Year in review: The biggest stories of March 2016

Delegates from CWA groups across the North Coast gathered with a cup of tea to tackle the issues at their Northern Rivers Group council meeting held at the Chatsworth Island hall.
Delegates from CWA groups across the North Coast gathered with a cup of tea to tackle the issues at their Northern Rivers Group council meeting held at the Chatsworth Island hall. Adam Hourigan

MARCH 1: The Clarence Valley economy looks healthy, with construction projects leading the way. Latest figures show Clarence Valley Council has the best economic growth rate of the North Coast region.

MARCH 2: Taylor Ware was warned by Coffs/Clarence police his time on the run would come to an end, and the law finally caught up with the fugitive in Queensland.

After close to two years on the run, the 30-year-old Coffs Harbour man was one of Australia's 20 most wanted men.


MARCH 3: All that lied between a murder or manslaughter verdict in the murder trial of Coffs Harbour man Donald Neil Gordon is what happened in a 30-40 minute time period on a night in November more than two years ago.

This was the crux of what was in heard in the Grafton yesterday as a long-anticipated Supreme Court trial, presided over by judge Justice Stephen Campbell, commenced with a jury of 12 and a well-attended gallery.

MARCH 4: The entire jury panel in the Baryulgil murder trial of Donald Gordon has been discharged, after it was revealed one of the jurors was related to the alleged murder victim Danial Cotter.

MARCH 5: A record haul of cannabis was seized by NSW Police's annual cannabis eradication program during operations in state forest and national parks around Bellingen, Dorrigo and Nymboida.

Over the four days of operations, Strike Force Hyperion seized 2617 plants worth an estimated $5.23 million.

MARCH 7: The Clarence Valley's mobile library service could be digital-only in five years, after staff prepared a report which showed how the service could be downsized immediately and eventually transformed into a digital-only service.

MARCH 8: The community's push for better access to youth mental health services in the Clarence Valley is getting stronger, with a new petition for a local headspace and an emergency public meeting called.

MARCH 9: After a spate of break and enters, a total of 12 firearms were outstanding in the Coffs/Clarence area, with five stolen from a Yamba property this week adding to seven taken from a gun safe during a break and enter at The Pinnacles less than two weeks ago.

MARCH 10: Some history between a leading Yamba businessman and Clarence Valley Council has led him ask the council to waive about $40,000 in fees for a DA in the town.

MARCH 11: Four bricks and a steady aim was all it took to cause an estimated $5000 worth of damage to businesses in Maclean.

Staff at four businesses on River St arrived at work to find bricks through their windows, causing damage to buildings and merchandise. Police charged a 20-year-old man with four counts of malicious damage.

MARCH 12: Clarence Village resident Helen Barnier was left bruised and shaken after she came face-to-face with two intruders who had broken into her home.

MARCH 14: Grafton jail's hiring of casual workers straight from the local community is welcome news, but smacks of desperation according to a former governor of the jail, John Heffernan.

MARCH 15: In the space of half an hour, Norman Gray's kids went from playing with their nan's young dog Lucy to saying their goodbyes after she was killed by a pack of wild dogs.

The brazen attack on the property on Sheehans Ln was just one of a series of reported wild dog sightings and attacks on chickens, ducks and kangaroos.

MARCH 16: Clarence Valley councillors have decided they will keep the election of the mayor in house.

Councillors voted 6-3 against a mayoral minute calling for a referendum to ask the electorate whether they would prefer a direct election of the mayor or to allow councillors to continue to elect the mayor annually.

MARCH 17: Work will begin on the revamp of Maclean's McLachlan Park after Easter, even though the simplified plan still came over budget.

Clarence Valley Council Mayor Richie Williamson moved to approve a plan which incorporated elements from all three previous designs for the park into a two-stage development.

Emergency services attend the scene where a single male driver of a white Camry was killed after he collided with a black Commodre before the Camry was hit by a passing B-Double truck.
Emergency services attend the scene where a single male driver of a white Camry was killed after he collided with a black Commodre before the Camry was hit by a passing B-Double truck. Adam Hourigan

MARCH 18: The telltale sounds of twisting metal and screeching brakes are all too familiar to Tyndale residents, who are struggling to think of how to make the dangerous stretch of road safe after the death of a 19-year-old Fernvale man when his car collided with a black Commodore before being hit by a passing B-Double truck.

LETTER: Deadly cocktail of circumstance and conditions

MARCH 19: John Edwards, estranged husband of missing Grafton school teacher Sharon Edwards, has been named as a suspect in the investigation into her disappearance and probable murder over a year ago.

At a media conference outside the NSW Police headquarters in Sydney, Coffs/Clarence crime manager Detective Inspector Darren Jameson revealed new details about the investigation.


If you're asking me is he a suspect, yes, Mr Edwards is a suspect

Det Insp Jameson said when asked if investigators were keeping an open mind on the investigation.

MARCH 21: Sugar is one of the major industries in the Clarence Valley, but worldwide its product is coming under attack from health professionals and legislators.

MARCH 22: A fire that destroyed a four-wheel drive in the car park of the Gladiators Motorcycle Club in South Grafton could have been deliberately lit.

South Grafton Fire Brigade captain Dennis Pye said the nature of the blaze indicated an accellerant was poured over the car and ignited.

MARCH 23: The union representing prison officers says the State Government's new jail reform plan is a slap in the face for staff.

Public Service Association's Prison Officers Vocational Branch chairman Steve McMahon said the union believed the new jail at Grafton should be publicly run.

MARCH 24: Five wild dogs have been caught and removed from Gulmarrad in just a week, after Local Land Services, Roads and Maritime Services and Clarence Valley Council joined forces to fund a professional dog trapper to remove the animals after a fatal attack on a Gulmarrad resident's pet dog.

MARCH 26: Lives are being put at risk and the ambulance service strained after a shocking rise in non-urgent calls to 000.

With as few as one in ten calls to the ambulance service is for genuine life threatening emergencies, the misuse of the ambulance service has prompted Grafton Ambulance Station Officer Tim Bestwick to ask people to consider whether their medical situation is serious enough to warrant a call for an ambulance.

MARCH 28: Engineering and construction firms in the Clarence Valley have joined forces to create an industrial cluster that will give them a competitive edge.

After more than two years' planning, the project called the Clarence Valley Marine and Engineering Cluster is now operating.

MARCH 29: A Facebook page alerting the Clarence Valley to a proposal to remove residents from the Sandon camping grounds has gone viral.

The proposed changes would affect residents on the northern side of the river which includes the camping ground, but an uproar on social media is almost entirely in favour of retaining the current arrangements.

MARCH 30: The number of full-time jobs at Grafton railway station will be cut in half as part of a NSW Government review into its rail operations. The review will cut the number of full-time jobs from eight to four.

MARCH 31: Almost four years in the making, the rehabilitation sub-acute ward at Maclean Hospital is now open. The $3.7 million ward provides 10 new sub-acute rehabilitation beds and four new palliative care beds in Maclean.

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