Cycling New Zealand’s Great Taste Trail

Horsing around: Happy horse poo for sale at the side of the road en route to Motueka. Photo: Rob McFarland Horsing around: Happy horse poo for sale at the side of the road en route to Motueka. Photo: Rob McFarland
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Horsing around: Happy horse poo for sale at the side of the road en route to Motueka. Photo: Rob McFarland

Horsing around: Happy horse poo for sale at the side of the road en route to Motueka. Photo: Rob McFarland

“That’s not a hill, it’s a wrinkle,” says John with trademark understatement as we survey the ominous incline ahead. The rest of the group have sensibly chosen to remain in the van and start today’s ride at the summit. I, fuelled by male bravado and three Weet-Bix, have decided to keep him company, blissfully unaware that next month he heads to France to cycle 2000 kilometres of the Tour de France route.

I quickly realise trying to keep up is futile so instead relax and enjoy the view. We’re cycling along a quiet country back road, through the sort of idyllic rural scene that dominates much of New Zealand’s South Island. Rolling pastures dotted with sheep, weather-beaten wooden sheds with rusted iron roofs and an impressive backdrop of undulating hills in shifting shades of green.

We collect the rest of the group and continue on tranquil country lanes to the village of Wakefield, where Evan has laid out an extravagant morning tea of fruit, shortbread, tea and plunger coffee. We all tuck in heartily even though it’s less than two hours since we ate breakfast and there’s still lunch at a winery, afternoon tea and a hearty dinner to come. I suppose there’s not much point in cycling the Great Taste Trail if you’re not going to taste.

New Zealand’s cycle network has grown rapidly over the last few years, fuelled by government investment and the success of the original cycling prodigy, the Otago Central Rail Trail. There are now 23 routes that are classified as Great Rides, predominantly off-road trails that showcase the best of the country’s landscape, environment, culture and heritage. The Great Taste Trail is one of the most recent, a 175-kilometre loop around the top of the South Island that passes through Nelson.

The route focuses on the abundance of fresh produce and wineries in the region so unless you have monk-like restraint you’ll be consuming more calories than you expend.

Our five-day trip started in Christchurch where we were kitted out at PureTrail’s depot with comfortable 27-speed hybrid bikes, helmets, panniers and sexy fluorescent high-vis vests. This departure is slightly unusual because there are only four of us, compared to the normal 10-14 guests, and we have two guides rather than one (Evan is in training).

Bikes safely loaded on the trailer, we leave Christchurch, heading north and then west over the scenic Lewis Pass to Saint Arnaud, an alpine village on the shores of Lake Rotoiti. After a spot of sightseeing and a gentle 16-kilometre orientation ride, it’s back to the more pressing issue of eating. Clinker Cafe may not sound like the most salubrious of dining spots but the braised pork belly in apple cider I have for dinner is not only excellent, it’s enormous. “Heartland portions,” explains John.

Fast forward a day and our convoy of four leaves Wakefield full of coffee and shortbread and heads towards lunch. It’s easy, delightful riding – a mixture of roadside paths, quiet back roads and gravel tracks that meander past vineyards and skirt orchards bursting with apples, berries and kiwifruit. On one section we cycle along a riverbank through fragrant bursts of fennel and flickering clouds of butterflies.

Lunch is at Waimea Estates, a family-run winery where our not-very-hard-work is rewarded with generous bowls of plump, creamy, Chardonnay-steamed green lipped mussels in a sun-drenched courtyard overlooking the vines.

We’re only eight kilometres from Nelson so this afternoon’s ride is a gentle 30-minute cruise along a dedicated bike path next to the Waimea Estuary. We arrive at our accommodation, the charming mews-style Grand Mercure Nelson Monaco at 1:30pm, leaving us plenty of time to explore.

In an effort to work up an appetite for what I know will be another heartland-sized dinner, I eschew Nelson’s museums and boutiques in favour of a walk along the Maitai River to the Botanical Reserve. After a mildly strenuous climb up Botanical Hill, I arrive at what is allegedly the geographic centre of New Zealand. I later discover that several places claim this accolade but either way the 360-degree views over the harbour and the rolling hills of the surrounding national parks are sensational. And I’m pretty sure I’ve burned off a mussel.

That evening we reconvene in the garden of the pub opposite our hotel and over a sunset glass of sav blanc our merry band of six gets to know each other. Husband and wife Gerry and Penny live in Newcastle and are cycling converts after doing the Otago Central Rail Trail with PureTrails last year. Margaret is from the Gold Coast and is clearly a PureTrails fan given this is her sixth trip with them. Guides John and Evan are both diehard, shorts-in-any-weather Cantabrians and expert exponents of the region’s trademark dry sarcasm. The South Island is the “mainland” and John confesses he’ll “barrack for anyone over Auckland”.

We retire inside for dinner where I feast on a tender Angus steak washed down with a glass of Roaring Meg pinot noir. Given PureTrails also covers the cost of a dessert, it seems rude not to sample the lemon cheesecake with cream and lemon sherbet. In the distance I hear my cycling shorts crying in protest.

While superlative food and wine are the trip’s main attraction, the scenery comes a close second. The next day we cycle back along the estuary, passing through a protected wetland before crossing onto Rabbit Island for morning tea by a deserted white sand beach. A winding pine tree-lined track leads us to a tiny cove where a ferry takes us and our bikes across an inlet to the buzzy township of Mapua for lunch.

Subsequent days deliver similarly beguiling landscapes – an early morning cycle along the Motueka River, the sun filtering through the haze of a freshly limed field; vast fields of hops, their carefully trained branches resembling dancers around a maypole; orchards full of berries swathed in dew-soaked nets.

We spend two nights at the comfortable Equestrian Lodge Motel in Motueka, cycling in the mornings and sightseeing in the afternoons. Excursions include a scenic cruise from Kaiteriteri that skirts the bays and furrows of the Abel Tasman National Park and a visit to the Riwaka Resurgence, a sacred Maori site where the Riwaka River emerges from a network of caves underneath Takaka Hill.

On our final day we head back inland to complete the loop. The trail here is still being completed so John and Evan improvise with a 13-kilometre ride along a quiet valley flanked by fields of curious cows. It’s knuckle-numbingly cold when we start at 8:30am and a brisk headwind (or a “gentle cooling breeze” according to John) drags tears from our eyes. After 40 minutes we’re all happy to jump back in the van and begin the long trek back to Christchurch.

