VIrgin Australia board pledges strong focus on costs

first_imgThe Virgin Australia board would be “tenacious” in chasing savings through its Better Business program as it seeks to improve the group’s financial position, chairman Elizabeth Bryan pledged on Wednesday.Virgin  made a net loss of $A224.7m in financial year 2016 but recorded a  profit on an underlying basis and raised $A1.1 billion in equity to deleverage its balance sheet.But Australia’s second biggest carrier has been struggling to stay in the black and its first-quarter  results for the current financial year produced underlying pre-tax loss of $A3.6 million compared to a profit of $A8.5m in the same period last year.Bryan told the carrier’s annual meeting in Brisbane that last year’s net loss reflected the upfront costs of restructuring at the airline in areas such as  fleet and network optimisation and “right sizing’, a euphemism for staff cuts.She told shareholders the company was still growing and had been forced to fight for its right to exist in an industry known for its volatility.“But it’s also a company that has to produce profit and profitable investments for its shareholders,’’ she said.The Virgin chairman said 2017 would be a year in which the Virgin group would maintain an “unwavering focus on improving our financial foundation and ensuring a healthy business’’. Responding to a small shareholder disappointed in the company’s languishing share price and lack of dividends, Bryan said the disappointment was widely shared among the airline’s major shareholders.“None of the shareholders have been happy with the movement of the Virgin share price,’’ she said. “Neither have the board, neither have the management team.“What we can do about that is what John has outlined to you. We are growing this company, we’re investing in this company, we’re reducing the cost base of this company, we’re making this company operate more efficiently, we’ve reduced the leverage of this company.“All we can really do is work on the business and allow the improvement in the business to shine through.’’Chief executive John Borghetti said the trading environment remained  “very tough’’, with domestic consumer sentiment still in the doldrums.“As evidenced by our recent trading update for the first quarter of financial year 2017, industry trading conditions continue to be challenging,’’ he  said.  “In this environment, we are actively managing capacity in our domestic and international network with total sectors flown in the first quarter of FY17 declining 2.3 per cent on the prior corresponding period.’’Borghetti said the airline was already making good progress with the Better Business program, which expects  to deliver a net free cash flow of $300m annually by the end of the 2019 financial year.Progress on plans to reduce the number of aircraft types in the fleet had included the sale of four Embraer 190 jets with a fifth due to be completed this month. A request for proposals for the disposal of leased ATR aircraft and the remainder of the E190s was well underway.There had also been progress in terms of operating efficiencies, maintenance and engineering changes as well as cutting costs in procurement and supply chain processes. The airline chief nominated services to China and the US as among “smart sustainable ways’’ the airline would boost revenue. Two Chinese shareholders, the HNA and Nanshan groups, have invested in Virgin and hold a combined stake of about 40 percent.  Virgin is forging a strategic alliance with HNA to boost its access to the growing Chinese travel market and plans to introduce direct flights between Asia and Australia next year. It is also planning to increases services to North America to 18 per week with the introduction of five return Melbourne-LA services from April.Borghetti said the focus for Virgin’s international airline, which recently won the Airline Ratings award for best business class and crew, was to boost non-stop sector flying to America and Asia over a three-year horizon.“That is our future – Asia and America is our future internationally,’’ he said.Asked about the Trump victory in the ecent US elections, Borghetti said it was not productive to speculate on what the new president would do but he did not believe it would affect US traffic.He also confirmed  Virgin’s low-cost offshoot, Tiger, would retain its name and continue its international expanision.  Tiger is switching from Airbus A320s to Boeing 737s over the next three years and has already started services Bali.“This is a three-year horizon we’re talking about,’’ he said. “There will be a Tiger expansion and it will be a narrow- body operation.’’Separately, Virgin announced Wendesday that it had chalked up a world-first deal to allow investors to earn frequent flyer points when they buy shares in an an initial public offering.The airline’s majority-owned Frequent flyer scheme, Velocity, has teamed up with financial technology company OnMarket Bookbuilds  in an innovative deal that allows investors to earn one point for every $A4 they spend on their investments in initial public offerings (IPOs) from companies listing on the share market.  OnMarket BookBuilds  offers a website and mobile app that plugs into the Australian Securities Exchange’s infrastructure to enable investors of all types to take part in IPOs.There is no limit on the number of Velocity points that can be earned.”We want Velocity members to be able to earn Points in every facet of their lives and we know wealth management is an important consideration for many Australians,’’ Velcoity chief executive Karl Schuster said in a statement.The new deal is one of a flurry of agreements both loyalty schemes have announced this year as they compete  for members.Airb’n’b, major supermarket chain Coles and entertainment company TEG  were just some of the partners airline loyalty signed up as the battle  for frequent flyers heated up.Qantas Frequent Flyer remains the bigger of the two with 11.5 million members at September 30 but Velocity has grown quickly since its launch under former Virgin chief executive Brett Godfrey in 2005 and now has a membership base of more than 6.4 million.last_img read more

