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Show your colours

Written By miftah nugraha on Sabtu, 19 Januari 2013 | 19.55

ARE you keen to show your true colours on Australia Day?

What better way than snapping this colourful cap?

You can get your very own for just $1 when you buy a copy of tomorrow's Sunday Tasmanian.

  • One cap per original token while stocks last. Cap and paper $3.

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Masses flow to MOFO

CROWDS came from all directions to enjoy the third day of MONA FOMA.

Hundreds flocked to the sold-out MOFO Eastern Shore performance at the Rosny Barn last night.

Indian tabla player Bickram Ghosh, who has played with the late George Harrison and Ravi Shankar, took the audience on a wild ride with his drumming combined with electronics and Hindustani vocals.

Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra trombonist Don Bate, tuba player Tim Jones, saxophonist Danny Healy and berimbau player Christine Guidici improvised traditional folk songs.

And the crowd was spooked by the eerie ghost story of a lonely shipwright's bargain with a banshee.

The story featured live drawings by Christopher Downes and a soundtrack by Joshua Santospirito.

MOFO devotees rushed back across the river to catch Brooklyn band Dirty Projectors play their lyrical melodic indie pop songs at MOFO central at PW1.

And many capped off a perfect balmy Hobart evening by taking a magical mystery ride through FAUX MO the after-hours festival club at a secret city location.

Tonight, an 11-piece orchestra will bring a children's novel to life with the sound of instruments including saxophone, violin, synthesizers, percussion, and a vacuum cleaner.

Conductor Ben Walsh said Shaun Tan's book The Arrival, which tells the story of a refugee, had had an immediate impact on him and he wanted to share it with audiences.

"The novel is projected picture by picture, then we add the emotive response of music for a filmic experience," he said.

MONA FOMA curator Brian Ritchie said the festival had so far drawn big crowds that had seen some great performances and there was plenty still to come.

"The morning meditation concerts at the cathedral have been popular. We've had to turn people away," he said.

"People should check out All Fires -- they are one of the best of the local bands."

Australian band Graveyard Train will play last tonight at PW1.

"They are my favourite Australian band, they've got a raw Australian bush sound," Ritchie said.


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Bridges Bros blaze 'suspicious'

The full impact of the overnight blaze (inset) becomes clear in the morning light. Picture: KIM EISZELE

POLICE believe a $10 million fire in Hobart's CBD early this morning was deliberately lit.

Fire crews were called to Bridges Brothers, between Elizabeth and Argyle streets, about 3.15am today.

The fierce blaze in the 1928 building, which also houses several other smaller businesses, took about four hours to bring under control.

To view the picture gallery, click here.

Tasmania Fire Service district officer Mark Dobson said units from Hobart, Bridgewater, Clarence and a volunteer crew from Mt Nelson tackled the blaze.

"The whole building's gutted. It's been destroyed," Mr Dobson said.

"A building of that size could be up to $10 million."

Graham Woodward, who has owned the building since 1988, said it was going to be a huge clean-up job.

Structural engineers would assess whether the fa├žade could be retained, but the interior was completed gutted.

"It's very sad because it's quite an attractive building at the front," he said.

"I've been associated with it for 50 years and owned it since 1988.

"It's more of a concern about the tenants and where they can relocate to.

"It leaves a big hole in the block."

Police said the cause of the fire was considered suspicious.

Hobart detectives and the TFS fire scene examiner were at the scene today to search for clues.

Bathurst St between Elizabeth and Argyle streets will remain closed to vehicular and foot traffic until further notice.

Business owners in the affected area are encouraged to contact TFS for further information.

Residents of the inner-city area are advised to remain indoors with doors and windows shut because of residual smoke and those who suffer from breathing difficulties should avoid the city for the next few hours.

Hobart has not witnessed a fire of such ferocity since a fire ripped through Myer in 2007, causing about $50 million damage.

Any person with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Read more in tomorrow's Sunday Tasmanian.


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Big slump in full-time jobs

Written By miftah nugraha on Jumat, 18 Januari 2013 | 19.55

TASMANIA'S unemployment rate took a 0.6 per cent horror jump to 7.3 per cent in December as a result of a large loss of full-time jobs particularly among men.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics seasonally adjusted figures showed a jump from 16,700 to 18,200 unemployed persons from November to December.

The loss of nearly 3000 full-time jobs, from 147,700 to 144,800, was chiefly a result of the fall from 98,400 to 96,200 male full-time jobs.

Male unemployment rose from 6.5 per cent to 7.5 per cent, but female unemployment was steady at 7.0 per cent.

Jobs have been lost in the forestry industry following the collapse of Gunns Limited and in manufacturing and mining.

