$8 million partnership kicks goals for community AFL

The Queensland Government and the Australian Football League (AFL) have teamed up with an $8 million partnership to support new community AFL facilities.
AFL Chief Executive Gillon McLachlan, Queensland Sport Minister Stirling Hinchliffe, Member for Greenslopes Joe Kelly and Head of AFL Queensland Trish Squires were on hand at Coorparoo AFC to make the announcement this morning.
Member for Greenslopes Joe Kelly welcomed the launch of the partnership which will see the AFL match the Queensland Government’s Grand Final Infrastructure Legacy funding dollar for dollar. 
“This is good news for grass-roots, community AFL clubs across Queensland like Coorparoo AFC with plans to upgrade infrastructure for a growing player list,” Mr Kelly said.   
“Coorparoo has a strong female program from juniors through to the Queensland Australian Football League Women’s competition (QAFLW) and is putting together a masterplan to upgrade lighting and facilities.”
Queensland Sport Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said the $8 million partnership was part of the legacy of hosting last year’s historic AFL Grand Final at the Gabba.
“Last year, Queensland played a critical role in helping the AFL deliver the 2020 Premiership season during the COVID pandemic and made history at the Gabba as the first ever AFL Premiership Grand Final played outside of Melbourne,” Mr Hinchliffe said.
“The AFL Grand Final Infrastructure Legacy, matched dollar for dollar by the League, has created an $8 million pipeline of funding to support community AFL clubs to upgrade their facilities and grow the game in Queensland.
“Since 2014, we’ve seen a huge shift with girls and women now making up 42 per cent of AFL players on ovals across Queensland, so it’s important that we work together to make sure facilities can be used by everybody.
“The AFL Grand Final Infrastructure Legacy makes new funding available for female-friendly changerooms, new ovals, upgrades to existing fields and lighting, and is open to community clubs, schools and local councils.          
“One of the lessons from COVID is community sport – like AFL- is more important than ever for bringing Queenslanders together, staying healthy and connected with their community.”   
AFL Chief Executive Gillon McLachlan said having good facilities was key to helping clubs attract and retain players.
“More Queenslanders are participating in AFL than ever before with 53% growth in participation since 2014.” Mr McLachlan said.
“Across Queensland, more females are playing footy than ever with female participation increasing by 48% since 2014, yet in some regional areas just over one quarter of venue facilities are female friendly and less than 45% have adequate lighting,
“We are an inclusive sport, our female pathways now run from Auskick through to the elite game and we need to continue to improve this imbalance while delivering new greenspace in areas where growth is occurring.  

“It doesn’t matter if your club is in Cairns, Coorparoo or Coolangatta, we want to deliver you the best facilities possible so everyone can have the best possible experience.
“Off the back of the historic year that saw Queensland become the unofficial home of the AFL, it’s fantastic to be partnering with the Queensland Government on this initiative which will deliver benefits to many clubs over the coming years.
“We want to see as many young people as possible playing the game and as we head towards the start of the junior footy season, the AFL is giving every junior participant who signs up to play club footy in 2021 a free footy! It’s part of our ongoing commitment to leave a lasting legacy it’s our way of saying Thanks Queensland.
“On behalf of the AFL, I want to again say thank you to Premier Palaszczuk and the Queensland Government who supported our game through its most challenging year and are continuing to partner with us in providing the Queensland community the best opportunity to play and be involved in footy.”
Across Queensland

  • In 2019, more Queenslanders (277k) participated in AFL than ever before.
  • 42% of participants in Queensland are now female.
  • Since 2014 female participation in clubs has increased by 48%
  • Despite COVID, 2020 saw record registration number for AFL SEQ Juniors.
  • In 2021, the AFL’s StreetSmart Q-Schools Cup is on course to achieve a record number of team registrations beating the 602 teams registered in 2019. 
  • Despite the growth in female participation, only one third (36%) of change facilities are female friendly, this drops to an average of 28% in the regions.
  • Only 44% of clubs in regional areas have competition standard (100LUX) lighting meaning many clubs across north Queensland have to fixture through the heat of the day and can’t train during the week. 