Maropeng top evotourism destination

first_imgScientists believe that the Sterkfontein Caves at the Cradle of Humankind are critical for the understanding of the history of human development. (Image: www.amtravelimages.com) “Mrs Ples”, a 2.1-million-year-old Australopithecus skull, was found at Sterkfontein in 1947. (Image: Janine Erasmus) MEDIA CONTACTS • Nicolle Kairuz  Cathy Findley Public Relations  +27 11 463 6372RELATED ARTICLES • SA unearths new human ancestor • Chair to unleash South African dreams • African eyes on the universe • SA’s mammal-like croc discovery • SA varsity leads way in geosciences Wilma den HartighLocal World Heritage site, The Cradle of Humankind, has been ranked as one of the top 12 evotourism destinations in the world, making it the only site in sub-Saharan Africa to have made the list.Evotourism is a new term, coined by The Smithsonian, to describe travel intended to promote awareness of evolution.The Smithsonian museum publishes its own internationally recognised magazine that provides in-depth coverage of history, science, nature, the arts, travel, world culture and technology.The publication’s Evotourism initiative functions as a travel information service to direct tourists to places and discoveries that have evolutionary significance.As part of the initiative, 12 world-class must-see Evotourism destinations were identified. Every site on the list was selected independently.According to Charles Kimberlin Brain, a South African palaeontologist and curator emeritus at the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History (formerly known as the Transvaal Museum), South African caves have played a major role in the development of the world’s understanding of human evolution.The Cradle of HumankindBeing listed as one of the top 12 Evotourism destinations in the world is a great honour for South Africa. It also highlights the country’s contribution to research in the field of evolution.The Cradle of Humankind, which was declared a world heritage site by Unesco in 1999, is one of eight World Heritage sites in South Africa, and the only one in Gauteng province.Tony Rubin, MD of Maropeng, the visitors’ centre situated in the Cradle of Humankind, says the listing has given Maropeng great international exposure.“It has highlighted the importance of the Cradle of Humankind’s fossil record and what it tells us about our evolution,” Ruben says. “I believe we have a unique and world-class interpretation centre at Maropeng.”The Sterkfontein Caves, also situated in the Cradle of Humankind, are believed to have produced more than a third of all early hominid fossils ever found.The most important and well-known of these fossils are “Mrs Ples”, a 2.1-million-year-old Australopithecus skull, and “Little Foot”, an almost complete Australopithecus skeleton that is more than three-million years old.Scientists believe that these finds, along with other important archaeological discoveries at the Sterkfontein caves, are critical for the understanding of the history of human development.Evotourism gaining momentumIn recent years, Rubin has noticed that travellers are showing more interest in heritage, sustainability and evolution.Initiatives such as the Evotourism listing play an important part in encouraging people to be curious about evolution.“Listings such as these help to teach the general public about our past and the planet as a whole, thereby creating more interest in visiting places such as Maropeng,” he says.“Since Maropeng’s opening, I believe the public is far more informed about our palaeo-heritage, and constantly expresses an interest to know and find out more.”Other Evotourism sites in the listing include: Kangeroo Island in Australia; the Foraminifera Sculpture Park min China; Isle Royale in Michigan; Valley of the Whales in Egypt; the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador; Mount St. Helens in Washington; England’s Jurassic Coast; Mendel’s Garden in the Czech Republic; Ashfall Fossil Beds in Nebraska; the La Brea Tar Pits in California and The Burgess Shale, a crumbling slope in Canada’s Rocky Mountains.last_img read more