The number of people working or actively looking for work increased marginally to 60.2 per cent. However, Tasmania remained the state with the highest unemployment rate in the nation with the national rate rising by 0.1 per cent to 5.4 per cent.

The poor figures follow recent ABS job data that showed there were 8.1 people applying for each job vacancy in Tasmania.

Bank of America economist Saul Eslake said he believed Tasmania had come out of recession in the second half of 2012.

"If that is the case, there has been a weak upturn in terms of jobs," he said.

Mr Eslake said the strong Australian dollar, which made Tasmanian exports more expensive to their overseas importers, was hurting industries such as horticulture and agriculture, including wine and vegetable, as well as manufacturing.

Mr Eslake said Tasmania was the only state which had not "made good" the jobs lost during the global financial crisis.

Premier Lara Giddings said there were clear signs the labour market had begun to stabilise but the unemployment rate was still too high.

The data also revealed a hidden army of low-paid workers in part-time "junk jobs" is keeping a lid on Australia's unemployment rate.

More than 1.5 million Australians are hunting for a job or want to work longer hours.


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New hurdle to forests peace

FEDERAL Environment Minister Tony Burke fears the Tasmanian Forest Agreement may fall apart if the Legislative Council prevents a World Heritage nomination going ahead by the end of this month.

Mr Burke turned up the pressure on the Legislative Council to finalise its position, saying yesterday Australia had until the end of January to make the nomination part of the TFA.

However, the Legislative Council committee has scheduled hearings for the week after next and is unlikely to meet the deadline.

There was to be a World Heritage nomination for 130,000ha within 500,000ha of proposed reserves by January 31.

Mr Burke said he was not sure the agreement would stand up if a World Heritage nomination was made before the forestry industry achieved job and other gains. He said the spirit of the agreement was that gains by environmentalists and industry move in tandem.

"That means a decision needs to be made before the end of the month."

Mr Burke flew to Tasmania yesterday to talk to signatories about the looming deadline.

He met the Legislative Council president Sue Smith but said it was a coincidence his visit clashed with the Legislative Council hearings.

Mr Burke said he had not foreseen a situation where the Legislative Council did not pass the Bill and sent it to a committee.

"The change of timing throws that entire process on its head," he said.

"An end of January deadline is now extraordinarily difficult to navigate.

"Some people say that if a nomination does not go ahead it will blow the agreement apart, but if it were to go forward it runs the risk of upsetting the balance."

Mr Burke said that if a nomination went ahead it would not be withdrawn but it might be possible to get industry support by other means and it was likely he would come back to Tasmania before the end of the month.

Forest Industries Association chief executive Terry Edwards and Wilderness Society campaigner Vica Bayley could not be contacted for comment. Neither could Sue Smith or council committee chairman Paul Harriss.


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Cameras will see you: police

PETTY criminals, graffiti vandals and those responsible for anti-social behaviour have been warned: you will be caught.

Big brother is watching and his view has just improved dramatically with the roll-out of 20 hi-tech cameras in Glenorchy and five more in Sandy Bay. The new cameras mean Tasmania has reached a CCTV milestone with more than 500 tiny eyes now monitoring every move on the state's busiest streets.

Hobart's CBD and surrounds now boast more than 90 cameras. Launceston, Burnie and Devonport CBDs are equally wired up, and smaller municipalities in the South Kingborough and Clarence boast more than 20 cameras each.

For some, it is not enough.

"I'd have 190 if I could," Hobart Deputy Mayor and long-time CCTV camera proponent Ron Christie said.

"If it was up to me, they'd be monitored 24-7, especially on weekends."

Inspector Grant Twining, demonstrating the cameras' capabilities and crystal-clear pictures yesterday, said there was no doubt cameras constituted an excellent tool for police, both as a deterrent and an investigatory aid.

"It's right through from the serious crimes like armed robbery, to incidents such as a man drinking from a stubbie of beer in the bus mall yesterday at noon," he said.

"We see something happen on the screen and we can go straight out and deal with it.

"The message to those inclined to do the wrong thing is this we're watching."

Launceston City Council general manager Robert Dobrzynski is equally full of praise for the cameras.

"What we know from long experience is that if you have CCTV in an area where a crime occurs, the likelihood of that offender being caught is substantially increased," he said.

"CCTV is a part of life now, both in Tasmania and around the world. It adds a layer of reassurance to the community that their safety will be protected."

Ald Christie is among those who reject notions of gross privacy invasion, labelling the Australian Privacy Foundation's concerns as "total rubbish".

