Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe. Photo: Louie DouvisThe Reserve Bank has kept its cash rate on hold at a record low of 1.5 per centfor the eleventh consecutive month, providing little indication of when it will allow rates to rise.
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The decision at Tuesday’s board meeting comes ahead of the release of the bank’sQuarterly Statement on Monetary Policyon Friday which is expected to explain more of the board’s thinking.

It came as the n dollar climbed back above US80¢, the second time in two weeks it has broken the threshold to trade at a two-year high.

The statement by Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe saidthe bank’s forecastsfor the n economy was largely unchanged.

“Over the next couple of years, the central forecast is for the economy to grow at an annual rate of around 3 per cent. The transition to lower levels of mining investment following the mining investment boom is almost complete, with some large liquefied natural gasprojects now close to completion. Business conditions have improved and capacity utilisation has increased. The current high level of residential construction is forecast to be maintained for some time, before gradually easing.”

Governor Lowe said one source of uncertainty for the domestic economy was the outlook for consumption. Retail sales had picked up, but slow growth in real wages and high levels of household debt were likely to constrain growth in spending.

Employment growth was picking up, but againstthis, wage growth remained low and was likely to stay low for a while yet.

The higher exchange rate was expected to contribute to subdued price pressures in the economy. It was also weighing on the outlook for output and employment. An appreciating exchange rate would be expected to result in a slower pick-up in economic activity and inflation than currently forecast.

The bank signalled it was notparticularlyworriedabouthousing prices, saying they wererising briskly in some markets, although more slowly.In some other markets, they were declining.

“In the eastern capital cities,a considerable additional supply of apartments is scheduled to come on stream over the next couple of years. Rent increases remain low in most cities and investors in residential property are facing higher interest rates. There has also been some tightening of credit conditions following recent supervisory measures to address the risks associated with high and rising levels of household indebtedness. Growth in housing debt has been outpacing the slow growth in household incomes,” thestatementsaid.

In recent monthsmortgage rates have been edging higher, particularly for investors and interest-only loans.

Tim Lawless, head of research at the property data firmCoreLogicsaid higher mortgage rates against a backdrop of record high household debt were taking some heat out of the housing market without the Reserve Bank needing to act.

“With headline inflation tracking slightly below the 2 to 3 per cent target range, labour markets tightening and the economy continuing to grow, albeit at a pace below trend, the chances of a rate cut appear to have diminished,” he said, adding that rate hikes might be some way off as well.

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THE decision by McDonald Jones Homes to sell a 40 per cent stake to a Japanese contract builder could leadthe Hunter-founded firm to move into manufacturing.
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MJH group managing director Andrew Helmers declined to put a value on the deal that the company, founded by Bill McDonald 30 years ago, had inked with Tokyo-based custom homes builderAsahi Kasei Homes (AKH).

Under the deal, Mr Helmers, Mr McDonald and director Peter Durbin’s individual shareholder stakes of 33 per cent are reduced to 20 per cent each, with AKH taking a 40 per cent holding.

Mr Helmers said the decision would not affect the operations of MJH, which operates on the eastern seaboard, and that the capital injection would allow it to aggressively pursue its growth strategy. MJH is the sixth largest residential homes group in the country and wants to be within the top five firms.

“Growth requires capital and in the past we have always had to make choices on how it is spent and this investment allows us to implement multiple strategies at once,” Mr Helmers said.

Mr Helmers said the company’s priority in the mid-term was land development and movinginto the supply chain of supply houses.

“We are a contract builder but [we are looking into] getting into manufacturing components, frames, kitchens, maybe finance offerings to our customers, potentially new software and business operating systems,” he said.

Growth strategy: McDonald Jones Home managing director Andrew Helmers.

Asahi Kasei Homes manufactures its components and Mr Helmers saidMJH would investigate tapping into its manufacturing skillset to boost its product offering and increase housing affordability for its customers.

He said AKH had approached McDonald Jones to expand its global footprint due to the shrinking new home market in Japan.

Three AKHexecutives have been in the Hunter for the past month and Mr Helmer said it was business as usual:“We remainmajority owned and operated by Hunter-based people.” He said the new homes market was “strong” with good land supply and low interest rates.

Custom made: A sample of a home delivered by McDonald Jones Home, which champions the use of steel frames.

