Gympie welcomes a new year tonight.
Gympie welcomes a new year tonight. Vjom

Fast year kept going faster

FIRE, flood, pestilence and politics, 2015 was a drama from the start.

On January 1, we told the amazing story of Brock Walker, struck by lightning, and brought back to life by his cousins, who had learned CPR only weeks before.

On January 2, readers learned of the sensational findings of Gympie Coroner M Baldwin, who exposed "lies and cover-ups" over the death of a pilot, who had been falsely blamed for the fatal Mary Valley plane crash that killed him.

On January 3, the funeral of former Gympie region top cop, retired Superintendent Alan Bourke marked the departure of the man whose tireless efforts tracked down the killers of Noosa schoolgirl Sian Kingi.

Then on January 6 came ex-MP David Gibson's explosive hit-back at the "toxic politics" that led to his downfall, after the emergence of information about past criminal matters.

Member for Gympie David Gibson
Former Member for Gympie David Gibson.

Then came dual elections, with the announcement by former Deputy Mayor Tony Perrett that he would campaign to replace Mr Gibson, and the calling of a mayoral by-election to replace Ron Dyne, who had announced he was dying of cancer.

Cr Rae Gate became acting mayor pending the by-election.

In following days came further ructions in the local LNP and on January 14, we reported the local LNP in damage control with the resignation of its Gympie branch chairman Ian Gordon, who accused party heavyweight and police officer Llew O'Brien (now the LNP's state vice president) of undermining Mr Gibson.

He also accused the party machine of manipulating the pre-selection of Mr Perrett.

On January 15, Gympie Muslim leader Shifa Mustapha accused terrorists of defaming her religion by hiding their murderous behaviour "behind a mask of Islam".

On January 17, Imbil was in crisis after the closure of its major tourist drawcard, Borumba Dam, because of an outbreak of toxic blue-green algae.

January 21 brought our report on a "toxic work culture" claimed to have become part of Gympie regional council after a decision to restructure senior staff and to engage private detectives.

The Science Circus will be held at Gympie's Town Hall
The Gympie Town Hall - the setting for many robust debates in 2015. Hienee Pilcher

On January 22, we reported on the good news of the hand-back of nearly $1 million worth of land to the Kandanga community, in the continuing aftermath of the Traveston Crossing dam proposal.

Australia Day, as reported on January 27, featured the announcement of Gympie region Citizen of the Year awards for Geoff "Dr Rock" Waldon and his protégé, Young Citizen of the Year and someone we were to hear much more about as the year continued - Caitlyn Shadbolt.

February 3 had the Gympie Times reporting state election victories for Tony Perrett in Gympie, Bruce Saunders in Maryborough, including the area from Curra north and former Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney in Callide, which runs west from Bells Bridge to Kilkivan and Goomeri.

On February 4, graziers found blue sky among the clouds as wetter weather led to a short-lived cattle boom, with sale prices and numbers at Gympie saleyards smashing records.

February 6 our front page reported the arrest of three Gympie men in a major police drug operation.

On February 13, we announced the American online publication, Huffington Post had named Rainbow Beach as "one of the world's nine most beautiful beaches".

AWESOME: Rainbow Beach put on show for Fishing Classic competitors early last week.
Beautiful Rainbow Beach received the honour this year of being named one of the world's best beaches. Contributed

February 14 had our report that Caitlyn Shadbolt had just released the video for her first single, post X Factor, "Maps out the Window," which had topped the iTunes Country Chart within hours of its late-January release.

Snakes, spiders and earthquakes dominated our February 17 issue. The 5.2 magnitude tremor gave many Gympie people a fright.

February 19 had Cr Curran announced as mayor, almost, with a recount ordered.

This became the final result in the paper the next day, February 20, just as severe tropical cyclone Marcia intensified, crossed the coat near Yeppoon and headed our way.

February 21 brought the sad news on our front page that Ron Dyne, ex-Army officer, had lost the battle for his life after a short battle with cancer.

The cyclone had faded out, but heavy rain swelled the Mary River and threatened floods.

Our special February 24 flood edition reported that although nobody was hurt and no lives lost, emergency crews were in high demand, mostly saving us from our own errors. Worst hit were farmers and small town businesses, as well as 19 inundated businesses in the Gympie CBD and a devastated Muster site.