Key Program Aims

  • Maximise available carrying capacity of existing venues and the quality/functionality of field of play supporting infrastructure.
  • Develop increased supply through construction of new ovals, especially in growing communities, in a variety of traditional or innovative settings.
  • Provide inclusive and accessible facilities that cater for the diversity of participants, particularly female participants, that wish to participate in our game.
  • Develop venues to support the elite game and the sport’s complete talent pathway, umpiring, staff, landmark heritage sites and people working and volunteering within the game.
  • Enable planning and project partnerships to form with a range of government and non-government bodies to result in an improved quantity, quality and welcoming venue network for Australian football.

To apply for funding via the AFL Queensland Grand Final Facilities Fund visit: https://www.aflq.com.au/facilities-infrastructure/facilities-planning/

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Innovative agricultural robots land $4.5 million in funding for start-up SwarmFarm

A Queensland couple’s decade-long push to lead the world in the production of agricultural robots has received a multi-million-dollar funding boost.

Andrew and Jocie Bate’s ambitious start-up SwarmFarm has partnered with ag-tech venture capital firm Tenacious Ventures to raise $4.5 million.

“We’ve bootstrapped to date, which means we’ve done it ourselves without raising funds to get to where we are,” Mr Bate said.

SwarmFarm’s 17 staff design and build robots on the Bates’ grain property at Gindie, near Emerald in Central Queensland.

“This money gives us a chance to build our team and scale up manufacturing so we can deliver robots quicker,” Mr Bate said.

Fourteen SwarmFarm robots are currently working in orchards, on cotton and grain properties, and at a turf farm.

Soon a vineyard in South Australia will also have one slashing grass, spraying weeds, and detecting and killing snails.

Mrs Bate said the robots were leased to farmers.

Queensland cotton grower Jamie Grant has two, which he operates via a smartphone or computer.

Mounted with cameras, a herbicide tank and a spray boom, the ag-bots, Tango and Victor, work days, nights and weekends, identifying and spraying weeds.

“I haven’t met a farmer yet who likes driving a camera spray; it’s a great thing when you first do it, but it gets boring,” Mr Grant said.

Mr Grant has cut his chemical use by nearly 80 per cent since he started using the robots.

His eyes can’t match the cameras that hone in on tiny weeds and prevent what he calls “big mongrel weeds” that use up precious soil moisture.

“This is good for the environment and good for the longevity of the chemicals because we’re taking out small weeds, and we’re not building resistance to chemicals,” he said.

Mr Grant discovered how advanced the Australian-built robots were when he attended an online international ag robotics conference in France late last year.

“I found there were plenty of people having a go at robots, but no-one has actually got them out in the field doing a real job. They’re still all just toys,” he said.

Mr Grant believes he’ll end up with five or six towing planters, air seeders and fertiliser spreaders.

“We’re just finding jobs for it all the time that we actually didn’t ever think we would use it for,” he said.

Mr Bate believes his low-budget start-up has nudged ahead of global agricultural machinery giants because his team worked closely with him to find solutions to soil compaction and weed-resistance problems on his grain property, Bendee.

One of the company’s software engineers, Andrew Lipscomb, said working in an office surrounded by grain paddocks helped staff focus on what farmers like Mr Bate actually needed.

“We’re very lucky to be out here to be able to run our robots test and continuously improve all of the software; we’re running in the realest environment we can get,” he said.

The robots kill weeds on a constant rotation on the property.

When they’re finished, they take themselves back to the shed and turn off.

The way robots can be used is only limited by what can be mounted on the frame.

“A robot with one use is a one-trick pony,” Mr Bate said.

Mr and Mrs Bate have just launched SwarmConnect, allowing third-party developers to make apps for their robots.

“It’s going to take hundreds if not thousands of developers around the world with the brightest minds thinking up solutions at a local level and delivering that through our robots,” Mr Bate said.

As well as offering the potential for new uses, Mrs Bate is confident the robots will increase the use of existing camera-weed-killing technology.

