NIBBLES: Beans for true believers

THE SCIENCE OF THE PERFECT BREW: Head barista Robert Greer, retail manager Emma Reid and Adrian Rigon, owner of Peaberrys, conducting a cupping session at Peaberrys Coffee Roasters in Islington. Picture: Simone De PeakWE might all fancy ourselves as coffee experts but now we can take the extra step towards becoming bona fide connoisseurs with Coffee Appreciation sessions at Islington’s Peaberrys Coffee Roasters.
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Peaberrys is hosting cupping sessions for the public. Cupping is common practice among connoisseurs and production circles, but hasn’t often been available to the public.

The process follows a standard recognised worldwide to understand more about coffee, from beans to brewing.

Coffee Appreciation Cupping Sessions are held at Peaberrys Coffee Roasters, 81 Maitland Road, Islington, Thursdays and Saturdays at 11am. Bookings essential, maximum six people per session. Cost is $35 per person and includes a 250-gram bag of your pick of the Peaberrys crop. Visit peaberrys上海后花园m.au or call 4962 5647.

My Kitchen rules first Hunter team Annie and Jason Chesworth

FRESH from a refurbishment, Cooks Hill’s The Hop Factory is back in fine form and ready to celebrate.

It is hosting a free-entry relaunch party on Friday to show off the changes, which include a new front bar. It is being touted as Newcastle’s only Craft Beer & Cheese Bar, offering four taps of imported beers (complementing 16 Aussie taps already on offer) and cheeses from Hunter Belle Cheese. My Kitchen Rules contestants Annie and Jason Chesworth (aka Mr and Mrs Cheese) will be on hand along with brewers from Hunter Beer Co and Murray’s Craft Brewing Co. There will be live music from 6pm.

Visit thehopfactory上海后花园m.au.

Fridge-to-Go Medium

KEEP your kids – or your own – lunches fresh thanks to Fridge-to-Go.

The bags keep lunches fresh and cool for up to eight hours, making healthy so-called “nude food” lunches completely possible and eliminating the need for processed, preserved and over-packaged lunches.

The BPA-free and lead and PVC-safe bag can be wiped clean.

Visit fridge-to-go上海后花园.au.

FOODIES will be delighted with some new additions to The Olive Tree Market on Saturday.

Joining the more than 100 stalls at the market is Dough & Co, with sweet treats.

Punters can also stock the pantry with products from Riverflats Estates, Dingo Honey, The Medicine Tree, Cocoa Nib, Silverskin Coffee Roasters and The Sourdough Baker.

The market is at The Junction Public School on Saturday, 9am to 3pm.

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OPINION: The case for saving regent honeyeaters

RARE: A regent honeyeater. Picture: Dean IngwersenBIRDLIFE Australia would like to clarify some issues in regard to article “Endangered bird could block Coalfields workshop” (Herald 2/6).
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The suggestion that regent honeyeaters are “widespread” is misleading. The regent honeyeater is one of Australia’s most endangered species.

Recent estimates put the population at between 350-400 adult birds.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and NSW government list the regent honeyeater as “critically endangered”, meaning that it is at extremely high risk of extinction in the immediate future.

According to expert assessment the population has declined by more than 80 per cent over the last 20 years. This coincides with the fact that, since European settlement, more than 80 per cent of temperate woodlands have been cleared.

Without detailed knowledge, one might be left with the impression that they are widespread by consulting a range map in a field guide. However, a range map (and supporting text) in a field guide is no basis for rigorous assessment, as these depict a broad area within which the species could potentially occur.

In the case of the regent honeyeater the actual habitat occupied within the species’ range is extremely small – they now only occur regularly in four “core areas”; the dry forests of the Cessnock area being one.

Regent honeyeaters are now extinct in South Australia and are just hanging on in Victoria and Queensland. In fact, Taronga Zoo release captive-bred birds in an attempt to keep the Victorian part of the population viable.

Biannual range-wide counts involving dozens of experienced field ornithologists have been occurring for more than 20 years. In reality, nowadays these “counts” are really “searches” because regent honeyeaters are becomingly increasingly difficult to find. Only two regent honeyeaters were found during the recent count and so far in 2014 just 10 individual birds have been reported in all of NSW, with a maximum of three birds at one time. It is considered unlikely that 12 birds would have occurred in a bottlebrush tree (as reported in the Herald story).

Regent honeyeaters can be easily confused with several other common birds, such as the white-cheeked honeyeater.

Using an “evidence-based approach”, a recent federal government-funded study recognised the Hunter Economic Zone (HEZ) as the most important site for regent honeyeaters in the Hunter Valley. This is likely due to it supporting the largest remnant of forest on the floor of the valley.

One just needs to look at Google Earth to see that virtually all of the valley floor forests have been cleared. It is within the few last remaining large remnants (such as HEZ) where threatened flora and fauna can now thrive.

Regent honeyeaters have shown a high degree of site fidelity to HEZ, having been recorded there in six of the past 10 years.

