Sandalwood jobs ‘secured’

CREDITORS have accepted a plan receivers say will save all 221 jobs at floundering company Quintis that owns Albany’s Mt Romance sandalwood factory, and provide a better return for unsecured creditors than available under a liquidation scenario.

McGrathNicol partners Jason Preston, Shaun Fraser and Robert Brauer – who in January were appointed receivers of Quintis – say that on Monday the company’s creditors voted for an arrangement that “represents another important step in seeing the business emerge as a private company”.

The three receivers said Quintis would emerge in “a very strong financial position and well placed to continue its strategy as the world’s leading marketer, producer and seller of sandalwood timber, oil and products”.

Last week, the men said the arrangement would mean Quintis’ 221 workers – which includes staff at Mt Romance – would retain their jobs (‘Creditors to vote on Sandalwood jobs plan’, 7 June).

The men now say the vote is an endorsement of their strategy to recapitalise Quintis and its subsidiary companies with between $125 million and $175 million new cash.

They say the cash will be injected into the business to fund long-term operations, and the arrangement is the “best path forward for all creditors, including employees and growers”.

The men aim to complete the recapitalisation by late August.

Last week, they said the arrangement would see workers who were made redundant in the early stages of the receivership have their entitlements paid in full.

In March, a McGrathNicol spokeswoman told The Weekender none of the redundancies would be from the Albany factory (‘Sandalwood jobs axe misses Mt Romance’, March 1).

An additional $20 million had been made available for ongoing operations while the receivership concludes.

The 60,000sqm Mt Romance plant on Albany’s northern outskirts is the world’s largest distiller of sandalwood oil.

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Ironbar wallops GM compensation

OUTSPOKEN former Federal MP Wilson Tuckey has condemned a Parliamentary inquiry into compensating farmers for economic loss from contamination of crops by genetically modified organisms.

In a written submission, the former MP for O’ Connor asks inquiry Chair, East Metropolitan MLC Matthew Swinbourn, to note his objection “to the underlying intention” of the probe.

Mr Tuckey, nationally known by the nickname ‘Ironbar’ , argues the inquiry – by State Parliament – seems to want to “override the outcome of a court case which ad- dressed the legal issues relating to this matter”.

Last year, Mr Swinbourn said a failed Supreme Court bid by Kojonup farmer Steve Marsh for compensation after alleged GM contamination of his non-GM canola farm was “in the background” but not the main motivation for the inquiry (‘GM compo probe begins’, December 14, 2017).

Mr Tuckey argues any compensation should not be based on breaches of standards developed by non-government organisations.

“Put simply, therefore, your committee must first decide the precedent and the standard which might be breached to warrant compensation and in this respect will you recommend the development of an International Standard for Cropping, or some form of Rafferty’s rules?” the 82-year-old poses.

“If it is your intention to move in the direction of protecting human health, might I point out that past rhetoric that made the case for banning the consumption of such genetically manipulated crops as labelling them ‘Frankenstein Food’ have been largely disproven by the extensive adoption of so-called genetic engineering of the human body and its reproductive processes in the pursuit of disease cures and the prevention of embryo abnormalities.

“Considering therefore that there is still no standards association body upon which to define an offence requiring compensation, and this issue thus relates to a matter of commerce, the question arises just how far would your inquiry’s recommendations extend and/or what precedents will be then established in unrelated areas.”

In the Howard Government, Mr Tuckey was Forestry and Conservation, then Regional Services Minister.

For 30 years – from 1980 until voted out in 2010 – he was the first and only MP for O’ Connor, a gigantic division encompassing much of the south and east of Western Australia, including the Great Southern.

“Does any modern day technological initiative that gives one business an advantage over a competitor warrant compensation to the loser?” his submission asks.

“Above all, and considering the size of most contemporary grain growing properties, surely the duty of care not to plant vulnerable crops adjoining a neighbour’s fence line resides with the farmer who chooses to grow such species, not the farmer who is just minding his own affairs and planting a legal crop.”

Mr Tuckey enquires if, hypothetically, a GM crop of high value were to be contaminated by a non-GM crop of lower value, the grower of the GM crop should be compensated.

On the flipside, Anne Jones – whose Gledhow Organics produces vegetables on a 4.5ha Albany property – tells the inquiry that any GM contamination above 1 per cent must be listed on the label of food products.

“For certified organic producers the impact is immediate and devastating; loss of certification and no choice to sell their produce as a conventional product at a greatly reduced price, significantly impacting on farm income and profit,” Ms Jones’ submission states.