“[It’s] been around for a little while now and hasn’t been taken up as well as it probably should have been,” she said.

“You can actually see the weeds individually and spray, say 2 per cent of your paddock, instead of blanket spray — it’s exciting.

“This is not industrialised ag, this is actually digital-savvy new agriculture.”

Mr Bate always believed their small on-farm business could go global.

Watch this story on ABC TV’s Landline at 12:30pm on Sunday, or on iview.

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Australia’s aged care system set for $452 million boost following release of royal commission report

The federal government will spend $452 million to fix Australia’s aged care system as part of a first step in responding to the royal commission into the sector.

The final report of the two-and-a-half-year federal inquiry was released on Monday and includes 148 recommendations.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the inquiry’s final report has set out a roadmap that will establish “generational change” in Australia’s aged care sector.

“Australians must be able to trust that their loved ones will be cared for appropriately and the community should have confidence in the system,” he told reporters.

The first recommendation in the final report is to create a new aged care act, coming into force no later than July 2023.

Commissioners Tony Pagone QC and Lynelle Briggs wrote in the final report the current aged care system and its “weak and ineffective regulatory arrangements did not arise by accident”. 

“The move to ritualistic regulation was a natural consequence of the government’s desire to restrain expenditure in aged care,” they wrote.

“In essence, having not provided enough funding for good quality care, the regulatory arrangements could only pay lip service to the requirement that the care that was provided be of high quality.”

The royal commission was told countless tales of abuse and neglect across two years of hearings, with its 2019 interim paper urging a complete overhaul of a “woefully inadequate” system.

It found there was an overuse of drugs to “restrain” aged care residents, while younger people with disabilities were stuck in aged care.

Pay and conditions for staff were poor, workloads heavy and severe difficulties existed in recruitment and retention, it also noted.

The sector, which is predominantly funded by the Commonwealth, has come under increased scrutiny during the pandemic with hundreds of aged care residents dying from COVID-19.

More to come.

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Animal rescue groups race to save Australia’s bushfire-hit wildlife with nearly $200 million in donations

It started with a tweet from Barack Obama.

As the Black Summer bushfires raged across Australia, and with reports of a terrible wildlife death toll, the former US president highlighted the work of aid agencies including animal rescue group WIRES.

An electronic billboard promoting WIRES appeared in Times Square, while a group in the UK produced koala buttons urging people to donate.

Television host Ellen DeGeneres, Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton, and Australian Formula 1 star Daniel Ricciardo were among those who backed the fundraising campaigns, while British food critic Tom Parker Bowles raised nearly $250,000.

An early estimate suggested a billion animals were killed.

Will the donations flooding in for animal rescue groups save Australia’s wildlife from the next megafire?

As the cash rolled in from the US, Japan, Europe and China, WIRES volunteers were dealing with an unprecedented number of calls for help.

Eighty-seven thousand came through in the weeks after the fires and many wildlife carers were overwhelmed with the enormity of the job.

WIRES CEO Leanne Taylor said it was a chaotic period because the fires burnt over a vast area, all at the same time.

As the emergency passed, rescue groups had time to reflect on what had happened.

The environmental toll from the fires was enormous.

Twenty per cent of Australian forests were lost.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) estimated the number of animals killed or displaced at close to 3 billion: 143 million mammals, 2.46 billion reptiles, 180 million birds, and 51 million frogs.

But as the death toll went up so did the fundraising tally.

WIRES received $90 million and the WWF $45 million; $18 million went to the Wildlife Victoria Bushfire Appeal and $15 million to the RSPCA.

The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital received $8 million while several smaller groups raised more than a million dollars each.

Ms Taylor said it was a huge increase in funding for the sector.

Up until now, animal rescue has been handled by a variety of state-based, mostly volunteer organisations, but WIRES is spreading its wings and working with other organisations to improve their capacity to rescue and care for wildlife.

Now the largest wildlife rescue organisation in Australia, WIRES has just announced it will spend $35 million on rescue, rehabilitation and recovery.

