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Beach smoke butted out

Written By miftah nugraha on Sabtu, 01 Desember 2012 | 19.55

Seven Mile Beach-goers Megan Jarvis, 17, left, and Charlotte Adams, 19, are both happy to hear that smoking is going to be banned on patrolled beaches. Picture: SAM ROSEWARNE

STARTING today, smoking is banned on Tasmanian public beaches where surf life savers are on patrol.

Smokers could face a $260 fine for lighting up between the flags on the 12 beaches around the state patrolled by Surf Life Saving Tasmania.

Department of Health and Human Services Environmental Health state manager Stuart Heggie said the initiative was part of the changes the Tasmanian Government passed in March this year aimed at protecting people from second-hand tobacco smoke.

"This is an example of groups within our community working together to combat smoking and to send a message to our young people that smoking is not acceptable where they play and have fun," Mr Heggie said.

The bans had been brought into force with the support of Surf Life Saving Tasmania, with its life savers able to advise people not to smoke between the flags.

Tobacco control officers, with the power to enforce fines, are set to begin patrolling beaches later in the summer.

Smoking has already been banned in all Tasmanian alfresco dining areas and in Salamanca Place.

Surf Life Saving Tasmania general manager Tony van den Enden welcomed the ban and said there were still areas of the beach where smokers were allowed to smoke.

"It increases people's enjoyment for those who don't smoke and provides an area where they can enjoy a smoke-free environment but at the same time it's not trying to reduce or take away from those who do smoke," he said.

Mr Heggie said he hoped providing smoke-free areas would make it easier for some people to successfully give up.

A 2006 NSW study showed 54 per cent of smokers who had tried to quit found that seeing someone smoking was a trigger to relapse; while 40 per cent said that smelling a cigarette was a trigger.

Smoking will be banned between the flags at Boat Harbour, Bridport, Burnie, Carlton Park, Clifton Beach, Devonport, Kingston Beach, Penguin, Port Sorell, Scamander, Somerset and Ulverstone.


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Fire fury hits Tassie

A burnt-out Kombi van at Glen Huon yesterday. Pictures: LUKE BOWDEN

EMERGENCY crews battled fires through the night after 60 blazes broke out across the state yesterday.

Temperatures up to 34C in the South and strong winds fanned the flames in an early warning of the summer fire season ahead.

Several shacks and vehicles in the Glen Huon area were destroyed.

Some residents evacuated areas affected by the worst fires, including Glen Huon and Geeveston in the South and Glenlusk near Collinsvale, north-west of Hobart.

For some residents the fire brought back memories of past catastrophic bushfires.

Tom Healy said he watched the fire nervously from his family's Judbury farm.

"I think this will push people [to prepare], especially after the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria," Mr Healy said.

"We have a lot of stock on the property and I've had family members ringing me because they're worried. I've had the whipper snipper out because of all the grass but it's so hot.

"It's been such a wet winter and now it's really sunny and the grass gets really long and dangerous."

Late last night the Glenlusk fire was causing the most concern for the Tasmania Fire Service.

Roads were closed as a small fire suddenly took hold, sending embers, smoke and ash across Collinsvale and surrounds.

Fire authorities warned of the dangers of spot fires that could threaten homes ahead of the fire front.

The biggest fire, in the Central Plateau, was expected to threaten shack communities at Jonah Bay and Arthurs Lake overnight and today. The blaze covered 1000ha and was burning on both sides of the Poatina Rd between Great Lake and Arthurs Lake.

Incident controller Chris Arthur from Parks and Wildlife Service said about 35 people were working on the fire, which had raced through the low heather, and workers would be relieved by three crews who would patrol the fire overnight.

About seven firefighters suffered burns as they battled a serious blaze near Forcett, east of Hobart.

More than 200 firefighters were at work statewide.

TFS officer Michael Goldsmith said the number of fires reflected the high winds and temperatures.

"We're hoping the weather will work in our favour overnight but the winds are still quite high in certain areas," Mr Goldsmith said last night.

Mr Goldsmith said crews were quickly redirected to the Collinsvale-Glenlusk fire, which was reported just before 5pm but soon came close to homes.