Cape Town taxi ranks to get free wifi

first_img31 July 2015Free wifi is being rolled out at taxi ranks in Western Cape as an expansion of a project to grow internet access throughout South Africa.Project Isizwe today announced that commuters at Gugulethu and Khayelitsha taxi ranks would be given access to free wifi, as the organisation forges ahead with its programme to connect mainly disadvantaged areas with the internet.It has been driving internet access through wifi in the city of Tshwane as part its digital inclusion programme, with 514 wifi zones out of 633 situated at educational institutions. There is also a pilot free wifi zone in Eastern Cape at the Mount Frere and Lusikisiki campuses of Ingwe Technical Vocational Education and Training College.“Living without information is unthinkable and we believe that we are making a significant contribution to the people of Gugulethu and Khayelitsha by giving them access to opportunities to become employable and contribute to the economic development of the city,” said Zahir Khan, the chief operating officer of Project Isizwe.In Cape Town, the city is also driving its own internet access initiatives with wifi projects in Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain, as well as an imminent roll-out on its MyCiti buses.Daily capThe Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain wifi service differs significantly from projects around the country in that it has a daily cap of 3GB. Project Isizwe offers a cap of 250MB but it has increased the speed to 15mbps.Free wifi internet access aligns with national policy that stipulates universal broadband access by 2020, and the service may yet prove critical to assisting mobile operators with network load.“Wifi has proven to be a complementary solution for mobile operators in their effort to improve their service delivery to their customers and wifi calling is the next step,” said Michael Fletcher, the sales director for sub-Saharan Africa at Ruckus Wireless.The GSMA’s Mobile Economy Sub-Saharan Africa 2014 report found that the mobile ecosystem made a healthy contribution to the gross domestic product of countries in the region. It showed that mobile operators alone contributed $27-billion (about R340-billion today) or 1.9% of the region’s GDP, and a further $8-billion in related industries.But beyond economic growth, internet access is regarded as a human right.“For too many people in South Africa, using the internet has turned into a privilege, when it should be a right. We hope that this project will galvanise a nationwide call for free and subsidised internet for all people living in South Africa in under resourced communities,” said Fatima Hassan, the executive director of Open Society Foundation of South Africa, a partner in the Western Cape wifi rollout.Source: News24Wirelast_img read more

Agritourism conference focused on Ohio laws

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest Whether it’s a corn maze, a zip line, a hayride or a pick-your-own operation, Ohio farm operators who offer agritourism attractions must be properly insured and have warning signs posted at each activity notifying visitors that the operator is not liable for any injuries related to those inherent risks.That’s just a few of the provisions found in an Ohio law signed last summer regarding agritourism. The law, which took effect last August, not only defines what agritourism is, but also offers protections for agritourism operators, and addresses issues including civil liability risks, property taxation and local zoning authority.To help farm operators understand exactly what language is contained in the law and to help those in the agritourism industry prepare for the upcoming spring and summer agritourism season, experts with the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University in collaboration with The Ohio State University and Wright & Moore Law Company, LPA will host a conference on the issue April 5.The Ohio Agritourism Ready Conference: Liability Management, Profitable Strategies and Fun event is from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the All Occasions Catering and Banquet Facilities, 6989 Waldo- Delaware Road, in Waldo. The goal, said Christie Welch, who is an organizer of the event, is to assist Ohio’s agritourism operators to be more informed about their responsibilities when operating these types of businesses.“We want to provide tools to assist operators in managing the risks associated with these businesses and provide resources to help them manage their businesses for profitability,” said Welch, who is also the program manager of Ohio State University Extension’s Direct Agricultural Marketing Program. “We want to help them make sure they are proactive in managing those things that we hope never happen, but can when inviting individuals onto their farm.”The conference will feature presentations from researchers, educators and specialists with OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. OARDC and OSU Extension are the research and outreach arms of the college, respectively.Topics for the conference will include:Liability Management for Agritourism OperatorsFinancial Analysis for AgritourismMarketing Your OperationHelp Wanted: Hiring Laws You Need to KnowMaking School Tours EasierAgritourism and ZoningCreative Idea SharingRegistration is $25 per person or $40 for two people from the same farm or business. The deadline to register is April 3. Registration includes lunch and handouts. Contact Charissa Gardner at [email protected] or at 740-289-2074 ext. 132 to register.last_img read more

