Council fills funding gap for Northern Aquatic and Community Hub

Council will increase its funding commitment to the Northern Aquatic andCommunity Hub by a further $21.84 million in a bid to bring the transformative
facility to life and secure vital federal government funding.

For its $10
million application under the federal government’s Building Better Regions Fund
(BBRF) to be eligible, the project must be fully funded and ready for
construction to begin.

The Council’s decision to allocate additional funding in its four-year budget –
made as a result of an urgent business motion during Tuesday night’s meeting –
means the long-awaited redevelopment is now on the cusp of reality.

Council’s extra commitment – on top of the existing $23 million it has already
allocated in its draft four-year budget – is contingent on its application to
assign $8.26 million from the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Fund
(LRCIF) being successful.

Subject to that success, the funding breakdown for construction of the $61.6
million facility would be as follows:

City of Greater Geelong         $44.84
$8.5 million
LRCIF (federal government)   $8.26 million
$61.6 million

Should the
Council’s $10 million application to the Building Better Regions Fund then also
prove successful, the Council’s total commitment would reduce to $34.84

The Council’s resolution noted that extra funding would continue to be sought
from the state and federal governments.

A seven-day feedback period will seek community comment on the proposed
additional Council funding before it is considered for inclusion in the final
budget, to be endorsed at the end of June.

Mayor Stephanie Asher said the Council’s decision was a momentous move towards
delivering a community facility that would provide opportunity, health benefits
and social connection.

This is a decision that has the capacity to change lives and outcomes for the
people of Geelong’s northern suburbs.

It’s also a commitment that befits our investment in the coming northern and
western growth areas.

We are at a make or break point for the project, and it’s time to get on with
walking our talk.

Of course we will continue to seek support and lobby hard for further funding
from other levels of government, but we can’t drop our bundle now.

Ward councillor Anthony Aitken said the Council’s decision to boost its funding
commitment was a landmark investment in the northern suburbs.

has been advocating and lobbying for the Northern Aquatic and Community Hub for
the past five years because we believe in this project and what it will do for
the people of the north.

must be the controller of this project and take opportunities in order to
ensure the funding we’ve secured isn’t put in jeopardy, and to pave the way for
future funding from the state and federal governments.

Greater Geelong Council is taking this bold and courageous step to deliver the
most significant community project the City of Greater Geelong has ever
invested in.

Once built, the Northern Aquatic
and Community Hub will deliver a state-of-the-art aquatic and community
facility for the Geelong region in Norlane, creating $111 million in
life-changing preventative health benefits during its first decade in

Plans for the facility include a 25-metre
pool, hydrotherapy pool, Learn to Swim pool, water play area and waterslide;
spa, sauna and steam room; café; gym and group exercise; consulting suites for
maternal child health; early childhood care; and rehabilitation services.

large multi-purpose community hall also featured in the plans would become the
best of its kind in Greater Geelong, with capacity to host up to 400 people.

Late last year the Council funded the fourth and final design stage of the
Northern Aquatic and Community Hub in recognition that ‘shovel ready’ projects
were receiving priority for government COVID-19 stimulus funding.

As a result, the project is now ready to be put out for construction tender as
soon as it is fully funded.

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AFL expansion debate for Northern Territory, Tasmania not strictly business

As another bidder enters the AFL expansion race the game’s administrators face an ethical decision over whether to prioritise their social responsibility as custodians of the game or the finances underpinning it.

The government-funded feasibility study into the viability of an AFL team from the Northern Territory, conveniently released the week of the marquee dream time clash in Sir Doug Nicholls Round, showed the club would likely run at a yearly loss of $15 million. This financial deficit, it stated, could be mitigated by the social benefits.

“The potential of an AFL team based out of the NT to affect social and community change is immense and is worthy of further exploration,” the report said.

“The unconventional model emphasises social impact as the core objective of the team to drive funding that fills the revenue gap.”

You can only imagine the team’s appeal to socially progressive multi-national corporations who would likely clamour to support a side laden with Indigenous talent. Government, too.

News of the potential Northern Territory bid was largely met with positivity among footy fans, many citing the Territory’s rich contribution to the game as a breeding ground of champions – the Riolis and Michael Long to name but a few.

Tigers CEO backs truly national AFL

Richmond’s chief executive Brendon Gale hadn’t seen the report but shared that sentiment on The Lead on ABC Grandstand AFL.