Foundation vice-chairman David Vaile said the concern was there was a lack of investigation into the true value of CCTV cameras compared with the public perception that they drastically increase safety.

"Vendors and proponents of CCTV cameras tend to sell them as a big emotional you'll-feel-better ploy but if people are still dying, you can't say they're this great safety saviour," he said.

Mr Vaile said the rape and murder of Melbourne woman Jill Meagher was a tragic example of the limitations of CCTV footage.

"Yes, the alleged killer was caught on CCTV footage," he said. "And that might help police, but did it help her? No."

Glenorchy Mayor Stuart Slade is a huge fan of the tiny cameras.

"It's been a 16-year labour of love, but we've done it. We've joined the ranks of other cities with CCTV," he said at the switch-on event yesterday.

"The concerns people had previously were how will we pay for it and who will monitor them.

"Both of those issues have now been solved we've used criminals' money via the Proceeds of Crime Fund, and Tasmania Police is watching."

Senator Carol Brown, who was instrumental in securing the $123,000-plus to pay for the high-definition tilt and zoom cameras at Glenorchy, said the roll-out was good news for Glenorchy residents.

The cameras would enhance public safety and facilities in the Glenorchy area," she said.

"And we are using money taken from criminals to clean up graffiti and stop it happening in the first place."

zara.dawtrey@news.com.au


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Pledge to restart city's heart

Written By miftah nugraha on Kamis, 17 Januari 2013 | 19.55

THE Hobart City Council has vowed to turn the CBD into a magnet for tourists, families and residents in 2013.

Amid concerns from retailers that opening on weekends and public holidays is too costly when the CBD looks like a ghost town, Lord Mayor Damon Thomas says rejuvenating the city centre is a priority.

More trees, more alfresco dining, better seating, better lighting and more events are all high on the agenda.

Mr Thomas said the first area to be rejuvenated would be a $2 million overhaul of Liverpool St to coincide with the redevelopment of Myer.

The Myer project is expected to have building approvals ticked off in coming days, with the first stage of the redevelopment due to be built by Christmas this year.

The approvals will pave the way for work to begin on the $100 million redevelopment of the department store giant, which has been stalled after a trove of archaeological treasure was found at the site.

The uninviting bus mall will also be high on the agenda, with a $250,000 study to consider if it is an appropriate location for the facility.

"Most modern sophisticated cities in the Asia-Pacific region are not placing in the centre of the city a bus mall like we have here," Mr Thomas said.

"They are usually provisioned two or three blocks away so that you have a much better amenity and not buses clogging up your main arterial route in the city itself."

Mr Thomas said the rejuvenation of the bus mall could be completed for an estimated $2 million.

A greater link between the Domain and the CBD, with a top-quality coffee cart on the railway roundabout, were high on the agenda, Mr Thomas said.

Deputy Mayor Ron Christie was still looking at the feasibility of a tram from North Hobart to the waterfront via the CBD, he said.

The Hobart Chamber of Commerce has been encouraging businesses to open on Sundays and public holidays to take advantage of record numbers of tourists arriving at the city on cruise ships.

Chamber chairman Ron Gozzi said yesterday there needed to be more done to entice people into the city.

"What we need to do is incorporate the city into the travel schedule while passengers are still on the ship," he said.

Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman said a clean, tidy presentation and easy access to the CBD was integral to getting tourists into Hobart's CBD.

"Presentation in anything is important - whether it is a shop, an arcade or a website," he said.

Hobart has been ranked the seventh most family-friendly city in Australia, behind Launceston, which was ranked first.

Launceston City Council general manager Robert Dobrzynski said yesterday the council was doing a lot of work to encourage more people into the Launceston CBD.

"The Launceston City Council founded Cityprom in conjunction with CBD retailers to focus promotional activities, advertising and events on the CBD area," Mr Dobrzynski said.

"More recently, the council has introduced parking incentives like the free Tiger Bus, which operates on a 15-minute loop of the city each day, and two hours of free parking in the council-operated multi-storey car parks each afternoon."

He said the council was compiling a Greater Launceston plan that would guide the direction of the city for the next 25 years.


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Teen hurt in gorge tumble

A 16-YEAR-OLD girl was taken to hospital with a dislocated knee last night after falling down an embankment at Launceston's Cataract Gorge.

Police were called out at 8.30pm and arrived to find the teen about 500m from the suspension bridge towards the Duck Reach Power Station.

Officers said the girl had been attempting to climb out of the gorge when she slipped on rocks and fell 10m down an embankment.

Northern police rescue officers said it was necessary to "extract her from the gorge", because of her injury and the difficult terrain, and take her to Launceston General Hospital.