Ms Taylor said WIRES would team up with other organisations to support volunteer carers around the country.

“We’re working with various agencies, vets, governments and local councils to improve those relationships, so we can provide better resources through the funding we received, and provide resources to licensed carers and rehabilitation groups nationally.”

That includes the Animal Rescue Cooperative (ARC), which is setting up 23 hubs for volunteers and other agencies that are working with threatened species.

Hundreds of species, even some that were once common, were pushed closer to extinction as a result of the devastating bushfires.

That includes four birds, three reptile species and one mammal.

Among a raft of grants WIRES has handed out is $1.6 million to the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) for a project to save the Kangaroo Island dunnart from extinction.

The creature was already on the precipice when fires devastated 95 per cent of its habitat.

AWC CEO Tim Allard said action was needed now.

The project will initially secure a small section of the remaining habitat from predators and then rapidly expand the area.

It is hoped the project will also help populations of other threatened species like the southern brown bandicoot, the glossy black cockatoo, the southern emu wren, the Kangaroo Island short-beaked echidna, the heath goanna and the Bassian thrush.

In Queensland, WIRES is contributing to projects aimed at saving another of Australia’s most endangered mammals — the rare northern bettong.

There are fewer than 1,000 of the macropods left in the world and they are important because they distribute plants and fungi in the environment.

AWC will put a fence around the Mount Zero-Taravale Wildlife Sanctuary in north Queensland in an effort to provide a safe haven.

“The Mount Zero-Taravale Wildlife Sanctuary is known to have supported a population of northern bettongs that sadly went extinct [there] before we purchased the property,” Mr Allard said.

With so many animals injured in the Black Summer fires, building new and better wildlife hospitals is a priority.

WIRES provided more that $300,000 for an extension to the Currumbin Wildlife Hospital in southern Queensland.

That money will provide increased capacity for triage, examination and treatment, and to treat animals for extended periods of time.

More than 1,500 native animals were admitted there from November to January — about 100 animals a day at the peak of the bushfires.

Wildlife volunteer Amy Wregg was working with a trauma care group at the showgrounds at Canungra during that period.

A lot of animals were euthanased on the fireground as most would not have recovered from their injuries, even with hospital care, and there were often long delays for carers to get into burnt areas.

“It took a few days to access the fireground as we had to get clearance from the Queensland fire service to do our ‘black walks,'” Ms Wregg said.

Despite the challenges, she wants to focus on the successes and is hopeful she can make a difference.

“We ended up rescuing 19 koalas just from from one ridge,” Ms Wregg said.

“We have to be hopeful; if you’re not, you’ve got nothing else to go for.”

WIRES also funded a new animal ambulance that will respond to animal emergencies in the region.

Michael Pyne, senior vet at the Currumbin Wildlife Hospital, believes the task of saving Australia’s unique wildlife is achievable.

“I think the will is there … the know-how is there. It’s really about finding the dollars to be able to make it happen,” he said.

Another animal hospital on the east coast got a tremendous injection of funds.

The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital launched a Go-Fund Me campaign during the fires, hoping to raise $25,000, but in the end that climbed to $8 million.

Sue Ashton, president of Koala Conservation Australia, said they were amazed by the response.

But like the Celeste Barber campaign that raised $51 million for the NSW Rural Fire Service, there are strict Go-Fund Me limitations on how that money can be spent.

The hospital has launched a major partnership with the Taronga Conservation Society Australia, the Australian Museum and the University of Sydney to start breeding and replacing koalas in areas devastated by the fires.

It is also funding 140 drinking stations in critical habitat across several states, something other groups like WIRES are also funding.

Ms Taylor said that despite the tragic impact of the fires, there had never been this much money available to support wildlife carers.

“So those outcomes for hundreds of thousands of animals that come into care each year will be vastly improved.”

The task of saving Australia’s unique wildlife has never been so big.

The WWF has launched an even more ambitious plan to raise $300 million over 10 years to protect wildlife and restore habitat.

