The revival of Cessnock CBD

Street Smart: An artist impression of Cooper Street’s future look and feel, as part of a Cessnock town centre upgrade. Picture: Cessnock CBD Masterplan.Cessnock’s central business district was experiencing a renaissance, bucking the trend of other main-street areas in decay, mayor Bob Pynsent said.

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“This is going against the trend because our main street is growing, where most main streets are struggling,” Cr Pynsent said.

Cr Pynsent said a revitalisation had occurred in the two years since the Hunter Expressway opened, with about 10 vacant shops being filled.

“One or two might have fallen over, but the others have sustained and that’s positive,” he said.

“We still have vacant shops, but not as many as we had before the expressway opened.”

He said the expressway had “taken about 90 per cent of the heavy vehicles off Vincent Street”.

“A number of those new businesses are cafes,” he said.

“It’s far more attractive to sit on the footpath and have coffee.”

Cessnock City Council recently received a $950,000 federal grant, which will be used to redevelop the CBD in four stages over four years.

The work will include upgrades to laneways, the streetscape and park and playground areas.

It aims to improve access for pedestrians, cyclists and traffic.

The project funding includes street art, which will adjoin a laneway art project.

Stage one works will begin in 2016-17, with all four stages to be complete by 2019-20.

Cr Pynsent said the work would make the town more attractive and functional.

It follows the council spending more than $100,000 to improve garden beds, replace street trees and clean and seal pavers in the CBD.

Changes in the town’s economy were understood to be partly related to people losing jobs in the traditional mining and manufacturing industries.

Some of these people had sought to invest in the service and retail sectors.

Cessnock councillor Bryce Gibson agreed that the town was undergoing a renaissance.

Cr Gibson, who owns and leases real estate in the town,supported the work which was occurring as part of the council-approved Cessnock CBD masterplan.

But he said bigger changes lay ahead in other stages of the plan.

“The big windfall for the CBD will be when we get increased parking spots, more accessible parking and better traffic flows, in particular in peak periods,” he said.

“That’s the holy grail.”

As for the economy, he said “there has been new businesses come to town, new businesses go and businesses change hands”.

“I don’t see that as any different to what it’s always been,” he said.

“There’s always going to be fluctuations in the real estate market.”

Mayor Bob Pynsent

Australian Open 2016: Ana Ivanovic left shaken after woman falls mid-match

Ana Ivanovic said she was left shaken when, during her second round win over Anastasija Sevastova on Thursday morning, she heard a spectator crashing down a set of stairs.

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The match was delayed for more than 25 minutes when a woman in the crowd at Rod Laver Arena fell at 11.35am.

The incident comes after Australian Bernard Tomic was left rattled when a tennis fan fell ill during his win over Denis Istomin on Tuesday night.

Tennis officials at the Australian Open said a health professional in the crowd went immediately to help the woman, first aid officers working at the event followed and she was eventually carried away on a stretcher.

Ivanovic was on serve leading 4-3 when play was halted, leaving the players to watch on.

Ivanovic and Sevastova were seen alternately sitting on the sidelines and pacing the court as the drama unfolded, before they briefly left the court.

They were allowed a warm-up hit before resuming the game and Ivanovic, ranked 23 in the world, went on to win the match 6-3, 6-3.

In the post-match press conference, Ivanovic said she immediately stopped play when she heard the woman fall.

“I just hope the lady was fine,” she said.

“It was actually good that we had to wait a little bit because I was really shaking, because I could imagine and it was not so nice.

“Then they told us she was bleeding, so, yeah, I hope she’s well.”

On Tuesday Tomic said he feared for a spectator’s life after a woman collapsed during his match and was taken from Hisense Arena on a stretcher.

Fellow spectators had on that occasion called for an EpiPen, which was thrown from one of the upper levels of the stadium.

Tomic was relieved to hear the ill woman had recovered.