"We haven't advised anyone to evacuate but some people have taken that option if they weren't prepared."

Yesterday was one of the hottest November days on record, reaching 33.7C and not dropping below 22.3.

About 5900 households were without power in the Huon area for about 20 minutes last night.

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Plateau blaze still raging

A fire burning close to properties today at Forcett, in Tasmania's south-east. Picture: SAM ROSEWARNE

RESIDENTS have told how close they came to a homeless Christmas as strong winds continue to fan bushfires in central and southern Tasmania.

Bushfires were still burning out of control tonight at Poatina on the Central Plateau.

Blazes at Forcett near Sorell in the South-East, Glen Huon and Geeveston in the Huon Valley, Glenlusk near Collinsvale, Musselroe Bay in the North, and at south Bruny Island were closer to being contained.

Strong north-westerly winds overnight on Friday and earlier today whipped the flames into life, causing particular danger to residents at Glenlusk, Geeveston and Forcett.

No properties were considered to be in immediate danger last night but residents were urged to remain alert.

Glenlusk resident Phil Cooper saw the flames roar to within metres of his property before fighting them back with the help of volunteer firefighters.

"It came all the way to my back fence but I always make sure my property is well cleared and prepared, so I was pretty confident we would be all right," he said.

Mr Cooper said the fire started around 6pm on Friday and backburning operations had it under control by 10pm, but the hot dry winds overnight fanned the flames back to life this morning.

"There were three fire trucks in my yard and the firies were pleased to have such an easily defendable spot to fight the fire from," he said.

"We took the brunt of it, which probably helped save a lot of houses here because the fire had to get past my place first."

Mr Cooper has lived in the Glenlusk area his whole life and has survived three bushfires there, including the 1967 bushfires.

"I was a teenager then and we defended our house then as well. I'm the third generation property owner here," he said.

The fire at Glenlusk was contained on three sides yesterday afternoon but jumped the Old Collinsvale Rd containment line and was still burning in steep, inaccessible terrain.

Tasmania Fire Service state operations acting district officer Andrew McGuinness said the strong north-westerly and westerly winds made for extremely difficult firefighting conditions but no properties had been lost in any of the bushfires late today, only humpies and sheds at Glen Huon.

"We had in excess of 30 crews out there today, that's well over 100 firefighters -- 90 per cent of them are volunteers -- plus 30-40 people in management teams statewide," he said.

"We've seen a great effort out there from the firefighters, with many teams working in very difficult terrain, and it's great that they have been able to prevent further losses."

The state's biggest blaze, at Poatina, has burned more than 6000ha since it was first reported on Thursday.

The area is sparsely populated and all residents and campers have been evacuated.

"That one's likely to burn for a week unless we get considerable rain on Monday or Tuesday," Mr McGuinness said.

"It's unlikely to be contained in the next two or three days because it's difficult to contain it or lock it in."

Windy conditions eased tonight but residents at Glenlusk, Forcett, Glen Huon, Geeveston, Poatina and south Bruny were advised to keep an eye on conditions and check frequently for updates.

Some fires appear to have been deliberately lit and are under investigation.

For the latest updates, click here or listen to ABC Local Radio.

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Coroner has just one question

Written By miftah nugraha on Jumat, 30 November 2012 | 19.55

THE only question remaining to be addressed by an inquest into the death of a baby in 2006 was who was responsible, a coroner said today.

Coroner Chris Webster is conducting an inquiry into the death of eight-month-old Zach Wayne Taylor at Sorell.

He said the identity of the deceased person was well established, as was the manner, time and place of the death.

The only question remaining to be determined was who was responsible for Zach's death, which was caused by his suffocation on talcum powder.

Mr Webster said there were "two and a half" people remaining "in the loop".

The dead child's mother Samantha Sybeema Taylor gave further evidence today.

She said she had noticed a bruise on the child's face and a small injury to his nose when she last saw him alive, but noticed much more serious injuries when she found him dead.

The court heard her boyfriend Ian Pennicott -- who is the only remaining witness expected to give evidence -- was unable to appear as he was in a drug and alcohol treatment facility.

Ms Taylor earlier gave evidence that if she or her young daughter had not harmed Zach, it must have been Mr Pennicott.