“This submission proposes that any mechanism for the compensation for contamination of GMOs must proceed with the acceptance that the responsibility for the negative impacts of GMOs fall squarely to those producers and businesses that wish to benefit from them.

“Those businesses that grow and handle GMOs are the only ones capable of having control of them and, as such, must be accountable for their impacts.”

The inquiry is expected to report in early 2019.

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Frenchies’ last resort

DEVELOPERS have been granted twice as long as usual to build a tourist resort at Frenchman Bay, which has been on the drawing board in one shape or another since 2009.

As revealed last week (‘Frenchies resort approval primed’, June 7), the $10 million project came to a State-convened assessment panel on Monday with a recommendation of approval from City of Albany staff.

In an hour-long meeting, the panel – comprising three State-appointed planners, Albany Mayor Dennis Wellington and his councillor colleague Bill Hollingworth – unanimously approved the 24-villa resort and 76-seat cafe.

But not before David Congdon of Harley Dykstra planners, acting on behalf of land–owner MTK Ventures, sought an extension of the allowable completion timeframe from two to four years.

Mr Congdon said the extra time was needed to monitor groundwater before construction commenced, and to comply with management plans mandated for the elevated beachfront site that commands majestic views over King George Sound.

He said the caravan park, which closed in 2006, had been “an important meeting place” for the Albany community and the resort would “reintroduce this offering” in a contemporary way.

If built as approved, the resort will be the end of a protracted process that in 2009 saw Dykstra Planning unsuccessfully apply for 100 units at the site on behalf of an entity called Frenchman Bay 5 Star Resort Unit Trust.

More recently, MTK Ventures withdrew an application for 30 units, including 10 unrestricted-stay ones, after 28 objections were lodged.

Mr Congdon said the approvals process for the current project had been “a lengthy journey”.

Cr Hollingworth agreed.

“It certainly has taken a bit of time to come together,” he said.

Mr Wellington said planning conditions for the resort were “extensive and very well worked out by all parties”.

“I think it will be a very, very good development,” he added.

At the meeting, Frenchman Bay Association President Catherine Macdonald said the residents’ lobby group supported the resort “in general”, provided all conditions were complied with “in full”.

Last year, her predecessor Tony Kinlay (‘Goode plan, wrong place’, October 19) and Traditional Custodian Lynette Knapp (‘A mighty Wagyl breathes here’, November 23) said a resort at the defunct van park would be better, environmentally and culturally, than one planned for a greenfield site at nearby Goode Beach.

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Sharing safety message

A FISHING safety forum designed for people with limited English will be held at South Regional TAFE’s Albany and Mt Barker campuses next week.

Students of the English as a Second Language (ESL) class, originally from Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Libya and Afghanistan, are working together with the Albany Coastal Rock Fishing Safety Committee to provide a free information session on safe fishing at the college.

The session will be in easy-to-understand English, with images and practical examples to help get the safe fishing messages across.

The free one-hour session will be held in George’s Function Centre at the college’s Albany campus on June 12 from 5.30pm and a second session will be held at the Mt Barker campus on June 19 from 5.30pm.

Representatives from the Departments of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, Recfishwest and the City of Albany will be in attendance.

Community Education Officer from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development Kylie Outhwaite said the purpose of these forums is to educate people on all elements of fishing safety.

“This is an important opportunity to engage with the migrant community,” she said.

“Our main aim is to encourage people to be safe and fish from the beach, and educate fishers about some of the factors that make rock fishing so dangerous.”

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Roo keepers clear hurdle

GNOWANGERUP’S newsagency has cleared a major hurdle in its bid to again display orphaned kangaroo joeys, but the State biodiversity department, aware of public concerns, says the business must now lodge a licence application to do so.

At a meeting of Gnowangerup council on May 23, all councillors except Deputy Shire President Fiona Gaze voted to allow newsagents Phil Vardy and Megan Smith to keep the joeys in their newsagency-cum-cafe.

Shire CEO Shelley Pike said the approval was subject to all relevant government legislation and licences being complied with.

“It is disappointing this has taken so long to reach a resolution,” she said.

“It’s up to [Mr Vardy] to ensure he gets the appropriate documentation in place.”

Mr Vardy said he was “absolutely rapped” the approval had come through.

“I’m just not happy that it took them five months before they let it happen,” he said.

Since the shire in November banned the newsagency from keeping joeys, the three it was caring for have been staying on a farm run by Great Southern Care Wildlife animal shelter in the Shire of Plantagenet.

