Strata Data: High-Rise Living

Strata Data: High-Rise Living

As the main business in the Terandi group, Victoria and Adelaide-based body corporate management company Strata Data has nearly forty years of experience in the rapidly growing strata industry. Australian Business Executive recently spoke with Marc Steen, COO of the Terandi Group, to learn more about the industry and Strata Data’s place within it.

Marc Steen

After studying for his commerce and law degree, Mr Steen began his professional life immediately after graduation, starting work for a strategy consulting firm called Bain International.

Marc Steen, COO of the Terandi Group
Marc Steen, COO of the Terandi Group

Then followed a move to Europe and the completion of an MBA at the Insead Business School, just outside Paris, before a move back to Australia and New South Wales, where he worked for a number of years for Diageo at its head office in Bondi Junction.

Mr Steen held both strategy and marketing roles with Diageo before moving west to take up a position as general manager of South Australia and Northern Territory. In 2006, Mr Steen moved on from Diageo to start his own company, Trades Monitor.

Trades Monitor turned out to be an extremely successful venture for Mr Steen, and was named by BRW as one of the ‘Fast 100 Growing Companies in Australia’. As a consequence of this success, the company was bought out in 2010 by NASDAQ-listed company Ebix.

After the buy-out, Mr Steen stayed on with Ebix, continuing to assist the company. In 2015 he left to join Strata Data and the Terandi group. In several of his previous roles, Mr Steen had links to strata, making the move into body corporate management a relatively easy one.

“With my family background, I’ve always been on the fringes of strata,” he tells us. “My dad, when I was born, was a strata manager. He was one of the first strata managers in New South Wales, and he set up one of the very first stratas in NSW.”

Mr Steen’s father owned a business called Independent Property Reports, which took care of pre-purchase inspections for strata title properties. During university holidays, Mr Steen helped out at the company, gaining a wealth of valuable experience in the business, making strata management a natural progression from his previous roles.

“The main client group [for Trades Monitor] was strata management companies. 90% of our clients were strata managers. I used to go to all the strata conferences, the state conferences, the national conferences, so I know a lot of the people in the strata industry.”

Terandi Group

The Terandi group incorporates several other companies owned by Terry and Di Smith, Strata Data’s owners, who began Terandi together back in 1977. Those other companies are Rent All, Maintenance Matters and Credit Recovery Solutions.

“There’s a number of businesses that are part of the Terandi Group,” Mr Steen says. “So Strata Data is the largest, and I guess was the first and is the focus, and Strata Data is a body corporate management business.”

Both Rent All, a property management company, and Maintenance Matters, which handles property maintenance and repair, operate exclusively in South Australia, whereas the main company, Strata Data, operates in Victoria and SA.

Strata Data was formed at the same time as Terandi as a family business for Terry and Di Smith. The Terandi group focused on strata management to begin with, but over the following decades grew both organically and through acquisition.

“As part of that growth, there was diversification into others areas. So, not only did the whole body corporate business grow, but that’s when the property management business was also started and the Maintenance Matters business, and then the most recent addition, Credit Recovery Solutions, which started three years ago.”

Terandi has experienced steady growth over those decades, creating the opportunity for the group’s biggest development, which came seven years ago, when the decision was made to take the business national, beginning in Victoria with the opening of an office in Melbourne.

“That’s something we’re wanting to consolidate and grow,” Mr Steen stresses, “and once that gets to a scale that we feel is substantial and operating well on its own, we’ll then be looking at where to go next.”

Rise of Strata

The growth of Victorian strata is particularly impressive going into the new year, with the industry currently growing quicker than anywhere else in the country, a fact Mr Steen sees represented in the development visible in the Melbourne skyline.

“I went to a talk from Bernard Salt, the demographer. He’s a well known futurist, and he certainly has made a point that the strata industry is a very high growth industry. This is not specific about Victoria, but people are moving more towards apartment living.”

Victorian strata growth is the fastest in the country.
Victorian strata growth is the fastest in the country.

State government development plans have changed from spreading cities out, which requires increased infrastructure, to building up, by adding more high-rise living, which is better for the environment. All around Australia this new approach to living is being employed.

“There have been lots of stats that have been done and research to show that this is actually much better, as far as not having to knock down forests or take out grazing lands to spread out; if you build up, it’s actually a greener way to house people.”

Strata Data currently supervises around 1,400 properties across South Australia and Victoria, meaning they work with roughly 20,000 single unit owners. This works out at an average of 13 or 14 units in each block.

The strata industry in Victoria does not have a particularly good reputation when it comes to relationships between managers and owners, so what is it that makes Strata Data stand out from its competitors and retain the support of its clients?

“It’s an interesting question, and I think Melbourne particularly, compared to South Australia, has got another level of complexity, which is a lot of people are investors, especially in the big city blocks, and a lot of them can be overseas investors.”

Investors from other countries, particularly China, are now moving into Australian strata, meaning maintaining good relationships is even harder. Differences such as time zones, language barriers and an understanding of the business must all be successfully negotiated.

“Our model is a high-touch, high-service model,” Mr Steen says, “so we make sure that we are staffed up adequately to provide that service, particularly as we’re not the lowest cost provider and we don’t try to be; we try to provide a high level of service to our clients.”

The company has established a number of innovative and accessible methods for customers to make contact, including increased availability on the company website in the form of an instant chat widget, allowing problems to be addressed in real time.

In addition, the company makes sure it encourages people to attend either committees or annual general meetings, to get involved in the running of the building, which Mr Steen admits is the best way to make sure clients are onside.

“Most of the unhappy clients that we getand everyone has some unhappy clientsbut most of them are people who haven’t been involved, so they say ‘we’re not happy with X,Y and Z’, but it’s usually not us that they’re not happy with.”

Quite often the issues arise from the sub-set of owners who make decisions for the apartment blockdecisions which Strata Data duly follows and enforcesmeaning the blame is often wrongly attributed to the strata manager.

“What we try and encourage people to do who might not be happy,” Mr Steen says, “is to get on the committee, speak to people on the committee, come to the meetings, because we’re not the ones that actually make the decisions, we follow owner or committee instructions.”

Usually, when people realise exactly how the process works and what they can do to influence proceedings, a higher level of satisfaction is provided for the client and a smoother working relationship reached.

Industry Issues

Working for a higher-end strata company operating in Victoria and SA, Mr Steen recognises the issues surrounding price competition. “There’s a lot of talk of competitive undercutting in the Melbourne market,” he says, “it’s hard for me to gauge, really, how that operates.”

“We don’t operate at that end of the market. We don’t try to be price competitive and provide minimum service, so we’re not really operating at that end of the market that gets so affected by that, but certainly we hear a fair amount about the tough price competition.”

The competition Strata Data sees most of is less about pricing and more about relationships with developers, where the costs involved with forming alliances can often be subject to a similar kind of undercutting.

“There’s quite a bit of competition there. So that’s the new buildings, for developers who are bringing new stock onto the market, they get to appoint the first strata manager and obviously if you’ve got a relationship with them then that’s going to put you in a pretty good place.”

One of the main issues affecting the strata is the new building defects
One of the main issues affecting the strata is the new building defects

One of the main issues affecting the strata industry is that of defects in new buildings. Another is around buildings across the country as they begin to reach half a century or more of age, where the question of what to do with them is becoming increasingly important.

“With building defects, there has been an issue,” Mr Steen says, “and particularly one of the well known ones is, there was a large building that caught on fire because of some material that was used on the building which was not fire safe.”

In response to events like this one, the industry is beginning to look at a number of buildings across the region which may need to have changes made to make them fire safe and ensure such tragedies are not repeated.

The other issue is to do with the problems surrounding knocking down and rebuilding properties that are now reaching fifty or sixty years of age, problems exacerbated by the need for 100% approval from every owner in order to do so.

