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Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Darren Linton's Best of 2012

News senior journalist Darren Linton looks back at the issues he tackled in 2012, from water storage to plover chicks.

December 4, 2012 4:17am

1. Greater Shepparton City Council Election

Vote counters put their heads down to determine the new councillors of Greater Shepparton.

"Probably the most important story of the year because the seven councilors elected in November will have a big influence on the lives of every citizen of Greater Shepparton over the next four years," Darren said.

"The field for the election was bigger than the Melbourne Cup and voters opted for three new faces promising a fresh approach. The problems and challenges for Council remain the same, maintaining growth and providing services while dealing with reduced external revenue and unrest over ever increasing rates and charges which are the only self generated income.

"The ongoing multi-million dollar burden of an old defined benefits superannuation scheme is also a big challenge for the new council."

2. Lake Eildon missed it by that much

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"Getting a corny reference to 60’s television series Get Smart into the lead of a story was just a bonus, the detail of just how close Lake Eildon got to being full was a ripper yarn," Darren said.

"For several months there was increasing confidence from water experts that Lake Eildon would reach 100 per cent before summer. Why was it important? Because after years of drought and the destruction of successive floods a fully Lake Eildon would have been the icing on the cake.

"It was more a psychological rather than a physical milestone to be able to say, even four just a few days, that the recovery from the drought was complete.

"Although the target was narrowly missed water is now abundant again which in the state’s largest and most productive irrigation is a key driver of confidence."

3. The Mystery Box

Mystery box

"Thankfully when a cardboard box full of old photographs and documents was left in a charity bin in Gympie, Queensland, the store manager bothered to take a closer look," Darren said.

"Inside were photographs from World War I, ledgers for a government relief scheme in Shepparton East following the second world war and many other treasures relating to the district. Georgina Mackay had gleaned some clues from the hand written notes on the backs of the photographs but had been unable to find anyone to hand the box too so she sent it to The News in the hope we could help.

"The mystery of the dumped photos was soon solved when we published them and they were returned to grateful  Bunbartha resident Doug Lees for safekeeping."

4. The daring plover parents

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"Nature is literally on your doorstep living in the Goulburn Valley but sometimes you have to make a conscious decision to pause and admire it," Darren said.

"The News has a resident pair of Masked Lapwings who insist on nesting each year beside an increasingly busy internal road to the car park. Given the recovery from drought and the abundance of spring breeding generally it was a good opportunity to tell their story.

"Three of the four eggs hatched and the family has happily moved farther afield meaning the swooping threat has also dissipated - at least until next spring when they are sure to return."

5. Truck fatigue

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"There was no single reason put forward by police or VicRoads for a spate of serious truck crashes across the Goulburn Valley in September but Roads Minister Terry Mulder didn’t hesitate in agreeing to a meeting with truck drivers and transport operators at Violet Town to listen first hand to their concerns," Darren said.

"Mr Mulder left with a much clearer view of pressures on drivers and a few ideas to pursue including a fresh look at fatigue management, addressing crawling queues at major logistics centres that keep drivers in the cab when they could be resting and provision of more rest stops along the Hume Fwy.

"There were a few raised voices in the meeting but the outcome was positive and the Minister's prompt response may ultimately save lives."

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