“What a wonderful territory they are in terms of producing talent and I’m not sure where they are at with it, but it would make for pretty good reading I would have thought,” he said.

When asked whether the AFL’s responsibility was to consider social outcomes over financial viability or to run the game as a business, Gale was unequivocal.

“Both. They are not mutually exclusive.”

“So that’s not about finance, that’s about ensuring the game’s rolled out on a national stage.”

Changed approach brings Tassie team closer

While the Northern Territory bid is a long-term proposition and has social impacts at its core, Tasmania has tabled a plan to enter the big league which is more immediate and financially sound, while also highly worthy from a heritage and community-impact perspective.

As a proud Tasmanian, I need to declare a passion to see this achieved.

For years, Tasmania’s push for admittance centred around sentimental arguments. The state that produced greats of the game including Peter Hudson, Royce Hart, Darrel Baldock, Ian Stewart, Alistair Lynch and Matthew Richardson was a football heartland and deserved a team in the national league.

While the argument is perfectly valid, the AFL’s never been big on sentiment, particularly under the leadership of former chief executive Andrew Demetriou.

Tasmania’s approach had to change to cut through.

A thorough business case, put together by highly credentialed corporate leaders and demonstrating the proposed team’s financial viability, is now under the consideration of respected former Geelong president and AFL commissioner Colin Carter.

He’ll report his findings to the AFL in coming weeks.

Opinion split over 20-team AFL

Essendon premiership player Adam Ramanauskas supports the entry of both Tasmania and the Northern Territory into the competition.

“I want 20 teams in the AFL … [then] we’ve got representation around the country,” he said.

“That then probably solves the problem with the fixture as well. You’ve a 19-round season plus finals so everyone plays each other once.”

But fellow Grandstand AFL expert, Geelong premiership captain Cameron Ling believes it would compromise the overall product.

“When the Suns and the Giants came in it really diluted the talent pool so, to bring two new teams in, I don’t think it works from an on-field playing perspective,” he said.

Brandon Ellis of the Gold Coast Suns moves to high five a teammate during an AFL win over Collingwood.
The AFL’s investment in expansion teams on the Gold Coast and Western Sydney has made things harder for Tasmania and the NT.(

AAP: James Ross


There is no doubt the priority given to expansion markets in Gold Coast and Western Sydney and enormous financial cost to the AFL of establishing the Suns and Giants has made the path to the AFL more difficult for Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also added a layer of financial uncertainty, albeit it is a likely short-term position the code will recover from.

But growing the game into new frontiers should never have come at the expense of existing markets.

As the AFL haemorrhaged cash in non-traditional regions, Tasmania ploughed millions into Hawthorn and financially vulnerable North Melbourne for a suite of mostly poor-drawing fixtures.

The Northern Territory government has also paid large sums of money for matches, with Melbourne CEO Gary Pert confirming to Grandstand AFL the club would lose $800,000 due to the relocation of Friday night’s clash with Brisbane from Alice Springs to the SCG.

Business case not the only key for Tasmania

The eight matches played in Tasmania per season have done nothing to arrest the game’s diminishing appeal in the state with the standard of local football and participation in key age groups suffering through a period of steady decline.

Hawthorn players run through a banner that reads 'Our House Our Rules' in an AFL game in Tasmania.
Hawthorn and North Melbourne play ‘home’ games in Tasmania, but it’s not the same as having a standalone team in the Apple Isle.(

AAP: James Ross


It’s not the fault of the Hawks and North Melbourne, but Tasmanian premier Peter Gutwein has rightly declared there’ll be no more squeeze and pull on the teats of the Tassie cash cow without a clear path to the state’s own side.

The permanent presence and aspirational power of an AFL side in Tasmania would be truly transformational — the intervention desperately needed to change the code’s course in a foundation football state.

While it’s Carter assessing the merits of the business case, the AFL should perhaps look to Kennedy when it comes to expansion into Tassie and the Top End.

Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.

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Northern Territory Travel Guide | Plan Your Holiday in Northern Territory

This is the Australian cliche – harsh ochre-red deserts, strange rock formations, dusty plains with kangaroos gazing lazily in the hot sun, and lonely outback pubs. Further north to the coast, brilliant blue open skies seemingly meet the sea; and the rocky gorges of Kakadu and their deliciously inviting watering holes. Cliche it may be, but it’s quintessential Australia.