“If you’ve got an apartment block for a hundred people,” Mr Steen says, “to get approval from everyone can be quite difficult. Some people may not disapprove, they just may not even turn up or vote.”

New South Wales has recently passed legislation stating that in order to knock down and rebuild an old building, only 75% owner agreement must be attained. This kind of legislation hasn’t been implemented in Victoria, meaning a significant issue still remains.

“I do think the Victorian strata industry is really well-run; it’s almost the model of the strata industry across the country, in my opinion. So the industry body, the SCA [Strata Community Australia], runs very good educational programs and has a very good management agreement, that is well used.”

Mr Steen believes the SCA has done an excellent job of running the industry in Victoria, by bringing the industry together, educating and professionalising the industry, and making the public aware of what strata is all about.

Find out more about Strata Data by visiting:

Strata Data

This Strata Data business profile has been made possible by the generous support of:

Ebix Australia

To read and download the full profile click on the cover image below. To view this editorial as it appeared originally in The Australian Business Executive magazine, click here.

Editorial by Nicholas Paul Griffin

MGA Whittles Group: Forty Years On and Stronger Than Ever

MGA Whittles Group: Forty Years On and Stronger Than Ever

With its three—armed approach to the insurance and Strata businesses, the MGA Whittles Group has been providing quality services to the people of South Australia and beyond for over forty years. The Australian Business Executive recently secured an exclusive interview with John George, the group’s Executive Chairman to discuss the success of MGA Insurance Brokers and Whittles Body Corporate in greater detail.

MGA Insurance
The original arm of the business was established in October 1975, placing MGA in its 40th year of existence. The company began after Mr. George left his job at South British United Insurance Company and established his own business, initially known as .I.R. George Insurance Services, which was the origin of MGA.

During this period there were only a handful of international brokers practicing. At that time, insurers began to recognise the benefits of distributing their products and capacity through brokers rather than the traditional method of employing sales staff.

There was no legislation covering the industry at that time, and it remained that way until the introduction of the Insurance Agents and Brokers Act in 1984, followed almost two decades later by the Financial Services Reform Act

“It is very much now a controlled industry,” Mr. George says. “A major percentage of wholesale products, being those commercial products, are delivered through the medium of insurance brokers.”

Insurance brokers offer the client a wide range of services, and MGA acts as the agent for the client rather than the insurer. Not all insurance companies can be all things to all clients, so many of MGA’s accounts have risks spread across a variety of underwriters.

We work for our clients,” Mr. George says, “and we will search the market, that we know extremely well, to come up with the best cover, the most competitive rate for our clients… It extends the reach of the general client, it gives that client access to the entire insurance market.”

It is not the broker that pays out on claims; this is the responsibility of the cover holder or underwriter. The broker’s responsibility is to make sure the client receives the correct amount and has secured the best deal on a particular claim.

“It’s been my experience that most clients need that security of somebody that they’re dealing with that which maybe has nothing to do with insurance broking, but they can trust. They are in their own businesses, do require insurance, which is a very important part of their business.”

“They are looking to have that responsibility handled by somebody that really knows what they’re doing and can protect their business for them. They pay a fee for that service and it’s up to us as brokers to charge the correct fee, which will pay all of our costs and give us a bottom line.”

At the end of the day the broker is judged not only on its premiums and fee, but the level of service that is provided for the client. It is often the ease of ‘you get what you pay for”, and Mr. George believes prudent clients understand this.

“MGA has always specialized in general insurance products. That’s basically everything but life insurance, superannuation and investment advice. We’re purely involved in property insurance, liability insurance and general insurance products.”

But there are particular areas of expertise For MGA. One niche market is in the rural sector, which covers about I % of the company‘s total premiums, where the company has developed a Farm Pack style insurance policy, the broadest in the marketplace.

Another specialist policy is in Strata Title buildings, of which the company has about 5,000 insured throughout the country. MGA also handles a lot of individual commercial clients, which range in premiums from 82k per year to $500k per year.

“In terms of retail products—that is retail, house and car: the mums and dads-that still forms an important part of our business and will probably make up about 20% of our total book of business.”

Via its underwriting agency arrangements, the group is also cover holder for the insurance market Lloyd’s of London, where it is represented by an agent, meaning it often places business into the London market. Lloyds is the underwriter for MGA’s Landlord Property Protection product, as well as some of its Strata Title insurance.

“The majority of our business will be done via the Australian insurance marketplace, but there’s also a reasonable percentage in place on the Lloyds market,” Mr. George says.

In 2012, MGA was selected ahead of 130 other brokerages by leading industry publication Insurance Business as Australia‘s number one insurance broker. This is an accolade Mr. George attributes to the decision, as the business started to grow, for the company to embrace a different model to lift it above its competitors, the result being a groundbreaking innovation in the industry.

“I‘m a great believer in the power of the individual,” Mr. George says, “and the individuals are out there [as our] representatives, in our branches, in our offices, out on the road. I realised that we needed to do something to harness their power…to bring them closer into the business, rather than working with us as employees.”

MGA Whittles Group Executive Chairman John George.
MGA Whittles Group Executive Chairman John George.

In response to this realisation the company designed the Portfolio Management System, offering some of its long time brokers the chance to own management rights over the portfolios they were managing.

The selected brokers Portfolio established their Management companies and employed their own broker assistants. The company then shared income on the portfolios they were managing.

“They actually became professional contractors,” Mr. George says. “Although in the strictest sense they are not franchisees, there are some elements of franchising. Much of the stresses of having a large staff, and large HR departments to manage those staff, have reduced significantly.”

“But importantly, it gave the individuals the opportunity to grow a business. It gave individuals the opportunity to build an asset, because those management rights that we granted them over those portfolios were an asset in their own right and are saleable. And in fact quite a few of them have been sold and changed hands.”

This provided MGA with a far more efficient way of serving its clients, providing its representatives with an opportunity to be in a partnership with the company whilst also running their own businesses.

“I think that was a turning point in our business,” Mr. George adds, individuals involved went up by anything from 50-150%. It was “when we produced that, we found productivity of the quite spectacular. That was the philosophy we adopted, and that’s allowed us to expand as we have over the past 40 years.”

The insurance market is constantly changing, and having seen plenty of takeovers in recent years, the marketplace is now much smaller than it used to be in terms of underwriters.

“Where we had dozens of underwriters in the marketplace twenty years ago,” Mr. George says, “now there are only a handful of majors in Australia, so the marketplace has changed.”

MGA has remained flexible, recognising these changes and working to benefit the client. In such a tightly controlled industry, companies need to have strict protocols in place to ensure compliance with government regulations, which is a costly endeavour

“The day of the small operator, I think, is coming to an end, because they’ve been costed out of the marketplace. That said there are some excellent small operators out there who are in niche areas, [and] we’re more than happy to embrace those people.”

In light of low interest rates, and the capital market as it is globally, there is plenty of money looking for a home and a return. Reinsurance has become an investment place for capital markets, as excess money looks for a home that gives the possibility of a reasonable return.

“I think we’ll see more and more competition coming into the market,” Mr. George says. “I think we’ll see more and more innovations as far as IT is concerned, which is certainly an area that we’ve focused on within our organisation

“Our systems, I believe, now are amongst the best available, some of them are fundamental industry systems, but on top of that we’ve built some excellent add-ons.”

In order to maintain its strength, MGA Insurance has taken measures to keep costs down, maximising not only the services it offers its clients, but also the return that can be expected for shareholders.

Whittles Strata Management

In 1983, MGA Insurance won an account through its chartered accounts. The new acquisition owned a Strata company called J.S.Whittle & Co, which was managing 270 buildings. When the company went up for sale two years later, MGA decided to buy it.

“That business has sat beside our insurance broking business now since that time,” Mr. George says, “and there are a lot of synergies in the business. Although the offering is quite different, culturally there are quite a few synergies.”

