Jun 20

Enjoying the ride on the Buccaneer ship

In the rough and tumble world of oil and gas juniors, investors are actively avoiding exploration risk but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room to make big returns – just look at the 30 per cent rise in Neon Energy last week, and Buccaneer Energy’s shares which have more than doubled in the past three months or so.
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The reason for explorers not enjoying the same level of investor support can in part be traced back to the shale gas revolution, which only started in earnest less than 10 years ago, according to Canaccord Genuity’s energy analyst Johan Hedstrom:

“Only five years ago a share price normally had a run up as drilling commenced, but now that’s not the case. There have been too many disappointments and most investors have lost money punting on exploration wells.

“The game changer has been shale gas revolution, which has taken away much of the exploration risk, and replaced it with engineering and completion risk. Investors would rather punt on this than wildcats, where the track record has been patchy.”

In Neon’s case, last Tuesday the oil company with operations in California and off-shore Vietnam updated the market regarding the much anticipated drilling of the latter. And about time! In the past couple of months its shares had drifted down until the announcement. The company is finally getting its act together and said that drilling at Block 105 had uncovered four reservoirs with gas. The complicating element is with the fourth and deepest, which experienced big pressure, or a “gas kick”.

Without going into details, Neon is stabilising the hole and will re-drill this section to gather data on the thickness and amount of oil and gas.

This will take time and money. Neon has farmed the venture out to an Italian operator, ENI, which paid the first $25 million of development costs. Now that costs are blowing out, Neon is on the hook for its 25 per cent share. At this stage Neon might have to pay $5 million, up from the $2.5 million originally budgeted.

Neon has $18 million in cash, and is getting money out of its Californian wells. If its Vietnam wells come off, we’re talking about a deal worth hundreds of millions. Neon’s shares will have exploded and then the inevitable capital raising won’t be a problem.

Also on Tuesday, Buccaneer Energy announced that its jack-up rig for its offshore program in the Cook Inlet, Alaska, is having stability problems with the sea bed because of big tides. It is being moved 450 feet away and the company is hoping for less tidal currents. The development is a disappointment because it is entering into the winter period which means operations will be further delayed and drilling results won’t be known until spring, when work can recommence (April or May 2014).

In the past few months, Under the Radar has reviewed the stock favourably on the basis that its near and long-term funding issues were taken care of. The company has cash in the bank of $40 million and has a deal with US based EOS Energy, which will fund a significant part of its exploration program for its offshore program in Alaska, to the tune of $200 million.

The thing is, Buccaneer’s shareholders can afford to wait, which is reflective of the rather muted reaction in its share price which has come down from 7 cents to 6.7 cents in the past week and a half. Remember, it was trading at 3 cents in late June when it fell short by 95 per cent in its attempts to raise $35 million to continue its onshore gas development. What a difference a couple of investors with big pockets can make! It raised the $35 million easily and now has funding for its offshore program to the tune of $200 million.

When you’ve got the money, investors are betting that the technical problems will sort themselves out.

Click here to access the fortnightly newsletter Under the Radar Report: Small Caps, edited by Richard Hemming.

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Jun 20

Hanging in the balance

Hanging Rock’s income and expenditure were balanced for the 2012-13 financial year, at $527,551.
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However, it was a perceived dire financial situation that alarmed council so much, it moved to pursue an accommodation development at its August meeting, and again at the following special meeting.

Quarterly reports during the last financial year are financially positive for Hanging Rock. September 2012 reports a net variation of $11,387, commenting, ‘General entry income higher than expected at this stage resulting in a favourable budget position’. December 2012 net is $26,784, attributed to an additional craft market in December and greater than expected general entry attendances (this factors in an expenditure increase, largely attributed to unexpected tree safety works). March 2013 and June 2013 break even, with reports stating, ‘Program is within acceptable budget parameters’, and, ‘Increased income from concerts provided greater than anticipated surplus transfer to reserves. Overall budget of nil cost to council achieved.’.

Hanging Rock Action Group member and Newham resident, Hilary Roberts, has been questioning the situation since the controversial development decision was made.

