Our best stories, best photos: YEAR IN REVIEW

JANUARY

IT was a dramatic start to 2017 when a police chase ended in the Richmond River after a man pointed a shot gun at the boys in blue on the first day of the year.

The New Year also welcomed little Kody Piper into the world as the Northern Rivers first baby for 2017.

Lyndell, Torah, and Simon Piper welcome Kody into the world after he was born on New Years Day at the Lismore Base Hospital.
Lyndell, Torah, and Simon Piper welcome Kody into the world after he was born on New Years Day at the Lismore Base Hospital. Marc Stapelberg

It was also noted North Coast waters were responsible for a third of drownings in NSW over the Christmas and New Year period. Calls went out for people to be extra cautious after deaths at Coraki, Wooli Beach, Belongil Beach and Evans Head.

We had plenty of readers sending in their photos for our 'I am Summer' competition.

Meanwhile, horse owners were warned to be vigilant for signs of Hendra after a gelding died at Casino.

We reported on the tragic death of rising ballet star 19-year-old Cooper Cridland of Alstonville, who died from fatal injuries in a swimming pool accident in Fiji.

Former North Coast local, Cooper Cridland.
Former North Coast ballet danceer, Cooper Cridland. ERIK SAWAYA

January was the month where a housing affordability survey confirmed what first home buyers already knew, that the Lismore housing market was getting further out of reach. In the survey Lismore was ranked 38th most affordable out of 54 housing markets in Australia.

It was also the month we reported on the tragic death of airpark visionary Peter Lynch and met Coraki's Paige Humphreys who was desperately in need of life-saving surgery.

 

FEBRUARY

THIS month saw the passing of Ffloyd Laurie, a victim of asbestos poisoning from the James Hardie Baryulgil mine where his father and uncles worked and he and his siblings played.

It is also the month when we reported on the spiralling number of jobs the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter attended - more than a mission a day - over the Summer period, from a missing swimmer to a fatal motorbike crash, a man who fell from a roof and much more.

The opening of the new helibase for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service in South Lismore near the Lismore Airport was attended by a large crowd of supporters and dignitaries.
LIFE SAVERS: The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter was tasked to more than a mission a day in January. Marc Stapelberg

In Byron Bay 12,000 revellers saw the Cat Empire and Xavier Rudd at Red Devil Park.

Road workers were hot under the collar over the risks they took working in record-breaking temperatures, bushfires broke out at Broken Head and Lennox Head, and bats fell out of the trees in their thousands at Casino.

Fire crews discussing black outs on the fire scene north of Lennox Head.
HOT MONTH: Fire crews discussing black outs on the fire scene north of Lennox Head. Alison Paterson

Lismore mayor Isaac Smith defended his town when the ABC's TV program Ice Wars painted the city in a negative light, saying the ice issue was a national issue, not just Lismore's.

Police hit the jackpot when they uncovered 70 weapons from a bikie gang in two Lismore homes, including star pickets, knives and machetes.

Gregory Homeming became Lismore's sixth Catholic Bishop, and Coraki tradies built a roof in memory of popular local lad Cameron Steel, who died after jumping off the East Coraki Bridge.

 

MARCH

STUDENT brawls at Kyogle High School kick-started the month's news, followed closely by the case of a woman in Dyraaba who was attacked by wild dogs in her yard while trying to rescue her dog from them.

Bundjalung elder Aunty Bertha Kapeen was farewelled by 1000 mourners who attended her funeral at Ballina.

Also in the seaside town, Byron-Ballina Gateway Airport unveiled its $5.4million expansion plans.

The State Government was on a winner with its shark surveillance program, which included choppers and drones that had been guarding the coastal waters off the North Coast throughout the summer period.

A $1.4million boost for youth mental health support was welcome news for Lismore Headspace.

Making international news was Byron mum Sara Connor, who faced four years in a Bali jail over her part in the death of a Balinese policeman.

And the skies opened up and the rain just didn't stop.

INUNDATION: Flooding in the Lismore CBD early Friday morning,
INUNDATION: Flooding in the Lismore CBD early Friday morning, March 31. Hamish Broome

Mid-March saw rescues by SES volunteers of drivers, including a young family and another person who had to swim to safety, who learnt not to drive through floodwaters the hard way.