Whilst Whittles operates primarily in the Northern Territory, Queensland and Victoria, the entire MGA Whittles business in most instances will work out of the same offices, as they share a central computer and admin system.

Whittles is a portfolio-based business, meaning one of the Strata managers will handle up to 150 buildings. The manager will be required to arrange the Annual General Meeting and the secretarial and maintenance needs of the body corporate, as well as insurance claims.

“Once a year, at the Strata’s Annual General Meeting, Whittles’ appointment is laid on the table and if the people are satisfied with the deal that they’re getting and the job that our body corporate manager is doing, they’ll be appointed for a further term.”

This arrangement is based on the timescales of the insurance industry, where a broker will look after a policy for 12 months before a review is done. In that sense alone it’s an ongoing, portfolio-based relationship, creating a synergy between the two arms of the business.

Likewise, the Portfolio Management System that was introduced by MGA was replicated in the Whittles arm ofthe company. “We’ve had the same excellent results with that as we have for the insurance,” Mr. George says.

As the population of Australia grows, so does the popularity of Strata, which represents a far more efficient habitation option for some people, particularly working couples living close to a city.

Strata Title homes offer many and varied options for buyers. Some community corporations can produce up to five—bedroom homes, all contained within a corporation setting offering centralized resources.

“People are busy these days,” Mr. George says, “usually with two people working in the family, and they like to close the door and walk out and know that all of the maintenance and everything is taken care of for them.”

Mr. George expects to see further growth in this area, as has been evident in the European market where there is often a tremendous amount of high-density living close to major cities, mostly a consequence of a dearth of living space.

“I think we’re seeing it here not so much because there isn’t enough space, but because it’s much more efficient and affordable. I believe that will continue.”

Older style buildings in the industry remain something of a challenge, especially those intended to have a maximum 40 or so years of life. Over the coming years many of these buildings will be need to be replaced due to escalating maintenance costs.

“Ageing infrastructure, and fairly poor construction on some of the older buildings which were put up hurriedly back in the ‘60s, in the boom years, I think it is an issue for body corporate managers and owners, as the cost of maintaining these properties grows and grows.”

Dealing with these properties has also become a challenge for legislators, although a small amount of them have now been demolished, with new ones put up in their place. This particularly has an impact on Strata groups, which are likely to have many people as co—owners of these properties.

The Group

In terms of our relationships… there has to be a fundamental confidence between all the parties for this to work effectively and efficiently. We’ve enjoyed a great relationship with most of the major underwriters in Australia, and also the Lloyds market, that’s been very much important to us in growing our business.”

The relationship between the three major parties–the client, the broker and the underwriter—is the most important in terms of running a successful business. As broker, MGA needs to be on good terms with the underwriter, in most cases at a very high level, so that if issues do arise it has access to the businesses to resolve them.

MGA Whittles operates with a proud South Australian heritage, and has embraced the area as ideal for the location of its head office. Mr. George tells us how easy a place Adelaide is to get around, and that there is always great staff available.

“There was a temptation at one stage for us to move our head office to Sydney, but I’m delighted that we didn’t do that. I feel now that we’ve made the right decision. We’re very, very happy with the place… We’re not going anywhere.”

“Nationally, we do have around about 460 personnel and of those, around about 250 of them are domiciled in South Australia. So we’re providing jobs for 250 South Australians.”

The group’s impressive growth has seen it make a move recently into South East Asia, with MGA opening up an office in Phnom Penh within the last 12 months. “We’re now at the stage where our business is growing; we believe the group, about 60% of our national receipts are coming from outside of South Australia That part of our business is growing at the most rapid pace.”

The third arm of the business is the Millennium Underwriting agency, which began as a project to develop products. It has since developed its (JVW1 Farm Pack product, Strata Title Management product and a Property Protection product.

“[Millennium] very much is a part of our group, [and] develops specialized products. In terms of business placed, there will be more business placed through Millennium than any single underwriter, so it’s very important to us to be able to offer specialist products to our clients.”

Secret of Success

Despite its many years of existence, and the changing nature of the group, Mr. George is proud to say that MGA Whittles still has the satire culture to it now as it did all the way back at its beginning.

“Whilst employing Public Company Governance, we’re still very much a family organisation, and we have been successful, even through our strong geographical growth, of maintaining that family feeling of all of our people, and that is very evident at the national conferences that we hold.”
In fact, Mr. George insists that any member of staff, no matter their position, can walk into the Managing Director’s Office or the Chairman’s office at any time for a discussion. Not to mention the fact that each of the three divisions are run by one of the sons of the founding members of the company.

“Without that, probably we would be looking at becoming more corporate,” Mr. George says, “I think we would have to, really. But our sons share our vision and so we can see no reason why the business shouldn’t be able to continue on the same growth phase that it has over the last 40 years.”

The company has endeavored to maintain a growth of 75—10% each year, something it has been able to achieve through most of its life. As the company has grown, that 10% has represented larger profits, helping the company maintain its success.

MGA Whittles has also consistently looked for acquisitions to further strengthen the group. “These people have to be a good fit for us,” Mr. George stresses, “because you’re not buying j ust a book of business so to speak, you’re usually buying the people who are in that business.”

“[There’s] not a year goes past when we haven’t had something to do with an acquisition activity, and we’re finding now with demographics being as they are, that people within their businesses… that may be looking at retirement, they have no succession plan in place.”

“We offer an ideal track for them to be able to eventually exit their businesses, and also for us to purchase it, and we pay quite generous prices to those people. That’s a major part of our success strategy”

The Strata and General Insurance industries are not that large in Australia, so the group tends to know the companies that are around, and keeps an eye out for those which maybe a good fit for acquisition.

“It costs nothing to talk to people,” Mr. George says, “you’ve got to keep your ear to the ground. When an opportunity comes, of course you’ve got to do your due diligence, but at that time you’ve got to be ready to go.”

“We’re finding we’re being approached these days; we’re becoming a broker and Strata Management Company of choice for people to be associated with.”

Some companies will be keen to get under the umbrella of a big organisation, and some will want to sell. Mr. George’s advice to companies looking to be involved with MGA Whittles is to keep communication lines open within the industry and keep an eye on what’s going on.

Order of Australia

The success of the MGA Whittles group has allowed Mr. George to make a difference in the lives of others, as well as earning him the highest recognition in his field.

In 2000 he was introduced to Geraldine Cox, the President of the Australia Cambodia Foundation (ACF), who was experiencing difficulties handling the organisation’s back office. As a result of this meeting, MGA became involved with the organisation.

“I served as treasurer Security and then Chairman of the Australia Cambodia Foundation for a total period of about fourteen years. I’m no longer the Chairman of that association, but I‘m a trustee of it still.”

As a result of his ongoing work in Cambodia, particularly that of providing education for orphaned and impoverished children, Mr. George was awarded the honour of CAM (Medal of the Order of Australia) in 2013.

Mr. George worked primarily with Sunrise Children’s Villages and a charity called AllKids, focusing on the education of impoverished children. There are huge numbers of children in Cambodia who will never have the chance to go to school, with many reaching their teenage years still unable to read or write Khmer.

“Those kids have got no hope,” Mr. George says, “and these are the kinds of people that you see ending up being trafficked and ending up in these dreadful camps. It’s really sad, and education of course changes all that.”

Further work included the building of a health centre for Children with HIV, which Mr. George oversaw most of the admin work for. For his work 011 the centre, he was awarded the Cambodian Gold Medal, presented to him by Prime Minister Hun Sen at the centre’s opening.

Back at home, 2013 was also a good year, as Mr. George was awarded the Les McKeown trophy, the highest accolade that can be given to an insurance broker in the country, granted by the National Insurance Brokers Association of Australia.