“In the meeting paper of August 28, (council officers) put up three alternatives to the councillors. The first was that they have a major development, the second option is that a $300,000 loss is charged to ratepayers, or the third is to hand it back to the state,” Mr Roberts said.

Mr Roberts said no substantiation was made of what the $300,000 loss was.

Although Hanging Rock’s finances are balanced, council’s manager of recreation and culture, Rod Clough, said that $300,000 per annum is what is estimated to be needed for long-awaited infrastructure and environmental works at the Rock.

“The conditions of a lot of our facilities out at Hanging Rock are in desperate need of repair,” Mr Clough said.

“For example, the racing club buildings – the ’93 plan says we should be doing something to improve those, so in 20 odd years we haven’t been able to do that. The tennis courts are cracking, and toilets need significant work.

“Those are the things that are driving the needs, there’s also various environmental factors such as rabbits, weeds, the need to revegetate the reserve, and improve fencing to keep out cats and dogs.

“Basically it’s an opportunity to get external income that would support that,” he said.

Mr Clough said last year’s two Bruce Springsteen concerts brought extra income to the Rock, at a level which may not be consistent in potential future concerts.

He said income from a development at the Rock would be secure for council.

“It would be tied into a lease with the potential developer, locking it in legally,” he said.”There’s significant challenges with our environment and infrastructure at Hanging Rock, so we would welcome an additional source of income and one that you could rely on.”

Concerts at Hanging Rock helped balance its financial position in recent years.

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Jun 20

Matthew Ames to become bionic man

Matthew Ames with his wife Diane, and their three sons and young daughter. Water therapy .. Matt Ames frequently exercises in the pool.
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Matthew Ames was at home on Monday morning adjusting to national media attention and life with titanium rods embedded in what remains of his limbs.

The Brisbane father and quadruple amputee returned from Melbourne at the weekend after undergoing one of many rounds of surgery to become Australia’s first bionic man.

He has titanium implants attached to what remain of his limbs – the first stage of his lengthy osseointegration procedure.

If all goes to plan, later in the year he will have more surgery to link the implants with even more titanium on which bionic prosthetics can be attached.

It all started 15 months ago, when the Origin Energy engineer – who lives with his wife Diane and four children in a Queenslander in Camp Hill in Brisbane’s east – began feeling like he was coming down with the ‘‘man flu’’.

A week later he was in the Mater Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit in an induced coma and on life support.

A deadly form of streptococcal bacteria had penetrated his bloodstream. His kidneys had failed and his body was toxic.

‘‘He had a 99 per cent chance of dying,’’ Matthew’s son Luke, 9, said in a special episode of Channel Seven’s flagship current affairs program, Sunday Night which drew more than 2.12 million viewers nationally.

Matthew’s younger sons Ben, 8, and Will, 7, added: ‘‘And only a 1 per cent of living.’’

Triumphantly Will concluded: ‘‘And the 1 per cent won against the 99.’’

Matthew’s family – parents Christine and Roy, sisters Kate and Rachel, and wife Diane – were told Matthew’s only chance of survival was to have his four limbs removed.

For Diane, the choice was easy. She could not allow the pair’s sons and daughter Emily, 3, to grow up without a father.

Matthew emerged from his coma to find he had no arms or legs.

The 40-year-old is slowly getting used to a few more people knowing about his story, his sister Kate told Fairfax Media.

On Monday, he is attending a Pride of Australia Medal ceremony for which he has been nominated in the courage category, alongside Sunshine Coast chef Matt Golinski who lost his wife and three daughters in a Boxing Day 2011 house fire.

‘‘We initially told his story because we wanted to raise his profile in Brisbane for the kids … so people wouldn’t stop and stare,’’ Kate said.

‘‘We’re not sure what to expect now that his story has aired across Australia.’’

Kate said watching the program about her younger brother was overwhelming.

‘‘We’re really glad to have told this story,’’ she said.

‘‘We underestimated what impact it would have in a positive way on people.’’

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Jun 20

Bushfire warning as hazard reductions get out of control

ESCAPED hazard reductions on private property on the weekend have prompted a reminder from firefighters for the public to take more care.
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Bushfire season starts tomorrow and, while a permit can be obtained to conduct a hazard reduction,the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) say greater care needs to be taken.