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CHARLES Monks was not distracted or under the influence of drugs or alcohol when he drive on the wrong side of the road, before crashing into another car, killing Muswellbrook’s Nicole Rayner, Newcastle District Court has heard.
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Mr Monks, 23, is accused of dangerous drive occasioning death after his ute collided with Ms Rayner’s caron December 29, 2015, on the New England Highway at Whittingham.

Mr Monks’trial heard on Tuesday that the central issue would be whether the Singleton Heights man suffered a seizure in the moments before his Volkswagen Amarok struck the Holden Barina head on.

The 23-year-old had been returning home from a fishing trip on the Central Coast, the court heard.

He was travelling with three others when he had the collision, with all escaping with minor injuries. Ms Rayner, 29, died at the scene.

There is no dispute that Mr Monks failed to negotiate the “sweeping left hand bend” on the section of the New England Highway at Whittingham.

However, the defence will argue Mr Monks may have suffered a seizure in the lead-up to the collision, brought about by a lesion on the 23-year-old’s brain, and the crash was potentially the result of “involuntary” actions.

Crown prosecutor Michael McColm said the abnormality on Mr Monk’s brain made the seizure a “possibility”.

But Mr McColm noted that there was “no evidence of [Mr Monk] having a seizure before or since” the crash.

The court heard from several witnesses, including Mr Monks’ uncle, who was sitting in the front passenger seat of the car at the time of the collision.

Under cross-examination, Mr Monks’uncle said he noticed no difference in the 23-year-old’s appearance, presentation or demeanour before the crash.

Judge Roy Ellis said there was “no evidence” to suggest the accused was distracted or under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash. The court will hear expert testimony as to the likelihood Mr Monks suffered a seizure on Wednesday.

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SOBERING FIGURES: University of Newcastle student Lucinda Iacono and Vice-Chancellor Caroline McMillen at the NeW Space campus on Tuesday, after the release of the Human Rights Commission’s report. Picture: Jonathan CarrollIT’Sthe footageof a passed-out young womanthat’stellingforLucinda Iacono.
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The scene isa University of Newcastle student residenceparty, inavideo called “TEDS GEE UP 2015 Extended Cut”, that brieflyinvolvesthewoman and a young man.

“She’s knocked out,” he says over the music.

But he looks unmoved as she slumps to the floorand, as an afterthought, hetakes the cup from her hand.

“Save your drink.”

“Teds” is Edwards Hall, the oldest residence at the University of Newcastleand home to 383 students. “Gee up” videos areput on YouTubeto generatebuzzfor upcoming parties andMs Iacono, a student and former Women’s Convener at the university, was shownthis one by a Teds fourth-year studentat a bar.

Spliced through the party footage ofthe pool, games roomsand dorms of Teds are male students’ party comments like“I said, who do you reckon’s gonna get their t–s out?”.

At one point, a male student is shown rubbing his genitals in the face of another male who appears to be lying unconscious on his bed.

“Be a lion, don’t be a liOFF,” reads the caption.

Lucinda Iacono, former women’s convener at the University of Newcastle, on assault statistics pic.twitter苏州夜总会招聘/1mt7pS9f2X

— Newcastle Herald (@newcastleherald) August 1, 2017It’s probably the most obvious example of rape culture that Newcastle university has.

Former university women’s convener Lucinda Iacono, on a campus residence party “gee up” video.

The university’s 21 per cent of male student respondents who said they had been sexually harassed is “higher than our community might expect”, Professor McMillen said, but it is unclear whether the figureindicates a prevalence of hazing, other types of male-on-male harassment, or harassmentby females.

From a low statistical base, Newcastle students responding to the Human Rights Commission survey said they had been subject to “repeated or inappropriate advances” by email, social media and online chat rooms at more than twice thenational rate.

That doesn’t include a University of Newcastlesubgroup of students who reported, at three times the national rate, encountering“other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature”.

“It tends to be female students who have that experience,” Professor McMillen said.

“Our approaches to education and prevention have to include the online space.”

Nationally, the surveyfound women were four times more likely to have been sexually assaulted than men in a university residence, withpost-graduate studentsmore likelyto havebeen harassed or assaulted by a universitystaff member.

