Year in review: Biggest stories of February 2017
February 1:IT IS believed two bushfires burning to the east of Grafton were started by arson. An out-of-control fire in Yuraygir National Park had burnt about 2015 hectares between Sandon and Minnie Water when NSW Rural Fire Service issued a report at 3.40pm yesterday. A second, contained, fire in Candole State Forest to the west had burnt about two hectares. NSW Rural Fire Service Clarence District manager Superintendent Stuart Watts said the fires were being treated as suspicious.
February 2:THE LARGEST rural acreage to come under the hammer in Grafton in recent times has created unprecedented interest, says a rural property specialist. Ross Creek at Buccarumbi, a 2447.94ha cattle and timber property with river frontage will be auctioned on February 17 at South Grafton. A prospectus on the property estimates its sale price will be about $1.4 million.
February 3:AS PAUL Reid lay his head on the pillow of his swag in the Dalmorton State Forest, he never dreamed that in the next 24 hours his world would be turned upside down. The next thing the Warwick beekeeper remembers is waking up a week and a half later in the intensive care unit of John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle. "I was hearing these voices and seeing shapes and seeing blurred people around me, and I felt the touch of the nurses, but I had no focus,” the apiarist told The Daily Examiner this week.
February 4:POLICE will investigate whether guns seized this week are linked to reported firearm thefts in the Clarence Valley as part of their ongoing investigation into the illegal supply of weapons. The information comes after a series of search warrants, executed on Wednesday, resulted in the arrest of four men. Glenreagh residents Brenton McPherson, 21, and Scott Anderson, 46, and Coffs Harbour brothers Carter and Lawson Ney, 22 and 20, faced Coffs Harbour Bail Court on Thursday, each charged with several gun-related offences.
February 6:"I THINK occasionally people get complacent, they've been through so many floods they say 'yeah we've seen them all' but reality is they haven't.” Those were the words of Ulmarra SES controller John Leask as he told The Daily Examiner about the possibility of destructive floods when reflecting on the 2013 floods.
February 7:ARE you one of those unfortunate souls forced to do the Grafton Bridge shuffle every morning and afternoon? Get used to it, because until the new bridge opens in 2020, it's not going to get any better. According to an RMS report released in 2012, the amount of traffic attempting to cross the Grafton Bridge during peak hours was expected to increase by 1.5 per cent each year. A survey completed in 2012 showed an average 12,456 people crossed the bridge between 7am and 9am in 2011. Using this figure, it was estimated that by 2019 that number would increase to 14,040.
February 8:FEDERAL Health Minister Greg Hunt has confirmed Grafton will be a "priority” in a new nationwide program aimed at youth suicide prevention. The assurance comes following a segment on ABC's 7.30 program on Monday night, which documented family and friends of local teenager Emma Powell, who took her own life in December. During an interview, Emma's father Michael said if he was speaking to the health minister he would tell him not to wait for the statistical report but instead come for a drive and see these people in the community who were dealing with the critical issue on a daily basis.
February 9:THERE was a sense of deja vu as the judge, crown, defence and accused assembled in the Grafton courthouse yesterday in anticipation of the Supreme Court murder trial over the alleged murder of Clarence Valley man Danial Cotter. If this sounds familiar, it may be because the murder trial began twice last year. Opening statements were first heard in the Grafton courthouse on March 2, 2016, but the entire jury was dismissed the next day after it was revealed one of the jurors was related to the alleged victim.
February 10:POLICE searching for a 51-year-old Grafton man missing since May last year believe they may have a new lead in their search. Since May 27, police have been looking for Patrick Raymond Kear after he was reported missing from his Parker Rd, Lanitza home for some time. A CCTV image of a man police would like to speak to about the disappearance has been released and police are re-appealing for public help as they continue to search for Mr Kear.
February 11:THE Clarence Valley is in for a scorcher this weekend, with record- breaking temperatures predicted for Sunday. The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast maximum temperatures of 41C and 44C on Saturday and Sunday in Grafton and 33C and 32C in Yamba, with overnight temperatures remaining high through to the end of the weekend. If the mercury hits those predicted heights, it will set a record for daytime temperatures in February, surpassing the previous record of 41.3 set on February 21, 2004.
February 13:GRAFTON has sweltered its way to the hottest temperature yet recorded in the city. The Bureau of Meteorology confirmed the mercury had reached a sizzling 45.8C at Grafton Agriculture Research station at 2pm yesterday. The mark eclipses the previous record of 44.6C set in January 2004.
February 14:THE maid of honour is 103 years old and the groomsman will be a chihuahua when two local Clarence Valley aged care residents renew their vows on Valentine's Day today. Elaine and Laurie Stephenson, from Whiddon Aged Care Home in Grafton, have chosen Valentine's Day to renew their 58 years of married life.