On Saturday a blaze broke out at Lucky Downs, 15 kilometres north of Orange, after a property owner failed to properly extinguish a fire lit on Friday.

Just after noon on Sunday a burn-off at Millthorpe also escaped containment lines on private property, leading to a one-hectare blaze.

RFS Canobolas Zone fire mitigation officer Geoff Selwood said both fires had the ability to cause damage to surrounding properties and stock.

Mr Selwood said wind gusts of up to 50km/h on Saturday helped to reignite the Lucky Downs burn, leading to a 18-hectare blaze.

“It looked like it was out and then the strong winds came up on Saturday and it got going,” he said.

“They were started on private lands and at no stage were any properties under threat.”

Mr Selwood said greater care needed to be taken and people must stay in attendance at all times during the burn.

“They’ve got to stay on-site while the fire’s burning,” he said.

“You need to make sure everything is out. Please ensure that your fires are out when they’re no longer attended.”

Mr Selwood said particular care needed to be taken with smouldering logs or trees within the burnt area.

“A log can burn for a few days,” he said.

“If it gets into the tree roots it can burn for years … it can burn away and pop up in the middle of January in a paddock of grass.”

Mr Selwood said October and November were traditionally windy months and people needed to be extra vigilant that all fireshad been properly extinguished.

Bushfire season in the Canobolas Zone of Orange, Cabonne, Blayney and Cowra councils, runs from October 1, 2013to March 31, 2014.

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ESCAPED hazard reductions on private property on the weekend have prompted a reminder from firefighters for the public to take more care.

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Jun 20

Reed fires to Pro Am triumph

BENDIGO golfer Heath Reed has shot a four-under par round to tie for victory at the $25,000 Toowoomba Middleridge Pro Am Classic.
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Reed carded 67 off the stick to share the title with Aaron Pike on Friday.

Reed’s performance was impressive because of his afternoon tee-off time, when the breeze had started to pick up at Toowoomba.

Pike played in near perfect conditionsin the morning.

Local professional Jonathon Zirkler and Gavin Flint finished on three-under.

Meanwhile, Andrew Martin and Kris Mueck will be back in action from Thursday when the PGA Tour of Australasia travels to Kalgoorlie.

The $110,000 WA Goldfields PGA Championship kicks-off three weeks of events in the west.

Bendigo golfer Heath Reed. Picture: GETTY IMAGES.

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Jun 20

Queensland Government cracks down on bikies after Gold Coast brawls

Queensland is a safe place, its police minister says, but the government wants to make it “even safer” by driving out the “criminal gangs and thugs”.
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Outlaw motorcycle gangs will dominate the Cabinet agenda on Monday morning, especially how to stop them.

Once in the shadows, bikie business has increasingly stepped into the spotlight on the Gold Coast from shopping centre shootings to storming police stations.

Jack Dempsey, backed by the Premier who is still in Asia on a trade mission, said the government would now work on ways on pushing the gangs out of Queensland.

“These criminal gangs and thugs have got no place in Queensland and we will be doing whatever we can to ensure that police have resources and we have legislation is place,” he said.

“And today we are going to bring those issues of resourcing and new legislation through Cabinet to make sure that people who want to bring criminal activity or thuggery into the streets of the whole of this state have no place to hide.

“And we’ll do whatever resources we can to ensure that Queensland maintains its credibility as one of the safest places in Australia to work, visit and enjoy your time.”

There are questions about what the government can do. Firearm laws have already been tightened, unexplained wealth laws came into effect earlier this month and the Bligh government’s anti-association laws, once maligned by the Liberal National Party, have had a few days in court.

But after a public brawl and subsequent intimidation tactics used against police at the Southport Police Station on Friday night, during peak school holiday time, the government has been left with no other choice than to do more.

Surfers Paradise LNP MP John-Paul Langbroek said there was “obviously a problem on the Gold Coast” but added the government was “determined to sort it out”.

He said while people were “safe in their houses”, the perception the Gold Coast was unsafe and the reasons for that perception needed to be addressed.

“There is this fear now, potentially when you are out in public that things can happen,” he said.