Most significantly however, more than 50 regent honeyeaters were recorded breeding there in 2007-2008 over a period of several months. At that time they weren’t known to be breeding elsewhere in their range, so this would have provided a significant boost to the dwindling population.

Regent honeyeaters are not as widespread as field guides may suggest and simply cannot withstand any further loss of habitat, however small, particularly in identified core areas such as the HEZ.

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OPINION: Gas explorer’s actions leave room for improvement

PLAIN: Solidarity in the Gloucester community. Picture: Peter Stoop
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METGASCO has had its CSG exploration licence at Bentley in northern NSW suspended last month. The reason given by NSW Energy Minister Anthony Roberts was that the company had failed to properly consult the community. The minister was quoted as saying that he had “concerns about the way which Metgasco has characterised its activities”.

In my opinion the minister should have similar concerns about AGL’s activities in relation to the Gloucester CSG project.

AGL has been publishing material asserting that it has been extensively consulting and engaging the Gloucester community. In my view it cannot be said that AGL has properly and fully consulted the community. Community consultation is only effective where the information provided is complete, full and accurate, and where the communication is undertaken in an appropriate way. On both counts AGL has failed.

It is not possible here to detail each and every piece of inaccurate information which has been put out by AGL, but a few examples are as follows:

– During CSG production large quantities of water are extracted. This is called “produced water”, which must then be disposed of in an environmentally acceptable way. In its latest Gloucester Community Newsletter AGL describes produced water as “simply old salty water.”

The statement is misleading because produced water is not simply old salty water. The water certainly contains much salt, which is problematic, but it also contains such things as heavy metals, other chemicals and radioactive material. Nothing was said about the real difficulty of disposing of the huge quantities of salt in an environmentally acceptable way.

– AGL has to date been attempting to dispose of its produced water by diluting it and using the diluted water for irrigation. It has misleadingly been calling this operation a “trial” when it is nothing of the sort. It is not a trial because no scientifically meaningful results can be obtained from it because of its flawed design. It was never approved by government as a trial.

– Fracking is a highly contentious issue. In the Herald on February 3, AGL said that for fracking “. . . AGL uses a combination of water, sand and non-toxic additives . . .” The statement is incorrect and misleading. Of particular concern is tolcide, which is just one of the fracking chemicals and which is toxic to aquatic life and can be toxic to reproduction.

– In another piece in the Herald, AGL asserted that produced water does not enter streams. AGL’s own documentation does not support this unqualified assertion. The blended produced water that is being used for irrigation could in circumstances of heavy rainfall end up overflowing into streams, taking polluted soil with it.

– AGL’s website asserted that a large percentage of Gloucester residents are in favour of its Gloucester CSG operations and in doing so relied upon the results of a survey. However it is very clear that the survey did not support that assertion in any way.

Apart from misinformation or “spin” being fed to the community, some of AGL’s methods need to be called into question. At the recent Gloucester Show, AGL employees approached school children and handed out free goodies and material emblazoned with the AGL logo. No attempt was made that I know of to seek permission from the children’s parents.

In a recent advertisement in the Gloucester Advocate AGL published a photo of children from a local school standing with AGL’s community liaison person in front of the school sign which read “Thank you AGL”. Apparently AGL had donated an airconditioner to the school. In my view it is quite unacceptable for AGL to market to school children and to use them and schools for a blatantly commercial purpose. That is not community consultation.

AGL is offering special rates of power to Gloucester residents and businesses. This should be seen as nothing more than an attempt to buy local support for its activities.

AGL has a website called “Your Say – AGL” (yoursayagl上海后花园m.au). It is clearly misnamed because the site contains nothing but comments and articles favourable to AGL. It unashamedly promotes a local pro mining group but does not mention any local group or issue that might challenge or question its activities.

It is clear that AGL has confused marketing and advertising with community consultation and has not been making a serious attempt to engage the Gloucester community. The position requires close examination by the appropriate authorities. The situation is such that until that is done AGL should not be permitted to proceed any further with its Gloucester operations.

John Watts is a Gloucester resident and a member of community group Groundswell Gloucester

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Turn back the bogans: What Really Happens in Bali exposes Australians at their worst

One million or so Australian tourists visit Bali every year ? but many are leaving us with a bad reputation. Self-proclaimed sex addict Todd Gisondi, the show’s ‘star’.
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I have a question for Scott Morrison, the Federal Immigration Minister. How come we spend billions of taxpayer funds each year preventing what may well include some perfectly decent people from entering our country when, on an annual basis, we inflict hundreds of thousands of our most egregious citizens on a poor old place like Bali?

Forget about “stop the boats’. It’s time, please, to “turn back the bogans”. This is the unavoidable conclusion after watching the first two episodes of What Really Happens in Bali, the Seven Network’s new no-holds-barred documentary series narrated by comedian Corrine Grant. It promises to expose the island’s tourism underbelly, and succeeds.