She admitted she and Mr Pennicott had used speed and cannabis the night before her son died.

Mr Webster adjourned the inquest until December 18.

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Rape accused granted bail

A HOBART taxi driver accused of raping a schoolgirl passenger has been granted bail.

Rajdeep Singh, 30, of Claremont, appeared in the Magistrates' Court in Hobart this morning.

He is yet to enter a plea on charges of rape, aggravated sexual assault and three counts of indecent assault.

Magistrate Catherine Rheinberger granted bail after a hearing this morning.

She ordered Singh reappear in court on December 20.

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Weather fans Tassie fires

A recent controlled burn at Forcett, where a bushfire has broken out today.

A LARGE bushfire burning out of control in Tasmania's Central Highlands is threatening several small communities and the region's power supply.

Residents of Jonah Bay, Cramps Bay and the surrounds of Arthurs Lake, where many of the dwellings are holiday shacks, are being told to activate their bushfire plans and consider leaving the area.

The major road in the region has been closed and people outside the area have been told to stay away.

An electricity feeder line is likely to be affected, the Tasmania Fire Service (TFS) says, with power outages possible for communities around Great Lake.

The blaze, which started yesterday afternoon, has burnt out more than 600ha and a water-bombing helicopter has been used to fight it, local media reported.

"The fire is progressing, it's being pushed by the weather conditions that we've got," TFS spokesman Chris Arthur said.

"There's a total fire ban in the south of the state but we're being affected by that weather as well."

Smaller fires are burning in the Huon Valley and at Geeveston, both south of Hobart, and residents have been asked to check their bushfire plans.

Another fire was reported late today at Glenlusk, near Collinsvale, in the state's south.

The TFS said the fire may affect the communities of Fawkner Rd, Glenlusk, and Collinsvale Rd between Lime Kiln and Glenlusk.

A smaller blaze had also been reported at Forcett, near Sorell.

Embers and ash have been falling on those areas, which are also shrouded by smoke.

Temperatures have soared into the 30s in southern Tasmania after Hobart tossed and turned through its warmest November night -- 22C -- since 1937.

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Girlfriend tells of fatal fight

Written By miftah nugraha on Kamis, 29 November 2012 | 19.55

A MAN accused of killing a friend during a drunken brawl exclaimed "what have I done?" and dropped a knife moments after the fatal fight, the Supreme Court in Hobart has heard.

Stuart Barry Russell, 40, has pleaded not guilty to murder and attempted arson over the death of his friend Brett Williams, 46, at Eggs and Bacon Bay, south of Cygnet, late on December 16 last year.

Mr Russell's girlfriend, Bronte Dallas Clarke, 19, today told the jury she was present when a fight broke out between the two men in the kitchen of Mr Williams' home.

Mr Williams appeared to be the aggressor, with Mr Russell trying to fend off his blows.

When Mr Williams fell to the floor, Ms Dallas Clarke said she noticed Mr Russell had a knife in his hand.

She said he dropped the knife and said "What have I done?".

Mr Williams was making a snoring noise as he lay on the ground.

The couple and another man fled the property. When they returned, Mr Williams was dead.

Later in the evening, the couple and another man at the property held a kind of memorial service.

They drank a bottle of wine, burned incense, Mr Russell sang a song and the couple talked about what they had admired about the dead man.

The conversation then turned to setting the house on fire to burn the body, she said.

The trial, before Justice Peter Evans, is continuing.

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Ricky announces retirement

RICKY Ponting has announced his retirement from Test cricket.

The former Australian captain has underperformed so far this series and confirmed the third Test against South Africa in Perth will be his last.

Ponting will equal Steve Waugh's mark of 168 Test matches in this match, the most in the history of Australian cricket.

The entire Australian squad turned up for the press conference today in Perth where Ponting made his announcement.

Turning 38 next month, Ponting is the highest Australian run-scorer of all time and has been described as the greatest Australian batsman since Sir Donald Bradman.

The Tasmanian has 13,336 Test runs to his name. Only Indian Sachin Tendulkar has scored more in the history of cricket.

