Wednesday, August 22, 2012

New research shines light on economic impacts and success of Alice Solar City project

New research has revealed that Alice Springs has benefited from a $100 million injection into its economy in the last five years through the Alice Solar City project.

The research is one of two studies released today by Alice Solar City which also reveal the impacts on the town’s carbon footprint, the social and tourism impacts, and the high level of support (90%) for the project to continue into the future.

Alice Solar City General Manager Sam Latz says that the reports demonstrate the enthusiasm the community has had for solar technologies and energy efficiency.

“As we move towards the end of Alice Solar City in its current form, these findings are invaluable when looking at models for what could come next.”

The first study, a review of the Alice Solar City project was undertaken by Charles Darwin University as part of a memorandum of understanding with the university.

“The research highlights that the project has been successful in its design and operation, with its design considered to be best practice and ‘worthy of emulation’ and its operation targets being exceeded”, says Sam Latz

“Its impact on energy awareness and conservation has been substantial, and we are particularly pleased to see the impacts on the community spirit and profile of Alice Springs.”

Key results from the study include:

• Over 4,300 tonnes of greenhouse gas savings are being made each year from the installations supported by Alice Solar City – equivalent to the emissions generated from electricity consumption by 730 typical Alice Springs homes.

• Solar and energy efficiency improvements to homes are now being recognised by the Alice Springs real estate market as expected features for home buyers

• Increased labour productivity of energy efficiency suppliers and installers has led to a degree of skills specialisation; a valuable asset in a town with skilled labour shortages

• Alice Springs homeowners have spent $9.86 million on energy efficiency measures

• A positive contribution to the ‘brand value’ of Alice Springs as an attractive tourist destination, with most visitors noticing the presence of solar and being very interested

• A positive contribution to the community spirit of the town with 20% of the population participating; the contribution to emerging debate about sustainability issues and the project’s influence on organisations such as the Alice Springs Town Council to become more active in environmental issues

The second study, a telephone survey of Alice Springs residents revealed 90% of people thought there was benefit in a similar service being offered into the future, 78% thought Alice Solar City to be an important to very important initiative for the town and over 90% were satisfied with the services they had received through the project.

Sam Latz said, “Both studies made suggestions for improvements and alternative models for Alice Solar City to continue into the future and the Consortium is currently looking at ways to make this happen”.

The full research documents can be found at

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Lesson from Wivenhoe Dam - emergency response only as good as the manual

As someone involved in emergency and crisis communication, I often have to work with company emergency manuals.

Some of them are great and provide a logical and easy-to-follow guide to how to cope with the emerging situation.

But some of these manuals have been written simply to comply with legislation or policy then promptly placed on the shelf.
When something goes awry they are pulled out, dusted off and handed out to the team specified in Chapter 3, Section 2, Subsection 11.4. And that’s when everyone realises that something is very wrong.

Today’s report by the Crime and Misconduct Commission into the failure of processes surrounding the Wivenhoe Dam water release and subsequent downstream flooding in Queensland is a clear and compelling example of how bad the consequences can be.

Put simply, the Commission found conflicting information and flowcharts in the manual for a series of failures and cleared the three engineers involved.

In other words, the people putting the plan in place are only as good as the plan itself (read the ABC online story about the case here).

This is a timely reminder than emergency plans are not documents designed to simply tick a box – they are living, breathing manuals that should provide a guide to those professionals at the coal face when the worst comes to pass.
Whatever your business and whatever the risk, your emergency manual will only get you through if you observe the following:

1.  Write your manual based on best practice. Allocate the task to someone who knows what they are doing, not the person with the most time to spare.

2.  Test and test again. Only through testing will you discover if the thing actually works.

3.   Train your team. Make sure everyone knows what to do and has the skills and experience to do it.

4.  Practice, practice, practice. Handling an emergency is not something most people do every day. People need to practice to gain experience.

5.  Learn and grow. Practice and testing on a regular basis will also allow you to adapt your manual for changing circumstance.