But WWF’s Darren Grover said the task was getting more difficult, not less.

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Brisbane auctions: Ashgrove weatherboard sells for $1.27 million in strong weekend

A post-war cottage that last sold in the 1960s for just over $7000 has been snapped up for a whopping $1.271 million at auction, after 17 registered bidders battled it out for the Ashgrove four-bedroom abode adorned in weatherboard and Besser brick.

The “knock-down” property at 21 McCormack Avenue – which had been in the same family for five decades – sparked a feeding frenzy among home-hunters on Saturday, with 78 bids accrued after the bidding started at $800,000.

21 McCormack Avenue, Ashgrove QLD 4060

21 McCormack Avenue, Ashgrove QLD 4060

Selling agent Matthew Jabs, of Place Estate Agents Newmarket, said the auction was one of the most emotional sales he’d clocked, with more than 100 people turning out to witness the transaction of the 1960s abode.

“This home had been in the same family [for all those years] and it has all the key elements. It’s north-facing with city and park views and, in terms of the actual house, it can be knocked over,” Mr Jabs said.

“All the bidders wanted to build their dream home there and, in the end, it was a local family that bought it.

“It was very emotional because of how long the family had had the home. It belonged to an elderly lady and it’s the only home she’s ever owned.”

The cottage, which sits on a 607-square-metre block, was one of a handful of pre-war and post-war homes to transact for close to a million dollars or more over the weekend – alongside a handful of high-end sales, revealing the strength of the city’s market.

In total, 35 properties were sold from a reported 49 to deliver a clearance rate of 71 per cent, almost double the rate from this time last year.

Among those was a prime piece of land with a run-down original  two-bedroom Queenslander at 37 Pine Street, Hamilton, which clocked one of the weekend’s top results after it sold for $1.837 million to a local family through Dwight Ferguson, of Ray White Ascot.

The ageing home, which sits on a 1365-square-metre parcel in one of the city’s top blue-chip suburbs, features just two bedrooms and a bathroom. It attracted 23 registered bidders.

37 Pine Street, Hamilton QLD 4007

37 Pine Street, Hamilton QLD 4007

“Most of those bidders had a go so it was a bit of a frenzy initially,” Mr Ferguson said.                    

“We got down to three bidders at the end and then announced the home was on the market at $1.7 million, and the reserve was below that.

“This is the best level of auction activity I’ve seen in 30 years — buyers have a lot of confidence. I didn’t expect this [level of market action]. It’s just incredible.”

In Paddington, an old cottage at 19 Plunkett Street that was renovated into a glamorous four-bedroom masterpiece clocked the city’s top reported sale of the weekend, after it fetched $2.45 million under the hammer through Nick Penklis, of Space Property.

Mr Penklis said a mature couple from the Sunshine Coast won against six registered bidders, with interest being high throughout the campaign thanks to the quality of the renovation and the prime location.

19 Plunkett Street, Paddington QLD 4064

19 Plunkett Street, Paddington QLD 4064

“The sellers rebuilt the old cottage after they bought the home 10 or 11 years ago – and that old cottage is now the main bedroom,” Mr Penklis said.

“I think everyone in Brisbane is getting good results right now and more people are putting one step forward at auction.”

At a Ray White auction event in Bulimba, the very first home of sellers Brisbane Lions AFL player Ryan Lester and his wife, Emi, sold under the hammer for a reserve smashing $931,000, just over $300,000 more than they paid in 2014.

The modest three-bedroom, two-bathroom cottage, at 12 Princess Street, Camp Hill, attracted 151 groups over a two-week auction campaign, with nine registered bidders battling it out on the day.

12 Princess Street, Camp Hill QLD 4152

12 Princess Street, Camp Hill QLD 4152

Selling agent and principal of Ray White Metro North David Treloar said the bidding came down to two competitive parties, with the under-bidder being a Hong Kong expat, and the ultimate buyer being a Kangaroo Point local.

“All of our auction campaigns at the moment are only running for two weeks, because of the insatiable demand from buyers,” Mr Treloar said.