NCAA Season 93’s Best 7: Week 7

first_imgLOOK: Venues for 2019 SEA Games Sidney Onwubere vs AJ Coronel. Photo by Tristan Tamayo/ INQUIRER.net(1) Sidney Onwubere – F, EAC Generals21 points, 17 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 blockLast Week: N/AWithout Hamadou Laminou to bank on, coach Ariel Sison has made it clear that EAC must double, if not triple, its effort if it wants to progress to the Final Four.And one of the measures he did was to squeeze out all the minutes Sidney Onwubere could give him.On Friday, the Fil-Nigerian forward showed that he’s more than ready to the task, leading the Generals to a gutsy 61-57 win over Perpetual to finish the first round and show why he has to be included in the discussions for the MVP plum.As daunting as the task may be, Onwubere may have to live with the reality that he’s going to need to give everything he has if EAC wants to make it to the last dance.ADVERTISEMENT PH men’s poomsae team bags back-to-back SEAG golds Torrential rains couldn’t stop the NCAA this week that even the oft-postponed triple-header finally pushed through on Friday.And after it’s said and done, we are left with only two games to wrap up the first round on Tuesday, with last year’s Final Four teams wrapping up their first round assignments.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSWATCH: Drones light up sky in final leg of SEA Games torch runSPORTSSEA Games: Philippines picks up 1st win in men’s water poloSPORTSMalditas save PH from shutoutAs for our list, the usual suspects did come back, churning out strong performances as they seek a spot in the annual midseason festivities that is the All-Star Game.With that being said, here’s our list of the week’s best players. How rude could Tey Teodoro be?He even went to San Sebastian to remind everybody why he’s one of the deadliest snipers in the league, silencing the home crowd with his three-pointers from the parking lot to help JRU secure the 73-62 victory and extend its winning run to three straight games.But echoing coach Vergel Meneses, he needs more consistent performance from Teodoro like this one if the Heavy Bombers want to make a late run to the Final Four in the second round.Photo by Tristan Tamayo/ INQUIRER.net(5) Lervin Flores – F, Arellano Chiefs14 points, 11 rebounds, 2 blocksLast Week: N/ASurprising as it was, Lervin Flores makes his first appearance in this list for the season thanks to his steady contributions for Arellano in its skid-busting conquest over St. Benilde.The veteran forward has finally shown what he’s capable of, commanding the Chiefs’ defense after a woeful start this season.Coach Jerry Codiñera’s offense will always revolve around Salado, but Flores’ efforts must always be there if last year’s runner-up wants to make it to the semifinals in the long run.Photo by Tristan Tamayo/ INQUIRER.net(6) Prince Eze – C, Perpetual Altas14 points, 20 rebounds, 1 assists, 4 blocksLast Week: 3Perpetual may have went on a two-game losing slide to end the first round, but Prince Eze’s contributions shouldn’t be discarded.The Nigerian remains as a force to be reckoned with down low, keeping the Altas in the game despite losing in the end to EAC. UPLB exempted from SEA Games class suspension For the complete collegiate sports coverage including scores, schedules and stories, visit Inquirer Varsity. With the collegiate season in full swing, INQUIRER lists the week’s top seven performers in the ongoing NCAA Season 93 