For new Mayor Mick Curran it was anything but a baptism of fire. He called it "a baptism of water".

Gympie region Mayor Mar Curran
Gympie region Mayor Mick Curran's leadership was tested early during the February floods. Tanya Easterby

Then came the mozzie plague and the worst Ross River fever outbreak in years, as reported on February 28.

On March 3, our front page reported on the huge funeral for Ron Dyne, attended by 800 people at Gympie Pavilion.

On March 7, Mayor Mick Curran chose an International Women's Day function at The Decks on Mary to announce the crucial role of two Gympie women in promoting the region. He told the Gympie Women in Business function the region's new Youth Ambassador Caitlyn Shadbolt and Arts and Cultural Ambassador Cindy Vogels would promote Gympie region to the world.

March 13 had new doubts about the future of the Mary Valley Rattler, the tourist steam train which had been promised $2 million by the now ousted Newman government.

On March 14, The Gympie Times joined other APN newspapers in launching the anti-domestic violence campaign Terror at Home, helping start and drive what was to become a major campaign to wipe out a scourge that no decent society can tolerate.

On March 15, we were able to report the strong support of new MP Tony Perrett and Mayor Mick Curran for the campaign.

Women's shelter Erin House announced in our March 19 issue that it was the busiest it had ever been.

A not unrelated issue was reported on March 20when all Gympie schools joined in the 2015 National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence.

On March 21, Queensland Special Taskforce on Domestic and Family Violence leader, Quentin Bryce urged all our readers to join the campaign.

On March 26 came the news that world champion axeman Vic Summers, described as "Gympie's greatest sporting export", had died at 96.

April 1 had the Rattler in more trouble as volunteers were locked out of the immobilised tourist rail service's Tozer St headquarters, amid continuing doubts if its famous steam train would ever run again.

The Valley Rattler.
The Valley Rattler struck trouble in April when volunteers were locked out of the Tozer St headquarters.

The April 10 front page reported Prime Minister Tony Abbott's visit to Kybong Hall to announce accelerated work on the Bruce Hwy, praise our federal MP and Deputy PM Warren Truss, call for lower and simpler taxes and announce Gympie as a major battleground in the war on ice.

On April 16, we reported a new accused in the case of the skull found in Toolara forest and the success of Imbil adoptee rights advocate Kerri Saint, who told her story to ex-PM Julia Gillard at the launch of a national exhibition, of which her story is a part.

On April 18, the Muster birthplace, the Webb family's Thornside property, was on the market, soon after the Great Kilkivan horse ride was named after its founder, Fabian Webb.

On April 21, Murray Gear found the wreckage of the aircraft flown by Yandina pilot Rob Pavan, who was killed in the crash.

Terror erupted in Lawrence St when a man believed to be wielding a gun held hostages during a siege standoff which continued into the night, we reported on April 22.

The next day, on April 23, we reported that a man captured at the house had been charged with attempted murder in a Caboolture shooting incident.

Anzac Day, April 25, marked 100 years since the Gallipoli landing.

Our April 28 issue reported the heroic rescue of a woman and child from the fireball which had been their car, after a Jones Hill crash.

On April 29 came the good news that Gympie trekker Shaun Graydon had survived the Nepal earthquake.

May 6 had our front page report that 300 people had marched in Gympie against domestic violence.

On May 13, Gympie Regional Council told our readers of plans to remodel Mary St, as a food, entertainment and parkland precinct.

FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT: A possible vision of Mary Street Plaza taken from the perspective of Memorial Park looking towards Mary St – Memorial Lane is to the far right.
One of many artist impressions looking at how Mary St could look after a revamp. Contributed

On May 14, our reader's learned of the involvement of one of our most prominent doctors, emergency ward head Stephen Priestley, in PM Abbott's war on ice, which he described as "the most dangerous illegal drug we have ever seen".

Our May 28 issue reported that Cr Ian Petersen had been cleared of corruption claims, allegedly used against him during the mayoral election, after a Local Government Department investigation.

We also reported on world leading research on the enrichment of gold deposits, in an experiment which originated at John Parsons' gold mine at Kilkivan.

On June 2, we reported that Landmark Harcourts co-owner Kellie O'Neill had won the Top Gun Woman of Excellence Award for 2015.

