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

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.



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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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




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


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

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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

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.

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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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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Health leader brings experience, commitment to role of facilitating change

It’s really heartening when you discover health professionals who are passionate about their career. Jacqui Allen’s career as a nurse spans over three decades, yet her passion for nursing remains ubiquitous in her latest role as a redesign facilitator at Eastern Health.
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“I’m so passionate about leadership, improving patient care and improving systems for staff to work within,” says Allen. “I think any opportunity you have to broaden your knowledge or experience, why not lap it up?” Allen’s aptitude for change and development has acted as a guiding principle. Moving through the ranks from general nurse to educator to nurse manager, she’s continually embraced new challenges and thrived on opportunities to improve workplace practices. In her role as nurse manager at Box Hill Hospital, she successfully transformed a staffing shortage into a situation where people were drawn to the environment.

The quote, “leadership drives culture and culture drives strategy and improvement” is so true,” says Allen. “When I left this role, there were people waiting for a position and that was achieved simply by improving the work culture.” The skills and knowledge Allen has acquired from nursing have provided the quintessential framework for this role, the objective being to facilitate improved performance and quality patient care across Eastern Health.

“It’s about increasing the capability of staff across the whole system, so that they then have the knowledge and skills to do the improvement work themselves,” says Allen. “It’s really a coaching and support role.” Improvement methodology informs much of Allen’s work. The methodology is used to structure improvement work by identifying the core problem, isolating issues and wastes in the system, and formulating an ideal state and process for accomplishing better outcomes.

“You need to have a really clear problem statement upfront,” says Allen. “And you can’t do improvement work without measuring it to know if you’ve made a difference. This is critical.” Allen was drawn to her role as a redesign facilitator to expand upon an already impressive resume and to explore new challenges. Working across more than sixty different wards and programs, she’s grateful to have gleaned a broader perspective of health outside of the emergency department where she’s spent much of her career.

One of the larger programs of work that Allen has been involved in is the productive ward program, which focuses on improving the direct nursing care time for patients. The wards are highly organised with patient journey boards that snapshot every patient’s journey from admission through to discharge. There are also performance boards, visible to both staff and patients, which contain each ward’s performance data. The redesign team is also involved in leadership walk-rounds to ascertain what’s working for staff and where support might be needed.

“As a result, nursing teams have improved the quality of patient care and patients’ overall experience of care”, says Allen.

Allen acknowledges that without the input of key stakeholders the improvement work couldn’t be achieved and sees firsthand how beneficial the support and coaching is for staff.

Allen never planned for her career to take this pathway but revels in the opportunities serendipity has offered.

“What I find really rewarding is that I can influence at both a strategic and an operational level,” says Allen.. “I love to learn and develop, and in redesign work you can always do that.”

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Week in picturesphotos

Week in pictures | photos ORANGE: Orange Mountain Wines co-owner Terry Dolle is expecting to start picking grapes earlier this year following plenty of rain and warmer-than-average temperatures. Picture: STEVE GOSCH.
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ORANGE: Rohanne Tiefel with her twins Dominic and Lucas who were born at Orange Health Service last month. Picture: STEVE GOSCH.

PARKES: Jacques Labuschagne, Parkes Shire Mayor Ken Keith, Bridgette Johnston and Angus Whyllie disembark from yesterday’s Elvis Express.

PORT LINCOLN: Eight ball player Dylan Vonderwall has been selected to represent South Australia in the junior eight ball national championships and will compete in the Gold Coast from January 11 to 14. Picture: HARRY FISH.

TASMANIA: Members of the Burnie Highland Pipe Band play at Music Among the Tombstones, a unique musical event at the Penguin General Cemetery. Picture: STUART WILSON.

WIMMERA COPPING: Horsham Rural City Counil parks and gardens worker Brodie Mines cools off while watering plants in Horsham Botanic Gardens. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

WIMMERA: Matt Adlington inspects burnt banksias on his Mt Talbot farm as fire rages behind. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

WIMMERA: NSW crews from the Albury area arrive to fight Little Desert fire late on Saturday. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER.

WIMMERA: The Mt Talbot fire on Wednesday, as seen from Toolondo. Pictures: PAUL CARRACHER.

BATHURST: Bathurst Woodies’ John McMahon said the group is cashed up thanks to grants which will allow the club to expand its premises in Dorman Place. Picture: BRIAN WOOD.

BATHURST: Tamsyn McCabe had a ball at Bathurst PCYC’s school holiday activity workshops yesterday while receiving instruction from Bathurst Fire and Rescue NSW senior firefighter Peter Worrad. Picture: CHRIS SEABROOK.

