area.A large amount of coal left in the project boundary is too deep for open cut mining.

Earlier this year, speculating on a potential licence excise, local farmer Andrew Pursehouse said Shenhua would have a “backdoor” to pursue an underground mine.

“Reducing Shenhua’s footprintleaves potential for an extensioninto anunderground longwall mine,” Mr Pursehouse said at the time.

Last year, NSW bought back BHP’s exploration licence for the Caroona coal mine for $220m.

Caroona was planned as an underground operation underneath black soil plains, and then premier Mike Baird said potential damage to valuable farmland justified the buyback.

Said the exploration licence buyback will not protect the unique water resource that makes the region unique among farmland, and able to produce two crops a year.

Chairwoman of the Caroona Coal Action Group Susan Lyle said the exploration area buyback does not remove the risks that the mine poses to farmland and the underlying water table.

“It makes no difference to the effect the mine will have on the surrounding agricultural area. There will still be a mine in the middle of the Liverpool Plains. This hasn’t protected the water,” she said.

“The mine, even in the remaining area, will dig below the aquifer, it could even puncture the aquifer.

“NSW Resources Minister Don Harwin said mining would now be restricted to ridge lands.”

Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Water, Niall Blair, said future mining operations must abide by strict water management conditions Shenhua’s plans have been “exhaustively assessed” by the NSW Aquifer Interference Policy, and will be subject to continual monitoring.

“Today’s agreement unlocks prime agricultural land for farming, helping to maintain the region’s reputation as one of the great food bowls of .”

Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson said the agreement strikes “the right balance” between farming and creating up to 600 new jobs and investment in the region.

Mrs Lyle said government consultation had fallen short.

“We’ve been kept out of the loop almost forever,” she said.

“We have written to the Premier and minister, but we’ve only heard that government is negotiating to excise land. We have not seen a minister or departmental person here.

“To throw it back at us like, here’s the decision and here’s a map, if nothing more it’s bad manners.

“Seeing we’re the ones who will be affected it would’ve been good if government had at least told us ‘this is what we’re considering’”.

Shenhua major approval document, the Environmental Impact Statement has been approved by government. It says the mine will no damage farmland.

Shenhua has missed several key deadline on its development approval process, which has been held up by state and federal assessments and community opposition.

Shenhua’s exploration licence, set by the NSW Labor Mining Minister Ian Macdonald, expired in March this year. The eight year deadline to start development has also long expired

Shenhua iseight months overdue with water and biodiversity management plans that are required by federal government for assessment by its independent expert science panel.

The companyhas been contacted for comment.

FarmOnline

State of Origin 2017: Remembering the last NSW win over Queensland

The last time the Blues won | PHOTOS Jarryd Hayne on the fly. Pic: Getty Images
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A “balletic” Billy Slater. Pic: Getty Images

NSW fullback Jarryd Hayne grits his teeth. Pic: Getty Images

NSW Blue Greg Bird gets the leg drive into overdrive. Pic: Getty Images

Three, almost, on one at Suncorp Stadium during Origin III. Pic: Getty Images

Billy Slater holds on tight to the ball as NSW Blue Ryan Hoffman is sandwiched. Pic: Getty Images

Queensland skipper Cameron Smith scores. Pic: Getty Images

Cer-unch. Pic: Getty Images

Greg Inglis spots a familiar face in the crowd after Cameron Smith’s try. Pic: Getty Images

Daly Cherry-Evans chips ahead. Pic: Getty Images

The wrestling continues over the line at Suncorp Stadium. Pic: Getty Images

Greg Inglis attracts some attention from the NSW defenders near the stripe. Pic: Getty Images

The Maroons huddle up after skipper Cameron Smith’s try. Pic: Getty Images

Queenslander Justin Hodges does his best to shrug off NSW defenders. Pic: Getty Images

Paul Gallen stops referee Ben Cummins to ask a question in 2014’s third State of Origin match. Pic: Getty Images

Maroon Billy Slater has his sights set on scoring at Suncorp Stadium in the third State of Origin clash of 2014. Pic: Getty Images