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Noxious weed, wheel cactus, spreads in the millions across northern Victoria

Fifteen years ago, this mountain in Wychitella in northern Victoria was just like any other, filled with undulating, native rocky grasslands. 

But it’s now populated, as far as the eye can see, with wild wheel cactus, a noxious weed.

Farmer Mark Hall lives near the base of Mount Buckrabanyule and has spent decades trying to eradicate it.  

“This is a cancer, and it’s a cancer on the landscape,” Mr Hall said.

Wheel cactus – also known as Opuntia robusta – is native to Mexico and is a highly invasive weed that is now classified as a Weed of National Significance.

About 15 years ago, there was hardly a cactus to be seen on Mount Buckrabanyule. But residents and farmers say control measures have slipped on crown, public and private land, and the weed is growing out of control.

Mr Hall continues to eradicate the growing cacti on his property, but it’s no easy feat.

“It’s a really labour-intensive weed to get rid of, and that’s part of the problem,” he said.

“Each pad needs to be injected individually with glyphosate with a bit long metal rod.”

But despite individual efforts, the weed is spreading quickly.

Graham Nesbit is the Victorian Farmers Federation Wedderburn branch president and lives about 30 kilometres away from Mr Hall.

“Somewhere around five kilometres a year is its spread rate — basically any area where birds will fly daily and spread the seeds.”

In Maldon in Central Victoria, Lee Mead and her team at Tarrangower Cactus Control Group have been tackling the weed for decades, holding field days and visiting farms to clear infestations.

“We have lots of volunteers. We’ve had hundreds of volunteers involved over the years.”

But Ms Mead said control measures needed to be ramped up.

Ms Mead said one of the biggest challenges was the increasing number of absentee farmers in the area.

“Increasingly, farming properties are being subdivided into smaller lifestyle properties, and usually the people that buy these properties don’t live there,” she said.

“If you don’t live on the property or don’t try and earn an income from the property, there’s very little incentive to spend money.”

In a statement, Victorian Agriculture Minister Mary-Anne Thomas said managing wheel cactus was tough, but officers were continuing to work with public and private landholders to manage the weed. 

Parks Victoria said it was carrying out control work across the state and had just completed the first year of a three-year control program on Mount Egbert, Mount Korong and Mount Kooyoora in Victoria. 

But residents and farmers say more funding and enforcement measures are needed.

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Melbourne COVID-19 restrictions return as outbreak in northern suburbs grows to nine

