Funnel-web risk on Mid North Coast

Keep an eye out: Funnel-web spiders are frequent in Port Macquarie, especially around koala corridors. Photo: Getty Images
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NAMBUCCA Valley residents are urged to take caution around their homes, and at parks and grass areas around the Mid North Coast.

It is likely that you will notice holes in the grass or in trees and logs, which oftenhousesthe deadly funnel-web spider.

Funnel-webs make their burrows in moist, cool, sheltered habitats, like under rocks, in and under rotting logs, some in rough-barked trees.They can be found in higher numbers around koala corridors.

They are commonly found in suburban rockeries and shrubberies, in lawns or other open terrain. A funnel-web’s burrow characteristically has irregular silk trip-lines radiating from the entrance to trap prey.

Unlike some relatedtrapdoor spiders, funnel-webs do not build lids to their burrows, which is another telltale sign when identifying a spiderhole. Redback spidersare also common at this time of the year.

Spider bites are best considered in three medically relevant groups: big black spiders, redback spiders and all other spiders.

Big black spiders are funnel-web spiders and any large black-looking spiders that may be a funnel-web spider. Patients bitten by big black spiders must be managed as a medical emergency.

Redback spiders are fairly easy to identify and their bites do not cause rapidly developing or life-threatening effects but many cause significant pain and systemic effects.

All other spiders in Australia are more or less harmless.

There are 40 different types of funnel web spiders located up and down the east coast of Australia.

Like many funnel web spider species, both sexes of the ‘Port Macquarie funnel web’ have a shiny black carapace, dark brown to black legs and abdomen.

ThePort Macquarie funnel web should be treated with care as its venom is slightly more toxic than the Sydney funnel web.

If bitten, wrap with a compression bandage and immediately dial triple-0.

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Zelic backs national second division as important pathway for Canberra

Former Socceroo Ned Zelic sees a proposed national second division as a crucial pathway for Canberra talent to make it to the elite level – similar to the one that kick started his glittering career.
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But only if it’s done right.

Zelic started with Sydney Croatia in the now defunct National Soccer League, but returned to his native Canberra to play for Canberra FC, who had a team in the NSW state league.

It was a case of one step back to take two steps forward for the now 45-year-old who said that ability to remain in Canberra and still play at a higher level where he could be seen by scouts got his career going.

That career included a UEFA Cup final and the German Bundesliga title with Borussia Dortmund.

Fairfax Media revealed National Premier League clubs, led by those in Melbourne, were looking to set up the national second division on their own and were meeting in Melbourne on Monday.

Canberra FC have indicated their interest in being part of the venture, provided it was financially viable for them.

Zelic urged all involved not to rush and to make sure they set it up so that it was sustainable because it was such an important step for Australian soccer.

“You have to do something down the track to give all these clubs underneath the A-League the opportunity to progress,” he said.

“There has to be a framework there where success is pretty much guaranteed.

“I’m all for it. If you look around the world, the different lower tiers and what’s happening in different countries it just boosts the appeal of football in every single country.

“I’m on the side of 1000 per cent sure that it’s going to work and not a case of let’s do it and if it breaks down at least we tried. That doesn’t help anyone.”

Zelic said Football Federation Australia needed to be involved in the set-up of the second division, which would be created from NPL clubs in capital cities around the country, but he was unsure what the governing body’s plans were.

It would sit below the A-League and ideally have promotion and relegation – both up to the A-League and down to the various NPLs.

But Zelic felt the introduction of relegation into the A-League could terminate some of the clubs.

“The only stumbling block I see is going up to A-League and clubs going down, because these clubs now in the A-League they’ve pretty much been built on no relegation,” he said.

“That’s in their blood stream and there’s a lot of talk if one of those clubs got relegated then they’d just fold, which I see as realistic.

“The last thing I want to see is there be a second division and if there’s no promotion then there’s nothing to gain.”

Even if there wasn’t promotion and relegation between the A-League and the proposed second division, Zelic felt it would still be an important stepping stone for Canberra kids.