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All eyes on Glenorchy crime

FROM GRAFFITI bandits to seasoned criminals, those doing the wrong thing are now on notice -- the police are always watching.

Glenorchy Mayor Stuart Slade today turned on 16 fixed CCTV cameras and four mobile camera units designed to keep the city safe.

The cameras were made possible by a $123,000-plus Federal Government grant using money from the Proceeds of Crime Fund.

"We're using criminals' money to catch criminals," Alderman Slade said.

"It's been a long time coming but it's now very pleasing to see that the Glenorchy city -- like other Tasmanian cities -- is providing additional safety measures for its local community."

Demonstrating the cameras this morning at the Glenorchy Police Station, Inspector Grant Twining said police would monitor the cameras and deal with offenders caught red-handed.

The footage from all fixed cameras is recorded around the clock and will be stored for about a month.

"These cameras are a great tool for day-to-day policing and will also help police investigating serious crime," he said.

Tasmanian Labor Senator Carol Brown, who was instrumental in securing the funding for the cameras, said their installation was certain to enhance public safety.

"I want to congratulate the Glenorchy City Council and their partner organisation, the Moonah-Glenorchy Business Association, on the successful implementation of the project," she said.

"I know the council, in particular Mayor Stuart Slade, has been a tireless advocate for the introduction of CCTV cameras in the Glenorchy CBD."


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Tassie blaze menace returns

Written By miftah nugraha on Rabu, 16 Januari 2013 | 19.55

WARNING NOTE: TFS station officer and public information officer Phil Douglas addresses yesterday's community meeting at Ellendale. Picture: SAM ROSEWARNE

FIREFIGHTERS are going from house to house to work out which properties can be defended, as a large bushfire in the Upper Derwent Valley threatens to intensify later this week.

The Lake Repulse blaze has already destroyed more than 11,500ha and temperatures are forecast to hit the mid-30s tomorrow, with the dangerous combination of high winds continuing until Friday.

Those conditions constitute the worst-case scenario for the dozens of firefighters who have been battling the giant blaze for more than a week.

"This fire is burning in the worst possible terrain for firefighting," Tasmania Fire Service district officer Gerald Crawford yesterday told a packed community meeting at Ellendale, the township at greatest risk.

"We are here to give you the information you need to make the best decision on how to keep yourselves safe."

Ellendale residents were evacuated last week and are now this week faced with the same threat.

The majority of the fire, started by an unattended campfire on January 3, has been contained, but the TFS says this is a blaze that "is not playing by the rules".

Firefighting experts took to helicopters with thermal imaging equipment on Monday night to map the most dangerous spots still burning.

But lots of equipment was lost overnight when the fire jumped containment lines and destroyed hoses in its path.

"The message is 'Be vigilant, be extremely vigilant'," Mr Crawford told residents.

"I cannot guarantee the fire won't progress further south.

"Whatever we've got in our arsenal, we're using it ... but it might come further south."

The TFS warned residents it would not put crews in jeopardy and if properties were deemed undefendable firefighters would not put their lives at risk trying to save the unsaveable.

With his voice shaking, TFS station officer and public information officer Phil Douglas told the meeting that it was only good luck that no one had died in the devastating Dunalley blaze.

"We're doping it better [disseminating advice] but a lot of it was luck," he said.

He said when firefighters were battling bushfires they did not have the breathing equipment or protective gear to tackle structure fires.

Mr Crawford said the Lake Repulse blaze was in terrain that had not seen a fire probably since the 1930s and the fuel load was massive and very dangerous.

Ellendale residents and those in the surrounding communities of Ouse to Hamilton and beyond were urged to keep themselves updated from the TFS website and ABC radio.

"You need to be thinking about fire all the time," Mr Douglas said. "It needs to be part of your life.

"If you haven't made your property defendable by now, it is probably too late. But it is not too late to make sure your bushfire plan is in place, that you have nominated a safe place to go to and you know what you will do if the fire comes and it is too late to leave.

"It's happened at Dunalley. It could happen here."

Fires continued to burn across the state yesterday and the TFS made the most of cooler conditions before temperatures soar again.

Acting station officer Paul Symington said the main fires at Forcett on the Forestier Peninsula and Lake Repulse in the Upper Derwent Valley were still out of control yesterday.

"In the case of the Forcett fire, some edges have been tidied up but others are still burning and we're conducting backburning today ahead of temperatures increasing on Thursday and Friday," he said.

See www.fire.tas.gov.au for regular fire updates.


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My name's been cleared

THE Nubeena shop owners at the centre of profiteering allegations have had their names cleared by Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading and the Australian Federal Police.