“You don’t actually go out to do it because of that,” Mr. George says of his recent accolades, “but at the end of the day it’s nice to have that recognition, and hopefully the recognition encourages others to work harder and do better.”

Prime Minister Hun Sen and MGA Whittles Group Executive Chairman John George.

Prime Minister Hun Sen and MGA Whittles Group Executive Chairman John George.

Thought-Leadership

I’d never even heard that word until about a month ago,” Mr. George admits with a laugh, when asked about his opinion of thought-leadership. “But I think the reasons for our success are the empowerment given to our good people. We’re rising to $400 million in gross receipts nationally, that’s 37 branches, so it’s a big business now. “

“You’ve got to have some courage to change things. If you believe in what you‘re doing, you can do that. It took a fair bit of courage to introduce our Portfolio Management System. We had a system here; we were a conservative, well—run company, but we wanted to do something different, we wanted to be innovative.”

Despite the cost, the risk taken by changing the system paid off with the increase in staff productivity. As a result the group ended up benefiting massively from this, and doing so with significantly less management input.

“Don’t be afraid to innovate,” Mr. George adds. “And the time to innovate is when things are going really well. And you’re feeling comfortable. When you’re feeling comfortable and things are going well, don’t sit around and pat yourself on the back and think you’re arrived, because you haven’t.”

Mr. George believes in any industry there will be new challenges on the horizon, and that laurels should never be rested on. When business is good and there is time to think, it is usually a good time to look for the next big idea.

Much of MGA Whittles” workforce has been employed for over 25 years, having grown with the company. In that respect, the group tends to have a very low turnover in staff.
“People join us,” Mr. George says, “and they tend to stay.”

“It is very, very important to value your top people, and to continue to encourage them, because at the end of the day you can’t do it all by yourself. Your good people, they need to have that feeling of family and that feeling of ownership.”

“It’s important to share with them the knowledge of what you’re doing in the business, so they have a feeling of what you as a manager have got in mind in terms of growing the business, so they’ll then automatically feel a part of that.”

But perhaps the true secret of MGA Whittles’ success is that the group‘s partners are in it because of their affection for the business, in contrast to some people in other organisations, who might be motivated only by money. The money and success come as side benefits of working in a business you love.

“If you’re determined to succeed, and you have the patience and the will and the persistence to succeed,” Mr. George concludes, “ultimately you’ll get there.”

This MGA Whittles business profile has been made possible by the generous support of:

Allianz
CGU Insurance
MGI Adelaide
JL & JK Bevan Master Plumbers
Hunter Premium Funding
National Transport Insurance
Austbrokers
Higgins Coatings

Cuts To Federal Defence Bureaucracy Welcomed

Federal Defence Minister Kevin Andrews announcement that head office jobs in defence procurement will be cut is a step in the right direction according to South Australian Defence Industries Minister Martin Hamilton-Smith.

Mr Hamilton-Smith said defence industry leaders and all those engaged in defence manufacturing had been frustrated for years at cumbersome and lethargic decision making in defence procurement.

“Reforming the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) and transforming the way business is done in defence procurement is long overdue,” he said.

“What industry needs is quick decision making.

“Billions of dollars worth of Australian business enterprise and tens of thousands of jobs hinge on decisions about submarines, surface ships, aircraft and land combat vehicles and other projects, many of which have been delayed and bungled over these years.”

Mr Hamilton-Smith said the State Government agreed with the findings of the First Principles Review that there had been proliferation of structures, processes and systems with unclear accountabilities, along with institutionalised waste, delayed decisions and flawed decision
making.

“The First Principles Review group, made up of Chairman David Peever, Peter Leahy, Jim McDowell, former Defence Minister Robert Hill and Lindsay Tanner, are to be congratulated for their work,” he said.

“The important thing now is that whatever new structures are forged fixes the problems of the past and result in the right decisions being made in a timely fashion to ensure our defence needs are met as well as those of industry and Australian workers.

“This efficiency measure will result in public service and resources being redirected to other priorities which are good for the nation.

We agree with the Australian Industry Group’s John O’Callaghan and Defence Teaming Centre’s Chris Burns that these DMO reforms are necessary and we commend Defence Minister Kevin Andrews for the reform.”

Work Begins On Major Upgrade Of The Coober Pedy Airstrip

Work has commenced on a $1.3 million upgrade of the Coober Pedy airstrip to help secure the future of commercial flights to the popular Outback town.

The Transport and Infrastructure Minister, Stephen Mullighan, announced the funding in November in response to new Civil Aviation Safety Authority requirements which could have ended passenger air services to Coober Pedy.

“The prospect of losing commercial flights to this iconic opal town was unacceptable to the South Australian Government so we moved to safeguard them,” Mr Mullighan said.

“This project is about securing a vital service to a remote part of South Australia – a service that contributes to the economy of this important Outback town and region.”

The new CASA requirements classify the Coober Pedy runway as too narrow. It needs to be widened from 18 metres to 30 metres to keep running commercial flights.

The Member for Giles, Eddie Hughes, lobbied for the upgrade to help secure the future of the local community.

“Data shows that 75 per cent of people who arrive on planes in Coober Pedy are visitors,” Mr Hughes said.

The Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure’s figures show of those visitors to the town, 50 per cent travel for business and 39 per cent for tourism or leisure.

Almost half of those who travel for business are employed in Coober Pedy’s mining sector.

“Widening the runway will not only increase economic opportunities but it will also help to secure the livelihoods of those who work in this opal mining town,” Mr Hughes said.

The District Council of Coober Pedy is overseeing the upgrade works.

Weather permitting, the widening and sealing of the runway should be complete by the end of February.

Following the completion of this necessary work, the State Government is also funding further improvements for the long-term sustainability of the airport.

These works will involve an additional layer of sealing to increase the durability of the runway and will commence later in 2015.

SA Government Offers $500,000 Funding To Create Innovative Foods

Creating South Australia’s next innovative food product is on the menu for local food manufacturers and researchers as part of a State Government program.

The Advanced Food Manufacturing (AFM) grants program supports co-funded projects that develop new or improved food products or manufacturing processes through the commercialisation of research.

Expressions of Interest for Round 2 of the program have opened today, with grants of between $25,000 and $100,000 available for approved projects.

Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Minister Leon Bignell said developing innovative food products was crucial to opening new markets, increasing exports, and boosting profitability for the state’s food manufacturers.

“Our food industry generated a record $15.3 billion for the state’s economy in 2013-14,” he said.

“The AFM program offers opportunities to grow our food industry and economy even further by supporting local food manufacturers and researchers to work together to develop innovative food products in South Australia.

“The $500,000 available in Round 2 will support projects that commercialise new or existing research. It will also build on the success from AFM Round 1 projects, with new products and processes already being developed.”

Round One AFM grants were awarded last June to nine projects with a total value of $1.23 million – $694,000 of State Government funding and industry co-funding of $542,000.

Successful Round 1 projects include the South Australian Research and Development Institute’s partnership with Barossa Pizza to develop a new frozen pizza range, and the collaboration between the University of Adelaide’s FOODplus research group and Solar Eggs to develop eggs with increased levels of Omega 3.

Solar Eggs Managing Director Jonathan Attard said the AFM grant awarded to his company gave it an opportunity to work with researchers that would otherwise have been hard to access.

“The grant allowed us to combine our expertise with their insights to innovate in a new direction for this business,” said Mr Attard.

The AFM program helps to deliver the State Government’s strategic priority of Premium Food and Wine from our Clean Environment.

Expressions of Interest for Round 2 of the AFM program close on 25 February, 2015.

For more information visit www.pir.sa.gov.au/food

 

$4.5 Million For South Australian Forest Industry Projects

The State Government will inject $4.5 million into the South East forestry industry to generate more investment and jobs.

Forests Minister Leon Bignell has visited the South East to make the announcement, and said the funding was being offered to four companies through Phase Two of the South East Forestry Partnerships Program, and will contribute to projects worth more than $20 million.