Victoria has recorded another four COVID-19 infections, bringing a cluster in Melbourne's north to nine, as restrictions have been tightened in the city.Key points:The four new cases are family contacts of a man who is being treated as a potential source of the clusterMasks will be mandatory indoors in Melbourne from 6:00pm Tuesday and limits on gatherings will be introducedExtended hours have been introduced at 26 COVID-19 testing sites in MelbourneThe four new infections are in addition to a Whittlesea man in his 60s who returned a positive result on Tuesday morning, and the four cases reported on Monday.The new cases confirmed Tuesday afternoon are all family contacts of the man in his 60s. The nine infections in the cluster are spread across three households.Authorities believe the man, also known as the fifth case, was the source of infection for the previous four.Genomic sequencing has confirmed the cases are ultimately linked to the Wollert man who returned to Victoria earlier this month after acquiring the virus in South Australian hotel quarantine.But the “missing link” link between the Wollert man and the rest of the infections has not yet been found.LIVE UPDATES: Read our blog for the latest news on the COVID-19 pandemicChief Health Officer Brett Sutton told ABC Radio Melbourne “we have to be alive to the possibility” there will be more positive cases in primary close contacts who are currently in quarantine.Victoria's coronavirus restrictionsMask rules and visitor limits are tightening in Victoria to respond to a growing COVID-19 outbreak. Here's what it means for you.Read moreThe cluster prompted the government to reintroduce measures such as the mandatory wearing of masks indoors, and limits gatherings from 6:00pm on Tuesday.People are restricted to five visitors per day to their homes, and private gatherings in public, like a barbecue or picnic, will be restricted to 30 people.The restrictions will be in place until at least June 4.More than 14,800 test results were received on Monday, and 8,269 vaccination shots were delivered.Man in his 60s could be cluster sourceActing Premier James Merlino said the fifth case was a close contact of the first person in the cluster to be identified earlier this week, and he was urgently tested.”Importantly, he reports being symptomatic before case one developed symptoms, meaning this could be a possible source case,” Mr Merlino said.He said after “early investigations” the case had not been linked to any of the exposure sites connected to the Wollert case that emerged two weeks ago.”But importantly the genomic sequencing has confirmed that this case, these cases, originate back to the South Australian hotel quarantine outbreak,” he said. The Nando's restaurant on Dalton Road in Epping is among the listed exposure sites.(ABC News: Dana Morse)Professor Sutton earlier said the fifth case “may be the missing link” that connects the Wollert case to the cluster of four reported on Monday — but no point of transmission had been established yet.”His initial recollections don't overlap with any of the Wollert case's exposure sites, so there's no definitive link to that Wollert case even though we know that there's a genomic link, so there may still be another intermediary,” he said.”We need to explore that, but we need to finish the very lengthy, very detailed interview with that case this morning.” Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton says Victorians are well primed to respond to the threat of the outbreak.(AAP: Luis Ascui)He said the fifth case had an appointment with the first of the four cases reported on Monday.”He was symptomatic at the time of that appointment and the transmission probably occurred on the 18th when that happened,” Professor Sutton said.List of Melbourne COVID exposure sitesVictoria's health department has listed these sites as they try to contain an outbreak identified this week.Read moreContract tracers are looking into the man's work and other interactions to identify any more locations to add to the list of potential exposure sites.There were 168 primary close contacts identified by Tuesday afternoon, including those who had visited sites at the busy Highpoint Shopping Centre.One of the cases visited the Broadmeadows Hospital in Melbourne's outer north-west on May 21, but the hospital is not listed as an exposure site as the department has a record of all visitors.”Broadmeadows Hospital is open, with elective surgery continuing as planned. As a precaution, one section of Outpatients has been deep-cleaned, with some clinics relocated or conducted via telehealth,” a spokesperson for Northern Health, which manages the hospital, said.How other states are treating Melbourne's outbreakYou can keep track of different responses at each state and territory health department website:QueenslandNew South WalesSouth AustraliaWestern AustraliaTasmaniaAustralian Capital TerritoryNorthern TerritoryProfessor Sutton said he was confident the state could get on top of the outbreak.”We have to chase down every single close contact,” he told ABC Radio Melbourne.”People have to do the right thing with the new restrictions coming in, but it's certainly not out of control.”Testing capability expandedVictoria's Health Minister, Martin Foley, said operating hours would be extended at more pop-up testing sites.He said 26 sites would be operating on extended hours throughout Tuesday, including the Melbourne Showgrounds, which would operate as a four-lane drive-through testing site until 8:00pm.Lengthy waiting times were reported at a number of testing sites throughout the day, with some people waiting up to four hours. Melbourne testing sites have been flooded with thousands of people.(ABC News)Government considers expanding vaccine eligibilityThe Acting Premier flagged possible changes that would open up access to vaccines to more people in Victoria, in addition to those in categories 1a and 1b, and those aged over 50.”We are looking at going beyond, or expanding, the eligibility criteria in terms of people that can get vaccinated, and we'll be making some announcements in coming days,” Mr Merlino said.Mr Merlino confirmed he was solely referring to Victoria, not a push for a nationwide change in eligibility. More people could become eligible for the COVID vaccine in Victoria under changes flagged by the Acting Premier.(ABC News: Ryan Smith)”Essentially it comes down to what confidence we have in supply, but that question you'd need to put to the Commonwealth.”Mr Merlino reiterated the call for people who are already eligible not to delay their vaccination.”There are millions of Victorians eligible to be vaccinated, people should not wait,” he said.What you need to know about coronavirus:The symptomsThe number of cases in AustraliaTracking Australia's vaccine rolloutGlobal cases, deaths and testing ratesPosted 2ddays agoMonMonday 24 MayMay 2021 at 11:45pm, updated 1dday agoTueTuesday 25 MayMay 2021 at 8:16amShareCopy linkFacebookTwitterArticle share optionsShare this onFacebookTwitterLinkedInSend this byEmailMessengerCopy linkWhatsAppMore on:WhittleseaMaribyrnongEppingBrunswickCOVID-19Epidemics and Pandemics

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Ancient tree species, northern sandalwood, brought back from brink of extinction in Victoria

Beneath the canopy of a pristine pocket of native bushland near the banks of the Murray River in northern Victoria stands a rather unassuming treasure.

Torrumbarry resident Tuesday Browell studied aromatic medicine and was doing some research on Australian sandalwood trees when she came across something interesting.