men’s basketball tournament. From their game statistics to their overall impact in the outcomes, everything is weighed to come up with the best players from the week that was.ADVERTISEMENT Photo by Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.net(2) CJ Perez – F, Lyceum Pirates18 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 stealsLast Week: N/AAfter missing last week’s list, the pacesetter for the MVP plum returned with a bang.Against cellar-dweller Mapua, the Pirates followed the lead of CJ Perez, with him not only getting it done in the offense but also anchoring the team’s choking defense.His performance was so steady that even the team’s third stringers got a piece of the action en route to their dominant 97-74 blowout victory.Perez, though, acknowledges that the season is just getting started and the rest of the league will be out to deal Lyceum its first defeat come the second round.Photo by Tristan Tamayo/ INQUIRER.net(3) Levi Dela Cruz – G, Arellano Chiefs24 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 blockLast Week: N/AWith Kent Salado taking a back seat on offense, Levi dela Cruz took the baton and ran with it as he set a career-high performance to help Arellano nab the 87-81 win over St. Benilde.The 22-year-old transferee has come out of Salado’s shadows to emerge as the key component in helping the Chiefs break out of their four-game losing slump.If dela Cruz continues this tear, we may just be seeing the start of a possible second coming of Arellano’s lethal guard combo of the past.Photo by Tristan Tamayo/ INQUIRER.net(4) Tey Teodoro – G, JRU Heavy Bombers19 points (4/13 3PT), 3 reboundsLast Week: N/A Eze, however, could not carry the load alone as coach Jimwell Gican needs to challenge his locals, especially Gab Dagangon and GJ Ylagan, to come to Perpetual’s aid if it wants to churn out a late drive in the second round.Photo by Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.net(7) Jayson David – F, San Sebastian Golden Stags18 points (5/8 3PT), 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 blockLast Week: N/ACoach Egay Macaraya’s secret weapon is a secret no more.Jayson David finally lived up to the hype of his mentor, going bonkers from beyond the arc despite San Sebastian losing to JRU.What better way for him to explode than on his home floor, where he stepped up for the undermanned Golden Stags, which sorely missed the presence of leader Michael Calisaan.David, though, has to prove that he’s not a one-game wonder as he needs to sustain this showing once San Sebastian springs back to action in the second round. LATEST STORIES Read Nextcenter_img Catriona Gray spends Thanksgiving by preparing meals for people with illnesses SEA Games in Calabarzon safe, secure – Solcom chief View comments Protesters burn down Iran consulate in Najaf PLAY LIST 01:37Protesters burn down Iran consulate in Najaf01:47Panelo casts doubts on Robredo’s drug war ‘discoveries’01:29Police teams find crossbows, bows in HK university01:35Panelo suggests discounted SEA Games tickets for students02:49Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games WATCH: Streetboys show off slick dance moves in Vhong Navarro’s wedding LIST: Class, gov’t work suspensions during 30th SEA Games SEA Games: PH’s Alisson Perticheto tops ice skating short program MOST READ Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. Brace for potentially devastating typhoon approaching PH – NDRRMClast_img read more