The cycling portion of the trip may be over but the tasting part isn’t. Our last lunch is a fitting finale, a lazy feast of tapas-style shared plates washed down with crisp glasses of riesling at Forrest Estate Wines’ stylish cellar door in Marlborough.

FIVE MORE GREAT NZ RIDES

OTAGO CENTRAL RAIL TRAIL

The original “Great Ride”, this 150-kilometre route through Central Otago follows a disused railway line. The perfect introduction to a multi-day cycling trip.

TE ARA AHI

Starting at Rotorua, this 66-kilometre trail passes through a thermal wonderland of steaming vents, bubbling mud pools and spectacular geysers. Expect rare flora and fauna and a rich vein of Maori folklore.

QUEEN CHARLOTTE TRACK

This 70-kilometre off-road track through the heart of the Marlborough Sounds offers pristine wilderness, spectacular views and thigh-burning ascents.

ALPS 2 OCEAN

The longest continuous cycle trail in New Zealand, this 300-kilometre jaunt starts from the country’s highest mountain, Mount Cook, and finishes in the coastal town of Oamaru. The best bit? It’s all downhill.

MOUNTAINS TO SEA

Beginning in the otherworldly Tongariro National Park, this four to six day route uses bike trails, public roads and a jetboat to deliver riders to the coast at Wanganui.

For a complete list of NZ’s Great Rides, see nzcycletrail杭州龙凤419m.

TRIP NOTES

The writer travelled as a guest of PureTrails and Air New Zealand.

MORE INFORMATION

newzealand杭州龙凤419m.

GETTING THERE

Air New Zealand flies direct from Sydney and Melbourne to Christchurch. Phone 13 24 76; see airnewzealand杭州龙凤419m.au.

SEE + DO

PureTrails offers regular departures of its guided five-day Great Taste Trail cycle trip between October and April, from $1400 including accommodation, meals and excursions. See puretrailsnewzealand杭州龙凤419.nz.

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RSL Clubs could be the next victim of Sydney property boom

South Hurstville RSL Club in Hurstville Photo: Dominic Lorrimer/Fairfax Media South Hurstville RSL Club in Hurstville Photo: Dominic Lorrimer/Fairfax Media
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Hurstville RSL Club in Hurstville Photo: Dominic Lorrimer/Fairfax Media

South Hurstville RSL Club in Hurstville Photo: Dominic Lorrimer/Fairfax Media

South Hurstville RSL Club in Hurstville Photo: Dominic Lorrimer/Fairfax Media

Hurstville RSL Club in Hurstville Photo: Dominic Lorrimer/Fairfax Media

South Hurstville RSL Club in Hurstville Photo: Dominic Lorrimer/Fairfax Media

South Hurstville RSL Club in Hurstville Photo: Dominic Lorrimer/Fairfax Media

Hurstville RSL Club in Hurstville Photo: Dominic Lorrimer/Fairfax Media

South Hurstville RSL Club in Hurstville Photo: Dominic Lorrimer/Fairfax Media

South Hurstville RSL Club in Hurstville Photo: Dominic Lorrimer/Fairfax Media

Hurstville RSL Club in Hurstville Photo: Dominic Lorrimer/Fairfax Media

The RSL Club used to be part of the social fabric, a place to go for a special occasion or a cheap meal when mum or dad couldn’t be bothered cooking or for a few quick drinks after work.

Many are now fighting for their financial futures due to a combination of falling patronage, outdated facilities, demographic changes and competition from modern alternative entertainment options.

But where many see an outdated and tired business model and board members heavy with age property developers see large, well-located freehold sites, ideal for residential redevelopment.

Take the current saga surrounding South Hurstville RSL and Hurstville RSL.

South Hurstville RSL is a financially strong club with an upward trajectory.

Hurstville RSL on the other hand been in the red for the past few years, with growing losses, declining revenues and dwindling net assets.

As a result, both have voted in favour of an amalgamation . However those decisions are being challenged by a group called “The Friends of Hurstville”, who prefer a plan for a mixed use redevelopment being put forward by property developer Will McDonald of Skye Pacific Properties Pty Ltd.

Mr McDonald  leads a consortium that includes Parkview Constructions and Dickson Rothschild Architects.

The chairman of the pro-development Friends of Hurstville group, Ed Mason, said a meeting held at Hursville RSL on August 10 (to vote on the decision to amalgamate) was a “farce” and that some members of Chinese background were unhappy.

When asked specifically about the vote, Mr Mason couldn’t confirm any actual numbers as he is not a member of Hurstville RSL. He was issued a membership card when he applied but said he then had his application refused at the board level.

Mr Mason did confirm there were about 120 people, all of which he said wanted to vote at the meeting, at a lunch meeting of the Friends of Hurstville group which was paid for by the property group led by Mr McDonald.

Hurstville RSL general manager Rod Bell, and the CEO of South Hurstville RSL, Simon Mikkelsen, refute Mr Mason’s and Mr McDonald’s claims and say that all votes have been conducted correctly and have been validated by a separate NSW Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing (OLGR) investigation.

“Everything has been done by the book to allow both clubs’ members’ wishes to proceed,” Mr Mikkelsen said.

Mr Bell said Hurstville RSL has looked over and rejected a number of property development proposals submitted for their site because the board considered they did not have the members’ best interests at heart and risked rendering the RSL insolvent.

“Our only and best chance of surviving as a community club is by joining with South Hurstville RSL,” Mr Bell said. “Club members should realise that if the developer gets control of this club it will be closed for up to two years and may never reopen.”

The NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority has adjourned their decision on the amalgamation to assess the claims made by the warring factions. Mr Bell feels this gives the development proposal an unfair advantage.

“We now need the Minister Troy Grant to instruct ILGA to support the wishes of both clubs’ real members and not a bunch that are more than happy to see another RSL disappear in this Anzac centenary year,” he said.

The ILGA said it deferred its decision on December 17 “so it could receive further detailed submissions about claims it received questioning whether the correct steps had been followed in the merger process”.

A final decision is expected by March.

Two highly publicised  property development deals where financially stricken clubs have been “rescued”  by property developers are the proposed Balmain / Rozelle Village development deal and the Souths on Chalmers development deal.