“The program was created to help the forest and forest products industry to recovery by encouraging further investment in new and existing businesses,” he said.

“Phase One of the program saw the joint investment of $34 million in the forest processing sector in the South East, with $15.38 million in State Government grants awarded to successful applicants.

“The four Phase Two grants are consistent with the recommendations outlined in the Stage Two report from the Cellulose Fibre Value Chain Study, and will support further value adding along the timber supply chain.

“It will also support innovation and the introduction of new technologies.”

The successful Phase Two applicants are required to enter into a funding agreement with the State Government. They had to match government funding on a dollar for dollar basis, payable upon achievement of key milestones as defined in the funding agreement.

However, most will be contributing to projects at a higher rate than just matching the State Government’s contribution.

Minister Bignell said a further $7.1 million was available to fund similar projects, and a third phase of SEFPP grants will open around March.

“It is imperative taxpayers’ money is spent on projects that will make a real difference for the South East – projects that maintain jobs and allow the forestry industry to grow,” he said.

“The further $7.1 million funding will support projects that meet the criteria of the Cellulose Fibre Value Chain Study, and an industry seminar will take place soon to help the industry prepare viable proposals in a subsequent call for new projects.”

Minister Bignell said the South East forestry region was a world-class timber resource and the Forest and Wood Products Industry is an integral part of South Australia’s economy.

“The four projects will maintain or increase employment, as well as retain or expand regional timber processing in the South East of South Australia,” he said.

Grants have been approved for the following projects:

  • Circa Group Pty Ltd – $1,450,000 for the construction of a cellulose refinery plant using Circa Group Pty Ltd’s Furacell process to produce cellulose based bio-chemical products. This involves utilising about 30,000 tonnes of sawdust to produce Levoglucosenone and its derivative, the biosolvent Cyrene.
  • Carter Holt Harvey Pinepanels Pty Ltd – $1,500,000 for the installation of modern Low Pressure Melamine technology at Carter Holt Harvey’s operations in Mount Gambier to produce White Particleboard and Decorative Colour panels and to provide the ability to grow the Decorative Colour Low Pressure Melamine product range.
  • McDonnell Industries Pty Ltd – $1,000,000 for the installation of equipment at their Mount Gambier sawmill, to enable processing of up to an additional 100,000 m3 of small diameter logs a year. This adds value to smaller diameter logs that would otherwise be exported, but now can be utilised to produce a wider range of high-value timber and related products.
  • Roundwood Solutions Pty Ltd – $557,000 for the installation of a Precision Rounder Machine at Yahl (near Mount Gambier) to increase production of rounded outdoor bollards, posts and rails. Small logs that would otherwise be exported are transformed into higher value products.

Visitors to NT spend $1.85 Billion

Total international and domestic visitors to the Northern Territory spent a whopping $1.85 billion in the NT for the year ending September 2014, according to new figures released this week.

“The 13 per cent increase in expenditure compared to the previous 12 months is the biggest spend by visitors to the NT in five years,” said Tourism Minister Matt Conlan.

“This is positive news for our tourism industry which has been doing it tough for the best part of a decade. It shows that we have turned the ship around and on track to meet our Tourism Vision target of a $2.2 billion visitor economy by 2020.”

The surge in expenditure comes on the back of a 14 per cent increase in spend by Australian visitors to the NT for the 12 months to September according to the latest figures by Tourism Research Australia’s National Visitor Survey (NVS).

The NVS also showed a 14 per cent increase in total domestic visitors to the NT for the same period to 1.059 million visitors.

“These are our best visitor numbers in five years and demonstrate that our Do the NT campaign is having an effect and cutting through to Australian holiday makers,” said Mr Conlan.

“The Territory was the only jurisdiction along with New South Wales and Victoria to increase its share of the key interstate holiday market (up 5.7% to 433,000), a significant achievement.

“This means our increased investment of $16 million into the tourism budget over the past two years along with our ‘always on’ digital strategy, brand partnerships with high-profile sporting clubs the Melbourne Demons, Adelaide United and Parramatta Eels and social media campaigns like our Mates of the Territory initiative are all helping to encourage people from right around Australia to Do the NT.

“And importantly, once they get here they are also staying longer with the latest NVS revealing visitor nights were also up by 16 per cent to 6.0 million and holiday nights up by 23 per cent to 2.4 million.

“Overall, combined international and domestic visitors to the NT increased 13 per cent to 1.34 million visitors for the 12 months to September this year.

“While this is a terrific result, we can’t relax. We know there is still much more work to do in order to repair a decade of Labor damage but, we’re in this for the long haul.”

According to the latest combined IVS and NVS results, increases were experienced across the Top End (up 7.7% to 406,000 holiday visitors) and Central Australia (up 1.3% to 332,000 holiday visitors). Darwin had a 12 per cent increase in combined holiday visitors to 331,000, while the flow on from the Darwin gateway saw Kakadu Arnhem up 17 per cent to 93,000 overnight visitors.

Other increases were to Alice Springs, up 4.9 per cent to 217,000, and Uluru which was up 1.3 per cent to 234,000.

Managing Director of SEIT Outback Australia in Uluru, Kathy Graham, said the latest figures represented what has been a busy year.

“This has been a bumper year – in fact, it’s probably the best season we’ve had for five years. I believe we’re up about 25-30 per cent,” said Ms Graham.
“And the season was a lot longer than normal – we usually slow-down in September, but this year it was the last week of November.”

The National Visitor Survey results follow the release of international statistics last week, which showed an increase of 8.5 per cent international visitors to the NT for the year ending September 2014.

More information on the NVS can be found at: http://www.tra.gov.au

Virgin Australia Launches New Route and Lounge in Alice Springs

The Territory Government has welcomed today’s announcement that Virgin Australia will begin a new service from Adelaide to Alice Springs starting from March next year and open a new lounge at Alice Springs Airport.

“This is a double dose of great news for Alice Springs residents, businesses and tourism operators,” said Chief Minister Adam Giles.

“The new schedule will use Virgin Australia’s 176-seat Boeing 737-800 aircraft and will fly three times a week, providing a significant increase in capacity to the Centre and linking up with their new Darwin to Alice route which starts in march next year.

“I am particularly thrilled that Virgin Australia has such confidence in the Centre they have upped the ante and will also open a new Regional Lounge for their new customers at Alice Springs Airport.

“This new Darwin-Alice-Adelaide link will strengthen our position as the gateway to Northern Australia and offer more choice to business travellers from southern states, which is good news for our economy.”

Minister for Tourism Matt Conlan said the new Virgin Australia Alice-Adelaide route would help attract more tourists to the Centre.

“This is a huge vote of confidence in what we’re doing with rejuvenating our tourism industry in the Centre and is a clear sign our new Do the NT campaign is cutting through,” he said.

“Virgin recognises the Centre is an iconic part of Australia. They have wanted to be a part of it for a while and now that opportunity has arrived. While the new Alice-Adelaide route will start off three times a week, we would certainly be hoping that soon builds-up to a daily service.

“The new route will offer both local residents and visitors greater competition in accessing the NT from southern capital cities, which can only translate into more tourists booking holidays here.

“It will also open up the Centre to a carrier who is strategically aligned to three of the world’s largest airlines, Etihad, Air New Zealand and Singapore Airlines, with great connections to some of our biggest international markets including Europe.

“The Country Liberals Government remains committed to growing our tourism industry and achieving a $2.2 billion visitor economy by 2020 to create more jobs for Territorians.

“Today’s announcement will help us build on recent positive signs of recovery in the industry and a five-year high 7.6 per cent increase in overall visitors to the NT for the year ending June 2014.”

Investment Opportunities Available in Northern Australia

The Territory Government is showcasing development opportunities in Northern Australia with an updated investment guide just released in four languages.