CARRIETON: James Fels bit the dust, was swept off his feet and thrown into the dirt again in the Second Division Bull Ride at Carrieton Rodeo. He picked himself up and walked away. Picture: CHELSEA ASHMEADE.

CESSNOCK: Japanese football star Keisuke Honda holds Ally the Wombat from Hunter Valley Zoo at the Samurai Blue’s farewell function in Cessnock on Thursday. Picture: KRYSTAL SELLARS.

CESSNOCK: Japanese football star Keisuke Honda holds Ally the Wombat from Hunter Valley Zoo at the Samurai Blue’s farewell function in Cessnock on Thursday. Picture: KRYSTAL SELLARS.

CESSNOCK: The Japanese national football team, the Samurai Blue, contested a pre-Asian Cup friendly against Auckland City FC at Cessnock Sportsground on January 4. Picture: KRYSTAL SELLARS.

CLARE: Enjoying the school holidays and warm summer days are Molly McMurray, Nikita Morgan, Alice McMurray, Jazmine Liddy and Rosie McMurray at The Valleys Lifestyle Centre, watched by pool lifeguard Carl Whitehead.

DUBBO: A car suspended on a guy wire after a car crash on Thursday morning. Picture: HANNAH SOOLE.

DUBBO: Quest property manager Steve Hornby at Wylde Fire Indian Restaurant, which has been left empty and abandoned by owners. Picture: HANNAH SOOL.

TASMANIA: Tankers from Rubicon, Port Sorell and Wesley Vale fighting the fire with assistance from a helicopter on Browns Creek Road. Picture: JASON HOLLISTER.

LAKE MACQUARIE: Australia day Citizen of the Year nominee Grace McLean. Picture: GEORGIA OSLAND.

LAKE MACQUARIE: BMX at the Lake Macquarie BMX Track.

LAKE MACQUARIE: Joseph Powell of the US sailing at Belmont. Picture: DARREN PATEMAN.

LITHGOW: Motorists were proceeding with caution through flash flooding in western Main Street.

TASMANIA: Devonport Cup runner Second Dozen and trainer Adam Trinder, of Spreyton, are all smiles ahead of the big race. Picture: MEG WINDRAM.

NEWCASTLE: Tamara Gazzard, Lucy Shepherd and Sarah Coffee ready for the Paper Cut’s latest free interactive performance.

NEWCASTLE: Chris Plain, Sarah Morrison and Jodie Plain at Uluru with The Star. Picture: DEANO MORRISON.

NEWCASTLE: Nobbys Surf Life Saving Club Ducks 4 Dollars Breanna Blick of Broadmeadow, and Kylie Rolston of Stockton. Picture: MARK CONNORS.


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Asian Cup match between Australian Socceroos and Kuwaitpictures, photos

Asian Cup 2015 | pictures, photos MELBOURNE: Ali Hussain Fadhel of Kuwait celebrates after he scored the opening goal during the match. Picture: Getty Images.
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MELBOURNE: Tim Cahill of Australia celebrates after scoring a goal during the 2015 Asian Cup match between the Australian Socceroos and Kuwait at AAMI Park. Picture: Getty Images.

MELBOURNE: Ivan Franjic of Australia heads the ball over the top of Sultan Alenezi of Kuwait. Picture: Getty Images.

MELBOURNE: Tim Cahill of Australia celebrates scoring his first goal in the first half. Picture: Getty Images.

MELBOURNE: Massimo Luongo of Australia celebrates after scoring a goal. Picture: Getty Images.

MELBOURNE: Australia’s Massimo Luongo (right) is congratulated by teammates Robbie Kruse (centre) and Tim Cahill (right) after scoring against Kuwait. Picture: Getty Images.

MELBOURNE: Massimo Luongo of Australia is congratulated by Tim Cahill after scoring a goal. Picture: Getty Images.

MELBOURNE: Massimo Luongo of the Socceroos is congratulated by Tim Cahill and his teammates after scoring a goal. Picture: Getty Images.

MELBOURNE: Massimo Luongo of Australia heads the ball through for a goal. Picture: Getty Images.

MELBOURNE: Ali Hussain Fadhel of Kuwait beats Tim Cahill (right) and goalkeeper Mathew Ryan of the Socceroos to score the first goal during the match. Picture: Getty Images.

MELBOURNE: Mile Jedinak of the Socceroos is congratulated by his teammates after scoring a goal. Picture: Getty Images.

MELBOURNE: Mile Jedinak of Australia celebrates after he scored a penalty. Picture: Getty Images.