6.  Update contact lists. When an emergency happens you need to be able to contact people. If you can’t reach them, you need to contact the next person in line. That’s pretty hard when your contact list is two years old. Make it someone’s responsibility to review contact lists monthly.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

DSO East Arnhem journey great success

Darwin Symphony Orchestra General Manager, Guy Ross reports that the Symphony’s recent trip to Nhulunbuy was a great success.

“Over 1200 members of the Nhulunbuy community packed out the Nhulunbuy High School oval on Saturday 11th August for Darwin Symphony Orchestra’s Sunset Symphony.

Armed with picnic blankets, chairs, tables and in one case a candelabra, audiences were excited to see the DSO onstage alongside a large number of local performers,” he said.

Hosted by country star James Blundell, the concert included the premiere of a work for didgeridoo and orchestra called Birrka! Mirri. Featuring local artist Dj Marika on didgeridoo, the improvisational piece was a favourite of the audience.

Students of all ages from Arafura Dance Association joined the DSO on stage, performing pieces such as Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies and the Toreadors March from Carmen. Their skill and amazingly detailed costumes won the crowd over. Another highlight of the evening was a rendition of The Lion Sleeps Tonight with Nhulunbuy Christian School’s Ukulele Group, who had the crowd swaying and singing along.

The Sunset Symphony was proudly supported by Gove Operations Pacific Aluminium and Airnorth to mark the 40th anniversary of the town and Gove Operations.

A Gove Operations spokesperson said they were “thrilled to be able continue their commitment to the community through bringing such a significant live event to celebrate 40 years of Gove Operations and the town.”

“The concert topped off a busy visit to Gove for Concertmaster Tara Murphy,” Mr Ross said. “Tara spent two days prior to the concert visiting schools in the area (Nhulunbuy Primary School, Nhulunbuy Christian School, Nhulunbuy High School and Yirrkala School) and performing with a string quartet for students.

By the time DSO left on Saturday night, there’s a good chance that every kid in the region had seen at least some of its members perform!

The orchestra members travelled to Gove at 4:30am and returned to Darwin at midnight the same day. A huge day demonstrating the wonderful commitment of the volunteers who make up the orchestra and their continual effort to make every concert a success.”

Sherwin Iron granted NTG Major Project Status

Sherwin Iron Limited’s Roper River Iron Ore project has taken another step forward after being granted Major Project Status by the Northern Territory Government.

The decision is a major milestone for the company, which has a current resource of 488 million tonnes within its Roper River Iron Ore Project 500km south east of Darwin.

Sherwin Iron Executive Chairman Barry Coulter said the company has been continuing to build the case for the project including ongoing discussions with representatives of traditional owners and working through the environmental approvals process.

“This is another important milestone and gives us the confidence to move forward with our project,” Mr Coulter said.

The granting of Major Project Status ensures a Government team is established to help facilitate the appropriate environmental, heritage, mining and safety approvals the project will require as well as ensure maximum benefits to the local community and industry.

“We’re proud to be a local company and are committed to Territorians gaining the maximum benefit from this project,” Mr Coulter said.

“We’re delighted with the progress to date and the level of confidence shown by the Northern Territory Government.”

Sherwin Iron is working to lodge a Notice of Intent, the first step in the approvals process for the project, with the Northern Territory Government later this year.

Meat processing facility offers economic benefits in the north

An independent report commissioned by the Australian Agricultural Company Limited (AAco) signals enormous benefits to local industry from the Livingstone Valley food processing facility.

The report, by respected economic consulting firm ACIL Tasman, shows the average cattle producer could double their profitability by selectively sending older cull culls from their herds to the abattoir.

The selective removal of cull cows allows pastoralists to improve their herd profile in terms of age profile and fertility.

The facility also has broader economic benefits, with the impact on the northern economy calculated to be $126 million a year once fully operational.