LISMORE FLOODING: Road closed, Wyrallah Road, East Lismore, due to flooding
WET MONTH: The Northern Rivers copped huge rainfall during March, especially when ex-tropical cyclone Debbie struck. Marc Stapelberg

Just as everyone was drying out, ex-tropical cyclone Debbie made an appearance. In the early hours of March 31, Lismore's levee was breached and the city flooded.

 

APRIL

EARLY in the month the Lismore flood dominated local, national and international news. Among the many stories that made headlines was one about Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who while visiting the region refused to eat a sausage sanger.

One of the most tragic stories, however, to come out of the disaster was the drowning of Stephanie King of Bilambil, along with her son Jacob Kabealo, 7, and daughter Ella-Jane Kabealo, 11, when their car was washed into the Tweed River.

Stephanie King and her children, Ella-Jane Kabealo, Chloe Kabealo, and Jacob Kabealo.
TRAGEDY: Bilambil mum Stephanie King and her children, Ella-Jane Kabealo, Chloe Kabealo and Jacob Kabealo. Mrs King, Ella-Jane and Jacob drowned when their car was washed into the Tweed River. Facebook

The Northern Rivers community got behind home owners and businesses that were flood-affected, not just by helping with the clean up but also donating money to get people back on their feet.

And while everyone waited for the Category C funding from the Federal Government, the Lismore Helping Hands Facebook page was born, networking those who were in need with those who could help. The Lismore railway station was transformed into a volunteer hub to support the recovery.

Emergency Service rescue a man from the centre of town after heavy flooding in town.
MAKING HEADLINES: Emergency services were hard at work in April, rescuing people from floodwaters across the Northern Rivers. Marc Stapelberg

As life began to return to normal, Bluesfest went ahead in Byron Bay with Santana, Patti Smith, Buddy Guy and Madness as some of the headline acts.

OVATION: Patti Smith conjuring the magic of her seminal album
MUSIC NEWS: American singer-songwriter, poet and visual artist Patti Smith performing at Bluesfest. Jeff Dawson

The case of two men accused of committing acts of animal cruelty at a Nimbin permaculture farm continued.

Ten chickens were killed and a pig had been badly assaulted.

 

MAY

MAY might have been drier but there was still plenty going on starting with a drug bust at Ballina airport, which saw a couple caught with $90k of methamphetamines on them.

The Lismore Lego burglar of 2012 and 2014 struck again, but this time in Young. Police confirmed the most recent plastic block thief may be the same person.

A month after the Lismore flood, and many businesses still hadn't opened. We had listed businesses who had told us their re-opening dates and those who had no date set at the time.

A spike in cases of whooping cough had the North Coast Public Health Unit pushing parents to vaccinate their children immediately.

It was a case of triumph over tragedy when it was announced the Southern Cross LADS Driver Education Facility construction had begun. The facility was born out of tragedy, when the lives of four young men were cut short as a result of a motor vehicle crash at Broken Head in October 2006.

Casino had a hostage situation where a pub worker was held at knife point for about an hour during a hostage situation at the Hotel Cecil.

Hostage situation at Hotel Cecil in Casino, Barker St  where a man held a female bar staff at knifepoint. Resolved safely by police at 12.53pm Wednesday, May 24. Woman in black is believed to be the female bar staff member held. (yet to be confirmed by police)
SHOCK: Witnesses outside a hostage situation at the Hotel Cecil in Casino. Susanna Freymark

Terence Selwood of Evans Head had his own battles when he had to contend with a 2.7m shark that jumped in his boat. The fisherman went flying when the 200kg visitor landed in with him.

 

JUNE

AS A druid won a court case, Lismore Council unveiled its plans for a Central Park that would become a world class attraction for a mere $10m.

Coraki father Andrew Humphreys puts his house on the market to find the funds to save his sick daughter Paige, saying "I would rather live in a caravan than die in a house".

Focus turned to Tyagarah beach after a report of a sexual assault and many stories of male predatory behaviour towards women.

While the Queen's Birthday Honours list was published the long weekend in June came with warnings of heavy rains, up to 300mm, with possible flash flooding. The super pump from Fire and Rescue NSW, Sydney was deployed to Lismore as rain continued to belt the region.

The scene of a fatal crash between the XPT train and a car at the crossing on Yongurra Road and Andrew Street at Kyogle..
The scene of a fatal crash between the XPT train and a car at the crossing on Yongurra Road and Andrew Street at Kyogle.. Marc Stapelberg

As the rain continued, a Kyogle woman lost her life when the Holden Commodore she was driving collided with a southbound XPT passenger train. Her dog in the car was injured and later had to be put down.