Ponting suggested after the second Test in Adelaide, where he made four and 16, that the end might be near, and his fate was now in the hands of selectors.

He will continue to play for Tasmania in the domestic competition for the remainder of the summer.

Ponting told his teammates of his decision to quit Test cricket this morning and announced it publicly in a media conference at the WACA.

"Over the last couple of weeks my level of performance hasn't been good enough," he said.

"My passion and love for the game hasn't changed.

"At the end of the day (the decision) was based on my results.

"In this series so far they have not been up to the level required of batsmen and players in the Australian team.

"I'm glad I have got the opportunity to finish on my terms."

Ponting said he would in no way be distracted for the series-deciding Test against South Africa where the world No.1 ranking is up for grabs.

"I want this win more than any other game I have played in."

Ponting was also quick to announce his news on social media.

"Thing that struck home was even though my preparation and feeling was good I was falling at the big moments" he said on Twitter

"I've given cricket my all."

Australia captain Michael Clarke said the announcement gave his side extra incentive to win the third Test.

"It will only give us more inspiration," said an emotional Clarke as he fought back tears.

"He has been a great player for a long time.

Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland paid tribute to Ponting's contribution to Australian cricket.

"Ricky has had an extraordinary career and has made an extraordinary contribution, including through the example he has set for other elite players and through the excitement he has given fans, young and old," Sutherland said.

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Upset at Ouse closure

PARENTS of Ouse Primary School students have voted to close the historic school at the end of this year.

But many remain upset, saying some of those who voted are sending their children to other schools next year anyway.

It is believed the vote was very close.

School association secretary Narelle Davie has three children at the school, with a fourth also planning to attend.

"I'm very unhappy about it. My family has been involved in the school for generations," said Mrs Davie, whose family lives on a farm outside Ouse.

"It's also disappointing that the broader community was not involved and they didn't have the opportunity to show their support."

Mrs Davie said the meetings were only for parents, not other community members

Parents had been told that only 21 children were expected to be at the school next year.

This would mean the school qualified for just 1.8 teachers, leaving them with just one big class from kinder to grade 6 for two days a week.

It presently has just 32 students. The school, first opened in 1847, was a combined primary and secondary school until 2009.

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We're going for baroque

Written By miftah nugraha on Rabu, 28 November 2012 | 19.55

AUSTRALIA'S first festival of baroque music is opening in Hobart in April.

The nine-day program of local and international performances in the Hobart Baroque festival is likely to enhance the city's growing reputation as a cultural centre of national interest.

A production from the Royal Opera House in London is the star billing. It is the first time the Royal Opera House has presented a work in Australia.

Another attraction is the extraordinary voice of young Sydney counter-tenor David Hansen, who is in demand around the world and whose one-off recital is his only performance in Australia next year.

Yesterday, festival director Leo Schofield and Premier Lara Giddings launched the event at the Theatre Royal, along with Royal Opera young artist Madeleine Pierard, who sang a spine-tingling aria.

Ms Giddings said Hobart Baroque would attract international attention and a flood of interstate music lovers.

Mr Schofield promised that "it's going to be a knockout".

After directing nine large, festivals in Sydney and Melbourne, he said "it's been a joy to work on a program so tightly focused".

He hoped it would become an annual event and said he was committed to working on the project for some years.

The festival was made possible with a $200,000 grant from the State Government through Events Tasmania and a similar amount from philanthropist Graeme Wood.

Mr Schofield said the heart of the festival would be the Theatre Royal, perfect for baroque recitals, being a similar size to the 17th and 18th century theatres in which many of the works were performed originally.

It would host four performances of the Royal Opera House production L'isola Disabitata (The Uninhabited Island) by Joseph Haydn, a chamber work for four singers.

Other performers include the Melbourne baroque trio Latitude 37 and soprano Jane Edwards. Some recitals will be at the Hobart Town Hall and the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA).

Hobart Baroque will run from April 12 to 20.


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Community key to Hydro plan

KING Island residents will decide whether the biggest wind farm in the southern hemisphere will be built on their island.

Renewable energy business Hydro Tasmania has proposed a 600-megawatt wind farm comprising 200 turbines for the Bass Strait isle.

