NSW: HSC Top Schools and Students Revealed

Arriving in Australia only two years ago from war-torn north-eastern Syria, Domara Eskandar has come on top in two courses for this year’s high school certificate (HSC).

“Mum was very excited that my hard work paid off,” Eskandar, who came first in two advanced Arabic courses, told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Eskandar, a student from St Narsai Assyrian Christian College Sydney, is one of the 127 students who topped their subjects in the HSC in New South Wales this year. Today, they joined 77,000 other HSC students to receive their results.

James Ruse Agricultural High became the state’s top school for the 23rd year in a row with three first-in-course awards. It is followed by North Sydney Boys High and Sydney Grammar in the second and third spots. Sydney Grammar received the most first-in-course awards this year, snagging the top spot in 11 subjects.

Willoughby Girls’ High was the only public non-selective school on the top 50 list at the 50th position, while the rest were comprised of selective or non-government schools. Eight of the top 10 schools are government-run selective schools.

NSW’s Top Schools 2018, Based on Success Rate

  1. James Ruse Agricultural High School
  2. North Sydney Boys High School
  3. Sydney Grammar High School
  4. Sydney Girls High School
  5. Baulkham Hills High School
  6. North Sydney Girls High School
  7. Sydney Boys High School
  8. Hornsby Girls High School
  9. Reddam House
  10. Northern Beaches Secondary College Manly Campus

Sydney’s Housing Market Continues Downturn in November-December

Sydney’s property market is not looking good for sellers at the end of this year with more listings, dwindling prices and worsening auction slumps.

SQM Research revealed that total residential listings increased by 7.5 percent over November, pushing the total number of homes for sale Sydney to 40,000, the highest number recorded since 2009. Current listing levels are 20.9 percent higher than from last year.

Dwelling values in Sydney also fell 1.4 percent in the same month from October, bringing the prices down 8.1 percent over the past year to a median of $821,438, according to CoreLogic’s Home Value Index.

“Since peaking in July last year, Sydney’s housing market is down 9.5 per cent which is on track to eclipse the previous record peak-to-trough decline set during the last recession when values fell 9.6 per cent between 1989 and 1991,” CoreLogic head of research Tim Lawless told the Sydney Morning Herald.

In the first weekend of December, Sydney recorded an auction clearance rate of 41.4 percent with chances of sinking into the 30s over the month. SQM’s Louis Christopher said the last time Sydney fell into the 30s was in October-November 2008 during the Great Financial Crisis. The weekend turnover totalled $129 million in sales, well below the near $600 million in the same period a year prior, Domain reported.

Lawless said this downturn was driven by multiple factors, including tighter conditions for investment, housing affordability constraints and a general oversupply.

“We expect headwinds for tighter credit will continue for the foreseeable future and will continue to temper housing market activity,” said Lawless. “This will be especially the case for those markets where investment demand is most concentrated, and where housing costs are high relative to incomes, such as Sydney and Melbourne.”

NSW: New 80km Walking Trail Planned for Sydney

An 80-kilometre walking trail in Sydney will soon be a reality after an agreement was reached between federal, state and local governments.

In late November, six mayors signed an MOU to build the trail by linking existing coastal and harbour-side walking tracks from Bondi Beach to Manly.

The trail will pass Macquarie Lighthouse in Woollahra, the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, Taronga Zoo in Mosman, and Clontarf in Manly. About 60 kilometres of the trail will be on public land, while the rest will take place on footpaths.

Upon completion, the multi-day walk is expected to be a major tourist attraction and one of the world’s great walking trails, on par with Italy’s Cinque Terra. The path will highlight Sydney’s beautiful beaches and rich Indigenous history and culture.

Lachlan Harris and John Faulkner, co-founders of the Bondi to Manly Walk Supporters welcomed the agreement. “It was an act of imagination to have Sydneysiders understand the scale of public land around the harbour,” Harris told the Sydney Morning Herald. “The idea that you can walk from Bondi to Manly is a reality now.”