A pilot lost his life when his light plane crashed at Brooklet on its way to Ballina airport from the Gold Coast.

Coraki police officers accused of locking an Aboriginal boy in a paddy wagon in 2016 had their court case heard.

The Census 2016 confirmed we are middle aged and non-believers. The Lantern parade made our year.

 

JULY

TRUCKING company Flynn Transport drove its last vehicle when it liquidated, causing 65 jobs to go and a review into their books.

We said farewell to the 'Byron Bard' Colin 'Col' Hadwell, who lost his life after falling from his bicycle after hitting a pothole. His death highlighted the dangers of potholes and the state of rural roads where we ended up listing our 50 worst roads as voted by our readers.

Little Tanilla Warrick-Deaves was remembered, not just because her short life ended so tragically but it was reported a coronial inquest into her death wasn't deemed in the public interest.

And while fresh allegations came to light against disgraced Lismore gynaecologist Glenn Taylor, he was a no show in court.

The proposal for a food hub at Bangalow caused a stink and the retirement announcement of Lismore MP Thomas George saw a variety of candidates raise their hand to be his replacement.

Courtney Smoulden and Dylan Barker sporting some of the extensive glitter available at Splendour in the Grass 2017 near Byron Bay.
Courtney Smoulden and Dylan Barker sporting some of the extensive glitter available at Splendour in the Grass 2017 near Byron Bay. Marc Stapelberg

Glitter or disco boobs were the fashion at Splendour in the Grass, while 267 people faced drug charges over the festival's weekend.

Lismore's Aviation Expo had us all looking to the skies, while seven men nicknamed the Lane Boys received jail terms for dealing cannabis in Nimbin's Rainbow Lane.

 

AUGUST

SEXUAL diseases hit the front cover for the beginning of August with almost 800 cases reported in the past seven months.

Richmond police saw 200 guns and hundreds of kilos of ammunition handed in after only a month into the state-wide firearm amnesty that started on July 1.

The results of an independent flood review saw Lismore's Emergency Sub Plan was out of date by 10 years and despite performing 498 rescues, the SES found themselves the subject of bullying and vitriol.

One man copped a $450 fine from Byron Shire Council when his friend emptied a cup of coffee beside his vehicle.

Musician Xavier Rudd found himself in court over an assault charge after an altercation with another man on New Brighton beach when their dogs became not so friendly.

ROOTS musician and Byron Shire local Xavier Rudd has fronted Byron Bay Local Court to face a court hearing over an assault charge.
ROOTS musician and Byron Shire local Xavier Rudd has fronted Byron Bay Local Court to face a court hearing over an assault charge. Northern Star

And then the heat came. Despite being in the throes of winter, temperatures soared and the hot dry weather sparked a fire at East Ballina.

Casino's livestock agents' beef with Richmond Valley Council was over fees while a Goonellabah woman had her own fight with mould.

Michael Martin's trial, accused of murdering his father for his $2.5m life insurance policies, started in the Supreme Court of Lismore.

Alstonville called for their own police as the area was overrun with teenage thugs.

 

SEPTEMBER

WE BROKE the news regarding a civil dispute between the new and former operators of the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter in the Supreme Court in Sydney.

Lismore City councillors weighed up the pros and cons of a potential $90m expansion of the Lismore Shopping Square, in what would be the biggest private sector development in the city's history. It was eventually rejected 6-5, only to be revisited in December.

John Kaczynski, if Lismore Heights, was not happy with the standard of food at the Lismore Base Hospital.
John Kaczynski, if Lismore Heights, was not happy with the standard of food at the Lismore Base Hospital. Marc Stapelberg

And as Lismore Base Hospital's food was likened to Nazi camp fare, a Byron Bay surfer had a lucky escape after a white pointer shark broke his surfboard in half while he was surfing at Iluka.

A Casino battler had 700,000 reasons to celebrate when Lotto came knocking on his door.

Lismore was brought to a standstill when a five-car crash caused mayhem on the Bruxner Highway, but luckily no one was injured.

Temperatures went north again, bringing with it a total fire ban, and a man's body was found at The Pass at Byron Bay fully dressed, launching an investigation into what happened.