“I’d encourage any local, interstate or international company looking for its next big investment to read the latest Directory of Investment Opportunities on the Invest NT website,” Chief Minister Adam Giles said.

The directory has just been updated and includes a current list of investment in a range of sectors from agriculture, energy, mining and infrastructure to property development, manufacturing, tourism and the service industry.

“We want to make it easier for people to do business in the Territory and a directory like this allows investors to easily identify what opportunities are out there and who they can contact for more information,” Mr Giles said.

“According to the Deloitte Access Economic Business Outlook, the Territory’s economy is expected to expand by around 20 per cent over the next five years.

“Over the same period, the NT workforce is expected to experience strong employment growth, creating new opportunities for existing businesses and people entering the workforce.

“The Territory is entering a golden era as the centre of global economic activity continues to shift to our region. Now is the time for investors to get on board.”

A range of events are planned in 2015 to showcase these opportunities internationally. The directory is available in English, Japanese, Chinese and Bahasa-Indonesian.

“This is also an interactive resource. If you are looking to attract private capital to expand your business, you can also list also your opportunity on this website,” Mr Giles said.

This investment guide builds on the Government’s Asian engagement program which is being conducted in partnership with the Territory business community.

“A 21 person, Chamber of Commerce-led business delegation has just returned from Dili where they held productive talks with their Timorese counterparts,” Mr Giles said.

“The visit was hugely successful with the delegation engaging in various one-on-one and group meetings regarding opportunities for increasing trade and investment relations with Timor-Leste.

“Useful discussions were also held around the seasonal workers program which worked well in the NT this year.”

Visit www.investnt.com.au to access the investment directory.

Malaysia Airlines Celebrates First Anniversary of Darwin Flights

The Northern Territory Government has sent warm congratulations to Malaysia Airlines, which today celebrates a successful first year of operation in Darwin.

“This weekend marks the first anniversary of the return of Malaysia Airlines to the Top End after an 11 year hiatus,” Minister for Transport Peter Styles said.

“Through Malaysia Airlines, the Territory can now link through to important trading partners such as Japan and Vietnam, which are so critical to the development of Northern Australia.

“Malaysia Airlines is a premium full service carrier with a comprehensive global network in the United Kingdom, Europe and Asia and their presence here is a key part of our strategy to position Darwin as the northernmost gateway to Australia.

“The Northern Territory has Australia’s fastest growing international aviation market, with growth in international demand to and from the Territory at 8 per cent, outstripping the rest of Australia at 5.9 per cent.

“Developing the North means developing successful partnerships with world class airlines like Malaysia,” Mr Styles said.

Minister for Tourism Matt Conlan said the Territory’s partnership with Malaysia Airlines was important to help attract more international tourists to the NT.

“Malaysia Airlines has connections to our all-important traditional holiday markets of the United Kingdom and Europe,” said Mr Conlan.

“With Malaysia Airlines a part of the One World Alliance, it means travellers can fly all the way from London to the NT on a single ticket.

“Our relationship with the Airline is also helping to boost the Territory’s profile in Asia and emerging holiday markets such as Malaysia, China, Korea and Thailand. Tourism NT has a cooperative advertising agreement with Malaysia Airlines, which is delivering extensive exposure for the Territory to potential holiday makers in Germany, the United Kingdom, Netherlands, France, Japan and Malaysia.

“This marketing activity has been made possible by the significant investment by the Giles Government in our tourism industry and additional $16 million in the Tourism Budget over the past two years.

“The Giles Government is committed to growing our tourism industry and turn around a decade of declining visitor numbers, to help boost the economy and create more jobs for Territorians.”

Details of $10 Million Job Accelerator Fund Announced

Regional Development Minister, Geoff Brock today announced details of the State Government’s new one-off $10 million Jobs Accelerator Fund for the regions.

“The new fund is part of the $39 million package I secured for the regions for this financial year as part my agreement with the Premier,” Mr Brock said.

“The package includes the enhanced $15 million Regional Development Fund which we have split into five funding programs this year.

Two of these programs – the $1.88 million Small Grants Program and the $8.55 million Major Projects Program – are both heavily oversubscribed.

“Therefore, it’s been decided to use $2.6 million from the Jobs Accelerator Fund to partially meet the over subscription in the Regional Development Fund.

“This will help fast-track jobs growth and investment opportunities for regional South Australia.

“A new $4 million regional loans scheme will also be set up under the Jobs Accelerator Fund to complement the Regional Development Fund programs,” Mr Brock said.

“This new loan scheme is being established because there could be particular circumstances where a loan or a combination of a loan and a grant may be better suited for individual proposals,” Mr Brock said.

“Applicants taking up either of these options will be able to apply for a loan ranging from $500,000 up to $2 million. Full details of how to apply for the loans will be available shortly.

“The purpose of the loan must relate to improving business operations through infrastructure expansion or developing new markets with projects involving local employment and procurement strategies being considered favourably.

“The third part of the Jobs Accelerator Fund will be $1.4 million towards new Indigenous economic development in the North-West Pastoral region,” Mr Brock said.

“Indigenous land owners currently hold up to three million hectares of pastoral land in the region, so there’s a real opportunity to return some of those properties to primary production to develop viable and sustainable grazing operations in the future and create job opportunities.

The Indigenous Land Corporation will be contracted to manage the funding for Indigenous employment on behalf of the Kokatha Pastoral Development Project and the APY Pastoral Enterprise.

“The program will involve recruiting up to 14 Indigenous employees over two years to build a skilled team of workers able to take up opportunities in pastoral property development, grazing operations or other job opportunities in the region.

“Implementation of the Kokatha project will commence immediately in parallel with planning for the APY Pastoral Enterprise.

“The Kokatha project will provide employment and work-based training to the local community and other Aboriginal people from the region.

“Training in the grazing enterprise will be geared towards feeding job seekers into employment in the agricultural and mining sectors,” Mr Brock said.

Indigenous Land Corporation Executive Director of Program delivery, Craig North welcomed the State government initiative saying that it would help create jobs and assistance in bringing Indigenous-owned land into production.

“We are keen to work with the State Government through this new fund and share our knowledge in running successful large-scale land management employment and training projects.

“There is enormous potential in the North-West Pastoral region and increased production on Indigenous-held land would not only benefit local communities, but also help grow the South Australian economy,” Mr North said.

“The remaining $2 million allocation in the Jobs Accelerator Fund will be applied to regional initiatives or project opportunities that arise in the future,” Mr Brock said.

NT Gas Pipeline Goes Out To Market

The Giles Government has granted Major Project Status to the proposed gas pipeline linking the Territory and East Coast gas grids and will now begin a formal search for investors.

“The construction of this gas pipeline is an infrastructure project of national significance. It’s also a matter of urgency for the eastern states which are fast approaching an energy security crisis,” Chief Minister Adam Giles said.

“We have the gas and they have the demand but there is currently no economically viable way to get the gas from Northern Australia to the eastern market.”

At COAG on Friday, national leaders backed the Territory’s work developing a gas pipeline which has the potential to create a more competitive domestic gas market.

Today the Territory Government is announcing the next steps in that process.

“I am pleased to announce that the Territory Government is about to start a formal process for potential investors to express their interest in building and operating the pipeline,” Mr Giles said.

“With an East Coast gas crisis shortage looming, we need the pipeline to be operational by 2018. There is no time to waste and the granting of Major Project Status to the pipeline will help speed up this process.”

There will be an industry briefing held in Alice Springs on 31 October to explain the project to potential investors.

“In Alice Springs later this month, I have asked our consultants, Port Jackson Partners, to run a briefing for gas and infrastructure companies, as well as other industry figures interested in being part of this nationally important project,” Mr Giles said.

“In a sign of the national significance of this project, Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane has agreed to join this industry briefing.

“I am excited about the jobs and exploration the pipeline could stimulate in the Northern Territory.