MELBOURNE: Kuwait’s Amer Almatoug Alfadhel fights for the ball against Australia’s James Troisi (left) and Izaz Behich (right) during their Asian Cup Group A soccer match Picture: REUTERS.

MELBOURNE: Massimo Luongo of the Socceroos celebrates after scoring a goal. Picture: Getty Images.

MELBOURNE: James Troisi of the Socceroos celebrates after scoring a goal. Picture: Getty Images.

MELBOURNE: Australian coach Ange Postecoglou celebrates after Australia defeated Kuwait. Picture: Getty Images.

MELBOURNE: Ali Hussain Fadhel of Kuwait celebrates with his teammates after scoring the first goal. Picture: Getty Images.

MELBOURNE: Ali Hussain Fadhel of Kuwait celebrates with his teammates after scoring the first goal during the 2015 Asian Cup match between the Australian Socceroos and Kuwait. Picture: Getty Images.


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Shark feeds on whale off South Coast beach: Video

SOURCE:Illawarra Mercury
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RELATED CONTENT:Shark sighting closes Warilla beach

Shark attack on beached whale closes Broulee Beach: PHOTOS/VIDEO

Diver dodges sharks to rope whale

Rare footage has been captured of a shark feeding off a dead whale just metres from a popular South Coast holiday beach.

Sharks had been circling South Broulee and three neighbouring beaches after a humpback whale died near the coast this week.

The whale drew sharks, which in turn drew hundreds of onlookers who gathered on the rocks around the beach to catch a glimpse of some of the ocean’s apex predators in action.

Michael James captured footage of one tearing into the whale by attaching his waterproof Go-Pro camera to a Go-Pro rod and submerging it next to a bobbing shark tail.

The South Broulee sighting is just one of several in NSW this summer.

Chris Neff, a shark management policy researcher and lecturer at the University of Sydney, said it was unlikely more sharks were about and instead attributed growing concerns to recent sightings in Sydney, which meant more attention was being paid to shark incidents.

Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach was closed twice this week and three times in November after sightings of sharks several metres long.

In December, a fishermanfilmed a 2.5-metre great white shark in Lake Macquarienear Newcastle.

On Thursday, Wollongong lifeguards spotted three mature hammerhead sharks off the coast near the Wollongong Golf Club, just metres from the popular surf beach.

Surfing instructor Nick Squires was teaching a group of children including his own eight-year-old son to surf when he saw the shark doing laps of the beach.

“I had just pushed my son on to a wave, and probably about three metres away from me on the inside of me, it was at least seven foot, a little shark just cruised past me,” Mr Squires told ABC Radio.

“I yelled out to the kids and, as soon as it sensed I’d seen it, it went really fast out to sea. If it was there to be sinister it had every opportunity to be.”

Similar sharks were also spotted this week around Shellharbour, near Warilla Beach and the Windang-Port Kembla bight.

Dr Neff said it was important to keep in mind that most interactions between humans and sharks did not result in a shark attack, and that most shark attacks were not fatal.

He recommended anyone who saw a shark while swimming should maintain eye contact while trying to get back to shore as quickly as possible.

“Sharks are opportunistic biters so you don’t want to do anything that gives them the opportunity, like turn around and swim away,” Dr Neff said. “You want to keep eye contact and let it know you’ve seen it.”

He said it would take less than a week for swimmers to be back at beaches even after an attack.

“In 2009, Sydney’s shark summer, even with a bite at Bondi, beach attendance was up 23 per cent on the year before.”

South Broulee and neighbouring beaches were expected to reopen at 9am Saturday.

SOURCE: Illawarra Mercury

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Charlie Hebdo terrorist crisis comes to dramatic climax as special forces kill gunmen in Dammartin and Porte de Vincennes

Live coverage of the terrorist attacks’It’s a war!’: bloody end to terror crisisAl-Qaeda directed Paris attackFrance terror attack timeline
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Dammartin-en-Goele, France: Three gunmen and four hostages are dead after the Charlie Hebdo terrorist crisis came to a dramatic climax on Friday, with simultaneous special forces raids ending two sieges amid explosions and sustained gunfire.

The men believed to have carried out the sieges were killed by police, including the Kouachi brothers behind Wednesday’s Hebdo massacre, and a man believed to be their close friend, Amedy Coulibaly, who shot dead four hostages at a kosher supermarket in Paris.

Hayat Boumeddiene, 26, Coulibaly’s girlfriend, took part in the grocery store siege in east Paris but escaped and is still at large, the BBC reports.

Coulibaly and Boumeddiene are suspects in the killing of a policewoman earlier this week, which authorities had denied was linked to the Hebdo killings.

