SHOOT FOR THE STARS: Former St Philip’s Christian College pupil Michael Ireland was back in town last night to receive an innovation award for discovering a new planet in 2011. Picture: Ryan OslandST Philip’s Christian College at Waratah has kicked off its inaugural Festival of Crazy Ideas by recognising former student and astrophysicist Michael Ireland’s achievement discovering a new planet.
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Festival chair and business studies teacher Kathryn O’Rourke approached the school more than a year ago with her idea for a symposium to encourage student inspiration, creativity and innovation, similar to events including Vivid and the Festival of Dangerous Ideas.

“I thought, why couldn’t we do this for young people?,” she said.

“They are at a point in their life where they could really benefit from being encouraged in their creativity and having access to mentors and people who have been successful in their field, to give them a sense of what they could do too.”

The school launched the event last night, with awards for staff, students, parents and alumni, including astrophysicist Dr Ireland, who graduated in 1995 and in 2011 discovered planet LkCa15b.

“I remember with great fondness and gratitude the mentorship of my physics teacher at St Philip’s, Graeme Dunn, whose passion inspired me to follow my own crazy ideas and aspirations,” he said.

Celebrity chef Alastair McLeod compered the event, which also included an art exhibition, screening of finalists in the school’s filmmaking competition, live music, a Varley electric super car and an appearance by director of The Newcastle Shootout Kristi Street.

Sheldon Perry from Tap Dogs also performed alongside his nephew Hudson Coates, a year 11 student at the school.

Students will today attend some of 60 workshops given by artists, musicians, journalists, chefs, robotics engineers, mathematicians, social justice advocates, Broadway actor Bruce Kuhn and a former Disney cartoonist.

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A SERVING Newcastle police officer was accused yesterday of taking bribes and supplying a gun to former boxer Fortunato “Lucky” Gattellari.
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NSW police confirmed that Senior Constable Mark Donohue is “subject to an ongoing departmental investigation”.

A spokesman said it would be inappropriate to comment further.

Giving evidence at the committal hearing of his former benefactor, Ron Medich, Gattellari said that, in 2010, he paid $2500 in cash to the police officer for a pistol.

“What kind of officer would do that?” Winston Terracini, SC, for Mr Medich, asked.

“The kind who took bribes from Mr Medich,” said Gattellari, who added that the bribes were over deals involving Aboriginal land.

The court heard that the gun Constable Donohue provided was for Haissam Safetli, who was recently sentenced to six years’ jail for his role in the execution-style shooting of Michael McGurk.

The Scottish-born businessman was murdered in his car in front of his nine-year-old son in September 2009. Mr Medich, a property tycoon, is alleged to have been the mastermind.

Gattellari, 63, said the gun he bought from Constable Donohue was not the murder weapon and was supplied after the killing of McGurk. He said he hid it in the back shelf of his office filing cabinet until Safetli came to get it.

When asked if he was concerned about what Safetli planned to do with it, Gattellari said: “Why should I be?”

The court heard “changing tyres” was the code Gattellari used for the murder. The former boxer was sentenced to seven years’ jail for his role in organising McGurk’s murder. He is now the Crown’s key witness.

Under cross-examination by Mr Terracini, Gattellari told Central Local Court that he didn’t keep records of his dealings on Mr Medich’s behalf because 90 per cent of them were illegal.

Gattellari was also questioned about his financial dealings with Queenslander Louie Gibson. Gattellari said he thought his friend was a “racing identity” rather than a drug dealer.

In 2008, Gibson was sentenced to 11 years’ jail for producing and trafficking the drug methylamphetamine.

The court also heard that hundreds of thousands of dollars, allegedly from Mr Medich’s investments in Gattellari’s electrical businesses, were handed over to Gattellari’s family without Mr Medich’s knowledge.

These included an interest-free loan of $370,000 to his brother, Rocky, a former world boxing champion, and a $100,000 loan to Gattellari’s daughter, Romaine.

Neither of the loans have been repaid, prompting Mr Terracini to accuse Gattellari of being a thief and “milking” Mr Medich of millions.

“That’s rich coming from you,” Gattellari retorted.

He also denied ever threatening anyone.

Shot dead: slain property developer Michael McGurk.

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A CATHOLIC primary school and adjoining church could become business land under plans for Morisset’s town centre.
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Councillors last night voted on plans to rezone land on Dora, Yambo and Doyalson streets as well as Wharf Street.

Property at the north-eastern end of Yambo Street and Newcastle Street is also included in the proposal.

If approved, the new zonings would provide small amounts of extra residential and urban centre land.

A council report said the catalyst for rezoning was a Catholic Diocese application lodged in April to rezone St John Vianney Primary School and church into a business area.

“The local parish would like to relocate the church and school to an alternative site in Morisset in order to overcome existing traffic and parking issues and to have a site large enough to accommodate a combined primary and high school,” the council report said.

The school celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2012 and had a major refurbishment in 2010.

“The proposal will benefit the residents of Morisset and its surrounds by making a key site available for retail or commercial uses that would currently be difficult to accommodate within the Morisset town centre due to the topography,” the council report said.

A spokeswoman for the Maitland-Newcastle diocese said there were no immediate plans to shift the school and no immediate alternate site was identified.

“Any rezoning of the site in no way compels the parish or school to relocate unless they should elect to do so at some future time,” the spokeswoman said.

“This is a very long-term plan and is more about future proofing for the parish and school given the anticipated growth in the area and that the current site is land-locked [limiting expansion].”