“I will do everything I can to bring the pipeline to reality in partnership with the gas industry, Federal and state governments.

“I know this is a project of particular interest to New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia and I look forward to working with them on this development.”

Two routes have been proposed for the gas pipeline – one from Tennant Creek to Mt Isa in Queensland and the other from Alice Springs to Moomba in South Australia.

Proposals will be accepted for both these routes or any other route that industry would like to propose linking the two gas grids.

Formal Expressions of Interest will open at the end of November.

Australian Leaders Back NT Gas Pipeline and Indigenous Economic Reform

National, state and territory leaders have thrown their support behind a new gas pipeline linking the Northern Territory with the East Coast gas grid.

Chief Minister Adam Giles discussed the project at today’s Council Of Australian Governments meeting in Canberra and won unanimous backing.

“Australia is getting behind this truly nation-building pipeline project which has the potential to secure the country’s energy supply for years to come.

“The eastern states are fast approaching a gas supply crisis and the Territory has the solution. We have the gas and they have the demand but there is currently no economically viable way to get the gas from Northern Australia to the eastern market.

“A pipeline is a win-win that would connect natural gas companies with potential buyers in the eastern states, while also creating economic opportunities for the Northern Territory. It’s exciting to see this project is really gaining momentum.

“Today my fellow leaders expressed their support for the work the Territory is doing to establish a competitive process for the private sector to build and operate a pipeline.

“COAG agreed that connecting the Northern Territory and East Coast gas markets is the next step towards developing a national gas grid and will contribute to the development of a more competitive domestic gas market.”

The Territory is now working with the Federal Government to secure private investment in the pipeline and has received keen interest from a number of key national and international industry players.

“I will be meeting with the Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane over the weekend and I hope to have more to say on this issue next week,” Mr Giles said.

COAG also noted that the Commonwealth, the Northern Territory and Queensland will urgently investigate Indigenous land administration and land use to enable traditional owners to attract private sector investment and finance for development.

“I firmly believe that the protracted and complicated processes for approving development projects on Aboriginal land are prohibiting Indigenous Territorians from pulling themselves out of poverty through economic development,” Mr Giles said

“I am pleased that the Prime Minister has agreed to work with the Northern Territory on ways to remove those barriers to the development of Aboriginal land.”

Indigenous Employment Opportunities Available In Remote Communities

Indigenous Territorians living in remote communities will have the opportunity to be trained and transitioned into the workforce as part of the Territory Government Asbestos Removal Program.

Minister for Community Services Bess Price said the program is a wonderful opportunity for people living in the bush to gain more experience in the workforce.

“The Asbestos Removal Program provides employment opportunities for more than 200 Indigenous Territorians and equips them with nationally accredited training and skills,” Mrs Price said.

“Panel contracts to the value of $4.31 million have already been awarded to businesses in a number of remote communities throughout the Territory for the inspection, testing and removal of asbestos.”

Yesterday Minister Bess Price visited Maningrida and met with the contractors, participants and trainers whose Asbestos Removal Program commences in the community today.

“It was great to visit Maningrida and catch up with trainees who were very excited to get the program up and running.”

Training and assessment is flexibly designed and includes classroom theory and practical components. Supervised ‘on the job’ work experience is provided in addition to training.

“When participants complete training they will be transitioned into the workforce with formal supervision and mentoring before receiving formal credit and recognition for their asbestos removal skills,” Mrs Price said.

“Training provides participants with the skills to gain other employment opportunities within asbestos removal industries and possible business enterprise opportunities in their communities.

“The program also improves community awareness of asbestos and how it is managed.”

Under the Asbestos Removal Program, the NT Department of Community Services is responsible for the delivery of works for the removal of asbestos from public buildings in 34 remote communities and reinspection in 19 communities.

The Territory Government’s total budget for the asbestos removal program training and works is $19.543 million, with planned completion by end of 2016.

Successful pilot training was conducted for this program in Belyuen and Ramingining, where all 15 trainees received on the job experience and future employment in asbestos removal.

Work in Maningrida is expected to be completed by the end of October.

Darwin To Host Major Cruise Ship Conference Next Year

Darwin has beaten rival cities to win the right to host a major Cruise Ship conference next year.

The who’s who of the cruise industry, including international heavy weights, will attend the Cruise Down Under Conference from 2-4 September in Darwin in 2015.

Darwin’s winning bid was announced at this year’s conference in Perth.

“The Cruise Down Under Conference will attract around 120 delegates from the cruise sector, including cruise line executives, ground handlers, ship supplier agents and representatives from ports and tourism offices around Australia,” said Tourism Minister Matt Conlan.

“This is a great opportunity to bring important cruise ship decision makers to our shores.

“The cruise ship sector is a vital part of our tourism industry.

“Our cruise season, from October to March, helps balance out the Top End tourism industry’s seasonality and gives Darwin restaurants, cafes, retail outlets and tourist attractions an economic boost in what are traditionally their slowest months.”

In 2013-14, the cruise ship sector contributed an estimated $54million to the NT economy, including approximately $9m in passenger and crew expenditure, according to Cruise Down Under.

“The first large cruise ship for our next season is scheduled in port on 23 October, and it will flag the start of another bumper season,” Minister Conlan said.

“The first week of March will be Darwin’s busiest cruise week on record in terms of passenger numbers with six cruise ships scheduled to visit over five consecutive days with a maximum capacity of more than 11,000 passengers in total. The week will see four of the largest cruise ships to sail in Australian waters stop in Darwin including the Queen Mary 2 (2670 passengers) on 3 March and the Celebrity Solstice (2850 passengers) on 5 March.

“Current bookings over the coming season indicate we will be greeting more than 40,000 cruise passengers into Darwin this wet season.”

The Cruise Down Under Conference is scheduled to be held at the Elan Soho Suites in Darwin 2-4 September 2015. It is supported jointly by Tourism NT, Tourism Top End and the Darwin Port Corporation.

NT Government On Track to Deliver 2000 New Affordable Homes By 2017

The Northern Territory Government is on track to deliver 2000 new affordable homes across the Territory by 2017.

Minister for Housing Matt Conlan told Parliament today the Government’s Real Housing for Growth initiative was ahead of schedule and more than half of the new dwellings would be constructed by the middle of next year.

“The Giles Government understands housing affordability is a big issuing facing Territorians which is why we have taken immediate action on this challenging issue,” said Mr Conlan.

“Our Real Housing for Growth initiative will provide 2000 new homes over four years to increase affordable rental and home ownership options for low to middle income families across the Northern Territory.

“It will help support the attraction and retention of key service industry workers including nurses, teachers, apprentices, hospitality staff and young families.

“It will also provide a leg up for those public housing tenants who can – to transition into affordable rental properties – relieving pressure on public housing wait lists.

“$6.7 million has been allocated for our Real Housing for Growth scheme in 2014-15, which includes affordable home ownership and affordable rental initiatives.

“I am pleased to report that as of 30 June 2014, 293 affordable dwellings have been delivered since Real Housing for Growth was implemented in October 2012, surpassing the 2013-14 year one target of 200 homes.

“With several developments in the pipeline following negotiations with the private sector, we are also on track to be well ahead of our second year target of 400 additional homes with a projected target of new dwellings to come onto the market during the next 12 months in excess of 750.

“So that is double our original target of 400 and will bring our projected accumulative total for the two year mark of the Real Housing for Growth program to over 1000 new dwellings. That is more than half of our overall target of 2000 homes.

“Some of the new projects underway include: 60 apartments in Coolalinga in the Gwelo development ‘Fairweather Apartments’, 37 apartments in Farrar to be called Farrar Villages and 15 apartments in Rosebery.

“These projects, along with our record land release program will significantly increase the overall supply of housing in the Territory and restore balance to the market.”