The proposal has been deemed technically, economically and environmentally viable and has been endorsed by Tasmania's three major political parties.

However, Hydro Tasmania chair David Crean said it would not go ahead without the support of the majority of King Island's 1600 residents.

"This project will only proceed to full feasibility if the majority of King Islanders are in favour," Mr Crean said today.

The farm would generate about 2400 gigawatt hours of renewable energy for the national market, enough to supply about 240,000 homes, according to a statement released by Hydro Tasmania.

The Tasmanian Government said the output would be sold into the Victorian electricity grid via an underwater cable across Bass Strait.

It would account for more than five per cent of Australia's renewable energy target and reduce the amount of carbon entering the atmosphere by around 1.9 million tonnes a year, the Hydro Tasmania statement said.

Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings said it would be the biggest single infrastructure project in the state's history.

"This project would provide hundreds of millions of dollars a year in extra revenue to the state," Ms Giddings said, adding it was likely to require significant upgrades to King Island's road and port infrastructure, which would create more jobs locally.

Consultations will be carried out over the next three months.

If the project proceeds, it is expected to create up to 500 jobs during the two-year construction phase and 10-20 jobs when the wind farm is operational.

Opposition energy spokesman Matthew Groom said the Liberal Party strongly supported the development.

"Tasmania needs to grab this opportunity with both hands."

Read more in tomorrow's Mercury.

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Sea Quest back at home

SOLO sailor Tobias Fahey arrived back in Hobart yesterday afternoon and, despite the glorious weather, it was clear he wanted to be elsewhere.

Family and friends were at the Derwent Sailing Squadron to welcome him home but the atmosphere was very different to a week before, when the 25-year-old set out on his voyage, aiming to sail around the world alone faster than any other Australian.

After making great progress, he had to turn back on Saturday, when faulty wiring damaged the batteries on his yacht Sea Quest beyond repair, affecting essential safety and communications equipment, including the radar and the automatic identification system (AIS) which helped prevent collisions with other vessels.

Pressing on would not have been the safe thing to do, Fahey said yesterday.

"You have to be able to maintain watch at all times and to continue sailing on my own without this equipment would be a danger to myself and other boats," he said.

It was too early to say whether he would set out again in the next few days or abandon the attempt for this year.

"I will go home, talk to a few people and assess my options," he said.

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Long, dry summer ahead

Written By miftah nugraha on Selasa, 27 November 2012 | 19.55

Sophie Galloway, 16, of Midway Point, covers up from the sun at Salamanca. Picture: RICHARD JUPE

TASMANIANS could be in for a reality check this summer after two years of mild conditions.

The state's weather has dried off in the past month, with rainfalls as low as 6.6mm in Devonport and 11.4mm in Launceston.

Bureau of Meteorology climatologist Lorien Martin said there was a 60 to 75 per cent chance that maximum daytime temperatures would be warmer than normal from December until February.

Property owners have been advised to pay extra attention to bushfire plans and water supply for coping with potential hazards.

Conditions are expected to worsen as summer wears on.

Despite this, the Tasmania Fire Service's best guidance has so far suggested near-normal summer dryness, with only a 50 per cent chance of lower-than-normal rainfall.

For rural and regional Tasmanians, who might have been lulled by abnormally lush landscapes in recent springs and summers, a normal season might come as a shock.

Ms Martin said the southern oscillation index, which formed the basis for typically dry El Nino, or typically wet La Nina forecasts, was close to neutral and had little bearing on this summer's climate forecast.

Winter was drier than normal in most parts of Tasmania, particularly in July, but Autumn rainfalls were above average across much of the state, and September was wetter than normal in most areas, especially Hobart, with 68mm.

TFS chief officer Mike Brown said this month's analysis suggested the state was likely to experience a normal fire season but there was potential for large fires through to late summer, with some total fire bans likely in hot, dry and windy weather.

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Heart wound fatal, court told

AN Eggs and Bacon Bay man died from a stab wound to the heart during a drunken fight at his home, the Supreme Court in Hobart has heard.

Stuart Barry Russell, 40, has pleaded not guilty to murder and attempted arson over the death of his friend Brett Williams, 46, at the southern Tasmanian town on December 16 last year.