“Whether you are at a shopping centre, or whether you are out on the street at Surfers Paradise or Broadbeach – and that’s not something that we want to propagate as a view that people can have about the Gold Coast.”

As a start, $10 million over six months has been allocated to Gold Coast policing resources to help establish task forces and boost numbers. A further $10 million will be spent in the following six months.

An additional 60 police officers have been sent to the Gold Coast “on top of normal numbers” and Mr Dempsey is expected to announce more after the weekly Cabinet meeting wraps up on Monday afternoon.

“We will be bringing forward the same level of uncomfortability that these thugs and criminals have brought to the streets of the Gold Coast,” Mr Dempsey said in his trademark use of language.

“But these will be laws for the whole of Queensland, there will be no place for them to hide.”

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Jun 20

Drink drivers on Fleurieu roads

Two drivers were caught driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol on southern Fleurieu roads on the weekend. A 44-year-old Seaford Rise man was stopped on Port Elliot Road, Middleton and allegedly tested positive for methamphetamine on Saturday, September 28.
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He was ordered not to drive for 24 hours and was reported for drug driving.

Early on Friday, September 27 morning a 26-year-old man from Hindmarsh Island was reported for drink-driving, after being stopped while driving on Finniss-Milang Road, Milang.

His blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was 0.140 per cent.

As well as being reported he had his licence suspended for six month, and his vehicle impounded.

Police urge motorists not to gamble with their own lives and those of others by drink or drug driving.

Alcohol can severely reduce driver’s ability to drive safely.If you are on a full licence and are caught driving with a Blood Alcohol Concentration of 0.05 or above, you will be penalised.

Penalties may include an ‘on-the-spot’ immediate loss of driving licence, having your car impounded, substantial fines, demerit points, having a compulsory alcohol interlock fitted to your vehicle and going back to a Probationary or Learner’s licence.

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Jun 20

Band’s stellar rise to the top

Bonney Ranch members (from left) Liam Gubbins, Tav Watson and Connor Dwyer will perform at the Push Over regional finals at the Lighthouse Theatre. Picture: VICKY HUGHSONWITH an EP on the way and regular gigs at a local music venue, it’s no surprise Bonney Ranch won the recent youth music competition, Crusade of the Chords.
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The alternative rock group is made up of young members Liam Gubbins, Connor Dwyer and Lachlan Barling, who attend Emmanuel College, and Tav Watson, from Warrnambool College.

All are 18 years old and formed the band two years ago after meeting during an inter-school excursion.

The four are close to completing their year 12 studies, while also preparing to record an EP in Melbourne after winning Kool Schools through JB HiFi.

“It’s a $2000 experience and they will distribute our stuff on iTunes,” frontman Gubbins said. “We’ve been practising new songs to record.”

Gubbins said those new songs would be played at the Pushover regional finals, at the Lighthouse Theatre this Friday .

Bonney Ranch will compete against six others bands from across the Barwon south-west region for an opportunity to play at the Push Over music festival in 2014.

“It will be a good testing ground for the EP and we’ll have some fun,” Gubbins said.

He said competitions like Crusade of the Chords gave local talent a great chance to shine.

“It’s very important on a community level to give people a foot in the industry door. The whole set up is fantastic, council do a great job… it’s industry quality.”

Crusade of the Chords and the Push Over regional finals are FReeZA events, hosted by Warrnambool City Council and Brophy Family and Youth Services. Activities and events co-ordinator David Gibb said Crusade of the Chords was a fantastic evening.

“There were 15 performances with over 200 people attending,” Mr Gibb said. Tickets to the Push Over regional finals at the Lighthouse Theatre are $10 and can be purchased at the door, which will be open from 6pm for a 6.30pm start.Bonney Ranch regularly plays at The Loft, in Warrnambool, and has an upcoming gig at The Stump, in Port Fairy. For information about gigs, find the band’s Facebook page by searching “Bonney Ranch”.

Jun 20

Docklands traders relieved as Melbourne Star wheel finally turns

The Southern Star wheel. Photo: Justin McManusFor a fleeting moment the Docklands wheel groaned into action high above the harbour suburb.
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It was only a test rotation, but it represented a small beacon of hope for struggling traders below.