Souths on Chalmers was put into administration and then closed, with significant debts, and Balmain Leagues have borrowed millions for lead time costs (to continue operating at a temporary venue) and still have no formal resolution.

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More to be caught in tax net on surging Sydney land values

More property investors will be caught in the property tax net with the resurgent Sydney property market pushing up residential land values at a double-digit pace in the wake of historically low interest rates and the revived NSW economy.
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Land values across the state rose 11.2 per cent in 2014, which was led by a strong 13.1 per cent rise in residential land values, according to data released on Friday by the NSW Valuer General.

Willoughby, Bankstown and Hornsby led the gains in residential land values across Sydney, with Mosman, Camden and Ryde witnessing the lowest rise in values among Sydney council areas.

The eastern suburbs regained the crown from the lower north shore as the area with the most expensive median land values in the state, with median residential land values in Woollahra, which takes in Double Bay, Point Piper and Vaucluse, reaching $1.4 million, eclipsing Mosman’s median of $1.39 million.

“The past 12 months has seen a significant increase in large parts of the market – particularly the middle ring,” said the NSW Valuer General,  Simon Gilkes.

“There were not the large increases at the high end of the market and in the outer areas, but rather the inner west and areas close to transport, such as Chatswood and the Hills district, partly due to the new rail link.”

Low interest rates has brought both owner occupiers and investors into the market, he said.

The values are based primarily on property sales data, with more than 43,000 sales assessed.

The year was market by a “ripple out effect” from gains in the inner ring of the city’s suburbs, he said.

Median land values in areas such as Leichhardt and Marrickville continued to rise strongly – up 17.4 per cent and 19.9 per cent respectively – but this was outpaced by gains a little further out such as Canterbury – up 21.4 per cent – and Bankstown (up 29.4 per cent).

The updated valuation data will have a direct effect in broadening the land tax net, where it is applicable, and is also used by councils when assessing rate variations, Mr Gilkes said. At the top end of the market, the rise in land values have been more restrained which is due in part to the already high level of prices in those areas.

“The increases were not as strong in the highly valued suburbs since fewer people may have been able to raise the money needed” to buy into these suburbs, Mr Gilkes said.

Slavko Romic, the principal of Elders Double Bay, said the new year has started where last year finished.

“It’s been strong since the start of the new year. Inquiries are running at peak levels, and we’re not alone with other agents reporting the same level of activity,” he said.

“There is not a lot of stock available, so over-demand and under-supply, along with low interest rates, is keeping interest high.”

A year ago, only Mosman and Woollahra had land values of more than $1 million. Now, they have been joined by Willoughby, Manly, Hunters Hill and Waverley, with North Sydney and Lane Cove just falling short of this figure.

The updated valuation data are used by about one third of councils each year when revising rates. This year, Blacktown, Liverpool, Ku-ring-gai, the Hills, Maitland and Leichhardt will use the updated data when setting rates.

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Moises Henriques happy to lead Sydney Sixers from the front in Big Bash League

In the aftermath of his team’s dramatic super-over loss to the Melbourne Stars at the MCG last Monday night, Sydney Sixers skipper Moises Henriques gave an insight into why he was being hailed as a natural-born leader when some of his players wanted to say “sorry” for the defeat.
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Both teams finished their 20 overs tied on 150 runs but the Stars, guided by James Faulkner and his blazing bat, ensured victory when he helped to blast 19 runs off his team’s super-over.

When some of his players attempted to apologise for a rash shot, a misfield or a poor delivery that may otherwise have changed the outcome, Henriques – who’d observed the secrets of good leadership from watching Brad Haddin, Stuart Clark, Simon Katich, Michael Clarke, Steve Smith and coach Trevor Bayliss – cut them short.

“I owed them just as much as a sorry,” he said. “Everyone in the team can look back and say ‘maybe if I’d done this I might’ve saved us a run’ but there was no point. I think it’s better we learn and move on to the next game.”

Henriques, a few weeks short of his 28th birthday, was identified as a rare talent when he was only 16 and Cricket NSW paid for a taxi to transport him to and from the SCG to train with the state squad.

While he developed into a Test player last year when he made his debut against India, his traits as a leader for NSW and the Sixers are making a mighty impression.

He guided NSW to its pre-Christmas Sheffield Shield match victory over Queensland, regarded by many as one of the most inspiring in the Blues’ history, because his players needed to overcome the despair of having played the game  when Phillip Hughes was struck by a bouncer and passed away two days later just weeks earlier.

The all-rounder took the initiative to change a match that appeared destined to end in a draw into an emotion-charged triumph after fast bowler Sean Abbott captured 6-14 to clinch victory by an innings and 80 runs.

“I don’t think it brought anything out of me,” Henriques said of the way he treated his players before and during the Queensland match. “I just did what I thought was best for the team and best for each and every individual in the team.

“I didn’t want to put pressure on anyone to play [because it was thought some players weren’t mentally up to it after the Hughes tragedy]. I just wanted to make sure everyone was comfortable with their own decision.

“Nic [Maddinson] is one of my closest friends and he opted not to play and, to be fair, Cricket NSW backed that and they made it easy for me to communicate to the players there was absolutely no pressure on them.

“The first three days were affected by rain, Queensland were hurt by a couple of injuries and by the fourth day the game seemed to floating away to a non-event. But when I batted I realised it wasn’t an easy wicket.

“There was a bit of reverse swing, the wicket was starting to play some tricks. James Hopes had just bowled 30-35 overs for Queensland, the venom was out of his bowling for obvious reasons.

“If they had’ve had a few more fit quicks we wouldn’t have reached the total we did – we led by 110 – but I said on the last day I’d be very disappointed if we don’t walk away with a win here.”

It was an inspired call and while history notes his players responded to it Henriques said his leadership –  which will be tested again on Sunday night when the Sixers play the Brisbane Heat at the Gabba – was something he was still refining.

“You need to stay on an even keel with your emotions,” he said of captaincy.  “When I feel my emotions are starting to go I quickly calm myself down and say ‘OK, let’s slow down and take a few deep breaths’. It’s important not to get too excited about the good times and not too down about the bad.

“We have an eclectic bunch of guys at the Sixers, we have scholars and guys at the other end of the scale. Yet, we all mix well and none are judgmental of the others because we accept each other for who we are.  Despite the personalities no one is judgmental, we accept everyone for their individuality and that’s important.