Director of Public Prosecution Tim Ellis, SC, told the court Mr Russell and his 18-year-old girlfriend were in the process of moving to Mr Williams' property at the time.

After a long day of drinking, a fight broke out between the two men and Mr Russell stabbed Mr Williams several times with a small knife, Mr Ellis told the jury.

The fatal wound penetrated 7cm into Mr Williams' chest, piercing his heart twice. He died soon after.

Mr Russell was seen holding a knife and a hammer and said "I've stabbed him twice", Mr Ellis said.

Later in the evening, Mr Russell attempted unsuccessfully to set fire to the corpse as it lay on the kitchen floor, Mr Ellis told the court.

Mr Williams' charred body was found by a neighbour the next morning.

The prosecutor said Mr Russell went fishing the following morning and told investigating police police he knew nothing about what had happened to Mr Williams.

"It is, we say, a lie. It's a lie," Mr Ellis said.

"The fact he told a lie about that and also that he sought to set fire to the body of Mr Williams and the house can be used by you as evidence of his guilt of the crimes.

"He lied because the truth would incriminate him."

The jury was warned some of the evidence in the case would be gruesome and that key witnesses were intoxicated by alcohol on the night of the killing.

"Alcohol plays a big part in the events that transpired," Mr Ellis said.

The trial, before Justice Peter Evans, is expected to last two weeks.

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Devil-proof fence plan floated

VAN Diemen's Land Company is looking to build a devil-proof fence around its massive Woolnorth property to protect one of the last pockets of healthy Tasmanian devils in the state.

The company is in the process of converting beef pasture, clearing bush and increasing its dairy herd as part of a $180 million expansion.

Conservationists have raised concerns that endangered devils would be put at further risk as native vegetation was cleared to make more room for dairy pasture. Woolnorth, on the state's North-West Coast, is home about 600 devils.

The Tasmanian Conservation Trust has criticised the company for electing to clear almost 2000ha of bush in line with its expansion plans, saying loss of habitat will cause devil and quoll numbers to drop.

But VDL chief executive Michael Guerin said Woolnorth boasted some of the biggest and healthiest devils in Tasmania and he was confident they could continue to co-exist with farming.

"We have been working for more than five years with the Save the Devil Program, including the possible construction of a devil-proof fence to prevent the spread of the facial tumour disease to Woolnorth," Mr Guerin said.

The devil tumour disease has now afflicted about 85 per cent of Tasmania's wild devil population.

VDL said 4297ha, or 70 per cent, of the property's native vegetation would be formally and informally protected under its new environmental plan.

When the expansion is complete, Woolnorth will boast 23 dairy farms. Each will stock about 1100 cows.

"Tasmania can be a leader in the development of the dairy industry in Australia in terms of volume produced, animal welfare and innovation," Mr Guerin said.

VDL today released its draft application to seek permission from both the state and federal governments to expand the Woolnorth farm and make it a 100 per cent dairy operation.

The approval is expected to take about six months.

Mr Guerin said the company was still in talks with domestic and international equity partners to fund the expansion.

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Freight debate begins

Written By miftah nugraha on Senin, 26 November 2012 | 19.55

Infrastructure Minister David O'Byrne addressing the new team charged with developing a long-term freight strategy for Tasmania.

THE team tasked with tackling Tasmania's freight woes met for the first time in Hobart this morning.

The meeting was closed to the media but Infrastructure Minister David O'Byrne said the forum would allow cross-industry experts to help determine the best way forward to solve Tasmanian exporters' shipping difficulties.

Local exporters have described the Bass Strait as the most expensive passage of water in the world, despite the $140 million annual Federal Government subsidy designed to reduce costs.

"Good freight logistics help protect and create Tasmanian jobs," Mr O'Byrne said.

"These experienced group members understand freight.

"They understand the complexities -- and the urgency -- because these challenges directly affect their daily lives."

Mr O'Byrne said the team would report its findings directly to the state and federal governments.

"It'll provide expert logistics and supply chain advice and help us complete a long-term Tasmanian freight strategy," he said.

Mr O'Byrne said team's first job was to identify key freight issues and put them in context.

