COVID-19, bushfires and storms – 2020 had it all

Kim Treasure 24 December 2020

In 2020, if it wasn’t COVID-19, it seems we were talking about the weather, bushfires, smoke and storms.

But there were other things happening in the ACT and surrounds, and the Region Media team did its best to keep you informed about everything you needed to know. We covered the introduction of e-scooters in Canberra, changes to public transport, new developments and old stoushs.

Here we have pulled together 15 of the stories that had you talking in 2020. What was your favourite?

15. Long-forgotten ashes of 70 people found in Goulburn funeral home cupboard

A wreath.

Seventy urns were originally found at a Goulburn funeral home – 44 urns (and their ashes) remain unclaimed. Photo: File.

When Kristy Meizer bought a funeral home in Goulburn, she didn’t expect to find 70 urns containing the ashes of cremated locals. She’s reunited 26 urns with their families, but 44 remain unclaimed and forgotten – and Ms Meiser’s funeral home isn’t alone.

14. The Stromlo Leisure Centre is making quite a splash

Woden Sharks swim club members in pool at Stromlo Leisure Centre.

Woden Sharks swim club members give the Stromlo Leisure Centre the thumbs up. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Superlatives flowed thick and fast when the media was given a sneak peek at the $36 million Stromlo Leisure Centre at Stromlo Forest Park.

ACT Sports Minister Yvette Berry says the facility is more than just a swimming pool, rather a destination in its own right that is set to win design awards.

13. Shock and outrage at West Basin land swap with Curtin horse paddocks

Artist's impression of proposed lakeside park at West Basin.

A render of the proposed lakeside park at West Basin. Image: City Renewal Authority.

A land swap between the ACT Government and the National Capital Authority involving West Basin and the North Curtin horse paddocks was greeted with outrage by shell-shocked community activists and equestrian groups. The deal will secure land for a new diplomatic estate and clear the way for the planned redevelopment of the West Basin area on Lake Burley Griffin in the city, where a building of up to 2000 apartments has been flagged.

12. “Morally I’m right, legally I got pinged”: The case of Jerra Jim versus the council

Jim Holmes leaning on work vehicle.

Jim Holmes says he has been made a scapegoat by council rangers. Photo: Michael Weaver.

If every man’s home is his castle, what’s the nature strip?

Reminiscent of Darryl Kerrigan fighting all the way to the High Court in The Castle, Jerrabomberra resident Jim Holmes decided to take on Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council over two parking fines – and finished more than $3000 out of pocket.

11. Face mask demand surges but supply is plentiful in the ACT

Woman wearing homemade face mask.

As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, facemasks became an unlikely fashion statement. Photo: Twitter.

Single-use surgical masks became the unlikely fashion statement of 2020 as people tried to protect themselves and others from COVID-19.

In response to demand for do-it-yourself facemasks, Spotlight released a free, downloadable sewing pattern and instructional step-by-step video.

10. Police issue a blunt warning to e-scooter users: don’t be an idiot

Beam e-scooters lined up in Canberra city.

Beam e-scooters at Ainslie Place in Civic. Photo: Photox – Canberra Photography Services.

With e-scooters now a permanent fixture in the capital, police have been keen to educate Canberrans about the rules and regulations surrounding this new mode of transport.

Officer in Charge of Road Policing, Detective Inspector Marcus Boorman, emphasised the need for common sense while riding them.

9. And now the end is near … MyWay to make way for new transport ticketing system

Light rail commuters disembarking in Canberra city.

Light rail passengers tap off with their MyWay cards at Alinga Street in Canberra city. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

A new ticketing system for Canberra’s public transport network promised passengers a variety of flexible payment methods and an app provided improved real-time travel information.

ACT Transport Minister Chris Steel said Transport Canberra had begun a procurement process for the new system which replaces the outdated MyWay ticketing and NXTBUS real-time information systems.

8. Canberrans awake to the worst air quality for any city in the world … again

Parliament House blanketed by smoke.