The facility will create more than 800 direct and indirect full time equivalent jobs, including 270 at the plant itself.

Report author Mark Barber said northern beef producers presently have no regional market for cows surplus to requirements, or which are no longer productive (cull cows).

The 350kg live weight cap on live export cattle to Indonesia also means that there is no regional market for heavy steers and bulls.

“By providing a regional market for cull cows, the impact of the AAco abattoir on the profitability of northern beef producers is substantial,” Mr Barber said.

“This is because older cows can be sold and younger more robust and fertile cows retained in the herd. This reduces the mortality rate of the herd and increases the number of calves produced.”

AAco is moving ahead with its plans for the facility, with the first tenders in market now for civil works at the Livingstone Valley site.

AAco General Manager Northern Australian Beef Stewart Cruden said the purchase of the land had been completed and the company is finalising the conditions precedent in the Government’s development and environmental approval documentation.

The company plans to process 179,000 cattle a year at full production, with box beef exported by refrigerated containers to the US, Asia and Europe.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Serving up a spicy dose of success through social media

I was fortunate to speak with our local ABC Radio’s Kate O’Toole this morning about how businesses can get started in social media. She said what prompted her to talk about the topic were the words of Saffrron chef Selvam Kandasamy on winning the Telstra Business Award for small to medium businesses last month.

He credited his success to engaging with customers and potential customers through online and social media channels.

I checked out Saffrron’s website, Facebook and Twitter pages to see what the fuss was about, and I think I know the reasons for Selvam and his wife Joanna’s success.

1.     Their website provides insights and access to their business. From the website you can browse the menu, read reviews, book a table and order online. That’s just what I would expect but so few restaurants actually do this.

2.     Links to Facebook and Twitter are included on their website. I don’t have to go out to separately find them because they have thoughtfully integrated their accounts.

3.     Their Facebook page has personality. Sure, they do talk about the food but they also talk about staff happenings, their new baby and social events. Their presence tells me this is more than just a restaurant - it has a personality that makes people want to interact with them.

4.     They are involved in social media without being consumed by it. There re plenty of other social networking tools they could be using and lots more they could post. But they seem to have the balance right, keeping their involvement to a level that is manageable and doesn’t divert their focus from the main game – serving up great food and service.

5.     They have put their efforts into the things that count. 86,000 Territorians are on Facebook. I know there are lots of new and cool tools coming along every day but none of them yet enjoy the level of engagement that Facebook does – more than a third of all Territorians are there. It also appeals across a very broad demographic. While there is a peak of usage among Territorians in their 20s, Around 23,000 Territorians aged over 40 have Facebook accounts.

Go online and spend a bit of time getting to know Selvam and Joanna. Better still, visit their restaurant and enjoy some of the best Indian food you’ll ever eat.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

One month left to register with Alice Solar City

Alice Springs households need to register with Alice Solar City by 31 August if they wish to access incentive funding vouchers to help with energy efficiency activities.

After four years of helping Alice Springs residents to become more energy efficient, this is the last chance for homeowners to access funding, and they need to register for a home energy survey if they are not already a customer.

Alice Solar City General Manager, Sam Latz says that he expects a rush of bookings for the energy surveys and encourages people to join the queue as quickly as they can.

“Our funding for incentives will finish at the end of this year, or earlier if funding runs out. We have to put a deadline on registrations so we have time to conduct home energy surveys before we issue vouchers.”

“It’s first come, first served and there are many existing customers who hold valid vouchers or will request new vouchers, so new customers need to register by the end of August.”

“Even though we are still in the middle of winter, now is the perfect time for homeowners to consider how they are going to get their home ready for summer with financial support from Alice Solar City.”

Funding is available for over 20 different measures, including painting the roof white, insulation, energy saving pool pumps, shading, window tinting and much more.

To register for a home energy survey, call Alice Solar City on 8950 4350 or email or visit the Smart Living Centre at 82 Todd Street.

For full details and deadlines for accessing funding visit