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Woman charged over robbery

A LUTANA woman has been charged with armed robbery following the hold up of a bottleshop last night.

Police allege the 39-year-old woman entered the 9/11 bottleshop on the Brooker Highway, Lutana, about 7.20pm and demanded cash from the attendant.

The woman has been charged with one count of armed robbery and numerous firearm offences and has been detained to appear in court today.

There were no customers in the store at the time of the incident and no one was physically injured.

Police would like anyone who may have witnessed any suspicious activity around the bottleshop near the time of the incident to contact Hobart CIB on 6230 2603 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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Guilty plea over armed robbery

A MAN held up a video store with a loaded shotgun because his partner was in a coma from a spider bite and he needed the money to support her children, the Supreme Court has heard.

Damien William Harris, 36, pleaded guilty to armed robbery, possessing a loaded firearm without a licence and possessing a shortened firearm.

Crown prosecutor Jack Shapiro told the court Harris held up the Video City store at New Town on October 7.

Harris entered the store with a sawn-off shotgun and demanded staff empty the contents of the cash registers into a plastic bag.

He escaped with just more than $1100 in cash but was caught after a short car chase with police.

Officers found the money in his underwear.

Defence lawyer Kim Baumeler told the court her client's partner has been bitten by a spider shortly before the offence.

"He was finding it very difficult to look after her three children on his [Centrelink] allowance. By the time he had rent taken out, he had $180 a fortnight to survive on," she told the court.

Ms Baumeler said Harris had sat by the river for the day trying to come up with ways of making money.

She said he was remorseful for the crime.

Justice David Porter will sentence Harris on December 5.

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Woman's body found

Written By miftah nugraha on Minggu, 25 November 2012 | 19.55

POLICE are investigating the death of a woman after her body was found in Devonport yesterday.

Police and paramedics were called to a vehicle parked in Ronald St, Devonport just before 3am yesterday and a 24-year-old woman was located on the nature strip nearby.

The cause of death is unknown at this time and a post-mortem will be conducted.

Police said the woman had no significant injuries and no violent crime was suspected.

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Say good buy to paying rent

TASMANIANS sick of renting are flocking to suburbs where their dream of buying a house is not financially out of reach.

In some suburbs, the gap between renting and paying a mortgage is beginning to shrink.

Residential property analyst RP Data's recent Buy v Rent report showed there were 14 suburbs in Greater Hobart, six in Launceston and five in the Burnie/Devonport are where on average it is cheaper to buy than to rent.

Hobart's Northern Suburbs dominated the list in the state's South.

Real estate agent Patrick Berry, who has been selling houses in the Northern Suburbs for six years, said the area was changing quickly and, after a recent lull in sales, first-home buyers were returning to the market.

"It's always been popular with first-home buyers," he said.

"Claremont has been a pretty strong suburb in recent times, Brighton [also] because you can buy a brand new three-bedroom home for what you would get an older home in Glenorchy.

"Gen Y tend to want a brand new or almost brand new home. Claremont has a lot of homes that have been renovated in the past few years. We've been seeing a lot of first-home buyers heading out that way.

"Anything from Moonah back towards Hobart now is getting pretty expensive. A lot of home buyers can't afford to borrow that much."

The places beyond the so-called "Flannelette Curtain" are also enjoying an improved image.

There's no better example of this than Chigwell, the birthplace of the term "Chigga," which means bogan.

With its river views, a community vibe and affordable homes, Chigwell is becoming a real-estate hot spot.

"A lot of people wouldn't go near it [before]," Mr Berry said.

He said there was a growing number of attractions and facilities in Glenorchy to attract new people to the area.

Recent major developments include MONA, the Glenorchy Art and Sculpture Park, new facilities at Elwick Bay, and a major redevelopment of the King George V sports precinct.

"There isn't really a huge need to go into town [Hobart] like there used to be. Glenorchy has become a lot more impressive with what it offers," Mr Berry said.

Launceston real estate agent Eric Andersen, director of the Bushby Property Group, said it was possible to get a three-bedroom home within a 15-minute walk of the Launceston CBD for the same price as a house several suburbs out of Hobart.

Mr Andersen said up-and-coming suburbs included Invermay, Newstead and Mowbray, though he said Mowbray was dominated by investment properties.