Everyday Nubeena shop owners Branko and Roza Alilovic had been the subject of a social media campaign accusing them of profiteering as bush fires raged around the southeast township last week.

The accusations prompted IGA to strip the store of its branding and issue a statement on its Facebook page saying the franchise was appalled by the accusations.

Consumer Affairs Minister Nick McKim issued a statement saying he would use the full force of the law to deal with anyone engaging in profiteering.

But yesterday the Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading Director Chris Batt said the accusations Mr Branko had sold donated goods and overcharged for items in the days following the fire were without substance.

"Mr Alilovic has co-operated fully with our investigation, initiating contact and meeting with us voluntarily to address the allegations made against him," Mr Batt said.

"It was obvious in these discussions that he is deeply troubled by the allegations and has suffered greatly as a result of them, including being harassed and berated by people within the community and on social media.

"I am pleased to find that there is no evidence to suggest any dishonesty or profiteering on the part of Mr Alilovic."

Despite a harrowing week of bushfires and false allegations, Mr and Mrs Alilovic were yesterday looking forward to the future.

"We are very happy to be cleared of all allegations from all of the authorities," Mr Alilovic said. "But I don't have negative thoughts at all. They were all just rumours that were unfounded."

He said it was difficult dealing with rumours on social media.

"People can say whatever they want and you can't control it," he said.

Adding to a very difficult week, Mr Alilovic required three stitches to his head after a man hit him with a motorcycle helmet.

But the couple said they were comfortable they would continue to have strong support in the community.

"We want to say thank you to the local community, our loyal customers and our loyal staff," Mrs Alilovic said.

The couple have called the peninsula home for 10 years after first moving to Australia from Croatia in 1969.

"All of the people who live on the peninsula are very beautiful people," Mrs Alilovic said.

matthew.smith@news.com.au


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Cherry export coup for Tassie

ALMOST half the production of one of Tasmania's biggest cherry growers is now being exported to China.

From tomorrow, 20 tonnes of quality cherries will be sent daily to Beijing and Shanghai from Reid Fruits Packing sheds at Huonville.

After months of finalising protocols, the first shipment of 10 tonnes left today for Beijing.

The Tasmanian cherries, packed in 2kg and 5kg boxes, will be on Beijing supermarket shelves by lunchtime on Friday.

The importer for premium large cherries will pay up to $85 for a 5kg box.

"Every day to the end of the season we will be shipping 10 tonnes of quality cherries to each city," Reid Fruits managing director Tim Reid said.

"This is a big outcome for the Australian cherry industry.

"We have been working on this project for more than a decade.

"It will be a whole new market for the industry leading to more jobs."

The cherries are ripe for gift-giving as the Chinese celebrate New Year on February 10.

Mr Reid said Tasmania's disease-free status satisfied stringent quarantine requirements.

Fruit Growers Tasmania business development manager Lucy Gregg said the Chinese market presented huge opportunities for Tasmanian growers.

"This is a fantastic opportunity for Tasmanian cherry growers and exporters to access another key Asian market. We currently have access to Taiwan, South Korea and Japan due to our area-free status for fruit fly and a range of other non-protocol markets across Asia, Europe and other regions," Ms Gregg said.

Ten Tasmanian growers have indicated that they would like to send cherries to China this season but more than 50 growers may consider sending fruit into the Chinese market next season.

Read more rural stories in Tasmanian Country, out on Friday.


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Standing by to sizzle

Written By miftah nugraha on Selasa, 15 Januari 2013 | 19.55

AFTER sweating through record-breaking temperatures earlier in the month, the mercury is set to rise again in Hobart this week, with a top of 30C forecast for Thursday.

Today the Bureau of Meteorology has forecast a maximum temperature for Hobart of 25C.

Wednesday will be cooler, at 22C, before the state"s capital heats up on Thursday.

Meteorologist Michael Laczko said the higher temperatures were due to a warm northerly flow over the continent.

"It's being diverted over Tasmania by a high to our east and ex-tropical cyclone Narelle, which should pass to the south around Thursday,"" he said.

He said wind speeds also were forecast to strengthen at the end of the week.

"We're expecting them to pick up on Friday as a front passes by," he said.

Today: 25

Tomorrow: 22

Thursday: 30


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Upper House inquiry opens

LEGISLATIVE councillors will be able to vote on each of the 295 lots to be reserved under Tasmania's forest peace deal.

From today, the Upper House begins three days of public hearings into the Tasmanian Forests Agreement Bill, which was passed by the House of Assembly last year.

State Government representatives tabled 158 pages of amendments to the original 60-page Bill this morning. The amendments also include maps of the areas to be reserved.