“And, this was a small home in a really ordinary street, but it was something a buyer could just move into.

“It was also the first home of Mr Lester, who was married last year. He and his wife have had a baby and he’s signed a new two-year contract, so he’s looking for something bigger.”

A pint-sized two-bedroom cottage on a 405-square-metre block at 51 Didsbury, East Brisbane, secured a top result on Saturday, after selling for $925,000 – $225,000 more than the vendors paid for it in 2014.

51 Didsbury Street, East Brisbane QLD 4169

51 Didsbury Street, East Brisbane QLD 4169

Selling agent Madi Roche, of Ray White Bulimba, said a first-home buyer secured the winning bid in what she described as an “insane auction”.

“We actually sold that property to the vendors in 2014 for $700,000, so they were over the moon. They weren’t expecting it to sell for so much.

“I think a year ago we still would have had a lot of interest on that home but maybe it would have sold for about $820,000, so that’s a big price jump.”

Wrapping up the hot weekend of auctions was the indoor/outdoor masterpiece at 23 Deramore Street, Wavell Heights, which Place Estate Agents New Farm agent Heath Williams sold for $1.2 million.

Mr Williams said the home, built by Owen Architectures director Paul Owen, had accrued enormous interest over just two weeks and was snapped up by a local buyer.

“We gave out 15 contracts prior to auction but it ended up being a two-horse race between two girls,” Mr Williams said.

“We’d set out with a four-week campaign, but we reduced it to two because the numbers were so high.”


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Facebook Settles Lawsuit for $650 Million – Jewish Business News

Facebook Settles Lawsuit for $650 Million

The company was sued over its use of facial recognition tech, among other things.

It will cost Facebook $650 Million to settle a civil suit brought over allegations of invasion of privacy. This is the largest settlement ever for a lawsuit of this kind. So Mark Zuckerberg will probably have to break open his piggy bank now and may even have to eat in for a few months to cover the costs.

So what was the brouhaha? Well in 2015 a group of people brought suit against Facebook over its use of facial recognition technology. This is also known as biometrics. And the suit also dealt with geolocation.

Everybody is worried these days about their privacy getting violated by big tech. The complaints over companies like Google and Facebook compiling data on all of your internet searches and personal habits to sell and use for targeted advertising led to new laws around the world.

You may have noticed that websites now ask for your permission to use cookies. Cookies are a type of program which websites use to keep track of their visitors. Some people describe them as a type of spyware. Browsers usually allows people to disable all cookies. But then you cannot use the good kind which let your browser remember all of your passwords so that you do not need to login every time that you use Netflix or Hulu.

Apps usually need to track your location. This is certainly true for travel apps like Waze and any weather apps which tell you the temperature wherever you are. This is why apps ask for permission to track you. Some allow you to grant this permission only when the app is in use. Others ask for permission first before they access files on your phone like pictures or contact lists.

So today we are all more aware of these things. We know that we are being monitored and have more control over the when and where. But that was not always the case. The outrage against companies like Facebook was that they were doing these things for years without asking for consent or even letting people know that they were doing it.

The settlement was approved by San Francisco U.S. District Court Judge James Donato. Nearly 1.6 million Facebook users who had filed the class action suit in Illinois will be receiving a part of the money. But after lawyers’ fees, that may come out to only about $200 a piece.

Judge Donato called it, “a major win for consumers in the hotly contested area of digital privacy.”

In a statement Facebook said, “We are pleased to have reached a settlement so we can move past this matter, which is in the best interest of our community and our shareholders.”

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Sydney on track to have nearly 60 suburbs where $3 million prices are the norm

A property in North Bondi sold for a staggering $6.1m on the weekend. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

The number of Sydney suburbs where you need $3 million just to get in the front door is booming with the list set to be nearly 60 by the end of the year.

Property sales data showed median house prices surpassed $3 million in another 10 suburbs last year, taking the total number of super-rich suburbs to 39.

And another 18 are on track to have a median price of $3 million this year if price growth trends continue, realestate.com.au data showed.