The FFA has kiboshed any chance of Canberra having an A-League any time soon and Zelic said the talk of the AIS soccer program shutting down would be another blow to talent in the nation’s capital.

“Look at the kids here in Canberra, what do they do? They have to go interstate to play state league, for example NSW or Victoria, if they want to get closer to A-League,” Zelic said.

“It’d be a different pathway when you’re talking about a second division.”

Meanwhile, former Capital Football chief executive Heather Reid has joined the FFA women’s committee, which is a sub-committee of the FFA board.

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Why has the drift to private schools come to an end?

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Private schools are among the things economists classify as “positional goods” – they reveal your position in the pecking order. Photo: Michele Mossop

It’s drawn little comment, but the decades-long drift of students from government to non-government schools has ended.

Figures released by the Bureau of Statistics last month show that 65 per cent of our 3.8 million students went to public schools in 2016, the same proportion as in 2013. If anything, the public-school share is creeping up.

The non-government share divides between Catholic systemicschools with 20 per cent and independent schools with less than 15 per cent. I’ll refer to both as private schools.

But the public schools’ 65 per cent today is down from 79 per cent in 1977.

Let’s start by trying to explain those many years of drift before we wonder about why it’s stopped.

When Ipsos Public Affairs asked people why they thought other people sent their kids to private schools, the most commonly cited reasons included the higher standard of education (50 per cent), the better discipline (49 per cent), the better facilities (46 per cent), the size of classes (43 per cent) and because it’s a status symbol (40 per cent).

Almost uniquely among other developed countries, Australian parents have a much higher proportion of private schools to choose, and have been given greater freedom to choose between government schools.

Successive federal and state governments have seen greater parental choice between public and private as a virtue, and have encouraged it by increasing their combined grants to private schools at a much faster rate than their funding of public schools.

But I have my own theory on why so many people have opted for private schooling. I think a lot of it gets down to parental guilt.

These days families have much fewer children, which means parents take a lot more active interest in their kids’ schooling than they did when I was the last of four.

And these days both parents are more likely be in paid work – meaning they have more money to spend, but see less of their kids thantheirparents did.

So what more natural than for parents to believe that, in their decisions about how to spend their income, ensuring their kids get the best education possible should have high priority.

And what’s more natural in our market economy than to assume that the more you have to pay for something, the higher quality it’s likely to be.

It’s the old male cop-out, spread to women: I may not see as much of my kids as I’d like to, but I’m working night and day so I can afford to give them the best of everything.

The more materialist you are, the more you’re inclined to judge a school by the quality of its facilities – gyms and swimming pools, music, art and drama theatres – than by the quality of its teachers.

Of course, the former is, as economists say, much more “observable” than the latter.

But whatever people give as their reasons for preferring private schools, you’ll never convince me they’re not well aware of the status they gain by sending their kids to private schools, especially independent schools.

Private schools are among the things economists classify as “positional goods” – they reveal your position in the pecking order.

But what’s changed? Why has the drift to private schools come to an end?

One possibility is that the slow wage growth of recent years has made it harder for parents to afford private school fees.

This may be particularly the case for independent schools, where the rate of increase in fees from year to year bears little relationship to rate at which teachers’ salaries are rising.

Nor does the rate at which government grants have been growing seem to have had much effect in slowing the rate at which independent school fees have grown. (The extra government grants may have gone into improving schools’ facilities.)

My guess is that, as economic textbooks predict, independent school fees rise according to what the market will bear. They judge how strongly demand for their product is growing relative to supply by the length of their waiting lists.

In any case, keeping the cost of independent schooling high is an essential element in maintaining its status as a positional good.

Another possible contributor to the end of the drift to private schools is the decision of state governments – particularly NSW governments – to increase the numberof places at selective schools. Why pay fees when you can get what you want inside the government system?

As a parent who’s had one of each – independent and selective – I can assure you selective schooling works well as an (intellectual) positional good.