Sachin is the best batman in modern era: Ranatunga

first_imgThe glamour and glitz of Twenty20 has had its adverse affect on Test cricket and only someone of Sachin Tendulkar’s stature can help restore the waning popularity of the traditional form of the game, feels former Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga.The Lankan captain lavished praise on Sachin for not treating the game as a source of income.”Sachin is an iconic figure. We need cricketers like him to save Test cricket. As long as Sachin is playing, I am sure Test cricket is safe,” Rantunga said from Colombo while congratulating the champion batsman on his 50th Test century.”He has been playing for more than 20 years now. I think he is a rare cricketer who does not consider cricket as a source of income. This is the secret of his longevity and phenomenal success as well,” the cricketer turned politician said.The skipper of the 1996 World cup winning Lankan team also believes that some of the greatest attributes of Sachin like dedication, commitment and passion for the game is lacking in cricketers of modern era.”Sachin has sacrificed a lot to reach the pinnacle. He has sacrificed playing T20 international cricket which is all about money and glamour.”Young players, who do not hesitate sacrificing playing for the country for financial gains, should learn quite a few lessons from him,” Ranatunga took an indirect dig at some senior Sri Lankan players who had refused to tour England to take part in cash-rich Indian Premier League.Ranatunga, who has played in country’s inaugural as well as 100th Test match feels that it will be unfair to compare Tendulkar with Sir Don Bradman.advertisement”I have not seen Sir Don playing but Sachin is the best batman in modern era. It is not fair to compare two legends of different generation. Bradman was the best in his era and Sachin is the best in his era,” said Ranatunga.Rantunga also dismissed criticism that Sachin hasn’t been a match-winner or a finisher of the game.”I don’t endorse these kind of media generated arguments. This man has scored so many runs, centuries and has played several crucial knocks. What else do you expect from him?” said the burly former Lankan captain.He feels that it was privilege to compete with Sachin for more than a decade.”Sachin is very humble. A real gentleman. He is very down to earth despite his stupendous achievements. I consider myself fortunate that I have played enough cricket against him,” said Ranatunga who had retired after the 1999 World Cup.Ranatunga feels that it’s entirely upto Sachin as to how long he wants to continue playing.”It is upto him as to how long he wants to play. As far as I am concerned, we are fortunate that we can watch him bat. Once he retires, the cricket fraternity will need him even more as he will remain the biggest ambassador of the game,” Ranatunga concluded.- With PTI inputslast_img read more

Saradha scam: CBI interrogates Congress, Trinamool associates

first_imgKolkata businessman Asif Khan, a former convenor of the Trinamool Congress’ Uttar Pradesh unit, and Badal Bhattacharya, a close aide of Congress leader Somen Mitra, on Monday appeared before the CBI for questioning in the multi-crore rupee Saradha scam.Besides Bhattacharya and Khan, Prasanta Pramanik – the president of the Majhi and Dari Workers Union Dakshineswar – too reached the CBI office for questioning about alleged links with the scam.Khan, whose house was raided by the CBI on August 29, has alleged involvement of his own party leaders in the scam.”Some of these leaders, who had to go to sleep without food, have now amassed assets worth Rs 500 crore to Rs 1,000 crore. I do not know who gave them the money or from where it was accumulated,” Khan said earlier in the week.With the CBI making steady headway in the case, the Trinamool has accused the agency of being “politically used”.The agency has already grilled Bapi Karim, a former confidential assistant to West Bengal Sports and Transport Minister and Trinamool Congress leader Madan Mitra.Besides, it again took the custody of suspended Trinamool MP Kunal Ghosh.Ghosh, who has repeatedly alleged the involvement of the Trinamool top leadership, on Saturday dropped a bombshell saying he should be jointly interrogated with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and scam kingpin Sudipta Sen.Meanwhile, Ghosh on Sunday alleged that Trinamool secretary general Partha Chatterjee and party leader in the Lok Sabha Sudip Bandyopadhyay had travelled to New Delhi for the inauguration of Saradha’s media foray.advertisementGhosh made these allegations outside the Salt Lake CGO complex when he was being whisked out by CBI officers.last_img read more

Watch Wendy J. Graham Speak at EngenderHealth

first_imgPosted on January 12, 2011August 17, 2016Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Please join us tomorrow to watch Wendy J. Graham from the University of Aberdeen discuss “War and Peace: The story of maternal mortality estimation.” Professor Graham will present her views on the history of global maternal mortality estimation, new developments in 2010, and the implications of new mortality estimates for the maternal health field.WHAT: Wendy J. Graham: “War and Peace: The story of maternal mortality estimation”WHEN: Wednesday, January 12, Noon – 1:30WHERE: Watch online starting at noon. The link will be live shortly before the event begins. If you are/were unable to watch the event live, the recording will be available online after the event.Share this: ShareEmailPrint To learn more, read:last_img read more