The move came in the first session of the Legislative Council Inquiry into the Tasmanian Forest Agreement Bill 2012.

The amendments have been approved by a Cabinet sub-committee, made up of Premier Lara Gidding, Deputy Premier Bryan Green, Greens leader Nick McKim, Infrastructure Minister David O'Byrne, Attorney-General Brian Wightman and Craig Farrell, Leader of Government Business in the Upper House.

The Federal Government will commission a social and economic impact study of the agreement.

The Legislative Council will hear from and question signatories to the agreement as well as a number of industry bodies outside the negotiations.

They include the Tasmanian Tourism Industry Council, Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association, Tasmanian Minerals Council, Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Forestry Tasmania, Forest Practices Authority, Tasmanian Conservation Trust, Tasmanian Sawmillers Association and Australian Forest Growers.


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Recall likely as nation hots up

SOME of the interstate firefighters helping fight Tasmania's devastating bushfires may be sent home as temperatures rise in their home states.

Dozens of firefighters have been sent to Tasmania from across the country after the state's worst fires in 45 years destroyed more than 130 homes, concentrated in the town of Dunalley, in the state's south-east.

Among them was Victorian man Peter Cramer, 61, who died while working on foot to identify potential containment lines on the southern boundary of the Forcett fire on Sunday.

A fresh contingent of about 68 interstate firefighters arrived in Tasmania yesterday to help local crews battle five major bushfires still burning across the state.

They relieved 67 Victorian firefighters, who returned to Melbourne on this morning.

Several advice notices remain in place, but no emergency or watch and act warnings have been issued.

Tasmania Fire Service spokesman Paul Symington said the fires did not present a major threat but crews would be working hard to strengthen containment lines, especially around the Forcett fire.

"Things have quietened down but, having said that, it will get hotter on Thursday," he said.

Hobart is expected to reach a top of 30 degrees on Thursday, but the Bureau of Meteorology says there is also a strong possibility of rain.

The temperature is predicted to soar across south-eastern Australia on Thursday.

Mr Symington said this would prompt a review of the use of interstate firefighters.

"We're looking at what resources we need," he said.

"If possible, we'll start to release some of them because we know they'll be getting short up there as well."


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Rebuild could take years

Written By miftah nugraha on Senin, 14 Januari 2013 | 19.55

Bushfire Recovery Co-ordinator Michael Stevens, left, and recovery taskforce chairman Damian Bugg, QC, outside the Executive Building in Hobart today. Picture: MATT THOMPSON

THE head of the Tasmanian Bushfire Recovery Taskforce says it could take years for devastated communities to be rebuilt.

Fires described as the worst in almost half a century have ripped through more than 110,000ha of bush and farm land across the island state, with more than 130 homes destroyed.

The town of Dunalley, east of Hobart, has been the hardest hit, with more than half the town's buildings and a local primary school lost.

Bushfires Recovery Taskforce chairman Damian Bugg, QC, said the state was now in recovery mode, barring any new flare-ups or emergencies.

"The end point is the re-establishment of these communities to the point that we're all happy," he told ABC Radio today.

Rebuilding communities could take up to two years, he said.

The Tasmanian Government will absorb most of the cost of the clean-up, with contractors expected to start clearing damaged properties before the end of the week.

Volunteers and businesses had overwhelmed the taskforce with offers of help, Mr Bugg said.

The taskforce would open offices in Sorell and send people to the fire-affected towns of Dunalley, Murdunna and Nubeena.

"From today, barring further flare-ups and emergencies, we have moved to the recovery phase with responsibility for co-ordination of the government response," Mr Bugg said in a statement.

"We want to move quickly to help those people who need it, but I want to stress that this is a long-term job and the health and safety of residents, workers and volunteers is paramount, so we urge people to be patient."

"No demolition or removal of material will be carried out without the consent of property owners.

"However it is important to understand that once (contractor) Hazell Bros begins work on a property, the owners will not be permitted on site because of the risks of injury from heavy equipment or hazardous material."

People can register their property for clean-up and request a consent form by contacting the Bushfires Recovery Taskforce on 1800 567 567 or clicking here.

Four major bushfires continue to burn out of control, including a huge blaze in the South-West World Heritage Area, which has consumed more than 49,000ha.

There are several advice notices in place for residents but no emergency warnings.

The major thoroughfare to the Tasman Peninsula, the Arthur Highway, was reopened yesterday.


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Unit fire sparks arson inquiry

AN arson investigation has opened after an overnight fire in the Launceston suburb of Ravenswood.

Fire crews were called to the blaze at a unit in Pioneer Parade about 10.50pm yesterday.