Faulkner said, “It will be an unforgettable experience and I am certain it will become a must-do for walkers everywhere in the world.”

Bondi to Manly walk’s launch date is to be disclosed.

NSW: Police Begin Crackdown on Sydney CBD Jaywalkers

More than 350 pedestrians and cyclists were fined for jaywalking and breaking basic road rules on Monday in Sydney’s CBD.

The crackdown, which was part of NSW Police’s Operation Pedro, saw 94 pedestrians who were found “jaywalking” or walking across the road illegally slapped with a $75 fine. The fines for cyclists who committed traffic offenses ranged from $112 (for riding on footpaths or not having a working bell) to $448 (for riding “recklessly” or “negligently”). Should they choose to contest the fine in court and fail, they could be charged up to $2,200.

Commander of the Traffic and Highway Patrol Command, Assistant Commissioner Michael Corboy said the crackdown was needed to promote traffic rules and prevent accidents. As of July, six cyclists and 44 pedestrians have died on NSW roads.

“We have been conducting Operation Pedro since 2014 as a way of educating the community about the importance of all road users doing the right thing,” said Corboy.

“I urge all cyclists and pedestrians to do the right thing by not putting themselves and other road users at risk… City traffic is full of many challenges and distractions for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, so we want to do everything possible to ensure that we reduce road trauma.”

The Monday crackdown was executed by officers from the Traffic and Highway Patrol as well as Surry Hills, Sydney City, Redfern, Leichhardt, Inner West and North Shore Police Area Commands.

NSW: Entire State in Drought

The entire state of New South Wales has been declared in drought due to “unusually dry and warm” conditions throughout June, July and August.

The Department of Primary Industries said 61 per cent of NSW is in drought or intense drought, while the rest is drought affected.

Less than 10 millimetres of rain have been recorded over the past month in Western, North West and Central NSW. “This is tough, there isn’t a person in the state that isn’t hoping to see some rain for our farmers and regional communities,” said Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair.

These unfriendly conditions are expected to continue. “The forecast suggests an increase of drier than normal conditions for the next three months across the majority of NSW.”

A number of towns have been placed under water restrictions, limiting residents’ ability to wash clothes and shower.

BOM meteorologist Jane Golding said all parts of NSW usually receive some rain throughout the winter months, but this year is different. “It is unusually dry and also unusually warm which exacerbates the problems, so the warm temperatures dry out the soils even more.”

The state government has announced over $1 billion in drought relief measures, including waivers on farming costs, animal welfare support and transport subsidies. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull also announced $12,000 grants for families affected by drought.

National: Brisbane Printing Company Goes Out of Business

Brisbane’s Panther Print is entering liquidation after 29 years of business.

The Stafford-based offset printer was founded in 1989 by Walter Kuhn, owner of Kuhn Corp and the president of the Printing Industries Association of Australia. In 1992, Kuhn sold the company to Les Beech, father of current managing director Greg Beech.

“The company closed on Thursday and they have given a few reasons for ceasing,” Bill Cotter of Robson Cotter Insolvency Group, who is handling the liquidation, told ProPrint. Cotter said he still did not have the creditor figures, and was still “figuring it out” with the business.

Before its closure, Panther offered offset, design, production art and prepress, finishing and post production, delivery, distribution and stock control services.

This makes Panther one of the commercial printers closing its doors this year, following Sony DADC in Huntingwood, NSW in February and Western Sydney-based Saunders Print Group in March.

NSW: Marrickville’s $1.3B Apartment Project Still in Works after Councils’ Takeover

The plan to build thousands of houses in Marrickville’s industrial land may still proceed despite the NSW government’s handover of planning control to local councils.