Queensland players celebrate one of their five tries in the third State of Origin clash of 2014. Pic: Getty Images

Legs a-go-go. The NSW defence swarms. Pic: Getty Images

Aaron Woods celebrates with his Blues teammates after Josh Dugan’s try. Pic: Getty Images

The Maroons celebrate Aidan Guerra’s four-pointer. Pic: Getty Images

Dave Taylor feels the love as the Blues defence closes in. Pic: Getty Images

Beau Scott takes on the Queensland defence during game three of the 2014 State of Origin series. Pic: Getty Images

NSW Blues skipper Paul Gallen holds the State of Origin Shield aloft at Suncorp Stadium.

The State of Origin-winning NSW Blues camp. Pic: Getty Images

The Queenslanders celebrate a strong win in game three at Brisbane. Pic: Getty Images

Darius Boyd celebrates scoring a try with Queensland team mates Greg Inglis and Billy Slater. Pic: Getty Images

Darius Boyd celebrates his try. Pic: Getty Images

Darius Boyd evades Jarryd Haynes’ clutches to score. Pic: Getty Images

Queenslander? Pic: Getty Images

Nate Myles is put on his back. Pic: Getty Images

NSW skipper Paul Gallen knows one way – forward. Pic: Getty Images

Excuse me, says Billy Slater as he leaves Josh Dugan on his hands and knees. Pic: Getty Images

Greg Inglis motors upfield. Pic: Getty Images

Greg Inglis of the Maroons palms off Josh Reynolds. Pic: Getty Images

Josh Dugan celebrates scoring the Blues try with a quick pogo dance. Pic: Getty Images

TweetFacebookThere would be no “bluewash” or fairytale finish to the 2014 State of Origin series as Queensland gatecrashed the NSW party.

But the title still came south as the Blues held the shieldfor the first time in eight years, a feat they hope to repeat at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night.

Do you remember how the 2014 series win felt? Here’s a reminder.

Maitland Pickers miss out on playing final three home games on No.1 Sportsground

A request from Maitland Rugby League for the Pickers to play their last three home games on the new No1. Sportsground has been knocked back by Maitland City Council.
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The Pickers have been playing home games at Coronation Oval,Telarah throughout the season while their home base underwent a major refurbishment.

With therecent unveiling of the new $8.6 millioncomplex, the club thought playersmay be able to finish the season on a high note and playon new turf.

Unfortunately the request was denied at a Maitland City Council meeting on Tuesday night, a decision that has upset not only players but also president Frank Lawler.

Mr Lawler said the move to Coronation Oval has hurt the club financially resulting ina 30 per cent drop in game day takings.

“I reckon we’ve lost about $30,000 so far this year,” Mr Lawler said.

“It’s a bit of an honesty system at Coronation with someone manning the gate but it’s easy enough for people to access the ground from South Street cemetery or the area near the railway line,” he said.

“They drive their cars up to the fence line, bring their own beers and watch the game. How are we supposed to police that,” he said.

A report to this week’s council meeting by council’s Infrastructure and Works Manager Chris James said the playing surface at No.1 Sportsground required further preparation works.

Mr James said this was to ensure the maximum benefit is realised during the critical spring regrowth period. It is recommended that the ground is not used until next year.

“Although the playing surface appears complete it still requires a program of work to ensure its viability for the long term,” Mr James said.

“Council is in the process of finalising operational procedures for the facility and establishing the playing surface and grassed spectator areas,” he said.

The new turf at No.1 Sportsground has had limited time to establish as it was laid at the end of the growing season.

“The period between nowand spring is needed to undertake surface preparation works to ensure the maximum benefit is realised during the critical spring regrowth period.

“The work put in at this time will have a significant impact on the quality of the surface for the 2018 winter season,” Mr James said.

The works include:

. Installation of sand drains which should only be undertaken with an established turf cover. The drains are programmed to be installed in August/September followed by two top dressings of the field.

. A program of weed control, slow release fertiliser, pesticide and root development improvements over the next six months.