June 3 had our readers informed of rates rises described as the lowest net rise in 20 years, along with $6 million to start work on the Gympie aquatic centre and $1 million for revitalising the CBD.

On June 6 we told of Gympie region's finest value-adding primary producers, Suncoast Limes and Rhodavale Pork, selected as finalists in the Delicious Magazine Produce Awards.

Gympie racing identity Spencer Slatter was awarded an OAM for services to horse racing and rural firefighters Kay Gibson Ian Pike also won Queen's Birthday honours, as we reported on June 9.

On June 10, our readers learned of ex-Gympie mum and cage fighting star Arlene Blencowe's dramatic win in her American mixed martial arts debut.

Fishers expressed concerns over a review which they said could sell out Queensland's fisheries.

June 18 brought the news that 9000 confused voters, about one-third of the electorate had been accused of not voting in the mayoral poll.

June 23 was a scary day for drug drivers, with a promise of tough police action, after a shockingly large number of detections.

 

 

THE year that was kept rolling along at an almost frightening pace in the second half.

The scourge of ice, the pure methamphetamine targeted by a national task force fronted by Gympie emergency doctor Stephen Priestley hit multiple headlines on July 3.

On July 4, we reported the developers of the $60 million Mary Valley quarter horse race track and equine facility saying the flood vulnerability of the site did not mean the project was "dead in the water." It was headed that way however.

The return of the Mary River crocodile, after a sighting near Tiaro, made the July 9 paper, 50 years after the last officially recognised sighting in the area.

Predators stayed in the news on July 11, when we reported a Mooloolaba man's experience of his 4m inflatable boat being attacked by a great white off Double Island Point and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service saying it would remove the crocodile and take it north, if found.

Humans struck back with a local business boom accompanying the annual feral pig hunt, the Queensland Big Boar Hunting Championships.

On July 15, a budget snub for the Rattler left many wondering, as many still do, if the Mary Valley tourist steam train had reached the end of the line.

Cricket legend Jim Geiger retired at 92 from the Wests club, which he helped form in 1954, as readers learned on July 16.

On July 29, we reported Gympie Magistrate M Baldwin's outrage at the intergenerational curse of domestic violence.

And Warwick appeared to take offence at Gympie "stealing" the idea of dressing up our Mary St trees for the winter, in a local shopping promotion.

A 5.6magnitude earthquake, the second for the year, struck off the Fraser Island coast, making the front page on July 31.

And Caitlyn Shadbolt (that name again) released her latest single, Shoot Out the Lights, which became an instant iTunes hit.

NOMINATED: Caitlyn Shadbolt is up for a Golden Guitar. Photo Contributed
Gympie singer Caitlyn Shadbolt's career keeps on growing after making the Top 5 on X Factor in 2014. The singer released more original music, including the iTunes country chart hit Shoot Out The Lights. Contributed

Our August 8 front page reported on the loss of hope for Gina Rinehart's much anticipated Hope Dairies project, planned as a new Mary Valley export industry.

August 12 saw our proud report of Gympie's Hollywood moment when film producer Chris Sun announced a start on his new creature feature, Boar.

Mr Truss suffered a social media backlash, reported on August 14, with his claims that a survey had shown majority opposition to gay marriage in Wide Bay.

On August 15, Gympie businessman and footie legend Damian Bourke told his amazing story of surviving the Nepal earthquake.

Postal ballot anger from the mayoral by-election continued with news on August 20 that 1420 voters faced fines totalling up to $160,000, for allegedly failing to vote without valid excuse.

The Muster got underway and dominated the front page on August 26, despite flood damage to the site earlier in the year.

September 1 saw the ongoing mass tragedy of suicide addressed at Suicide Prevention Week in Gympie.

The horror flick Boar was put on hold because of money woes, we reported on September 10.

The quarter horse racing plan for the Mary Valley was finally scrapped, as reported on September 11.

On September 16, readers learned of Warren Truss's continuing adaptability as he quickly adjusted to the coup which saw Malcolm Turnbull replace Tony Abbott as PM.

Mr Truss negotiated a tough new Coalition deal, cementing the influence of the National Party, despite its small parliamentary numbers.

And we reported on our own big news, a second PANPA Newspaper of the Year award.