New ‘Play Now’ Website Section

first_imgHave you ever wanted to play Touch Football but weren’t too sure where to start? The Touch Football Australia website has a section that has recently been added, Play Now, which tells you important information about starting out in the sport. The section features information including how to get started, what parents need to know, basic rules, what equipment you will need as well as information about registration and tips for referees and players when playing with players that are deaf or have hearing impairments. To view this section, please click on the ‘Play Touch Football’ menu on the top menu and click on ‘Play Now’ or click on the link below:http://www.austouch.com.au/index.php?id=1280 Related LinksPlay Now!last_img read more

‘Haere Ra’, Mr Ian Milne san

first_imgA fitting tribute to a mighty fine and soon to be retired ANZAC ambassador and mate. By Julian Buckmaster – @JulianTFA“You can’t kill weeds!”As with most international sporting events, the great occasion of international elite competition affords a great opportunity for respective cultures, creeds and flags and foes to converge in a mutually friendly and familiar setting and embrace.This was no more evident than at the official 2016 Trans Tasman welcome ceremony and function held in Auckland overnight. The number of pleasantries and cultural exchanges marked symbolically, and at times beautifully, the great occasion of this year’s series featuring the popular and very progressive inclusion of Japan into the Australasian biennial battle. Of particular highlight and note was the traditional Maori greeting from the local Maori elders and Polynesian strains and beats from the local house band. But in amongst the speeches and brilliant renditions of Hakas, ceremonial greetings’ and, well, some more questionable contemporary cultural renditions, was a truly stirring tribute. A tribute to a man of fine repute and a true stalwart of the sport in New Zealand and abroad.This one will live long in the memory of this fine ambassador and his equally remarkable wife, Soyra. This quiet, retiring type would probably prefer it done any other way than a full-blown presentation in front a large audience, such is his humble and modest nature. That is, to quietly retire in a more subdued and discrete fashion.But to everyone present and to all in the international community that know of the vast contributions of both he and his wife, Soyra, there could be nor more fitting opportunity and occasion. â€œAgain, you don’t in my opinion do this for what you get out of it and to be appreciated in front of your peers and countries – who are like family to us all, is a great honour and privilege” he said.“I was blown away that I received the plaque but inside the box was amazing; a blessed and rather large piece of Maori greenstone mere [traditional Maori weapon].“I will certainly treasure this as I will the memory of reception in front of the marvellous community we have come to know and love.”‘Pounamu’, the Maori word for greenstone derives from New Zealand’s South Island – some of them have a balance in them and a warmth which is the tradition for when they are blessed.  Affectionately known as “Milney” and widely regarded in New Zealand, Australia and across the world for his work as a volunteer at events including Trans-Tasman’s, Touch World Cup’s, some Pacific Nations events, he will, as they, be greatly missed.Both CEOs of Touch Football Australian and Touch New Zealand [Joe Sprangers], were effusive in their praise of the great man and his long reputation and dedication. “On behalf of the Touch Football Australia community this is outstanding recognition of Ian and Soyra, two marvellous supporters and contributors to touch Football across both sides of the Tasman,” Maguire said following Sprangers’ moving tribute and presentation to Ian.“They are such dedicated volunteers and simply amazing people and a joy to work with along with Joe and the Touch New Zealand team.”And, as they also say, behind every great man…and in front and to the side of Ian is as always his lovely and equally regarded wife, Soyra. From the global sport perspective, Bill Ker had it right on the money: “In the 46-member nations that form the federation, volunteers are the backbone of the sport and give their time and skills to each member nation in a willing manner,” he said. “None more so than Ian from New Zealand who after 20 years [NZ for the last 10], assisting NZ in a volunteer capacity with their tournament control has retired leaving a huge void left by Ian and will be temporarily filled by those whom he has up-skilled during his many roles working for New Zealand.But fittingly, the final word goes to Soyra who has been side-by-side with Ian with his long and distinguished volunteer roles.“Just because he is retiring, I’m not!” Soyra emphatically said at the announcement of Ian’s pending retirement.“So, we better find a way for him to be involved as I will still be going.  â€œHaving said that he will always want to be involved in some fashion…you can’t kill weeds!” Nor would you think the weeds would grow under this man’s feet for too long.Related LinksThanks Ian & Soyra!last_img read more