MORE: 50 bidders send home $1.2m over reserve

The Block’s Adam and Fiona score auction win

To put the real estate price explosion in perspective, only three other suburbs in the rest of Australia have a median of $3 million or more — two in Melbourne and one in Canberra.

And many of Sydney’s newest $3 million suburbs lack a waterfront or beach, such as Artarmon, East Lindfield and Killara on the upper north shore.

Roseville home auction

Roseville prices are near $3m. This house on Park Ave sold $3.09m, $790,000 over reserve. Picture: David Swift

This pattern appears set to continue with neighbouring suburbs North Willoughby, Naremburn, Roseville and Lindfield flagged as soon to hit $3 million.

It’s a far cry from when multimillion medians were reserved for Harbour enclaves such as Vaucluse and Point Piper.

Realestate.com.au chief economist Nerida Conisbee said the growth in $3 million suburbs was “unprecedented”.

“Prices are beginning to move very quickly,” she said, adding that low interest rates, a shortage of listings and rampant buyer demand pushed the market back into boom territory late last year.

76 Douglas Street, Putney sold for $3.05m. Average Putney prices are also approaching $3m.

A Demographia report released earlier this week showed Sydney’s climbing prices were also unprecedented on the global stage.

The Harbour City ranks behind only land-starved Hong Kong and Vancouver as the most expensive places to buy a house in the world, as measured by the gap between average prices and incomes.

Ms Conisbee said Sydney had a similar problem to those cities in that its geography made it difficult to build new housing.

It was also a magnet for cashed-up buyers, she said.

“Sydney prices are so much higher than in the rest of the country because it is our only truly global city. It has the highest paying jobs and attracts the wealthiest buyers,” Ms Conisbee said.

Modelling from Australia’s largest banks showed prices will continue to go up.

Westpac forecasts released this week predicted a 20 per cent rise in Sydney values over the next two years. CBA has forecasted a 7.5 per cent rise in 2021.

Auctioneer Michael Garofolo of Cooley Auctions said buyers were being aggressive due to low interest rates.

“Low interest rates make a particularly big difference on higher-end properties. Buyers who would have been spending $2 million or $2.5 million a few years ago are now spending over $3 million,” he said.

Stiff competition is also encouraging people to dig deeper into their pockets, he said.

“A good auction in a good market would get 10 bidders, in this market we’re getting way more. If buyers want a quality home in their preferred location they have to (bid) high.”


Homes are flying off the shelves in North Bondi, one of several suburbs to join the $3 million club.

A five-bedroom house owned by the same family for 40 years sold at auction yesterday for $3.56 million — $660,000 over the guide — after an expat living in South Africa out-bid four other buyers.

North Bondi hot auction

Liam Jeffares and partner Carolina Lourenco in North Bondi, where $3m has become the average price for a house. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

It was an incredible result for the owners of the Mitchell St house, who paid about $90,000 for the property back in the early 1980s.

PPD Real Estate agent Mary Anne Cronin said the suburb has seen incredible price growth in the past year due to a shortage of stock and strong demand from expats returning home.

“If this property went to market six months ago it would have only sold for about $2.7 million,” she said.

North Bondi couple Liam Jeffares and Carolina Lourenco said house prices in North Bondi were outrageous. “It is good for homeowners, but it makes it very tough for people like us looking to get into the market,” Mr Jeffares said.

Mr Jeffares said the insane price growth seen in North Bondi meant he and Ms Lourenco, who have just purchased in Dee Why, were forced to look elsewhere for their first home.

“We looked at Dee Why as it was the last suburb by the beach we found that was still relatively affordable to buy,” he said.

– with additional reporting by Matt Bell

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Top End mango growers have taken $10 million hit, but heavy rain is raising hope for the 2021 season

Top End farmer Andrew Dalglish says a record-low wet season and shortage of seasonal workers prevented him producing up to 80 per cent of his mango crop last year.

“It puts you back a few years but farming is not a straight line … you get some good ones and you get some bad ones,” he said, referring to the worst production season on his Katherine property in years.