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IN LIMBO: Nikolai Topor-Stanley tangles with Jake Adelson at Jets training. Topor-Stanley and Dimi Petratos are in doubt for the FFA Cup clash against Adelaide. Picture: Jonathan CarrollSTAR recruits Dimi Petratos and Nikolai Topor-Stanley could be ruled out of the Jets’ FFA Cup battle with Adelaide United due to red tape.
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Both players joined the Jets from international clubs in June. Petratos was signed from Ulsan Hyundai in Korea and Topor-Stanley had been in the United Arab Emirates at Hatta.

The players’ contracts have been lodged with Football Federation but are awaiting receipt of an International Transfer Clearance to complete their registration.

The national association of theplayers’former club is responsible for processing the ITC.Jets management have made several requests to the UAE Football Association and Korea Football Association but are yet to receive the crucial documentation.

They followed the same procedure and had no issues in obtaining an ITC for goalkeeper Glen Moss from the New Zealand Football Association.

If the Jets do not get a response from the UAE FA and Korean FA after 30 days they can request special dispensation from FFA to have the players registered.

As it stands, neither Petratos or Topor-Stanley is eligible to play against Adelaide next Wednesday.

The Jets, althoughconfident of a positive resolution, are frustrated by the delay.

“When you sign a player from a club overseas like Nikolai and Dimi, you have a International Transfer Clearance and it is always a problem getting it done,” coach Ernie Merrick said. “With Glen Moss, from my old club Pheonix, it was done straight away, no problems at all.The other two there is a problem.”

Merrick said Jets football operations manager Joel Griffiths had followed the correct procedure.

“We have adhered to all the protocols, Joel has emailed the clubs and the association andrequested this that and the next thing,” Merrick said.“If the association says‘yesit was a proper transfer, this is the evidence, this is the contract’, there should be no hold up.Joelhas informed the FFA and will follow that up with a conversation with them.Unless that comes through they can’t play.”

Star Jets recruits in doubt for FFA Cup over  red tape | photos TweetFacebook Jets trainingPictures: Jonathan CarrollThe Jets are yet to progress past the round of 32 in the FFA Cup. They lost to Perth Glory in the opening two years and went down to Melbourne Victory last year.

Adelaide isMerrick’s first competitive game in charge of the Jets and the two-time A-League title-winner isdesperate to advance to the next round.

The Jets will finalise preparations with a hit out against Maitland at Cooks Square Park on Wednesday.

Petratos and Topor-Stanley are likely to start.

Chinese trialistZhu Zhengyu will play at least 45 minutes but the wingerwill need to have a greater impact than hedid in the 2-0 loss to the Mariners.

“He is doing OK,” Merrick said.

The Jets have told theNewcastle Heraldthat talks witha South American attacker have stalled due to a health issue in the player’s family.

The clash with the Magpiesis the Jets’third against Northern NSW teams and follows wins over Weston (2-0) and Broadmeadow (5-1).

“I hoping it will be very competitive,” Merrick said.“Every team we have played have lifted.The players want to show that they are good enough to play in the A-League and can beat the boys who are out there.

“I like the competitive nature. It has been tough but fair, no silly tackles or anything like that.We are hoping for the same against Maitland.”

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Brush-off: Hunter One Nation Senator Brian Burston in his new Toronto office after a Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union attack against him over apprenticeships. Picture: Marina Neil.HUNTER One Nation Senator Brian Burston has dismissed a targeted union attack against him over apprenticeshipsas “Labor politics”, and warned of Senate disruption if the federal government does not act on One Nation’s apprenticeship policy.
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Mr Burston said a Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union campaign, that includesfull-page advertisements in the Newcastle Herald,flowed from One Nation’s support for the Turnbull Government’s n Building and Construction Commission legislation, but the timing appeared to be linked to polling showing strong support for the minor party in some areas.

The CFMEU alleges“One Nation Senator Brian Burston voted with Malcolm Turnbull to give us laws that will mean less apprenticeships on government jobs and even less jobs for our kids”, because of provisions in the new legislation allowing companies to employ foreign labour if n workers cannot be found, “includingthrough training”.

Mr Burston said the allegation was “quite insulting but I just laughed when I saw it”, and accused both major parties of greater damage to apprenticeships by gutting ’s traditional trade training colleges through privatisation and other policy changes.