“I’d hope the boys would say I’m fairly relaxed. I don’t smile too much, I’ve never smiled much on the field, but off the field I’m happy, and I want the players to be happy. Trevor Bayliss and I want a happy and enjoyable environment … it’s the culture we want because happy cricketers are usually successful cricketers.”

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Cricket World Cup: Who our experts would pick for Australia

The 15-man squads our Fairfax Media writers would name for the upcoming World Cup.
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CHLOE SALTAU

George Bailey

Cameron Boyce

Michael Clarke

Pat Cummins

James Faulkner

Aaron Finch

Brad Haddin

Josh Hazlewood

Ryan Harris

Mitchell Johnson

Glenn Maxwell

Steve Smith

Mitchell Starc

David Warner

Shane Watson

GREG BAUM

George Bailey

Jackson Bird

Cameron Boyce

Pat Cummins

James Faulkner

Aaron Finch

Ryan Harris

Mitchell Johnson

Mitchell Marsh

Shaun Marsh

Craig Simmons

Steve Smith

Matthew Wade

David Warner

Shane Watson

JESSE HOGAN

George Bailey

Pat Cummins

Xavier Doherty

James Faulkner

Aaron Finch

Brad Haddin

Ryan Harris

Mitchell Johnson

Mitchell Marsh

Glenn Maxwell

Steve Smith

Mitchell Starc

David Warner

Shane Watson

Cameron White

DEAN JONES

George Bailey

Michael Clarke

Pat Cummins

James Faulkner

Aaron Finch

Brad Haddin

Ryan Harris

Mitchell Johnson

Nathan Lyon

Mitchell Marsh

Glenn Maxwell

Steve Smith

Mitchell Starc

David Warner

Shane Watson

CHRIS BARRETT

George Bailey

Pat Cummins

James Faulkner

Aaron Finch

Brad Haddin

Ryan Harris

Mitchell Johnson

Nathan Lyon

Shaun Marsh

Mitchell Marsh

Glenn Maxwell

Steve Smith

Mitchell Starc

David Warner

Shane Watson

MALCOLM KNOX

George Bailey

Cameron Boyce

Michael Clarke

James Faulkner

Aaron Finch

Brad Haddin

Ryan Harris

Josh Hazlewood

Mitchell Johnson

Mitchell Marsh

Glenn Maxwell

Steve Smith

Mitchell Starc

David Warner

Shane Watson

ANDREW WU

George Bailey

Michael Clarke

Pat Cummins

James Faulkner

Aaron Finch

Brad Haddin

Ryan Harris

Josh Hazlewood

Mitchell Johnson

Glenn Maxwell

Steve Smith

Mitchell Starc

David Warner

Shane Watson

Adam Zampa

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Iconic ice cream maker Dairy Bell to shut factory and stores

Inside Dairy Bell East Malvern: staff member Emma Bell makes a milkshake. Photo: Paul Jeffers Customers Laura Karklins and Oliver Francis enjoy what may be their last Dairy Bell milkshake. Photo: Paul Jeffers
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Lorraine and Graham Browne eat one last Dairy Bell ice cream. Photo: Paul Jeffers

It was a humble empire founded on summer days and sticky fingers.

But Dairy Bell will remain as only a memory for generations who grew up on the company’s ice cream after it announced an end to its 45 years of business.

The Melbourne company will stop production at its Malvern East and Sydney factories on February 27, with its five stores to then close whenever the ice cream runs out.

“There’s always a time to hold it and a time to fold it,” said owner Andre Razums, who co-founded the company in 1970.

Mr Razums said he was “very proud” of his business, which at one point had 20 stores across Australia.

“We’ve got a lot of satisfied customers and there are a lot of people who came to us as a child and now they’re mums themselves and they’re bringing their children in,” he said.

Tell us about your favourite memories of Dairy Bell ice creams in the comments below.

Despite the popularity, Mr Razums said it was not viable to continue churning out ice cream while paying high penalty wages and in the face of falling profits.

“We can’t sell $3 ice cream when the hand that scoops that bit of ice cream is getting paid $30 an hour,” he said.

On Saturday there was a steady stream of customers at Dairy Bells’ flagship store and factory in Malvern East, where the words “Australian Owned” are proudly printed on the building’s side.

Loyal customers Lorraine and Graham Browne first visited the store 36 years ago as a treat for their children and have been regulars ever since.

“We usually go into the casino on a Saturday, and on the way back out we usually stop in for an ice cream,” Mrs Browne said, while making short work of a double-scoop cone of mango and honeycomb.

The couple, both 69, are such fans they bought Mr Browne’s mother an ice cream cake from the shop for her 100th birthday recently.

“You can’t beat this ice cream – especially for the price,” Mr Browne said.

Another customer, Laura Karklins, was knocking back a “blue heaven” milkshake Saturday and was devastated to hear part of her childhood would soon be no more.

“Me and my mum came here after language classes every weekend for seven years,” the 22-year-old said.

“It’s really good ice cream and the milkshakes are frothy but not too filling … I’m quite sad now.”

Dairy Bell is fully solvent and all creditors would be paid when it closed, Mr Razums said.

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Cairns funeralpictures, photos

Cairns funeral | pictures, photos QUEENSLAND: Tributes laid at a temporary memorial shrine in a park next to where eight children that were killed in Cairns. Four boys and four girls were found allegedly stabbed to death in a house in Cairns on December 19, 2014. The bodies will be laid to rest together at Martyn Place Cemetery. Picture: Getty Images.
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QUEENSLAND: People arrive for the ”Keriba Omasker” memorial at the Cairns Convention Centre ahead of the funeral for eight children that were killed in Cairns on January 10, 2015 in Cairns, Australia. Four boys and four girls were found allegedly stabbed to death in a house in Cairns on December 19, 2014. The bodies will be laid to rest together at Martyn Place Cemetery. Picture: Getty Images.

QUEENSLAND: People arrive for the ”Keriba Omasker” memorial at the Cairns Convention Centre ahead of the funeral for eight children that were killed in Cairns on January 10, 2015 in Cairns, Australia. Four boys and four girls were found allegedly stabbed to death in a house in Cairns on December 19, 2014. The bodies will be laid to rest together at Martyn Place Cemetery. Picture: Getty Images.