But there’s one last possible contributor to the end of the trend to private schools: maybe parents are realising that paying all those fees doesn’t buy your kid superior academic results along with their old school tie.

Julia Gillard’s My School website has done little to encourage greater competition between schools (a silly idea she got from economists), but it has provided a fabulous database for education researchers.

Various researchers have used it to demonstrate that the best predictor of children’s academic results is the socio-economic status (including level of educational attainment) of their parents.

And when you take account of parents’ socio-economic status, there’s little evidence that kids of similar backgrounds do any better academically at one kind of school than another.

Ross Gittins is the Sydney Morning Herald’s economic editor.

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NRL hails most attacking start to season since 2018

More points have been scored in the opening two rounds of this season than in the history of the 16-team NRL competition.
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For the first time since the inception of the 16-team competition in 1999, more than 720 points have been racked up over the opening two weekends of the season.

The reduction of interchange from 12 to eight in recent years has contributed to the attacking style of football that has crept back into the sport after a period dominated by defence.

The impact of the smaller, faster players was minimised during the 12-man interchange system, however players such as Anthony Milford, Shaun Johnson and Mitchell Moses have been allowed to impose their stance on a game when the forwards tire.

A total of 723 points have been scored in the first two rounds, 136 more than the same period two years ago.

“While it is still early in the premiership we are certainly encouraged by the point-scoring trends,” NRL head of football Brian Canavan said.

“We have seen some incredible attacking football over the first two rounds and that has resulted in more tries and more points, which ultimately is what our fans want to see.”

The NRL has also introduced a number of football reforms that have contributed to the increase in points scored.

The introduction of the shot clock and scrum clock has resulted in more fatigued players given the additional time spent with the ball in play.

The time-out called in the last five minutes of games after conversions has also allowed for more game time. There have been two golden point games to start the season and Canavan believes the closeness of the competition has only added to the excitement.

“Importantly, we have also seen some incredibly tight scorelines – half of all of the games played so far have been decided by eight points or less,” Canavan said.

“So while we have seen more attacking football and more tries, the closeness of our competition remains.”

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Plan for small town’s big future

Related: Marong plan in question
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THE first draft of a plan that will aim to provide for Marong’s populationto balloon to 8000 will be considered by City of Greater Bendigo councillors on Wednesday night.

The draft Marong Township Structure Plan sets out the land uses and development of the area and will be incorporated in the City of Greater Bendigo planning scheme.

Marong’s population has already grown from about 300 in 2011 to an estimated 900 people, and the report to council says the township is expected to reach 8000 residents in 25 to 30 years’ time.

The draft plan says future expansion of the township is restrained by several factors, among them a broiler farm to the west,possible highwaybypasses to the north and west, andthe proposed business park to the south-east.

Other challenges include areas along Bullock and Fletchers creeks being subject to flooding, heavily vegetated land in the north and south-east, constraintson the provision of reticulated water, and poorly drained land on Landrys Lane.

But the plansays opportunities to shape future developmentlie in theoriginal layout of the townand certainexisting features, the proposed bypasses and the reintroduction of passenger rail services.

It is proposed the township will grow predominantly to the east, with growth to the south not expected to extend further than one kilometre from the original boundary.

Recommendations outlined in the plan include the development of northern and western bypasses to remove traffic from the township, the reinstatement of the train station and passenger services, planning for the “appropriate provision of commercial services”,the development of the Marong Business Park, and improvements to recreation facilities and the High Street streetscape.

The draft plan outlines a two-stage planning and development process.

The first stage would see 500 to 600 more houses built overeight to 12 years.

The second would support expansion to the south and east, but the report to council says this stage would not begin until the western bypass was completed, and the northern bypass and passengerrail services wereguaranteed.

Pending council approval, the draft will go out for public comment for seven weeks from March 20. Listening posts will be held at Marong Community Hall on March 26 from 2pm to 4pm, March 28 from 7pm to 8.30pm and April 30 from 2pm to 4pm.

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