A Federal Government document from 2016, Trends in Apprenticeships and Traineeships, found building trades had been less affectedby a dramatic drop in all forms of trainee arrangements since 2012, with the number of apprentice bricklayers, carpenters and joiners falling by 5 per cent, plumbers by 3 per cent and electricians by 10 per cent.

The only occupation to record a rise in apprenticeships was electronics and telecommunications trade workers, up by 27 per cent.

Mr Burston, a former NSW TAFE teacher for 10 years who started his working career as an apprentice boilermaker, said One Nation had been frustrated by the Turnbull Government’s failure to act on One Nation’sapprenticeship policy and wasconsidering tying support for the policy to support for the government’s Budget measures.

One Nation proposes federal subsidies of 75 per cent of an apprentice’s wage in the first year, 50 per cent in the second year and 25 per cent in the third, paid to employers.

“We would start with 500 places and let it go from there. We’re starting to put a bit of pressure on the government over it. They’ve been saying ‘Yes, yes, yes, we’re looking at it’ for a long time, but Pauline’s starting to get frustrated with them,” Mr Burston said.

”We may need to use our position in the Senate to apply pressure in some way, relating to Budget measures.”

Mr Burston revealed he was the architect of One Nation’s preference deal swap with the Liberal Partyin the Western n election which was criticised as contributing to the party’s significant drop in support during the campaign.

Mr Burston defended the deal as “the right thing” and said “in my view it was a success”.

A blanket preference deal would not be done again, although the Queensland Liberals continue to support seat by seat deals with One Nation.

Mr Burston backed beleaguered One Nation colleague Malcolm Roberts who is facing a strong challenge to his eligibility to stand for Federal Parliament over n citizenship.

“I’m not worried at this stage,” Mr Burston said.

He would not support same sex marriage if moves within the Federal Coalition lead to a conscience vote on the issue.

“I’d vote against same sex marriage. No doubt. I believe there should be a plebiscite but if it comes to a vote I think marriage is between a man and a woman,” he said.

“I think the government should just get on with it. Same sex marriage is just a social issue. It’s a distraction, a major distraction.”

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Hands on: Tristan Winner participated in one of the first Deadly Dads workshops before the arrival of baby Tombi. The program aims to empower and educate Aboriginal fathers and fathers-to-be. Picture: Simone De Peak.A HUNTER-based parenting program is using one-day workshops to educate and empower Aboriginal fathers-to-be in a bid to improve the health outcomes of the next generation.
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The Deadly Dads program beganafter survey results showedlower rates of breastfeeding among Aboriginal womenatdischarge from hospital, and that Aboriginal children hadhigher rates of avoidable hospitalisations.

Program facilitator Paul Douglas, one of only three male breastfeeding mentors in ,said Deadly Dads was still in the pilot stage, but they had so far shared practical parenting advice and information with 70 to 80 men.

“The word ‘deadly’ doesn’t mean lethal in this context. We’re not teaching them to kill people,” Mr Douglas laughed. “In the Aboriginal community, we use ‘deadly’ as another word for good.

“There is nothing out there like this course. We try to give useful tips, and teach the fundamentals about what being a father is all about…How to be actively involvedand supportive day-to-day.”

Mr Douglas said the program empowered men to take ownership of parenting issues, andtouched on health, safety and nutrition for both the mother during pregnancy and breastfeeding, as well as the baby.

“We go into all of those key indicators that are recommended to help close some of the health gaps,” he said.

“Who would have ever thought that a group of men would be sitting around talking about breastfeeding?

“But it’s not just women’s business. It benefits the children, and when the blokes get involved, and they understand better, they can better support their partners.

“Likewith breastfeeding, there is the soreness, the stress that can come with it if the baby doesn’t latch on. If the husband knows too, they can help them out and support them through the tough times.”

Tristan Winner, of The Hill, said while nothing could ever fully prepare a person for parenthood, after participating in the Deadly Dads program, he felt a lot more confident ahead of the arrival of his son, Tombi, almost eight months ago.

“Theantenatal classes had a lot of practical stuff in them as well, but it was probably more geared towards the mums,” he said.

“I walked in to this and it was just blokes. We had a good laugh and a good time. It got a bit deep at times, but I walked out feeling a lot more ready than I had been. It was just one day session, designed for us.”