NT Government to Discuss Medical Marijuana

Minister for Health Robyn Lambley has announced that the Northern Territory Government will discuss the idea of legalising medical marijuana in the NT.

“The issue of legalising medicinal marijuana has hit national headlines in recent days,” Mrs Lambley said.

“Politicians from both sides of the major parties in several states have publicly expressed support for introducing legislation to access marijuana for medical purposes.

“In recent weeks, my office has also received many letters calling on the Northern Territory to consider legalising medical marijuana.

“Territorians have also approached me in the street as the Minister for Health, calling on our Government to consider introducing the change.

“Due to this interest, I will be taking this issue to Cabinet as a matter of priority to reach a policy position.

“In 2010, the National Drug Strategy Household Survey found that 70 per cent of respondents in the Territory supported the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

“Almost 75% of Territorians said they would support a clinical trial for people to use marijuana to treat medical conditions.

“It is believed that medical marijuana can assist with certain medical conditions.

“However, we also need more quality research in this area, as there are unique and specific issues for us to consider in the Territory.

“Any proposal that supported the introduction of medical marijuana in the NT would have to be mindful of the issues associated with illegal marijuana use and its associated harm in the Territory community.

“It would have to have strict parameters that would need to be put into place for its medically approved availability.

“I look forward to discussing this with my colleagues and receiving more feedback from the community.”

Confidence in SA’s Oil and Gas Industry Drives $100 Million Investment

About $100 million will be invested in South Australia by companies wanting to unlock the State’s oil and gas potential in the Cooper Basin.

The State Government today announced Senex Energy Limited, Bridgeport Energy Pty Ltd and Strike Energy Cooper Pty Ltd had successfully bid for petroleum exploration licences (PELS) in the Cooper Basin.

It comes as the State Government received a record-breaking royalty for petroleum for the month of June.

Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis said the release of four petroleum exploration blocks had attracted significant interest from international and national petroleum explorers.

“The winning four bids total a combined investment of up $103.2 million – with a guaranteed spend of $88.9 million. This investment in South Australia translates into jobs for South Australians in our cities, towns and regional communities,” Mr Koutsantonis said.

“In fact, employment last year in the resources sector totaled more than 15,300 people – a record high and more than double what it was ten years ago.

“We also saw a record petroleum royalty return for June of $16.4 million. This is the largest monthly royalty receipt we have seen and is a reflection of the growth, investment and importance of the oil and gas sector to our State.

“The world’s petroleum explorers want to come to South Australia and be part of the nation’s largest onshore oil and gas province in the State’s far north, which is estimated to have 400 years’ worth of domestic supply.

“We welcome these explorers and the billons of dollars in investment that they can bring to our economy.”

The CO2013 blocks, as they’re known, cover an area of more than 9000 square kilometres and possibly contain conventional and unconventional gas plays, while one block is on trend with the highly productive western flank oil play.

Optus Brings Its 4G To Darwin For The First Time

Optus has turned on its superfast 4G in Darwin for the first time. Customers with compatible 4G devices will now be able to enjoy faster web browsing, downloading and better video streaming in the Darwin CBD area.

The launch follows the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) granting Optus an early access commercial licence for 4G 700MHz spectrum.

“We’re excited to be bringing 4G to Darwin and enabling our customers to access superfast mobile data services for the first time,” said Vic McClelland, Managing Director of Optus Networks.

“This commercial pilot kicks-off the expansion of our national 4G network which will bring Optus 4G to more Australians and help us deliver a better 4G network experience to our customers,” Mr McClelland said.

Optus customers with compatible devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC One (M8) will be able to access the new 4G network in select areas of Darwin’s CBD and get a taste of Optus’ superfast 4G. To bring the benefits of 4G to even more customers, Optus is also trialing 4G using its 2100 MHz spectrum in this area.

“This is great news for Optus customers, but it’s also great news for the Top End with Optus bringing more choice and competition to mobile services,” said Jim Carew, local Optus store owner of three Darwin stores in The Mitchell Centre, Casuarina Square Shopping Centre and Palmerston.

“There are a number of smartphones out there that can use 4G on 700MHz and 2100MHz and as long as customers have a compatible 4G plan, they’ll be able to access Optus’ superfast 4G network,” Mr Carew said.

From January 2015, as the 700MHz spectrum becomes nationally available for commercial use, Optus will expand its 4G network to around 200 holiday destinations and regional locations nationally. The spectrum will be used to bring 4G coverage to new regional locations as well as improve the indoor 4G experience for customers in metro areas.

New Hotel For Palmerston

Development approval has been given to construct a $50 million hotel that will form Stage One of the Maluka Views development right in the heart of the Palmerston CBD.

The Palmerston Hotel will be located right behind ‘the Hub’ on Roystonea Avenue and consist of 161 hotel rooms, including 32 suites and also 41 short stay apartments.

Local investors John ‘Foxy’ Robinson and Mick Burns have joined forces to make this project a reality which will employ around 240 people during construction and 110 once completed.

Minister for Lands, Planning and the Environment and also local Member for Brennan, Peter Chandler said with the fast-tracking of local land release this development is exactly what Palmerston needs.

“Palmerston is a growing community, with two suburbs currently under construction and more right around the corner so it’s important we really utilise our CBD,” Mr Chandler said.

“This site has sat vacant for many years and the government has released it for development through our urban infill strategy which has identified 70 parcels of Crown land across the Territory which could yield up to 2,700 dwellings.

“Hotel accommodation is under immense pressure, especially in the Dry, this development will bring online much needed rooms for the developing City of Palmerston.

“The next stage of the Maluka Views development will have a residential focus while achieving a mix of commercial, retail and alfresco dining options to establish a unique and vibrant address within Palmerston.”

Local Darwin businessman John ‘Foxy’ Robinson said Palmerston was long overdue for something of this calibre.

“There are 50,000 people living in Palmerston and the Rural Area and there is nothing of this standard for them to access,” Mr Robinson said.

“Together with my fellow investors we have confidence in the growth of Palmerston, so much so we’re quite literally putting our money where our mouths are.”

Locals Win Big As INPEX Reaches Halfway Mark

More than 200 Territory-based companies have secured subcontract work on the Ichthys LNG Project as construction reaches the halfway point at Bladin Point.

“The $34 billion Ichthys project has reached a major milestone with construction now 50 per cent complete and it is great to see so many Territory-based companies getting a slice of the INPEX pie,” Chief Minister Adam Giles said.

“To date, 363 lower tier subcontracts have been awarded to 232 NT-based companies by JKC’s first tier subcontractors.

“During the first quarter of this year, JKC have also awarded four major subcontracts which are expected to have significant NT content.

“It’s not only the big firms that are seeing the benefits on INPEX’s presence here with more than 840 purchase orders and subcontracts of under $500,000, awarded by JKC to 228 NT-based firms covering work like catering, printing and even local hardware stores.

“The Territory’s economy is currently experiencing an unprecedented period of growth on the back of Ichthys and the project is on track to achieve first production by the end of 2016.

“This afternoon I will be joining the Darwin INPEX team in a live, global broadcast to commemorate the 50 per cent milestone for the Ichthys project.

“This follows my meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and a top level business delegation in Canberra last week which included Chairman Kuroda from INPEX.

“A key topic for discussion in Canberra was Japan’s need for increasing volumes of LNG and this is something the Territory is well placed to assist with as our relationship with Tokyo goes from strength to strength.

“Since setting up in Darwin in 2012, INPEX has proven its credentials as a good corporate citizen investing almost $700,000 in local community events and charities.

“I was also thrilled to recently open the newly upgraded helipad at Royal Darwin Hospital that has been funded by the Ichthys project. It’s one of many lasting legacies INPEX will leave behind in the Territory.

“I thank INPEX for its contribution to both the Territory’s economy and community so far and wish the project well as it heads into the second half of the construction phase.”