Barely 48 hours after the Charlie Hebdo massacre Paris had faced two hostage sieges involving Islamist terrorists.

The Kouachi brothers were pinned down for most of Friday by police at a family-run printing business in the small town of Dammartin-en-Goele 40km north of the French capital – after reportedly taking a hostage on their way into the building.

Then around lunchtime Coulibaly, an associate of the Kouachis, attacked the  kosher store in Paris’ inner east wielding an assault rifle, and taking up six hostages including a young child.

Four hostages were killed reportedly shot dead by Coulibaly before police ended the siege.

The four people were “likely” killed by the gunman at the start of the hostage-taking, the prosecutor leading the investigation said.

Pointing to the “state of the bodies” and Coulibaly’s own remarks in an French television interview from the scene, prosecutor Francois Molinssaid it seemed “no hostage was killed during the assault” by police that ended the siege.

A member of Al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch has said the terror group directed the Hebdo massacre.

The Dammartin raid

At sunset, about 5pm, explosions and shots rang out over the fields around Dammartin.

Fairfax was told that there was a loud detonation from the building then a series of 30-40 gunshots, followed by another big explosions, a flash of light and smoke.

An army helicopter flew in and dropped special forces at the building, and there were small flashes of light visible on the building’s roof – either small arms fire or torches.

A few minutes later there was another detonation, more flashes – and then it was over, within a minute, with army, police and special forces moving around the building without apparent urgency.

According to early reports, the Kouachi brothers died in the attack and the hostage was rescued alive.

The Dammartin siege

Earlier, on Friday morning, Said and Cherif Kouachi had reportedly hijacked a woman’s car in a town to Paris’ north-east, and she alerted police.

Police chased the car down a motorway towards the capital, until it reached a roadblock, where gunfire was exchanged.

The men then left the motorway and turned onto an industrial estate on the edge of the small town of Dammartin-en-Goele.

They stopped at a small family printing business and according to several reports took one of the employees hostage.

However, one TV station reported that the Kouachi brothers didn’t have a hostage, but that the employee hid inside a cardboard box and communicating with police.

Other reports said that the employee was a hostage first before managing to escape and then hide.

The details are yet to be confirmed with police.

At 9.25am three helicopters including a large army helicopters hovered motionless over the town.

Armed and flack-jacketed police blocked all access to the town, waving vehicles away from access roads off the adjacent highway.

Fairfax was warned by one officer not to approach the town.

“It is very dangerous here,” we were told.   Post by Farid Bara.

The small town of Dammartin-en-Geoele, population 8500, is set among picturesque green fields.

A string of emergency vehicles sped through the roadblock into the town, including an ambulance and convoys of police.

An army tank was also spotted on the road leading to the town, which is only a few kilometres from Charles de Gaulle airport.

Flights into the airport were restricted for fear the men might be carrying weapons capable of hitting low-flying aircraft.

Police told locals to close their blinds and stay away from windows.

According to one media report a police negotiator had made contact with the gunmen and they expressed a desire for martyrdom.

Deputy mayor Thierry de Chevalier said there were more than 1000 students in three schools in the town, who were being kept in their classrooms until they could be evacuated to safety.

He said the printing plant where the hostage had been taken was a small family business, whose employees included the company director, his wife and adult child.

The Porte de Vincennes siege

Meanwhile, as the Dammartin siege developed, Coulibaly, 32, armed with two guns took hostages at a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris after a shootout.

He was armed with an automatic weapon, one eyewitness said. “He immediately went into the supermarket and began shooting,”

Four hostages were killed.

Authorities told local residents to stay indoors and police went from shop to shop telling them to close their shutters.

The attacker reportedly told police “you know who I am”.

Police had named him as a suspect in the killing of a policewoman in the south of Paris on Thursday.

They also named his accomplice as Hayat Boumeddiene, 26.

Coulibaly was said to be a “close friend” of the Kouachi brothers.

There are reports he made phone calls to friend during the siege to urge them to carry out further attacks.

He was reportedly, like Cherif Kouachi, a member of the so-called Buttes Chaumont network, based in a northern Paris neighbourhood: petty criminals, usually Muslim, who had been radicalised by Islamic preachers to recruit jihadists and fight against US forces in Iraq. The group regularly met in parks in Paris.

The Porte de Vincennes raid

At sunset, at the same time as the action in Dammartin,  explosions were heard at this site of the Porte de Vincennes siege.

Police raided the building.

AFP was reporting that the raid left five dead, including the gunman.

Two police were also reportedly injured.

President Hollande is expected to address the nation at 8pm, local time.

More to come

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