“Two of the ‘roos are almost ready for soft release anyway,” Mr Vardy said.

Before being banned from keeping joeys, the newsagency had kept three at a time since August last year after Ms Smith signed up to be a wildlife carer.

“They are not locked up in the shop,” Mr Vardy explained.

“They have a quarter-acre backyard to run around in.”

He said the joeys were free to go out into the yard any time they wanted and could only be viewed, not touched, by observers who visit the shop.

A spokesperson for the State Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions said officers were aware of concerns from the public about the display of orphaned kangaroos at the newsagency.

“The owners of this newsagency will need to apply to the department for a licence ‘to keep fauna for educational or public purposes’ with a written plan detailing the educational program being proposed and their plan for the rehabilitation and release of the kangaroos,” the spokesperson said.

“The department is awaiting an application.”

Mr Vardy said he would lodge an application soon, and anticipated he would again have joeys back in the shop in a fortnight.

To raise awareness of kangaroos and raise money for Great Southern Care Wildlife, Mr Vardy and Ms Smith are hosting a screening of the American film ‘Kangaroo’ at the Mt Barker CRC building at 5pm on July 15.

Tickets to the MA-only screening are $10 and can be booked through Mr Vardy on 0455 202 468, or Ms Smith on 0400 752 143.

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Fowl play foiled

THE big yellow chicken on Albany Highway in Mount Barker has been laid low by louts, but fixed, in a turn of events that is yet to be resolved.

Plantagenet Shire CEO Rob Stewart said the fine feathered fixture, which usually roosts beside the northbound lane of the Great Southern’s main road, was found on the ground on Sunday night, May 27.

“Somebody came along and quite literally undid the nuts at its base, and I still can’t work out how they did it because the structure is very heavy and solid,” he said.

“But somehow or other they levered the thing over the bolt part of it and they tipped it over.

“They didn’t vandalise it, or do anything else.”

Mr Stewart said it would have cost the shire between $800 and $900 to re-raise the chunky chicken if its owner, Mt Barker Free Range Chicken, had not come to the rescue.

“It wasn’t as if it was blown over in the wind or anything like that, because everything was done neatly,” he said.

“You’d need four blokes because it’s four shafts to get it on, and you’d need a front-end loader to lift it up, and some chains and all that sort of stuff.”

“So we didn’t want to do it.”

Mr Stewart said that when he rang Mt Barker Free Range Chicken the company was not aware its roadside mascot had headed the way of the dodo.

“They said to leave it with them, and I’ve just been advised that it’s all up and back the way it was,” he said.

“They acted pretty quickly.

“They’ve always been good corporate citizens.”

The big chook has graced the highway for the past six years, after the company received planning and building approval to erect it.

Mr Stewart said when he went to inspect the chicken, he could not budge the bird, which is made of metal.

“It’s a very sturdy chook,” he said.

“It’s a shame that people do have to do these things and put people to expense.”

Mt Barker Police have asked anyone who knows why the chicken almost crossed to the other side to call them on 9851 1122.

Mt Barker Free Range Chicken was contacted for comment.

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Creditors to vote on Sandalwood jobs plan

RECEIVERS have floated a plan they say will save all 221 jobs at floundering company Quintis that owns Albany’s Mt Romance sandalwood factory, and provide a better return for unsecured creditors than available under a liquidation scenario.

McGrathNicol partners Jason Preston, Shaun Fraser and Robert Brauer – who in January were appointed receivers of Quintis – have proposed to voluntary administrator KordaMentha an arrangement the three men say would inject between A$125 million and A$175 million of new cash into the business to fund long-term operations.

The McGrathNicol partners say the arrangement is supported by Quintis’ secured creditors.

An additional $20 million has been made available for ongoing operations while the receivership is concluded.

The partners say the plan would mean Quintis’ 221 workers – which includes staff at Mt Romance – would retain their jobs.

The men said the plan would see workers made redundant in the early stages of the receivership have their entitlements paid in full.

In March, a McGrathNicol spokeswoman told The Weekender none of the redundancies would be at the Mt Romance factory (‘Sandalwood jobs axe misses Mt Romance’, March 1).

The partners said the plan would see Quintis emerge as a private company in a “very strong” financial position.

“Under the proposal, Quintis’ bond holders will recapitalise and acquire control of the subsidiaries of Quintis Limited and the entirety of the group’s business and assets,” the men advised.

“The proposal represents a very favourable outcome for growers, employees and creditors as it preserves Quintis’ vertically integrated business model.”