QUEENSLAND: People arrive for the ”Keriba Omasker” memorial at the Cairns Convention Centre ahead of the funeral for eight children that were killed in Cairns on January 10, 2015 in Cairns, Australia. Picture: Getty Images.

QUEENSLAND: Tribute at Murray Street, Cairns near where eight children that were killed in Cairns on January 10, 2015 in Cairns, Australia. Four boys and four girls were found allegedly stabbed to death in a house in Cairns on December 19, 2014. The bodies will be laid to rest together at Martyn Place Cemetery. Picture: Getty Images.

QUEENSLAND: Tributes laid at a temporary memorial shrine in a park next to where eight children that were killed in Cairns on January 10, 2015 in Cairns, Australia. Four boys and four girls were found allegedly stabbed to death in a house in Cairns on December 19, 2014. The bodies will be laid to rest together at Martyn Place Cemetery. Picture: Getty Images.

QUEENSLAND: Murray Street where eight children were killed in Cairns on January 10, 2015 in Cairns, Australia. Four boys and four girls were found allegedly stabbed to death in a house in Cairns on December 19, 2014. The bodies will be laid to rest together at Martyn Place Cemetery. Picture: Getty Images.

QUEENSLAND: Tributes laid at a temporary memorial shrine in a park next to where eight children that were killed in Cairns. Four boys and four girls were found allegedly stabbed to death in a house in Cairns on December 19, 2014. The bodies will be laid to rest together at Martyn Place Cemetery. Picture: Getty Images.

QUEENSLAND: Cairns Cemetery where preparations for the funeral for eight children will be held that were killed in Cairns on January 10, 2015 in Cairns, Australia. Four boys and four girls were found allegedly stabbed to death in a house in Cairns on December 19, 2014. The bodies will be laid to rest together at Martyn Place Cemetery. Picture: Getty Images.

QUEENSLAND: Tribute at Murray Street, Cairns near where eight children that were killed in Cairns on January 10, 2015 in Cairns, Australia. Four boys and four girls were found allegedly stabbed to death in a house in Cairns on December 19, 2014. The bodies will be laid to rest together at Martyn Place Cemetery. Picture: Getty Images.

QUEENSLAND: People arrive for the ”Keriba Omasker” memorial at the Cairns Convention Centre ahead of the funeral for eight children that were killed in Cairns on January 10, 2015 in Cairns, Australia. Four boys and four girls were found allegedly stabbed to death in a house in Cairns on December 19, 2014. The bodies will be laid to rest together at Martyn Place Cemetery. Picture: Getty Images.

QUEENSLAND: People arrive for the ”Keriba Omasker” memorial at the Cairns Convention Centre ahead of the funeral for eight children that were killed in Cairns on January 10, 2015 in Cairns, Australia. Four boys and four girls were found allegedly stabbed to death in a house in Cairns on December 19, 2014. The bodies will be laid to rest together at Martyn Place Cemetery. Picture: Getty Images.

QUEENSLAND: People arrive for the ”Keriba Omasker” memorial at the Cairns Convention Centre ahead of the funeral for eight children that were killed in Cairns on January 10, 2015 in Cairns, Australia. Four boys and four girls were found allegedly stabbed to death in a house in Cairns on December 19, 2014. The bodies will be laid to rest together at Martyn Place Cemetery. Picture: Getty Images.

QUEENSLAND: People arrive for the ”Keriba Omasker” memorial at the Cairns Convention Centre ahead of the funeral for eight children that were killed in Cairns on January 10, 2015 in Cairns, Australia. Four boys and four girls were found allegedly stabbed to death in a house in Cairns on December 19, 2014. The bodies will be laid to rest together at Martyn Place Cemetery. Picture: Getty Imgaes.

TweetFacebookThousands of people have filed into the Cairns Convention Centre for a public memorial service for eight children found dead in their home in December.

Two words summed up the heavy weight on the hearts of mourners gatheredin the far north Queensland city: Keriba Omasker.

The Torres Strait Islander term means “our children” in the Erub dialect of the four girls and four boys who were found dead in the Murray Street, Manoora, home on December 19.

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Great White fear closes beaches- poll

Great White fear closes beaches- poll Authorities continue to seek out the shark near Newcastle’s beaches. Pic: Darren Pateman
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Lifeguards on the hunt for the Shark. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Lifeguards on the hunt for the Shark. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Lifeguards on the hunt for the Shark. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Beaches remain closed on Saturday after a Shark sighting. Picture: Marina Neill

Lifeguards on the hunt for the Shark. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Lifeguards on the hunt for the Shark. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Beaches remain closed on Saturday after a Shark sighting. Picture: Marina Neill

Beaches remain closed on Saturday after a Shark sighting. Picture: Marina Neill

Beaches remain closed on Saturday after a Shark sighting. Picture: Marina Neill

Beaches remain closed on Saturday after a Shark sighting. Picture: Marina Neill

Beaches remain closed on Saturday after a Shark sighting. Picture: Marina Neill

Beaches remain closed on Saturday after a Shark sighting. Picture: Marina Neill

Lifeguards on the hunt for the Shark. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Credit: Nicholas Tonks

TweetFacebookAlmost immediately, another shark was seen about 50metres from boardriders directly off Merewether suggesting a second animal was in the vicinity.

The shark alarm sounded and the beaches cleared, prompting some to head down for a look.

It included budding Merewether photographer Nic Tonks, 14, who took a spectacular frame of a fin near a jetski rider.

‘‘I was looking through the camera at the jetski and took a couple of shots, it wasn’t until I looked at them that I saw the fin,’’ Nic said.

Mr Woodcock said those on board the jetskis and rubber duckies followed the shark as it cruised towards the breakers and a few hundred metres further out.

When those on the beach used a two-way to ask what species of shark it was, the answer first came back: ‘‘A big one’’.

Mr Woodcock said he then watched as the shark came to the surface next to a jetski and rolled its massive frame as though it was almost eyeballing the visitor.

It appeared longer than the jetski and the sled it was towing.

‘‘It obviously wasn’t too worried about the boats,’’ Mr Woodcock said.

‘‘[One of the jetski riders] lifted his legs up, he has been doing this a long time so you knew it was a big shark.’’

Merewether, Dixon Park and Bar beaches remained closed all weekend while a sighting off Nobbys on Sunday closed that stretch of sand and Stockton for several hours.