In just two, albeit excellently-made, installments of the series, the producers, for the first time, manage to showcase the full horror of the Australian let loose in Bali: methanol poisoning, rampant unsafe sex, drug criminals on death row, epic drunkenness, general reckless and uncouth behaviour and gormlessness in epidemic proportions.

It’s Barry McKenzie in board shorts. It’s cultural cringe on the grandest scale. For a country that continually professes its love for Bali – even though half of us don’t even know it’s actually part of Indonesia – Australia has a funny way of showing it.

Indonesia’s tourism authorities are apparently furious at the recent wave from Australia of what they perceive as negative depictions of Bali, including another program called Bogan Hunters. Yet  the Indonesians are too polite to express their anger publicly. But, really, the country that emerges in by far worst light from What Really Happens in Bali is Australia itself.

One million or so Australian tourists a year – many of whom, it goes without saying, do not exhibt bogan tendencies during their visits – underpin Bali’s economy. But anecdotal evidence suggests that the reputation of some of our tourists is deterring other nationalities from around the world visiting there with Bali becoming Australia’s equivalent of Britain’s Benidorm.

The “star” of What Really Happens in Bali is expat Australian Todd Gisondi, a dreadlocked self-confessed sex addict, who preys on female tourists using his cute dog as the lure. Todd is either having a massive lend of the series producers or is one truly sick puppy.

Much of the action in What Really Happens centres around an expensive hospital for westerners, where the tropical Lothario goes for what he calls a “sex check”. Miraculously cleared by a Balinese doctor of any STDs, as Todd leaves the hospital he picks up some comely backpackers in the car-park.

Then there’s the young woman in the first episode, who breaks her back after jumping into the ocean from a four-storey high cliff on a notorious tour, and the lucky 20-something bloke who recovers from methanol poisoning.

To its credit the series, with one million viewers when it premiered last week making it one of he highest-rating programs on Australian screens, does provide some cautionary advice for Australians holidaying in Bali who don’t know better in terms of avoiding those lethal methanol-laced drinks in bars that can cause horrendous damage such as blindness and the importance of taking out travel insurance when you’re jumping off four-storey cliffs.

Really, it’s time for Australians to stop bashing Bali for its faults and show some respect for a unique culture and people whose economy unfortunately has to come to rely on the sort of crass tourists who populate What Really Happens in Bali. And, really, if Bali is not perfect then it’s surely Australia that helped make it that way.

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Rain welcomed but worries remain

Orana Regional Development Association (RDA) chair John Walkom said yesterday the rain would help harvesting but would not solve financial burdens. File photo THE weekend downpour helped save crops for some drought-hit farmers in the region but others still face tough conditions and financial gloom.
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Orana Regional Development Association (RDA) chair John Walkom said yesterday the rain would help harvesting but would not solve financial burdens.

“I don’t think the rainfall would have eased the financial burden too much at the moment, but it has certainly eased that concern in relation to getting a nice harvest.” he said.

Mr Walkom said farmers welcomed the rain, but many areas did not receive substantial amounts.

“Bourke had some recent rain which certainly would have taken some pressure off.

“But Walgett and Brewarrina appear to have missed out again,” he said.

NSW state manager for agribusiness bank, Rabobank, T J Mulder, said autumn rain in the central and southern areas of NSW had given farmers confidence but conditions in the north were desperately dry.

“After such a dry hot summer, the rains couldn’t have come at a better time for some, setting up many farmers for a good cropping program and replenishing pasture and water reserves,” he said.

“The rains have kicked off a hive of activity, with farmers busy getting their winter cropping program in on an excellent soil moisture profile.

“The milder conditions have also boosted crop and pasture growth although producers will be looking for some follow-up rains before winter kicks in.”

The lack of rainfall in northern districts meant minimal planting, and if substantial rainfall was not received in the next few weeks, the outcome would be similar to last year’s poor harvest.

Coonamble farmer and agronomist James Nalder, was pleased with the recent rainfall in the district.

“There were good falls all around the region,” Mr Nalder said.

“Most of the area received about an inch of rainfall.”

In some isolated areas of the Coonamble region, there were rainfall recordings of 45 to 50 millimetres.

Coonamble Shire mayor Al Karanouh said the recent rainfall over the weekend helped save farmers crops.

“There was wide ranging rainfall within the Coonamble Shire. Closer to town near the Carinda Road, received 36 millimetres, which saved a lot of people, as they had crops in and they were just about gone, this was probably the last week for them.

“So that has just put the smile on everyone’s face.”

Mr Karanouh said if farmers don’t get a good season, they won’t have an income over the next two years.

“A lot of farmers in the district did not have a season last year.

“It adds to their financial pressure because if they don’t have a reasonable season this year then forget it they’re not going have an income this year or next year,” he said.

Dubbo Delta Ag agronomist, Matt Landsay said it was a good start to the season.

“Dubbo received 35 millimetres over the weekend.”

Mr Landsay said the recent rainfall will help farmers in the area finish cropping.

“Further north missed out” he said.

“It’s tough out there, they would’ve benefited from what we received.”

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