February 15:THE SHAPE of the fishing industry restructure will be clearer after the distribution of the $16 million share trading subsidy, said the Member for Clarence, Chris Gulaptis. On Saturday Mr Gulaptis attended a meeting at the Clarence River Fishermen's Co-operative in Maclean to give an update on the restructure. More than 30 fishers quizzed him after they received the latest documentation on the statewide restructure.
February 16:DESPITE the growing popularity of Yamba's Surfing the Coldstream festival, it will not go ahead this year. Live Prawn Productions' Phil Nicholas, who has directed the annual music and culture event for the past three years, said he was proud of what the festival had achieved but its growth was no longer sustainable as a free event.
February 17:LIKE many families trying to escape the heat over the last few weeks, Lisa Southgate and her kids have been cooling off at one of the Clarence Valley's many watering holes. A few weeks ago, on a hot Sunday afternoon, the Southgates stopped at McPhersons Crossing for a dip before heading home. "We went down there because the weather was so hot,” Mrs Southgate said. "We rarely swim there because of the litter. There is always something down there like nappies and broken bottles. But Sunday a week ago, we went down there on a hot afternoon and my son, Max, stepped on broken glass down there.”
February 18:THE seizure of nearly $300,000 in cannabis near Grafton will create significant supply issues for users in the local area, police say. Police made the find on Thursday, during the execution of a search warrant at a Warragai Creek home on the Summerland Way. During the search of the private property, officers allegedly seized 107 cannabis plants and 3kg of cannabisand items associated with firearms, including ammunition.
February 20:AREAS of the Clarence Valley are under intense scrutiny from veterinary clinics after an outbreak of parvovirus in Grafton and South Grafton this week. Chris Gough from Riverbank Animal Hospital in South Grafton said there were pockets in South Grafton which had been classified as high-risk. "Parvovirus is a highly infectious disease that survives for a long time in the environment, particularly in warm, humid weather, like we have been experiencing over the last few weeks,” Dr Gough said.
February 21:NEWLY promoted NSW deputy premier John Barilaro visited the Clarence Valley for the first time since taking up the role and was full of praise for Clarence Valley MP Chris Gulaptis. He credited the local MP for the coalition's change in direction over high-profile contentious issues such as the jail closure and greyhound industry reform.
February 22:THEY'RE slimy and ugly, and resemble tiny little "alien eggs” and a local landcare group has removed nearly 21,000 of their spawn from the Lower Clarence in the last month. They are cane toad eggs, and the Clarence Valley Conservation in Action group is calling on locals and landowners to keep their eyes on dams, ponds and water features for signs of toad breeding.
February 23:THE rapid expansion of the flying fox camp near Maclean High School has spurred the Clarence Valley Council into action, but just what action it cannot say. The council is about to spend $68,000 on habitat modification near the camp, but this was not enough for some councillors, including Cr Andrew Baker. In addition to these measures, he moved the council "implement all other lawful actions necessary to expedite the dispersal and continuing vacancy of the flying fox colonies located in the vicinity of the residences, cemeteries, highschool and TAFE college around Jubilee, Kerry, Cameron and Woombah Streets, Maclean and within 100 metres of any other Clarence Valley Council area residential zone where the colony location is subject of nearby resident complaint”.
February 24:LEADING youth mental health provider Headspace is finally coming to Grafton after intensive campaigning by the community. Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt was in Grafton yesterday to announce the Clarence Valley will be the first of 10 areas to receive a Headspace as part of the Our Healthy Clarence plan. Director of the Headspace board Professor Patrick McGorry said after many years of helping young people from the Clarence in Coffs Harbour, this move was a positive step.
February 25:FOLLOWING Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt's big announcement earlier this week of a Headspace facility for Grafton, mental health providers are still urging the community to take advantage of the services already available in the Clarence Valley. North Coast Primary Health Network manager of mental health reform Wendy Pannach said there were other avenues for people looking for help with mental health issues.
February 27:GRAFTON Regional Airport is being considered as the home of a recreational aviation Australian Centre of Excellence in a bid to make it profitable. At Tuesday's Clarence Valley Council meeting, Councillor Karen Toms successfully urged the council to investigate complementary activities around the airport. As well as the centre for excellence, councillors voted to look at ways to set up residential facilities around the airport for aircraft owners, a freight hub and the training of overseas pilots.
February 28:NEIGHBOURING councils to the Clarence Valley have not followed its example of knocking back a chance to jack up rates above the allowed limit. The councils of Ballina, Byron Bay and Bellingen have all put up their hands for a rates rise to fund projects such as renewing core infrastructure, cleaning waterways and improving financial sustainability.