Turbulent times in our patch
IT WAS the year in which people power reigned supreme on the Northern Rivers; when thousands of local residents staged a long-term protest at Bentley against gas company Metgasco plans to drill an exploratory 2km deep well on private property. The state government was forced to suspend the company's licence amid fears of injuries and massive political repercussions.
NO OTHER event this year was responsible for such a string of shocking, heart-wrenching stories as the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse.
The ongoing Royal Commission heard from witnesses to the abuse by two former teachers at Lismore's St Joseph's primary school (now St Carthage's Primary School, part of Trinity Catholic College), Brother Gregory Sutton and former St Joseph's principal, Brother John "Kostka" Chute.
Meanwhile, chronic abuse at the Anglican Diocese of Grafton's North Coast Children's Home in the 1960s and 70s was described by victims, with the Commission findings the local diocese had tried to evade responsibility, was insensitive and failed to follow its own policies.
Fatal road crashes
IT WAS a tragic year on Northern Rivers roads with 25 killed on our roads - one of the worst years on record and the worst region in the state for fatal car crashes.
Tanilla's killer sentenced
WARREN Ross, who bashed two-year-old Tanilla Warrick-Deaves to death in 2011 after months of sustained abuse, was sentenced in May to 40 years for the murder of the innocent toddler. After the sentencing, Tanilla's father, Ballina man Adrian Warrick, called for a Royal Commission into the NSW Department of Community Services. A DoCS internal review had previously found that more than 100 reports had been made against the home where she was killed and at least 30 of those reports specifically detailed concerns for Tanilla's welfare.
Nursing home murders
THE murder of two residents of St Andrews Nursing Home in Ballina in May and the charging in July of former nurse Megan Jean Haines sent shockwaves through the local community.
Police will allege that Ms Haines administered the fatal dose of insulin because the two victims had complained about her, with the matter still before the courts.
Police target ice dealers
CROSS border bikie gangs dealing the death drug ice were aggressively targeted by local police this year, culminating in a massive end-of-year operation to bring down the alleged "Ballina chapter" of the Rebels.
When the smoke cleared after an astonishing 14 dawn raids, police claimed to have successfully broken the group apart with the arrest of its president, vice-president, and sergeant-at-arms.
Craig Field trial
A FORMER NRL star, an alcohol and anger-fuelled night, a king hit death, and a murder trial: The trial of former Rabbitohs captain Craig Field had all the elements of a dramatic, if tragic piece of page-turning Aussie pulp fiction.
While the jury found Field not guilty of murder, he was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 10 years behind bars.
Fatal shark attack
WHEN Rosebank resident Paul Wilcox was attacked and killed by a great white shark off Byron Bay's Main Beach, it was the first shark attack death in more than 20 years in Byron Bay, and the first on record that happened in the Bay itself, and less than 30m from shore.
THE fire which broke out in Nimbin in August left a gaping hole both in the town's main street and the counter-cultural town's heart. The iconic Rainbow Cafe and the Nimbin Museum were both sadly destroyed in the blaze, which started at the back of the cafe and quickly spread to the adjacent museum and shops.
TO FLUORIDATE or not was this year's flashpoint between alternative health views on the North Coast versus mainstream medical and government opinion. Lismore City Council at first decided not to proceed with fluoridation, before later reversing its decision. The issue came to a dramatic head in Lismore when NSW chief medical officer Dr Kerry Chant was harassed by an anti-fluoride campaigner outside the council chambers after speaking in support of fluoridation alongside local doctors. By year's end, Byron Shire Council was the only remaining anti-fluoride council.
Deaths at sea
IT WAS a year of dramatic search and rescue missions at sea with some ending in tragedy. In July Irish backpacker Stuart Butler went missing off Cape Byron after paddling out in heavy seas off Tallow Beach with two mates. All three became caught in a rip. A major search operation failed to find any trace of Mr Butler's body. Another tragic incident unfolded in September when a search for missing professional South Lismore fisherman off Evans Head was called off 30 hours after he was reported missing. In another rescue a few days later, two lost fishermen were located alive after they had clung to an esky for two hours.
THE 40-PLUS degree heatwave which swept through Casino in mid-November decimated the flying fox colony on the banks of the Richmond River, killing up to 5000 bats. The heroic response by WIRES volunteers helped save many though, with injured babies were sent all over Australia for intensive care.
Koalas had a horror year, with a record number killed on our roads. By November, 59 animals had been killed in incidents with cars.
Byron Bay Cookies
A RACIST online campaign against the Byron Bay Cookie Company over the halal certification of their Anzac biscuits erupted in October, with police ultimately called in to investigate. The company was targeted by the Boycott Halal in Australia group, which baselessly claims that money raised from halal certification was used to fund Islamist terrorism.