The unit was badly damaged but no one was home at the time.

Tasmania Police today said the blaze had been deliberately lit, with the Launceston CIB taking charge of the investigation.

Anyone with information is urged to contact CrimeStoppers 1800 333 000 or the Launceston Crime and Drugs squad on 6336 3910.


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Tributes flow for fallen fireman

A VICTORIAN man who died while fighting bushfires in Tasmania has been described as a remarkable person.

Peter Ronald Cramer, 61, from Tyers in Victoria's Gippsland region, died yesterday while assisting backburning operations at Taranna, east of Hobart, on the Tasman Peninsula.

The Department of Sustainability and Environment firefighter had been working on foot to identify potential containment lines on the southern boundary of the Forcett fire about 3km from the active fire edge.

DSE chief fire officer Alan Goodwin said Mr Cramer had been a DSE firefighter for more than 30 years and a CFA volunteer for more than two decades.

He was a DSE training co-ordinator who also volunteered his time to train CFA volunteers.

"Peter was a well-respected and trusted member of the DSE community," Mr Goodwin told reporters in Melbourne.

"He was a very experienced firefighter.

"He spent a lot of time training and advising a lot of our younger firefighters coming through.

"He knew the bush, and it's a sad loss."

Mr Cramer was one of more than 70 Victorian emergency services workers sent to Tasmania on Thursday to help fight the state's devastating fires, which have destroyed more than 130 properties since January 4.

He was due to return home tomorrow but was found dead at 5pm yesterday on a bush track after he failed to make a scheduled call-in.

Mr Goodwin said the cause of death was unknown, and Mr Cramer had recently passed a fitness test.

"Certainly all our firefighters that we send away, all our firefighters go through our fit-for-fire program, through medical testing and so forth, and Peter was certainly part of that," he said.

Mr Goodwin said he first met Mr Cramer on a deployment to the US in 2003.

"He was always fun, he greeted you with a smile and a solid handshake, and that's how I will remember him," he said.

Mr Goodwin said the most important thing now was to support Mr Cramer's wife Julie and their children.

In a statement, Mr Cramer's wife and family said they wanted to "express how truly well-loved Peter was by everyone who knew him".

Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said losing a firefighter had come as a shock.

"To lose someone in active duty is something you don't plan for," he said.

"We take our caps off to what Peter has done in three decades of service to Victoria through firefighting."

A CFA spokesman said Mr Cramer's colleagues at Swifts Creek and Tyers, where he was a member, had been devastated by the news.

He said Mr Cramer was very well known and well regarded in the Gippsland region because of his work as a trainer.

Mr Cramer would volunteer his time to work with "dozens and dozens and dozens" of new recruits, he said.

"He was a pretty remarkable person," the spokesman said.

"He really dedicated his life to fire management.

"We're supporting his brigade and those in Gippsland who will be feeling his loss pretty deeply."

The Tasmanian and Victorian premiers have sent their condolences to his family.


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Behold, bloomin' beauties

Written By miftah nugraha on Minggu, 13 Januari 2013 | 19.55

IN among tree-lined streets and leafy gardens, the community of Claremont was last night putting the finishing touches ahead of this weekend's 21st Lily and Summer Flower Show.

Between 100 and 130 exhibitors from around the state are expected to display their colourful blooms at the Claremont Memorial Hall today and tomorrow.

Gardening Australia presenter Tino Carnevale will officially open the event at 2pm today.

Show secretary Ian Norman said organisers were expecting up to 2000 people to come and see the different varieties of lilies and summer flowers, including dahlias, roses, perennials and annuals.

"I would say it's about the largest community event in Claremont," he said.

Show manager Ilona Jacobson said many community groups were involved, including the Clarence, Glenorchy and Lenah Valley garden clubs and the Mount Fawkner Rovers.

The Claremont Anglican Church is providing refreshments, with all proceeds going to the Red Cross Tasmanian Bushfires Appeal.

Ms Jacobson said the family-friendly event attracted visitors from interstate and overseas.

"We're getting more popular as people come from many places to see our show," she said.

Barry and Lorraine Davidson have been exhibiting at the summer show since its inception.

Their Claremont garden features almost an acre of winding stone paths, leafy magnolia trees, rhododendrons and lilies.

They also have hundreds of orchid varieties, mainly hybrids of Australian natives.

"The flower show is a community thing, and there is still the old core community in Claremont," Mr Davidson said.

"Everyone pitches in to help," Mrs Davidson added.

Claremont Garden Club members Wilma McTye and Suzanne Robinson have been exhibiting for about 20 years.

"It's always hectic but it's fun," Mrs Robinson said.