NEWCASTLE beach has re-opened after the second shark sighting in two days, but most of the city’s beaches remained closed at 4pm.

Despite opening on Sunday morning, Nobbys and Stockton were forced to close again shortly after midday when a shark stretching more than four metres was spotted at Nobbys’ northern end.

It followed lifesaver patrols of the city’s coastline throughout the day after a sighting off Newcastle on Saturday shut down the city’s beaches.

Hey nippers families, Newcastle beaches still closed after yesterday’s shark sighting. #StayInBed

— Lee Upton (@lee_upton) January 10, 2015Lifeguards spotted a five-metre Great White around 1pm on Saturday and promptly pulled swimmers from the water.

The entire coastline was closed after asecond alarm, at Newcastle beach, sounded about 4.30pm.

Early reports indicated the shark may have had a pup with it.

UPDATE: Beaches from Bar Beach to Merewether will not reopen on Saturday, after a Great White Shark was spotted by lifeguards.

The shark alarm sounded around 1pm on Saturday, with beachgoers streaming from the water.

Lifeguards on a Jet Ski confirmed the sighting and made the decision to close all beaches in the area.

The shark is believed to be about fivemetres in length.

Lifeguards will continue to monitor the movements of the shark, and may be assisted by the Westpac Rescue Helicopter, if it is available.

Beaches will not reopen on Saturday and may remain closed for Sunday morning, if the Shark remains in the area.

Merewether Ocean Baths will remain open for those looking to hit the water.

DIXON PARK and Merewether Beach have been shut after a Great White Shark was spottedon Saturday afternoon.

Beachgoers came streaming out of the water, after theshark alarm sounded around 1pm, after lifeguards made the discovery.

Lifeguards are currently tracking the shark and monitoring its movements, andthe beaches will remain closed until further notice.

More to come.

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Man charged after Cardiff murder; Neighbourhood dispute ends in violent death

Neighbourhood dispute ends in violent death CRIME SCENE: A police officer leaves the cordoned off house where the alleged fatal beating took place. Pictures: Marina Neil
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CRIME SCENE: A police officer leaves the cordoned off house where the alleged fatal beating took place. Pictures: Marina Neil

CRIME SCENE: A police officer leaves the cordoned off house where the alleged fatal beating took place. Pictures: Marina Neil

CRIME SCENE: A police officer leaves the cordoned off house where the alleged fatal beating took place. Pictures: Marina Neil

CRIME SCENE: A police officer leaves the cordoned off house where the alleged fatal beating took place. Pictures: Marina Neil

CRIME SCENE: A police officer leaves the cordoned off house where the alleged fatal beating took place. Pictures: Marina Neil

TweetFacebookNewcastle Herald understands the driver told the alleged victim to lie down in the backseat as he rushed him to Maitland Hospital.

But the efforts were in vain and the man died a short time later in hospital.

Lake Macquarie detectives are investigating how the alleged altercation began, including whether alcohol was a factor.

Mr O’Brien was visiting his elderly mother and his alleged victim was in another house visiting his sister when an argument began between the pair about 5pm.

Police allege that Mr O’Brien entered the backyard of the victim’s sister before punching and kicking him to the face and body, before returning to his mother’s home.

The victim was quickly taken away and was on his way home when his condition worsened.

Police were called, a crime scene was established and Mr O’Brien was in police custody by about 10.20pm.

Forensic experts remained at both homes for most of Saturday as Mr O’Brien briefly faced Newcastle Bail Court.

He will appear in Newcastle Local Court on Wednesday.

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India hold on for a draw against fast-finishing Australians

Nathan Lyon took the only wicket of the opening session on day five. Photo: Daniel Munoz
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Nathan Lyon took the only wicket of the opening session on day five. Photo: Daniel Munoz

Nathan Lyon took the only wicket of the opening session on day five. Photo: Daniel Munoz

Live coverage: Day five

Australia’s weary bowlers toiled and nagged, but India’s emerging batsmen hung on.

“At no stage did we throw in the towel,” summarised India’s captain Virat Kohli after his team fought out a tense draw in the Sydney Test, which meant the Australians had to settle for a two-nil series victory in their own backyard.

Memories of Australia’s last-gasp victory over India at the same ground in 2008 hung in the air. Then, a peroxided Michael Clarke plucked three three wickets in an over with his part time spin, but history did not repeat.

Clarke was in a suit and working for Channel Nine while Steve Smith positioned fielders around the bat, with Nathan Lyon spinning from one end and Mitchell Starc gliding in from the other.

But Lyon could not repeat his match-winning heroics from the first Test and nor could the fast bowlers prise out the last three Indian wickets as Ajinkya Rahane and Bhuvneshwar Kumar batted for the last 12 overs to save the match.

Rahane has had his flighty moments in this series and made an adventurous century at the MCG but he soaked up the pressure in the dying overs here. A pull shot just evaded an outstretched Chris Rogers leg gully. He wafted at a bouncer from Starc before pulling his bat away. But the 26-year-old held his nerve.

India were just two wickets down at tea, needing an improbable 189 to win.

A mini-collapse in the last session dashed India’s hopes of the nation’s first victory on Australian soil since 2008, but the draw was at least some reward for an emerging side that has been led with ambition and adventure by Kohli, who was the key wicket on the last day of the series.

“The first intention was to go for the target but we didn’t get the kind of momentum we maintained in Adelaide because of the way the Australians were bowling, we were not able to keep up with the run rate,” Kohli said.

“The guys showed a lot of character to pull out a draw.

“When Vijay got set  got to a half-century and played a few strokes, that is when we started feeling it might be possible if we have wickets in hand in the last hour. Then when Vijay got out after tea I thought I would take five or six overs and then start pushing. I thought of cashing in, but I didn’t execute properly.”

While the Australians could not finish off India, young fast bowlers Starc and Josh Hazlewood both enhanced their reputations.

Starc went gone some way to proving himself as a Test spearhead in the absence of Mitchell Johnson, the man it is hoped he will one day replace.

He started the Sydney Test with questions swirling about his confidence, his aggression and his pace, but finished it high on all three of those things. He also claimed the wicket of India’s most dangerous batsman, Kohli.

Starc, who collected five wickets for the match in challenging conditions for fast bowlers, displayed express pace, late swing and a touch of mongrel that came out in his fist-pumping celebration to Murali Vijay in the first innings that earned him an official reprimand from the ICC.