Bill Shorten’s chief spin doctor, Kimberley Gardiner, exits as Labor struggles in the polls

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten consults advisers Ryan Liddell and Kimberley Gardiner during question time in May. Photo: Andrew Meares Team Bill: Shorten in Canberra in November with his staff, including Kimberley Gardiner (left) and Ryan Liddell (second from left). Photo: James Brickwood

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Bill Shorten’s chief spin doctor, Kimberley Gardiner, is leaving the Opposition Leader’s office by mutual agreement following an internal review ahead of the next election.

In a move that will be interpreted as the Opposition Leader looking to sharpen his political messaging and re-connect with voters in 2016 after falling well behind Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in the opinion polls, Ms Gardiner is leaving the role of communications director after more than three years working for Mr Shorten.

The review of Mr Shorten’s office was undertaken by chief of staff Cameron Milner, a former Queensland Labor state secretary who replaced Ken Macpherson as chief of staff in September last year.

Ms Gardiner was a long serving staffer to Julia Gillard when she was deputy prime minister and worked for Mr Shorten when he was a minister in the former Labor government as well as in opposition. She has clocked up almost a decade of service in total with the ALP, including time with former Queensland premier Anna Bligh, as well as for AFL club St Kilda.

She had a reputation inside the parliamentary wing of the ALP as a political hard-head, leading some Labor MPs to criticise her performance for being too risk averse.

Others, however, have praised her for running a tight ship and for helping guide Mr Shorten’s political ascendancy over Tony Abbott before the change of prime minister in September last year.

Her exit, after that of deputy chief of staff Sarah Adams last year, means there are now no women in senior roles in Mr Shorten’s office. It also marks another significant change of personnel in the Shorten office after the addition of Ian McNamara as strategy director in June last year.

Ms Gardiner remains close to Mr Shorten, who praised her work ethic and commitment to the ALP. In a statement, the Opposition Leader said he was sorry to see her leave.

“Kimberley has done a tremendous job for me over many years, for which I’m forever grateful,” he said.

“She has played a critical role in driving Labor’s agenda over the past two years – I have greatly valued her strategic advice.”

A spokesman for the Opposition Leader emphasised the move was by mutual agreement and that a number of positions in Mr Shorten’s office would be restructured.

A replacement as communications chief has not yet been identified and it is possible that a “flatter” structure will be put in place that would see the position abolished, in a move that would be designed to better integrate the policy, strategy and media teams in Mr Shorten’s office.

In the short term, Mr Shorten’s well-regarded senior press secretary Ryan Liddell will run the Opposition Leader’s centralised media unit.

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Guarding rhinos could help extend Wallabies and Brumbies star David Pocock’s career

Time away: David Pocock says taking time out from rugby union to train with Zimbabwe rhino guards could help prolong his career.It was just one day’s training with a dedicated group of Zimbabwe rhino guards, but ACT Brumbies flanker David Pocock says those breaks from rugby help him “freshen up” and could help extend his career.

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But Pocock, off contract at the end of 2016, is still unsure where the next stage of his career will take him as he continues talks with the Brumbies and the Australian Rugby Union.

The World Cup star spent a day training with anti-poaching scouts in Malilangwe, which was an experience that allowed him the best of both worlds – training to ensure he is fit for the upcoming Super Rugby season, while also getting completely away from rugby.

He said the scouts were not big, but they were “exceptionally fit” and could run and walk all day in their roles of protecting the dwindling white rhino population. Thanks to Malilangwe scouts for the invite to join fitness + weights session they put new recruits through this am. pic.twitter杭州夜网/lxnXGdhukX— David Pocock (@pocockdavid) November 29, 2015

At the end of a long year – when Pocock not only helped the Brumbies to the Super Rugby semi-finals, but was also instrumental in getting Australia to the World Cup final against New Zealand – he said it helped take his mind off rugby, which could in turn help prolong his career.

“I think that mental break’s key. Physically and mentally at the end of the international season you’re pretty cooked,” he said.

“Finding a space away from rugby to physically freshen up – you still obviously have to train – but mentally to get away from the game and experience something a bit different.