It was with great relief that we were able to report on September 18 the happy ending to a day of real worry, when missing toddler Ahlee Grant, 5, of Wallu, was found safe and well.

September 22 saw the return to production of the horror flick, Boar, which had suffered financial problems.

Kandanga turned into Hollywood yesterday as filming of the movie Boar stepped up a gear in the Mary Valley township.
Kandanga turns into Hollywood as Australian acting stars arrive in the otherwise sleepy country town for the filming of Boar. Craig Warhurst

On September 29 we reported on a "sinkhole" (really an underwater landslide common on ocean-front sand formations), the first such phenomena to result in property damage. It swallowed a car and a caravan, but not before occupants escaped.

A mini tornado, reported on September 30, caused severe damage in a narrow belt near Scotchy Pocket.

On October 1, we were able to report the "sinkhole" had already morphed from disaster scene to tourist attraction, skydiving and 4wd bus services promoting the phenomenon.

The paper also reported, on October 2 the start of Mary River Month, part of Gympie's "Rush" of festivals in October.

Popular "daddy blogger" Bruce Devereaux shared his terror and cautious relief as his wife Tracey fought for her life, the start of a dramatic time followed by thousands in the paper and on social media, as reported on October 7.

October 9 saw our front page on film industry royalty coming to town to participate in the magnificent Heart of Gold Film Festival.

Former council engineer and lifelong cricketer Ross Chapman told readers on October 14 of his new role as captain of the Australian over-70s cricket team.

The saddest news of all, reported on October 20, with news of the road crash deaths of popular young parents and best friends Nicole Daly and Jeremy Josefski.

On November 4, we reported on a fabulous Gympie Turf Club Melbourne Cup day, with harness racing.

Big news on November 5 was the awarding of the construction contract for the $17 million Gympie Aquatic Recreation Centre.

November 6 saw reports that we love Gympie region and mostly think well of its council, alongside reports of a continuing impasse over the Curra shooting range, which continues to get nowhere, despite all authorities backing it.

November 11 saw the sad news of ex-Gympie journalist Jodi Keough and her fight against the amoebic brain illness which claimed the life of her son Lincoln and her campaign to warn the nation.

November 12 brought the news that Winston House would close, with a promise that all 53 residents would be found new homes.

On November 13, we reported on the emergence of Tracey Devereaux from intensive care, as her recovery inspired thousands.

HOME FOR CHRISTMAS: Tracey Devereaux is glad to be back with her husband Bruce, and children, Grace (12), Joshua (10), Molly (8), Sophie (6) and Emily (3) after a series of 10 operations.
Tracey Deveraux is all smiles at being able to spend Christmas at home with her family after months battling for her life in hospital. Patrick Woods

Our November 19 issue reported on overwhelming councillor support for CEO Bernard Smith.

Schoolies Week went off without a hitch, we reported on November 24.

An innovative anti-domestic violence partnership by Gympie Regional Council and the Broncos, involving Broncos education kits for boys and young men, was announced by Mayor Mick Curran and Broncos chairman Dennis Watt on November 26.

Lightning struck 62,000 times, trees were uprooted and roofs blown off as ferocious storms tore through the region, we reported on December 2.

The Gympie Times capped off a good two years with our report on December 4 on two new awards at the Australian Regional Media annual awards, Newspaper of the Year (for the second year running) and best online video, by photographer Greg Miller.

On December 10, we carried the news that film producer Chris Sun had purchased Gympie's Sovereign Cinema, promising to launch his upcoming film Boar, in Gympie.

And Caitlyn Shadbolt was awarded the Commercial Radio Australia New Artist to Nashville Scholarship.

On December 12, readers learned that our own rugby league international and Brisbane Broncos development officer Darren Burns had agreed to coach the Gympie Devils.

Our December 15 front page reported the sad demise of the Kandanga Hotel, a major location in Chris Sun's film, which burned to the ground.

Sign of the times. The Kandanga pub will continue trading despite burning to the ground on Saturday.
The historic Kandanga Hotel burnt to the ground, ending an era for the Mary Valley community.

On December 29, readers learned of the return home of Tracey Devereaux, ending a drama which had been followed by thousands in the paper and online.

The December 30 story about a camping family narrowly escaping tragedy at Teewah, when their camper trailer unaccountably caught fire, attracted mass online attention.

And here we are.