It took fellow left-armer Johnson years to harness those qualities in the Test arena and in his absence Starc suggested he could eventually inherit Johnson’s mantle as Australia’s new ball destroyer.

Kohli and Vijay, the two batsmen who have frustrated Australia most on this tour, again led India’s resistance.

Hazlewood bowled with impeccable consistency, surprising the batsmen with the occasional bouncer, and should have had Vijay dismissed on 46, when an lbw appeal was turned down despite the ball being on track to crash into the stumps. The towering paceman broke the partnership soon after tea when Vijay tried to force the ball through the offside and was caught behind for 80.

While Kohli was at the crease, the tourists had some hope. Starc crushed that hope when he coaxed a loose drive from the captain, the edge snaffled by Shane Watson at first slip.

Smith had declared Australia’s second innings closed before play on day five, setting the tourists a target of 349, well beyond the highest successful run chase at the SCG, which is 288.

India finished at 7-252, and watched the Border-Gavaskar Trophy officially pass into Australian hands.

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Brisbane International 2015pictures, photos

Brisbane International 2015 | pictures, photos Maria Sharapova of Russia plays a forehand in her match against Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain. Picture: Getty Images.
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Sam Groth of Australia plays a backhand in his match against Milos Raonic of Canada. Picture: Getty Images.

Roger Federer of Switzerland meets John Millman of Australia at the net after Federer won their men’s singles match. Picture: REUTERS.

Bernard Tomic of Australia serves in his match against Kei Nishikori of Japan. Picture: Getty Images.

Ana Ivanovic of Serbia plays a backhand in her match against Varvara Lepchenko of the USA. Picture: Getty Images.

Roger Federer of Switzerland plays a backhand return to James Duckworth of Australia. Picture: REUTERS.

Sam Groth of Australia plays a backhand in his match against Milos Raonic of Canada. Picture: Getty Images.

Switzerland’s Roger Federer takes part in a practice session. Picture: AFP.

Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia hits a return against Jelena Jankovic Serbia. Picture: AFP.

Ajla Tomljanovic plays a backhand in her match against Jelena Jankovic of Serbia. Picture: Getty Images.

Samantha Stosur of Australia hits a return against Varvara Lepchenko of the US. Picture: AFP.

Samantha Stosur of Australia hits a return against Varvara Lepchenko of the US. Picture: AFP.

James Duckworth of Australia celebrates winning his match against Gilles Simon of France. Picture: Getty Images.

Gilles Simon of France serves against James Duckworth of Australia. Picture: AFP.

Thanasi Kokkinakis plays a forehand in his match against Julien Benneteau of France. Picture: Getty Images.

Thanasi Kokkinakis celebrates winning his match against Julien Benneteau of France. Picture: Getty Images.

Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia celebrates a point during his first round win over Julien Benneteau of France. Picture: REUTERS.

Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia signs autographs following his victory over Julien Benneteau of France. Picture: AFP.

Victoria Azarenka of Belarus serves in her match against Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic. Picture: Getty Images.

Bernard Tomic of Australia plays a forehand in his match against Sam Querrey of the USA. Picture: Getty Images.

Marinko Matosevic of Australia plays a backhand in his match against Steve Johnson of the USA. Picture: Getty Images.

Lleyton Hewitt of Australia plays a shot in his match against Sam Groth of Australia. Picture: Getty Images.

Lleyton Hewitt of Australia plays a bakhand in his match against Sam Groth of Australia. Picture: Getty Images.

Lleyton Hewitt of Australia walks off the court after losing his first round men’s singles match to compatriot Sam Groth. Picture: REUTERS.

Kei Nishikori of Japan stretches out to play a shot in his match against Steve Johnson of the USA. Picture: Getty Images.

Bernard Tomic of Australia in his match against Kei Nishikori of Japan. Picture: Getty Images.

Maria Sharapova of Russia celebrates her women’s singles quarter final win over Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain. Picture: REUTERS.

Maria Sharapova of Russia blows kisses to the crowd after defeating Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain. Picture: REUTERS.

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When Sharan’s happy-go-lucky husband became a monster

Sharan Nicholson-Rogers has a plea for the minister: “Don’t let any more families lose their husband, wife or parent by not making changes that you know will make a difference.” Picture: CHRISTOPHER CHANSOURCE: ILLAWARRA MERCURY
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Sharan Nicholson-Rogers watched her husband change from a happy-go-lucky police officer into an unpredictable man prone to violent and emotional outbursts.

The gentle bloke she loved grabbed hold of her one day and shoved his gun down her throat, telling her he couldn’t live any more because of what he was doing to their family.

Eighteen months later, Detective Sergeant Scott Andrew Nicholson took his own life.

That was 19 years ago.

Today Mrs Nicholson-Rogers is as determined as she was the day her husband died to bring about change.

She is calling for the establishment of a centre of excellence – a place where police officers can go for respite, support and treatment from mental health professionals.

“I know guys in the job right now who are crippled with PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder],” Mrs Nicholson-Rogers said.

“They’re still working, doing their best to stay in the job, but they need help.

“So many have gone through poor management and there is complete contempt for anyone who falls. They will kick you to the kerb.

“[Sufferers] need a place where they can go, feel safe, be honest about the fact they need help to cope and a place where they can get the best available support from experts in the field.”

Mrs Nicholson-Rogers sought help for her husband when she saw the signs he was losing control.

“He became this monster, he couldn’t help it, everything triggered him,” Mrs Nicholson-Rogers recalls.

“I’d find him curled up in the foetal position, crying and crying.

“One night we had a bunch of friends over, we cooked lamb on the Weber and I brought it in for him to cut up and he just lost it. He started smashing the kitchen up and screaming.”

Later he revealed the charred lamb reminded him of two children he’d seen burnt to death in a caravan.

Detective Sergeant Scott Andrew Nicholson with his family.

“The kids were the same ages as ours,” Mrs Nicholson-Rogers said.

She urged her husband to talk to his boss about his emotional well-being and asked him to contact police welfare.

“He said to me ‘Are you serious? They’ll say go to the pub and have a drink, get over it’.

“He didn’t drink much then but he soon learnt to so he wouldn’t be labelled a ‘sheila’.