But while Top End mango growers suffered loses totalling about $10 million last year, they are expecting a record crop for the 2021 season, which starts in May, after heavy rainfall across the region since October.

“It’s a great start so let’s hope it keeps going and we get a beautiful dry season and plenty of mangos,” Mr Dalglish said.

The Northern Territory traditionally produces more than half of Australia’s mango supply.

Bureau of Meteorology records show the 2020 wet season was the worst on record for Katherine, one of the Top End’s main growing areas.

Only 457 millimetres of rain was recorded, compared to an average of 1,025 millimetres in previous years.

Mr Dalglish said Katherine experienced several poor wet seasons even before 2020.

“When they [mango trees] are standing out in the sun and not getting any rain, it takes a toll on them,” he said.

Farmers say consecutive wet seasons with poor rainfall have taken a toll on their crops.(ABC Rural: Renee Cluff)

NT Farmers Association Chief Executive Paul Burke said the association is waiting on more data from farms on mangoes that didn’t make it to market in the 2020 season, but expects the region’s total crop loss to sit within $10 million.

Mr Burke said both the weather and a shortage of seasonal workers because of COVID-19 travel restrictions caused losses.

He said growers are used to changing weather conditions but a shortage of workers “exacerbated a really difficult season”.

More than 300 seasonal workers from Vanuatu arrived in the Territory in October, after picking had already begun in some areas.

The workers were required to complete two weeks of quarantine before they could begin work — a ruling made before they were eventually allowed to quarantine on farms.

Tray numbers tumble

Katherine grower Francesco Ignello said he lost $20,000 or 25 per cent of his crop because of a shortage of workers to pick his 2,000 trees.

He said neighbouring farmers shared the picking to try to stem losses but the poor season still meant his family had to rely on income from savings to make up for the shortfall in profit.

“We lost a little bit but can’t do much about it. We were all in the same boat,” he said.

Mr Ignello said he finished picking mangoes on his farm just before his bore started to run dry.

“We were just on the edge … probably we could pump a little more water, but not that much more,” he said.

Golden Mango Orchards owner Francesco Ignello stands in an orchid.
Francesco Ignello says he lost $20,000 or 25 per cent of his crop last year.(ABC News: Sowaibah Hanifie)

Statistics show that after three consecutive years of producing more than 10 million mango trays, Australia’s national crop forecast for the 2020 season was 7 million trays.

In 2019, the Northern Territory produced around 5.5 million trays but 2020 saw a significant decline in the number of Top End mangoes sent to market.

According to the NT Farmer’s Association, Katherine sent 1.2 million trays to market by mid-December 2020, compared to 2.3 million trays in 2019.

Darwin produced 2.6 million trays last season, compared to more than 3 million trays in 2019.

One tray weighs around 7 kilograms.

Mr Burke said growers hope that more than 750 seasonal workers will be available to work on Top End farms during this year’s mango season.

“Certainly, the season has been phenomenal to date … there is a spring in the step of growers, and we are looking like having a bumper season,” he said.

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Winning ticket for $70 million Lotto Max draw purchased in Sudbury region

TORONTO — A ticket holder in Ontario won Friday night’s whopping $70 million Lotto Max jackpot.

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation said the ticket was sold in the Sudbury region. It marks the fourth time the maximum jackpot was won in Ontario and the sixth time in Canada since the cap was increased in 2019.

Nine of the draw’s Maxmillions prizes of $1 million each were also won, with one of those prizes being split between two lottery players.

Winning Maxmillion tickets were sold in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and the Prairies.

The jackpot for the next Lotto Max draw on Mar. 2 will be approximately $24 million.

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— With files from Ryan Rocca

Hamilton woman the first $500K winner in OLG’s Plinko

Hamilton woman the first $500K winner in OLG’s Plinko – Feb 5, 2021

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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Covid jabs reach one million milestone in Wales

A total of 916,316 people have received at least one dose, and 89,053 of those have had a second dose.

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