“I hope [it helps keep me in the game longer], I think it does. This is my 11th season now, I’m still enjoying it.”

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was in Canberra last week speaking to Pocock, while there were reports Pocock was set to turn his back on lucrative offers from Europe to stay in Canberra.

But Pocock, who Chief Minister Andrew Barr announced as ACT Australia Day ambassador on Thursday, said that was yet to be decided.

He does not want contract negotiations to linger on, but he was not in a rush to get them done.

“It’s something we’re still thinking about and have started talking to the ARU and Brumbies about,” Pocock said.

“It’s just one of those parts in professional rugby is deciding what’s the next step and we’ll wait and see.”

Meanwhile, SANZAR was expected to announce a revamp of the bonus-point system for Super Rugby, to try and promote more free-flowing rugby.

The governing body is considering scrapping the bonus point for scoring four or more tries and replacing it with a bonus point for scoring at least three more tries than your opponent.

But Pocock had no idea whether the proposed rule change would have the desired effect, leaving that to Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham to work out.

Instead he was focused on getting ready for the season ahead.

He said the Brumbies were going “as well as they could be at this point”, but they wouldn’t get a “gauge of where you’re at in that first trial” – against the NSW Waratahs in Wagga Wagga on February 6.

“We were really disappointed to lose in that semi [to the Wellington Hurricanes] last year,” Pocock said.

“In terms of team a lot of guys have played in those combinations for a few years now so hopefully we can build on that.”

Tim Crakanthorp called on to declare position on heavy rail by state government

THE state government has demanded that TimCrakanthorp make his position on the retention of heavy rail into Newcastle clear.

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This week the Newcastle Herald reported that both Jodie Harrison, the member for Charlestown, and Luke Foley, the opposition leader, had conceded that there would be no chanceof Labor reinstating the heavy rail line if it was returned to power in 2019 because work on truncating the line would be too far advanced.

Ms Harrison told the Herald on Mondaythat the party had moved on from the issue, saying “the fight is lost, the rail is gone”.

Her comments were echoed by Mr Foley when he was in Newcastle on Tuesday, the opposition leader saying it “won’t be possible” to restore the line, and that the party would focus on “policy development to improve public transport services in this city”.

But on Thursday the government’s parliamentary secretary for the government,Scot MacDonald, called for “consistency” from the party, accusing Labor members who have campaigned on reinstating the line, like Mr Crakanthorp and the member for Maitland, Jenny Aitchison of ducking the issue.

“The local MPs, in Maitland and Newcastle in particular, are saying one thing to their community and another thing when they go down to Macquarie Street,” he said.

“We get the opposition leader come up from Sydney and he says this is the case [that heavy rail won’t be reinstated],but we’ve still got the local MP’s from Newcastle and Maitland with a very clear record of saying they will restore the rail.

“So who’s in charge?”

Ms Aitchison though hit back angrily at Mr MacDonald, saying he was “like a mosqutio thatbuzzesaround trying to make trouble”.

“We have been very clear all the way –we made a commitment that if Labor was elected we would not proceed with cutting the line, that did not happen, but even after that we fought and fought and fought,” she said.

“At the end of the day by time Labor comes back into government in 2019 the corridor will be gone, so what can we do?

“I am the most disappointed person in Maitland, believe me.

“We have to look at the reality of the situation, and in the here and now what we can do is hold the government to account on what they have promised.”

Mr Crakanthorp has been unavailable for interview on his positionthis week and hasnot responded to direct questions about whether Ms Harrison’s comments represented a shift in the party’s policy.

In a statement he said that by “the next state election in 2019 there won’t be a rail corridor to save”.

“Labor has not changed our policy, we are simply stating reality,” he said.

“The Baird Government has completely ignored the wishes of the Hunter community and is proceeding with ripping up the rail line and doing deals with developers to build on the land.

“The Liberals shouldn’t be forgiven for blatantly ignoring the region. This is just a political stunt from an arrogant government who now thinks it’s also a good idea to privatise Newcastle’s public transport network.”