The partners said the plan would immediately make funds available to provide a return to unsecured creditors that would be better than achievable if a liquidation were to occur.

A meeting of creditors to be held tomorrow will consider a recommendation from KordaMentha that the McGrathNicol plan be accepted.

The partners advised that if creditors approve the plan, recapitalisation would likely be completed by August 31.

Perth-based Quintis is the world’s largest owner and manager of commercial Indian sandalwood plantations.

The 60,000sqm Mt Romance plant on Albany’s northern outskirts is the world’s largest distiller of sandalwood oil.

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Frenchies resort recommended for approval

DOUBTS remain over whether a $10 million gated development recommended for approval at Frenchman Bay will be a boutique retreat for weary travellers or an expansion of McMansions for the rich and famous.

On Monday, a State-appointed assessment panel will decide whether the project, dubbed The Frenchman Bay Retreat by owners MTK Ventures, gets the nod as recommended by City of Albany staff.

As previously revealed (‘Developers’ picnic at Frenchies’, January 11), the project at a 3.26ha site encompassing the former Frenchman Bay Caravan Park will have 24 two-floor villas and a caretaker’s residence with 76-seat cafe, kiosk and conference room attached if approved.

Last year, then Frenchman Bay Association President Tony Kinlay (‘Goode plan, wrong place’, October 19) and Traditional Custodian Lynette Knapp (‘A mighty Wagyl breathes here’, 23 November) said a resort at the former van park would be better, environmentally and culturally, than a controversial one planned for nearby Goode Beach.

Extracts of a Frenchman Bay Association submission seen by The Weekender support the direction of MTK’s application for the van park site, but say a more inclusive approach to the on-ground design could see an “outstanding” project emerge.

“A lingering concern is that the proponents intend to convert some of the units, which are, in effect, extremely large houses, into unrestricted-stay at a later stage,” the residents’ lobby group warns.

The Association’s submission was one of 11 to support the resort.

Twelve people objected to the project, including one who argued it would “have a terrible impact on the ecology of the adjacent beaches and other sites”.

“Given that a large hotel complex is already proposed in a sensible location at Middleton Beach, it seems the height of foolishness to destroy one of the jewels in Albany’s crown,” the objector argued.

Another objector submitted that plans for the resort revealed a “great discrepancy as it is neither a boutique hotel nor retreat”.

“The latter term is subject to interpretation but retreats are never described as ‘24 two-storey accommodation units with a double carport’,” the objector opined.

“It would be odd to take two cars to a ‘retreat’ and why a ‘retreat’ should also require it to be double storey with a large walk-in wardrobe and recreation room [sic].

“The plans are for time share apartments or a small estate development and should be described as such.”

MTK has advised that the three-bedroom, 208sqm, two-garage, ensuited villas will each have a strata title.

This would allow separate ownership of each.

City of Albany staff have recommended the villas be approved for short stay accommodation only, with any single tenant permitted to stay for no more than three months a year.

City staff have also recommended the eventual operator be required to maintain a register of occupants and keep a receipt book.

Albany Mayor Dennis Wellington and Councillor Bill Hollingworth will be the only elected members on a five-person panel otherwise comprised of State-appointed officials, to decide the project’s fate.

The panel meeting will occur at 11am on Monday at Albany’s council chambers on North Road.

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‘Close to hell’

AS the City of Albany comes to terms with the effects of last week’s maelstrom of fires, the restricted burning period for the region has been extended to reduce the risk of a repeat episode.

More than 50 fires blazed across the City in a space of four days last week after a weather system brought unexpected northerly winds up to 100kph and failed to deliver substantial rainfall.

Volunteer and career firefighters from across the state fought flames in conditions described as “pretty close to hell” in Torndirrup National Park, Stirling Range National Park, Redmond, Napier, Goode Beach, Peaceful Bay and Elleker.

The escaped prescribed burns in Torndirrup National Park and Stirling Range National Park burnt through 730 hectares and 18,100 hectares respectively.

The Napier fire tore through 705 hectares and the Redmond fire through 1456 hectares, and both were triggered by escaped private burns.

The Torndirrup fire was the first reported, with emergency services on the scene on Wednesday afternoon at approximately 2.30pm.

Fire crews worked through the night to defend homes, and the area was placed under a bushfire ‘Watch and Act’ by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES).

On Thursday, another prescribed burn had escaped control in the south-east of the Stirling Range National Park.

From then, the situation quickly escalated; calls for assistance inundated authorities as more than 50 fires required attention at the peak of the crisis, including in areas of Redmond, Napier, Goode Beach and Peaceful Bay.