Smoke blanketing Parliament House. Photo: Region Media.

For the second time in a week, Canberrans woke to the world’s worst air quality for any major urban centre in early January 2020. Readings reached almost 15 times hazardous levels by 9 am on 5 January.

7. Light rail Stage 2A to be wire-free as approvals process moves to next phase

Artist's impression of Stage 2A light rail.

A render shows the wire-free Stage 2A light rail leg at the intersection of the raised London Circuit and Commonwealth Avenue. Image: Supplied.

Readers learned construction of the 1.7km extension of light rail from Alinga Street to Commonwealth Park via London Circuit would be a more expensive build, with the ACT Government confirming it would have wire-free running to preserve the heritage vistas to the Parliamentary Zone.

The government revealed more details about the project as it moved to the next approvals phase.

6. Crashed tanker was protecting Two Thumbs koala sanctuary, now destroyed by blaze

James Fitzgerald in bushland.

James Fitzgerald in his wildlife sanctuaries at Peak View. Photo: NSW Koala Country.

The blaze that claimed the lives of three American firefighters in an air crash also wiped out koala conservationist James Fitzgerald’s life work at Two Thumbs Wildlife Trust near Jerangle, and killed many of the animals he was caring for.

The blaze destroyed his home and the animal enclosures where rescued koalas were being housed.

5. ‘I really thought I was going to die’: Canberra woman’s warning about dangerous topical cream

Kylie Johnson showing red skin from use of banned topical cream.

Canberra woman Kylie Johnson was admitted to hospital for eight days after using a topical cream containing bufexamac, purchased from her local pharmacy. Photo: Supplied.

A Canberra woman who had an adverse reaction to a newly banned product contained in at least 16 non-prescriptive topical creams urged other Australians to check their medicine cabinets.

First-aid creams containing bufexamac – used to treat minor cuts and abrasions, insect bites, stings and itches, and minor burns and sunburn – were removed from the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods on 18 September after Kylie Johnson and others shared their traumatic experiences.

4. Army helicopter believed to have caused Orroral Valley fire

MHR-90 Taipan helicopter.

MHR-90 Taipan helicopter. Photo: Australian Defence Force.

An Army helicopter on reconnaissance in Namadgi National Park caused the Orroral Valley bushfire that raged out of control on Canberra’s southern edges.

The MRH-90 Taipan helicopter was clearing landing zones to drop in strike teams in case of a fire, but when it landed at around 1 pm on 27 January, 2020, its landing light created enough heat to set grass on fire.

3. Barr calls urgent halt to all non-essential travel to protect region; schools to go pupil free

Chief Minister Andrew Barr

Auslan interpreter Mandy Dolesji and ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr at a press conference in March 2020. Photo: Supplied.

The COVID-19 crisis moved to a new stage in the ACT when Chief Minister Andrew Barr urged Canberrans to halt all non-essential travel and made the territory’s schools pupil-free.

The move followed a positive COVID-19 test at Lyneham High School and brought the total number of ACT coronavirus cases to 20.

2. Mayhem at Fyshwick as market forces in play

Shoppers at Fyshwick Markets.

Fyshwick Markets management has monitored COVID-19 throughout 2020. Photo: Supplied.

Shopkeepers at Fyshwick Markets faced abuse from angry shoppers as the prices of staples such as meat and vegetables increased in March 2020 due to supply issues relating to the COVID-19 response.

Fyshwick Markets marketing manager Georgie Houston told Region Media that the forces of supply and demand forced shopkeepers to increase their prices, with reports of a single head of cauliflower selling for $19.99 at one of the fruit and vegetable retailers, and for $13.99 at another.

1. Storms, hail, strong winds lash Canberra

Car with smashed windscreen from hail.

A hail-damaged car in Griffith. Photo: Luke, via The Canberra Page.

Large hailstones, storms and strong winds wreaked havoc across the ACT on 20 January, causing widespread damage and blanketing suburbs with hail. Many suburbs also experienced power outages due to fallen powerlines.


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