The council’s proposal will be sent to the Department of Planning and Infrastructure for assessment.

Killingworth bushland rezoning

BUSHLAND at Killingworth could be rezoned as a step towards developing a subdivision more than a century old.

The small village south of West Wallsend could expand, with the council potentially rezoning about 15 hectares of land in the town’s south.

The council owns about 65 per cent of the property in that area, which was included in a “paper” subdivision of the area made in 1901.

Most of the property would be zoned for conservation under the council’s new proposal while 6.64 hectares would become low-density residential land.

It would also turn 33 community land holdings into operational property.

A council timeline showed the proposal may go on public exhibition in November.

New look at Lake Macquarie flood risks

LAKE Macquarie City Council staff will discuss the council’s approach to planning for future flood risks at a presentation this morning.

Issues including property values, ability to purchase properties, the cost of flood insurance and development conditions will be discussed.

“It will be an open forum to hear experiences, issues and suggestions from the real estate industry that will provide an opportunity for council to establish a process for continued communication with the industry on planning for future flood risks,” a spokeswoman said.

The presentation is at Belmont 16 Footers, The Parade, Belmont at 8am.

Aged could benefit

A REZONING that could allow seniors’ housing, restaurants and offices on a former TAFE campus at Charlestown will go to the state government.

Councillors supported seeking a gateway determination to rezone the western portion of the 2.1-hectare Tiral Street site for mixed use including offices, a restaurant and “an information and education facility”.

A report to councillors said Uniting Care Ageing planned to use part of the site.

Under the council rezoning proposal, about 5400 square metres will be rezoned for those purposes.

Most of that will remain under a residential zoning. The land, which is also bordered by Dudley Road and James Street, was formerly the Hunter Institute of Technology TAFE’s horticultural campus.

The remaining TAFE buildings were demolished in 2011 following the land’s sale. The council noted there was a previous unsuccessful push for a gateway determination, but due to alterations to the plan another application should be made.

Cardiff site plan in public eye

A CARDIFF park to replace Harry Ford Reserve has taken a step forward.

Councillors endorsed the plan last night to acquire properties on Veronica and Kelso streets in a bid to turn the 0.38 hectare area into a park.

The project will replace the reserve lost to a Woolworths development in the suburb and will be funded by the proceeds of that sale.

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RESIDENTS, farmers and activists will protest in Sydney tomorrow against proposed new rules for mining projects, amid criticisms the state government is abandoning a key election commitment with the rushed changes.
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Groups including Bylong Valley Protection Alliance members and Bulga residents, as well as broadcaster Alan Jones, are expected to rally outside the Supreme Court.

It is set to hear Rio Tinto’s and the state government’s appeal of an earlier Land and Environment Court decision against the extension of the Mount Thorley Warkworth mine.

Approval for the project was overturned in April when a judge found its social and environmental impacts could not be justified.

The mining giant has argued its workers’ jobs are in limbo.

The rally is also against the government’s move to introduce a new planning policy for the assessment of mining projects.

The draft policy stipulates the size of the resource must be the principal consideration when a project is determined. Submissions closed yesterday, after two weeks of it being on exhibition.

In contrast, the government has yet to formally implement another policy that would put in place exclusion zones for coal seam gas wells on critical industry land and within two kilometres of residential areas, measures the cabinet endorsed in February.

Lock the Gate Alliance spokesman Steve Phillips said the government had walked away from promises to protect agricultural land and its “gateway process” for assessing mining projects.

“All that goes out the window with these changes, which basically make coal king,” he said.

NSW Farmers president Fiona Simson said it was “grossly inadequate” to introduce “something with such large ramifications” with only a two-week exhibition period.

But NSW Minerals Council boss Stephen Galilee said the change was needed to restore investment certainty.

Planning Minister Brad Hazzard’s office referred inquiries to the Department of Planning and Infrastructure.

A department spokesman said potential land-use conflicts would have to be considered before a development application could be lodged.

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THE Hunter New England area is down more than 60 community services caseworkers, as part of a massive shortfall across the state between “budgeted” and “actual” staff numbers, a leaked report prepared for the government reveals.
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It comes after more than 44,000 children deemed at risk of harm were not seen by a child protection caseworker in 2011-12.

Family and Community Services Minister Pru Goward denied lying to Parliament, after being confronted yesterday with the Ernst & Young report that showed the state had 1797 caseworkers in March, compared with the more than 2000 the government has claimed.

It lists the Hunter New England district down 68.5 caseworkers in March and 64.2 in April, from the number of positions allowed for in the budget. Across the state, the frontline strength – or staff at work – was 1617 caseworkers.

“That’s a 16 per cent cut of caseworkers on Pru Goward’s watch,” Labor’s Luke Foley, who released the report, said.

He said Ms Goward had “maintained a lie for months” when she said there were about 2000 caseworkers.

But Ms Goward told a budget estimates hearing yesterday she had referred to 2068 “budgeted positions”, the number of which had not changed.

She denied any knowledge of the report despite her department commissioning it, but revealed she had ordered her department to fill vacancies after “some very frustrating months talking to frontline caseworkers who kept saying there were vacancies”.

“The government has provided sufficient funding for 2068 caseworker positions . . . and it is the department’s responsibility to fill those positions,” Ms Goward told the hearing.

“And it’s none of your business if there are actual caseworkers on the ground is it Minister?” Mr Foley replied.

New Family and Community Services director-general Michael Coutts-Trotter said the report was done as part of work to ascertain the “true number” of staff, which the government would make public at the end of the year then publish regularly.

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