"Invermay is very much a hot spot for first-home buyers," he said. "Most properties range from $200,000 to $300,000 and it's a lovely old suburb.

"People's idea of a 'standard mortgage' is a fair bit higher than it used to be.

"The lower part of Newstead is underdone in my opinion, and it's in our top five suburbs in town."

Burnie property consultant Dee Green, of Emu Bay Real Estate, said Acton, Montello and Hillcrest were well within the price range of first-home buyers, with houses available for $200,000 or less.

All three suburbs were listed by RP Data as being in the "cheaper to buy than rent" category.

Mrs Green said it could sometimes be a struggle for real estate agents to find homes that meet buyers' expectations while remaining within a tight budget.

"A lot of first-home buyers are becoming very fussy because there's a lot on the market to choose from," she said.

Couple excited to become homeowners

NURSE Jess Horton and disability support worker Tammie Robertson have just joined the steady movement of Hobart first-home buyers happily heading north of Creek Rd.

Two months ago the couple bought their first home at Claremont, one of a pocket of northern Hobart suburbs where at the moment making repayments on the average weekly mortgage is cheaper or on par with the average cost of rent.

Ms Robertson, 28, and Ms Horton, 24, paid $240,000 for their three-bedroom renovated weatherboard house, close to the average Claremont house value of $231,00, and are spending only slightly more on their mortgage per week than they were paying in rent.

"We were so excited to move in, it happened really quickly for us," Ms Robertson said.

The women said buying a house together had always been a long-term goal, but the decision to buy was made suddenly.

They had previously been renting together in the nearby suburb of Austins Ferry and were sick of spending money on rent.

"We just woke up one day and said 'We're not renting any more'," Ms Horton said.

"We looked at pretty much all the houses in this area in our price range."

The couple went on an extreme saving mission, managing to save close to a 10 per cent deposit in three months which, in addition to the $7000 first-home buyers' grant, got them into their own home.

They said while their street was populated by a mix of residents, more young couples and families were moving into the area.

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Circumnavigation bid aborted

Tobias Fahey, seen here on his way past the Iron Pot at the start of his record attempt, has has to abort the trip after his batteries became damaged. Picture: Jimmy Emms and Tasmanian Air Adventures

TASMANIAN solo yachtsman Tobias Fahey has been forced to abandon his around-the-world voyage and is limping back to Hobart.

He set sail on Wednesday on his attempt to circumnavigate the world in under 180 days but yesterday encountered a battery problem that sank his plans.

"I have been having charging issues since I left and they have progressively gotten worse to the point that my batteries will no longer hold charge for a sufficient amount of time," he said.

Faulty wiring in the alternator regulator caused the batteries on board to receive an excess charge, which overheated them and damaged them beyond repair.

The batteries, which are charged by the boat's motor or wind generators, supply power for several essential onboard systems, including communications, radar and the automatic identification systems (AIS) needed to avoid collisions with other vessels at sea.

Without sufficient electricity to power these systems and no way of repairing the damage at sea, Fahey, 25 from Dodges Ferry, made the heartbreaking decision to turn back to Hobart just three days into his voyage.

"I still have this strong urge to go on but it's not worth the risk, it's unsafe," he told the Sunday Tasmanian by satellite phone last night.

"I've spoken to my family and they all said not to risk going on -- the world's not going anywhere, it'll still be there later."

Fahey said the westerly winds and swell that had carried him so swiftly towards New Zealand were now working against him as his yacht, Sea Quest, battled into the wind and waves for a much slower and rougher journey home.

"I was basically surfing down the waves all the way until now but now I'm slamming into them," he said. Fahey was closer to New Zealand than Tasmania when he turned back and expects the return trip to take four days.

Fahey's goal was to complete his voyage in under 180 days to break the Australian record for sailing solo around the world.

Before turning back, he was on track to do it in around 135 days.

He said the repairs would cost thousands of dollars and he was unsure when he would be able to make another attempt at the record, but is determined to try again.

"I'll just have to take a look at that once I'm back in Hobart," he said.

"The past few days have been some of the most satisfying and rewarding days of my life."

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