He would like to see the program continue and expand to other regions.

Mr Winner said he and his wife, Joan, were referred to the program through Birra Li, theAboriginal Maternal and Child Health Services.

Birra Lican be contacted on4016 4900.

“I think blokes need a reason to sit down and have a yarn about this stuff. No one really talks about whatthose first few weeks and months are like, it made me feel a bit more ready,” he said.

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Praise the Lord and pass the Cake Photo: Paul Dear
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Photo: Paul Dear

Photo: Paul Dear

Photo: Paul Dear

Photo: Paul Dear

Photo: Paul Dear

Photo: Paul Dear

Photo: Paul Dear

Photo: Paul Dear

Photo: Paul Dear

Photo: Paul Dear

TweetFacebookThe Revival Meetingis the name of their new album, but My Friend The Chocolate Cake were playing to the converted on Friday night.

If there were any non-believers at a packed Lizotte’s, they were soon swept away by the charisma of this tight outfit, who havebeen playing for 28 years.

Proceedings started low-key with just David Bridie and the band’s string section- Helen Mountfort (cello) and Hope Cstoros(violin) – introducing Poke Along Slowly. The three other Cakemembers –Greg Patten (drums), Andrew Richardson (guitar) and Dean Addison (double bass) –appeared,and things were kicked up a notch, with mostly new material mixed expertly with Cake favourites,I Got A Plan and It’s All In the Way.

The second half really belonged to the ‘Chocolate Cake Girls’,Mountfort and Cstoros, as their gorgeous arrangements set the pace, from oh-so-quiet to break-neck speed.

Bridie also charmed the socks off everyone with his observations on all manner of subjects,including Pauline Hanson, thegeneral populacebeing glued to their mobile phones andthe joys of PNG’s culture. Stori Rabaul,even sparked some righteous dance moves by the lanky frontman. He said later that his bandmates often cautioned him against having a jig, as he was a “shit dancer”.

Let’s say his efforts were akin to ‘dad dancing’, but delivered with such unbridled joy that it made you want to join in.

Unbridled Bridie was adorable.

There was also a hearty singalong to Easter Parade (audience’s line:“Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition”), in which Newcastle’s efforts were judged better than Coffs Harbour’s.

The night ended with the touchingencore,Jim’s Refrain, a tribute to Cake founding member Andrew Carswell, who passed away last year.

The Cake family then joined hands for a final bow,closing what was aninspiring, joyful, touching and deeply satisfying performance.

Hallelujah, all praise The Cake.

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Forward thinking: HunterNet chief executive officer Tony Cade. Picture: Simone de Peak. What was the landscape like in manufacturing when you took the helm of Hunternet in 2013?
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Industry was definitely in decline when I first returned to Newcastle to commence my role with HunterNet. Commodity prices had commenced to ‘free fall’ from September 2012 and mining houses had already commenced aggressive efficiency and cost improvement programs. The region’s ship building had already begun downsizing with the impending ‘valley of death’ arising from a lack of build and sustainment opportunities. Further, infrastructure development had slowed. It was clear one week into the role, the good times of years past had come to a close.

What were the challenges for manufacturers then?

The need to build new capabilities and capacity. Traditional markets had either shrunk or disappeared. The only hope to survive and position for growth for manywas to pursue ‘new’ niche market opportunities or supply chains.

And core challenges for HunterNet?

HunterNet also needed to take a long look at itself. Companies expected more than just networking opportunities. We needed to develop the capacity to directly add value to our member company’s bottom line and provide specialist business support platforms for their respective work forces.

Four years on, what have you done to support to your 200 members?

There have been many initiatives implemented. We have built on the network by facilitating open innovationprograms where several companies have collaborated to enter new markets. Our Project Directors are really niche business development consultants that focus on positioning Hunter and Central Coast companies in four industry focus areas spanning 13 national and global supply chains. They work ‘in’ companies BD departments. We have internationalised and, in partnership with Austrade, executed business development and familiarisation programs in China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, and South Korea. Providing optimal business support and professional development programs have assisted companies in developing their business and teams. Finally, despite many challenges we are further diversifying our Group Training Company and we are in the third year of delivering the Hunter’s Future Leaders Program.