This month the 21st and final cabin was fixed to the Melbourne Star observation wheel, bringing to an end one of the final stages of the problem-plagued project.

And it was not the only small positive sign for the inner-city suburb.

On the Harbour Esplanade, the skeleton of a temporary greenhouse-style cafe with an edible garden was taking shape.

After an eight-month planning delay, ‘Hortus’ (Latin for garden) is expected to open in November and begin serving coffee and snacks.

One of the common criticisms of Docklands is that it is overwhelmed with towers and lacks people-friendly attractions at street level.

Christie Petsinis of Folk Architects said one idea behind he cafe was to bring to Docklands a “small-scale” attraction.

“It just takes a little while for the spaces to be filled in so this could be catalyst for small-scale projects,” Ms Petsinis said.

However, in the short-term at least, there is a belief the wheel will be the only real game changer for Docklands.

Melbourne lord mayor Robert Doyle said for the sake of Docklands’ “fantastic” waterfront restaurants and attractions it was important the Melbourne Star began operating soon. So dire is the situation of traders, who have seen at least one shop close in recent months, the council has frozen rate rises.

While some businesses at Harbour Town, including Chillipadi restaurant, have reported a modest (15 per cent) rise in customers in the past year, others have warned they will have to close if crowds do not increase.

Manager of Gold Leaf restaurant, Frank Yu, said the Asian eatery seated 250 people, but they were only serving 30 to 40 guests during the week and about 100 weekends.

Mr Yu said if the return of the wheel did not lure in at least 150 people a night there would be no point continuing the lease.

Healthy Habits manager Mangi Pereia remembers the magic 40-day period up to January 2009 when the wheel was working.

“There were so many visitors, we opened until 8pm at night. Now we shut at 5pm,” Ms Pereia said.

Just how quickly those days will return is likely to be at the mercy of Docklands’ windy weather, according to a Melbourne Star spokeswoman.

She said workers still needed to complete several jobs, including a clean-up, before the gates open.

“Then there will be the commissioning of the site, which is a fairly lengthy mandatory testing process,” she said.

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Jun 20

Orchids blooming in time for spring show

Rob Bishop has chosen his best blooms to entre the Spring Orchid Show this weekend. Picture: VICKY HUGHSONA FOUNDING member of a local orchid enthusiasts group is gearing up for the annual Spring Orchid Show in Warrnambool on October 5 and 6.
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Ron Bishop has been a member of the Warrnambool District Orchid Society Inc since it began about 25 years ago.

Mr Bishop first became involved with orchids 30 years ago when his persistent mother finally convinced him to look after hers once she went into care.

“The ones she had that were before World War II were quite plainly coloured… but I went to the Royal Melbourne Show once and got a pretty pink one,” Mr Bishop said. “There’s nothing like getting something a little bit different, and I’ve been getting something different about every three months since.” He said he and a few friends decided to start a club.

“Once you can see things can be done better, you like to do better,” he said.

Mr Bishop grows predominantly cymbidium orchids .

“They’re easy to grow, comparatively,” Mr Bishop said.

He has about 130 cymbidium orchids and 150 others of mixed origin.

Mr Bishop and fellow member Paul Horsnell said it was always a nervous time leading up to a show, not knowing what orchids would be at display quality.

“It depends on the season.

“It’s a bit of work and everyone is always worried in the society that people are going to come in and say ‘where are the orchids’?”

In the past, Mr Bishop has received accolades including Champion Cymbidium and Champion Display.

“Every year I get something,” he joked.

Mr Horsnell said the society was always keen to welcome new members.

“There’s a challenge involved and (we cater for) learners… you become more interested as you learn,” Mr Horsnell said.

Secretary Helen Gower said the show would display many types of orchids with beautiful perfumes.

There will be sales tables, raffles, and morning and afternoon tea. Entry is $3 and doors are open from 10am to 4pm on the Saturday and 10am to 3pm on the Sunday.

You can find the show at Warrnambool College, Grafton Road, Warrnambool. For more information phone Helen Gower on 0408 613 181