One house was completely destroyed in Napier, holiday retreat Nutkin Lodge in Peaceful Bay suffered significant damage, and hundreds of hectares of farmland were ruined across the region.

The City of Albany handed control of coordinating the firefighting effort to DFES at 4.15am on Friday and more than 50 heavy duty appliances were called upon to assist in the effort, with additional crews coming from the metropolitan and South West regions.

An evacuation centre was set up at Albany Leisure and Aquatic Centre for Thursday and Friday to provide relief for residents who evacuated their homes.

After hundreds of strenuous hours on the fire ground put in by volunteer and career firefighters defending residents, homes and livestock, all areas were cleared from bushfire threat by Monday.

At a community meeting at ALAC on Friday, Albany Mayor Dennis Wellington told media he had never seen such a scenario occur in Albany in his 68 years of living in the area.

“This is the biggest disaster I’ve seen,” he said.

“This is our traditional time to have prescribed burns; you see a storm with a predicted 40mm of rain, you expect it from the south-west and you burn off before then.

“We don’t expect storms from the north.

“It’s just an absolute bonus that no lives have been lost; we have been very, very fortunate no one has been lost.”

Premier Mark McGowan made a whirlwind trip to Albany on Saturday to get an update on the fires and to tour the fireground at Redmond as the mopping-up effort began.

Mr McGowan acknowledged the efforts of those involved in fighting the blazes and said he did not want to start a blame game over what triggered the maelstrom of fires.

“We know there’s been a significant amount of fires out there and that it has been difficult to deal with,” he said.

“We also know that Council, DFES, the volunteers and Parks and Wildlife have done a terrific job.

“I put that down to the levels of firefighting capacity working together so effectively in these extreme circumstances.”

Mr McGowan confirmed the crisis would be investigated.

“After this event, there will be a full review about what occurred and why it occurred,” he said.

“I don’t intend to get into blaming anyone; I’m here to acknowledge the extraordinary efforts of the people involved who risked their lives on behalf of their community in this very serious situation.”

The City announced earlier this week the restricted burning period for the north-east and south-west sectors of the region has been extended until June 15, effective immediately.

During this time, a permit will be required to conduct a burn-off.

Executive Director for Development Services Paul Camins said the City will review conditions before the extended restricted period ends to assess whether further extensions are necessary.

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Pool fit for an Olympian

THE 50m pool named after a local swimmer – who was the first Western Australian to win Olympic gold in any sport – is fit for an Olympian once more now $18,050 has been spent to fix a major leak.

Kojonup’s Kevin O’Halloran Memorial Pool – named after the local farmer who in 1976 died when a shotgun he was carrying discharged as he was climbing through a fence on his family property – had a major leak in its floor that needed remediation.

Shire regulatory services manager Mort Wignall said the leak was fixed recently at a cost of $18,050, after the pool closed for the season in March.

“We’ve got our ducks up in a row pretty well with what we want to do with that pool,” he told The Weekender.

“We’re ready to go to the next step, which will depend on what funding we can access to do a refurb and that’s going to come with a price tag of perhaps $2 million.

“We could stage it by doing the 50m pool first, which would be around $1 million and then we could do the second stage, which would be the toddlers’ pool and a plant room upgrade that would come to roughly another million.”

He said an expression of interest for funding to refurbish the 1960s-built pool had been lodged with the Federal Government, and if that application is successful, top-up funding will be needed from the State.

Mr Wignall said an upgrade of the pool would include an extra half lane with graded access for people with a disability.

“We would also provide a wet-deck, like more modern pools have, by cutting the raised section above the pool concourse and getting rid of it and forming up the remaining pool so that it’s a flush entry from the surrounds of the pool into the water body,” he said.

“It’s that raised area of concrete that is exposed to the elements and seems to succumb to concrete cancer, so that’s the part you get rid of.”

O’Halloran won gold at the 1956 Olympics in the 4x200m freestyle, after leading off in an Olympic record time of 2 min, 6.8 seconds, leaving Soviet and United States opponents in his immediate wake.

His legendary co-swimmers Murray Rose, John Devitt and Jon Henricks each increased the lead, ensuring the foursome won in world record time.

For the past four years, admission to the six-lane pool has been surprisingly cheap, at two bucks, whether you be an adult or ankle-biter. Spectators and kids under 3 get in free.

“We purposefully dropped the entry fee, and the first year we did that we increased patronage by 48 per cent,” Mr Wignall said.

The pool opens again in early November.

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