What feedback are you getting from your members on current challenges?

We are receiving qualified feedback on improvements in business confidence. Whilst there are heightened levels of activity in the resources, infrastructure and defence sectors, there is also a recognition that a focus on innovation, efficiencies, and productivity is ‘business as normal’.

Advanced manufacturing is crucial to survival. How is the Hunter faring?

We are ‘batting above the average’. We have a range of companies that have invested in specialised equipment including industrial 3D printers. We have a relatively high number of ‘hidden champions’ that are building their business on the base of ‘world’s best’ technologies.

What are the growth areas and key opportunities for Hunter manufacturers?

Just based on the number of cranes on the skyline, infrastructure development and asset management has seen a huge increase in activity. Also, in the short to medium term we will see more sustainment packages released to support the JSFs (F35s) to be based at Williamtown, which will also contribute to industry attractiveness for the airport precinct. There is an increase in contracts from the resources and energy sector. Finally, we are seeing increased opportunities in some of the regions traditional manufacturing markets (for example, rail).

And the biggest threat?

Global competition. If you are producing ‘widgets’ you are unlikely to be able to compete with low labour cost countries unless you have invested in automation. The other big challenge is accessing the right target customers/companies and their decision makers to develop relationships. If the first contact you have with a prospective customer is in response to a tender/EOI, you have a very low prospect of success. This is a service provided by our Project Directors. Finally, the need to continuously value-add and differentiate product and service offerings.

How is the Group Training Company travelling?

It has had a tough four years. During the downturn, companies simply were not putting apprentices or trainees on. However, we are implementing a business diversification strategy and we have seen numbers more than double since late 2016.

Looking forward, what will challengeindustry?

There are many challenges but the fundamentals still apply. Understand your current capabilities. Be realistic about what markets you can pursue. Understand what is required (capital and time) to develop new capacities. Never underestimate the importance of relationships and collaboration. Understand that product and service improvement and development is a continuous part of business. Innovate and take calculated risks – it’s ok to fail – just fail quick and cheap. Havea meaningful, measurable strategic plan so you can change course if factors out of your control change the landscape. Be nimble.

Tony Cade

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ROLL UP ROLL UP: Club Maitland City’s Sports and Sponsorship Manager DJ Dilworth said preparation for this weekend’s event is huge.Maitland is set to roll out the full house signs as an estimated 600 lawn bowls enthusiasts flock to the city for the Grade 3 State Pennants finals.
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The event will be held over three days at Club Maitland City at Rutherford and at Lorn Park Bowls Sports and Recreation Club.

Club Maitland City’s Sports and Sponsorship Manager DJ Dilworth said the event is huge for the clubs involved and huge for the city from an economic point of view.

The Grade 3 State Pennant Finals will see 16 teams comprising about 250 players compete for the top honour in a round robin event.

Maitland City hosted the event several years ago and according to Dilworth clubs are only allowed to host them once every three years.

While the event is held over three days, Dilworth said visitors have allocated themselves a four-day stay at various locations across the city.

“Both our motels, Maitland City and The Old Maitland Inn, are fully booked and I’d say it’s pretty much the trend right across town,” he said.

Dilworth said the event has been months in the planning with the two clubs working closely together.

“We’ve been flat out for about four months to make sure everything runs smoothly over the weekend.

“We need an army of volunteers, about 20 from each club, to co-ordinate everything.

“We’ve ordered extra kegs, extra meals, extra sausages, extra staff.

“Our green keeping staff have put in a tremendous amount of work on the greens which look fantastic. So it’s a big thanks to them,” Dilworth said.

“This is certainly the biggest event we have held here at Club Maitland City.

“It’s a great wayto promote the club, put Maitland on the map and showcase what we have to people from Waggato Kempsey.”

Maitland City Council’sVisitor and City Economy Co-ordinator Martin Payne saidMaitland is a popular destination for sport events.

He said the city boastsmany facilities of regional and state quality and a range of accommodation options that can cater for over 1380 visitors.

“Events such as this are a perfect opportunity to showcase the city to a large audience, who may also return as a leisure visitor in the future,” Mr Payne said.

“Economic modelling suggests that an event of this size would have a direct economic benefit of $245,000 to the Maitland economy.”

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