The Inner-West Council and the City of Canterbury Bankstown are now in charge of the strategic planning along the Bankstown rail line, which is set to be converted to a higher-frequency metro rail service by 2024. This effectively derailed the proposal from property giant Mirvac for a $1.3 billion apartment project in the zone, covering 20 buildings ranging from two- to 28-storey height, over 2,600 residential units and 17,300 square metres of new commercial and retail space.

“The community will develop the plans, where the buildings will go, where the new homes will go, where the new parks will be,” said Planning Minister Anthony Roberts.

Inner West mayor Darcy Byrne welcomed the return of planning powers to the local councils. “We’ve fought long and hard to put an end to developer-driven planning proposals in this corridor, and today we are thrilled to take back control of planning for Sydenham, Marrickville and Dulwich
Hill,” said Byrne.

“Today’s decision puts an end to Mirvac’s ridiculous proposal… Our new plans will be developed by the community, not multinational developers, because this is Marrickville, not Mirvac-ville.”

However, Toby Long, general manager for NSW residential development at Mirvac said the company will not give up on the project. “We are looking at many months of work ahead before the proposal will be ready, but we take a long view and we are prepared to take our time to get it right,” said Long.

NSW: Sydney Property Market Slows Down with Discounts and Falling Prices

Sydney property market is cooling down as lending slows and vendor discounting rises.

The difference in asking price and final sale price in the city has increased to 4.4 per cent. Investment bank Morgan Stanley said the market is “unlikely” to “turn around anytime soon” due to limited credit and record household debt.

Over the past year, Sydney’s median house prices have fallen by 4.5 per cent. Auction clearance rates also had a significant dip in June.

June 2018. Source: CoreLogic

According to the bank’s research, the falling prices reflected the national annual growth rate, which reaches its lowest in more than five years.

However, Deutsche Bank’s economist Phil Odonaghoe said the worst of the market downturn has passed for Sydney.

“Recent auction clearance rates, running at a little under 50 per cent once adjusted for withdrawals, actually point to a very modest improvement in dwelling price growth over the coming six months, or more specifically, ‘less negative’ year-ended growth,” Odonaghoe told the Sydney Morning Herald.

National: NBN Rollout in Regional Australia On the Home Stretch

The rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) in Port Macquarie is reaching its final stage, with 98 per cent of households and businesses now able to use the service.

The NBN, whose rollout in the area began in February 2017, is now available to more than 38,900 homes and businesses in Port Macquarie. The expansion process had received backlash from the community due to the destruction of footpaths and public property in Port Macquarie CBD during the installation.

“With our aim to help bridge the digital divide and see all homes and businesses have access to fast broadband, we are proud today to announce the rollout of the NBN access network in Port Macquarie is on the home stretch,” said Amber Dornbusch, head of NBN for NSW and ACT.

NBN national spokesperson Philippa Perry said the NBN network will soon be available for all homes and businesses in regional Australia. “We have seen a massive improvement in regional internet access, more competition, faster speeds and in some cases giving internet access to some Australians for the first time ever,” Perry said.

NSW: Social Media Contributes to Youth Crime Decline, New Research Finds

The decline in youth crime in New South Wales may be related to the widespread use of social media and video streaming services, a research by the Australian National University (ANU) has found.

The ANU compared the NSW Police data of crime rates for people aged 10 to 21 born in 1984 and those born in 1994. It discovered that the proportion of the population who had come into contact with the criminal justice system had halved. Car theft was down 59 percent, while property theft and drunk-driving dropped by 59 and 49 percent respectively. Drug offending also fell 22 percent.

Criminologist Jason Payne said the decline may be attributed to changes in the way young people spend their time.

“We now have kids who are engaging much more often online, using mobile and other portable devices in the home and spending less time out on the street,” said Payne.

“An increased use of home entertainment and social media is also reducing opportunities for traditional forms of crime.”

However, Payne warned that the changing habits might lead to new forms of crime. “Those native to social media may explore antisocial and criminal behaviours online which at present attract far less scrutiny from parents and authorities.”