“They get this sick sense of humour, that’s the way they get through it. Down at the pub or the bowlo for a debrief then the wives are left to pick up the mess at the end.”

Mrs Nicholson-Rogers and her two children have been to hell and back since her husband’s 1996 suicide.

It was only through counselling that Mrs Nicholson-Rogers, a health promotions officer with NSW Health, realised the true impact on her children.

“The day Scott had the gun down my throat, my seven-year-old son witnessed that. I didn’t know at the time. It’s impacted on them terribly. As they got older they realised the enormity of what had happened. It’s been a really rough road for us.”

Mrs Nicholson-Rogers holds a holiday snap of her young family including her late husband, Scott Andrew Nicholson. Picture: CHRISTOPHER CHAN

Scott spent 13 years in the job, with stints in Camden, Campbelltown and a one-man station in the country.

He died aged 37.

Mrs Nicholson-Rogers reached out for help when things got really bad.

“I contacted police welfare the day after he went off his head about the barbecue, I told them he wasn’t well. He had his gun taken off him [temporarily]. They suggested maybe he should stay home, play housewife more, take more holidays, go for walks at night, debrief with his mates, that’s it.

“He was suffering PTSD and he was told the best thing he could do is exercise.”

Then one night Detective Sergeant Nicholson came home and told his wife he had resigned. Six months later he was dead.

“We had been asking for help for a while, through his bosses. I tried senior management,” she said.

“At one point when he got violent with me I said I’d had enough and I would have him charged if something didn’t change.

“They said ‘Please don’t because we will have to take his gun off him’. I told them he needed help, he was a loose cannon, he will hurt someone.”

Mrs Nicholson-Rogers said suggestions he and other struggling officers were simply not right for the job was a cop-out.

“I hear the same thing today, young guys now being told maybe they’re not right for the job, maybe they should get out. Well no-one is right for a job where day in, day out, they deal with trauma. Layer on layer it consumes them and no-one can take that without the proper support.”

Mrs Nicholson-Rogers with her children.

Mrs Nicholson-Rogers, a nurse familiar with the trauma of frontline emergency, is one of several police wives willing to work with government and police officials to create the centre of excellence.

“We can give a family perspective to help them set up a place where police can go in the short term and stay if they need to and feel safe, where they are not going to feel compromised or spied on by insurance companies.

“We need change. The attitude of senior management has got to change.

“Right now, if you say you’ve got a problem, you’re not coping, the bosses think ‘Oh great there’s another one off sick. That means a man down, overtime, it’s the cost.”

Mrs Nicholson-Rogers and a group of police wives believe they have a solution and are urging NSW Police Minister Stuart Ayres to work with them.

“We need change. The attitude of senior management has got to change.”

“I’m one of the lucky ones who have healed to a degree and married again to a man who totally supports my fight for change,” she said.

“I would like to see him meet with us, it’s not about us canning him, it’s about working together collectively with all our experience as families, to pick our brains on what they can do to make a change. Hiding from it is not the answer.

“They can’t keep turning their back. There are more and more suicides and experienced cops are dropping out. They are losing an experienced workforce that can be real value.”

Mrs Nicholson-Rogers has a plea for the minister: “Don’t let any more families lose their husband, wife or parent by not making changes that you know will make a difference.

“Just take a minute or two of your time to listen to my children if you can’t talk to me, see the pain and grief in their eyes and I assure you it will change your mind and you will work to make positive changes.”

The NSW Police Minister was contacted by the Mercury but so far has not responded.

The NSW Police Force has provided details of the programs and initiatives already in place for preventing PTSD and supporting its officers.

For help and counselling: Lifeline 131114;Suicide Call Back Service 1300 65946

Related storiesAn addict broke her jaw. The force broke her spiritHow ex-cop’s harrowing story saved a lifeAt breaking point, no-one had her backWe can’t allow another suicide of a copWhyIllawarra cop is treated like an outcast​The day Steve’s pain flooded to the surfaceEditor’s note:PTSD in the police and other emergency services is an important issue that we believe merits debate in the community. While we encourage passionate and robust argument, we must ask respondents to stay on point. Comments that fail to do so, or which degenerate into personal abuse, may be edited or not published.

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Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack: Tony Abbott speaks to French president Francois Hollande

Tony Abbott and French President Francois Hollande, left, at the G20 Summit in Brisbane in 2014. Photo: Supplied Tony Abbott and French President Francois Hollande, left, at the G20 Summit in Brisbane in 2014. Photo: Supplied
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Tony Abbott and French President Francois Hollande, left, at the G20 Summit in Brisbane in 2014. Photo: Supplied

Live: Siege crisis reaches bloody endFemale terror suspect ‘still at large’Terrorists met in suburban Paris park

Prime Minister Tony Abbott spoke with French president Francois Hollande just hours before the massive manhunt for the Charlie Hebdo terrorists ended in a hail of gun fire.

Mr Abbott spoke on the phone to Mr Hollande on Friday night to reiterate the bonds of “solidarity, friendship and sympathy” between the two nations.

The call took place shortly before the end of a two-day hunt for the men who had attacked the offices of satirical French weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 10 journalists and two police officers.

At the time, French police and special forces were engaged in two sieges, one at Dammartin where the Kouachi brothers were holed up and another at a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris.

A statement released by the Prime Minister’s office said the two national leaders had discussed the evolving nature of the international terrorist threat and the fact it was a common problem faced by all.

Members of the al-Qaeda branch in Yemen have said the group directed the attack.

Mr Abbott went on to note terrorism was inspired by a horrific ideology, praised Mr Hollande’s management of the crisis and reiterated Australia was grieving deeply with the families of the victims of the Paris attack.

Mr Hollande became the first French president to visit Australia when he arrived for the two-day summit for the G20 meeting in Brisbane in November.

US President Barack Obama has also spoken in support of France after the bloody end to hostage sieges in Paris.

“I want the people of France to know that the United States stands with you today, stands with you tomorrow,” Obama said at a speaking engagement in Tennessee, describing France as America’s “oldest ally.”

“The moment that the outrageous attack took place, we directed all of our law enforcement and counter-intelligence operations to provide whatever support that our ally needs in confronting this challenge,” Mr Obama said.

“We’re hopeful the immediate threat is now resolved. The French government continues to face the threat of terrorism and has to remain vigilant. The situation is fluid.”

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