Despite damage by the recent wind and scorching temperatures, she was still planning on being part of this year's show.

"I'll have some succulents and hopefully liliums," she said.

She said the show was also trying to attract a younger generation of gardeners.

"We have quite a few children entering the children's section, which is wonderful to see." Fellow gardener Wilma McTye said all the preparation paid off.

"It's a lot of work in the build-up, but it does bring the community together, and we have such a lot of visitors and they're always overwhelmed by how much people can grow," she said.

Avid gardener and event supporter Rod Barwick, whose specialty is trumpets crossed with oriental lilies, described the show as a "feel-good event".

"You see heaps of people smiling, enthusiastic, and there's great goodwill among all the people there," he said.

For more show details go to www.tasblooms.com/claremontflshow.


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Festival expects lots of folk

Nardi Simpson and Kaleena Briggs of the Stiff Gins.

THE tiny town of Cygnet will come alive today as thousands of music fans roll in for the 31st annual Cygnet Folk Festival.

More than 110 acts are set to perform during the weekend of the festival, a timely distraction for Tasmanians left tired and traumatised by bushfires this week.

Festival artistic director Erin Collins is expecting record crowds in excess of 6000, with pre-sale tickets well up on last year and commercial accommodation booked out months ago, although some campsites are still available.

"We're hoping that people will want a little break from all the dramas that have been going on and will come down and enjoy themselves," she said.

This year's program has a strong indigenous element, with highlights to include performances by "the voice of the Australian desert", multilingual singer and guitarist Frank Yamma, and the female duo Stiff Gins (Nardi Simpson and Kaleena Briggs).

Festival organisers have also joined the fundraising effort to support people affected by the bushfires.

Patrons will be able to make contributions at several concerts, and musicians have donated items for a music lovers' raffle.

Money raised at tomorrow night's Festival Cabaret concert at Carmel Hall was originally to be donated to the Mines Victims and Clearance Trust but the trust has asked that the money go to bushfire victims instead.

kane.young@news.com.au


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Gamble that put us on map

WHEN it comes to attractions in Hobart, one venture stands out above the rest literally.

It was a tall order for Tasmania when the Federal Group proposed Australia's first casino be built on our shores, but luckily the vote in favour of Wrest Point narrowly won out .

Hospitality Association general manager Steve Old remarks that it's "scary" to imagine what Hobart would be like had the vote swung the other way.

The MONA of its day, Australia's first legal casino put Tasmania on the international map.

Since it opened in 1973, big entertainers, high-rolling gamblers, conferences and visitors from all walks of life have been drawn to Tasmania.

"Many years ago we didn't have Princes Wharf No. 1 or the Derwent Entertainment Centre," Mr Old said. "Wrest Point was the place to be."

Australia's first legal casino allowed owners the Farrell family to build a tourism empire taking in Cradle Mountain, Launceston, Strahan and Freycinet and to become the state's major private employer.

Federal's push to gain Australia's first casino licence began in the 1960s. A motivation for seeking the licence was a problem that still plagues many Tasmania's tourism operators the long, quiet "off-season".

Federal Hotels, now the Federal Group, reasoned that a casino would be the catalyst to attract more visitors and invigorate infrastructure Tasmania lacked.

On February 10, 1973, Australia's first legal casino opened its doors.

Staff had trained for a month ahead of the grand opening, a process that culminated in a full staff dress rehearsal staged in the brand-new tower that had changed the city's skyline.

It was one of biggest nights in Hobart's modern social history.

The evening featured one of the largest fireworks displays the city had seen, a bevy of bigwigs and celebrities including opening act Jerry Lewis. All the excitement was televised nationally.

But it was almost the night that never happened.

In 1969, Premier Eric Reece announced a statewide referendum to establish whether Tasmanians wanted a casino.

The results came back narrowly in favour of Federal Hotels' proposal.

Federal Group general manager Greg D. Farrell said the company was thrilled to be celebrating Wrest Point's 40th birthday in 2013.

"When Wrest Point opened in 1973, it provided a central point for tourism and entertainment in Hobart and was a highlight experience for many people visiting the state," he said.

"Forty years later we believe Wrest Point still holds its own as a premium provider of accommodation, entertainment, hospitality and conference experiences, as well as the boutique casino for which the property was initially so well-known."

Mr Old said the Farrells were great supporters of Tasmania.

"They could have left Tasmania and sold up, but they haven't. They're very loyal to the state," he said.

The first building on the Sandy Bay site was a home built in 1808 by Norfolk Island settler Thomas Chaffey. Chaffey's son William built an inn there in 1839, the beginning of the site's long association with hospitality.


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