Construction works at the Ballina Memorial Swimming Pool.
Construction works at the Ballina Memorial Swimming Pool. Claudia Jambor

Ballina Council promised the refurbished Ballina pool would be open for summer, and the biggest news for Casino came when an $80-100m marijuana greenhouse and processing plant, run by PUF Ventures, were to be built in the rural town.

 

OCTOBER

THE month started with a man attacked by a dog on New Brighton Beach and figures showing $15m had been given to people and businesses across the Northern Rivers since the floods in March.

Hot on the heels of the news about a medicinal marijuana facility in Casino, came the announcement the country's first crowd-funded biohub would also be established there.

And as the show season kicked in, tensions between Byron Bay residents and its annual influx of 2.2m tourists was highlighted through an open letter written by comedian Mandy Nolan.

"Dear tourist, I don't want to be rude, but we need a break," she wrote.

Effects of the March flood were still being felt, even as far from the Lismore centre as Goonellabah. One woman's house was damaged following a landslip, which caused Lismore Council to write and advise her to vacate her home.

A 61-year-old man was arrested and charged for allegedly lighting fires in the CBD and outside the Church at the Hub building.

Robyn Spoor, of the Church at the Hub, in front of the area where a fire was lit resulting in damage to the building. Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star
Robyn Spoor, of the Church at the Hub, in front of the area where a fire was lit resulting in damage to the building. Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star Marc Stapelberg

While Commonwealth Games officials chose to bypass the Northern Rivers in the Queen's Baton run, INXS manager Chris Murphy announced he wanted a museum dedicated to the band in Ballina.

The $5.8m Lismore Regional Art Gallery finally opened its doors.

 

NOVEMBER

ONE P-plater misjudged his limit after drinking 30 schooners of rum 'n' coke before being caught driving a car with a baby on board.

Byron Bay welcomed it's first solar train at the same time the wife of Michael Martin was sentenced to four years jail for covering up her husband's murder of his father.

The solar train arrives in Byron Bay.
The solar train arrives in Byron Bay. Keith Williams

The dangers of tick bites were highlighted when five-year-old Billy Fetherston went into anaphylactic shock. After a four-hour stint in hospital he went home.

The number of sexual indecency accusations against Dr Glenn Taylor increased to 69 and a passing motorist, hearing cries from a cage dumped on the side of a road, saved six, six-week-old puppies.

Tabulam race-goers celebrated their annual horse-fest while Brunswick Heads residents protested paid parking.

In Casino a golf club staff member suffered injuries from five machete and crowbar-weilding thieves. The search is still on for the culprits.

Dramatic footage of a car fire in Alstonville hit social media, as did angry residents who called on anyone who saw suspicious activity to come forward.

Emergency services at the scene of a gas cylinder explosion at the Lismore racetrack.
Emergency services at the scene of a gas cylinder explosion at the Lismore racetrack. Cath Adams

Burns victim Scott Jones saved himself after a gas explosion at the Lismore Turf Club, when he threw himself in the jockeys' showers and Jiggi residents feared for their lives over their pothole riddled roads.

 

DECEMBER

THE seven worst melanoma hot spots in NSW were found to be on the Northern Rivers including Kyogle, Lismore, Clarence Valley, Richmond Valley, Ballina, Byron and Tweed.

A very dramatic turn of events took place in Goonellabah when emergency services and tactical response groups rushed to the scene of a hostage situation. A man was taken into police custody without further harm.

Police on the scene of a breaking incident in Goonellabah.
Police on the scene of a breaking incident in Goonellabah. Marc Stapelberg

Despite an inquest into the death of a young mother at Lismore Base Hospital, there were still concerns of under-staffing at the Women's Care Unit.

Research released into first home buyers showed it would take at best part of three years for young couples to save for a deposit to buy a house, depending on where they wanted to live.

As photos of all Northern Rivers formals graced our pages the man involved in the Goonellabah siege found himself in court.

Lismore's reverse vending machine for recycling drink cans will be at the current recycling facility.
Lismore's reverse vending machine for recycling drink cans will be at the current recycling facility.

A young baseballer from Lismore was the victim of a one-punch attack on the Gold Coast.

Lismore finally got its own Return and Earn recycling machine when it opened a point at Brewster Street, opposite Lismore Shopping Square, only to be damaged three days later.

Bangalow came out in force to protest paid parking and the beach season had a horror start with a drowning at Tallow Beach.