“I read two lines that said there was an old sandalwood tree in Torrumbarry on an old sandhill,” Ms Browell said.

Twenty-five years ago, Ms Browell trekked through rugged terrain and uninhabited lagoons to find that sandhill and stumbled across not one but 15 of the ancient and endangered trees.

She decided then and there to buy the land and put a conservation covenant on the property, so the trees can never be removed.

“They’re not a very stunning tree, you don’t go ‘Wow, look at that tree. Isn’t it gorgeous or isn’t it striking?’

“When you put them next to a gum tree, they look a little bit more green-grey, like an olive tree — they are hard to identify if you’ve never seen one.”

 But what they lack in looks, they make up for in value.

Glen Johnson, from Victoria’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, said for centuries sandalwoods were prized for their expensive wood and oil.

“Sandalwood is one of those aromatic woods and it’s got incredible value, really high value,” Mr Johnson said.

“That happened all around Australia, but it probably had the detrimental impact on what is the southern end of its geographical range in northern Victoria.”

He said about 1 per cent of what was once in northern Victoria now remained.

While relatively common in other Australian states, northern sandalwoods are on the brink of extinction in Victoria, due to large-scale clearing.

But Tuesday Browell and Wollithiga man, Henry Atkinson, are working together to change that.

“Some of my people would have eaten from that tree, they would have eaten some of the nuts that come out of the berry,” Mr Atkinson said.

Ms Browell said more protection was needed from the state government.

“Even though it has got an action plan, there’s very little assistance for private landholders such as myself, to preserve and take care of things, so I’d like to see that change,” Ms Browell said.

Mr Johnson said the state’s environment department had introduced fencing, pest animal controls, and attempted to propagate the species.

He said applications were also now open for Victorian Landcare grants for groups and individuals to help protect private land, via catchment management authorities.

But propagating the tree was not easy, as Ms Browell discovered.

“You can’t just put a seed in the ground and water it and grows. It has to have a host — it’s like a parasite,” she said.

“Some trees need a fire to go through, and orange needs a frost before it goes sweet. This is the same.

“It has to have a host, otherwise it dies, and when that tree dies, it needs to find another one, so you’ve got to have a lot of trees around for them to keep living.”

But despite the difficulties, she said the conservation effort must continue.

“We’re just using her as a resource, instead of learning to enjoy her for what she is.”

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Calls for sunset clause on developers to stop ‘land banking’ amid soaring northern NSW house prices

Councils on the New South Wales north coast, where skyrocketing property prices have sparked a growing housing crisis, say thousands of blocks of land approved for residential development are being kept off the market.

The latest house price figures from CoreLogic show property values on the Northern Rivers have risen more in the past 12 months than anywhere else in Australia.

House values in the Richmond-Tweed climbed 21.9 per cent in the 12 months to April, while unit values increased by 15.5 per cent, according to the data.

In comparison, house prices in Sydney rose 11.2 per cent over the same period.

The median house price in the Byron Shire is now $1.4 million, compared to Greater Sydney’s $1.1 million. 

CoreLogic research director Tim Lawless said you would have to go back two decades to find a similar rise in property values on the Northern Rivers.

“Around the Richmond-Tweed region, you’d probably have to go back to around about (the) 2000-2003 period. Back then we were also seeing very strong growth conditions across many of the lifestyle areas.”

Despite the “extraordinary” rise in property prices across the region, the Tweed Shire Council revealed it had 13,000 greenfield lots available for releases that were rezoned 30 years ago. 

However the council’s general manager Troy Green said land release was “primarily in the hands of private developers”, which could lead to “land banking”.

“In the Tweed, of those 13,000 lots, the majority are held by two landowners and there is no mechanism in the NSW planning system to encourage, or foster, those blocks being brought to the market,” he said.

“Unlike in Western Australia where their planning system has a ‘use it or lose it’ type law.”

Mr Green called on the NSW government to introduce a sunset clause for developers to bring vacant lots to the market.

“If land is rezoned for housing … (and) it’s not brought to the market in a certain time, then that rezoning should go back to what it was previously.”

NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes said the idea of time consents on developers was something the state government had considered.

“We really had to focus on accelerating projects that we knew would stimulate jobs and we selected those on the basis of developers who could commit to us that they were going to get shovels in the ground within six months of receiving an approval.”

But Mr Stokes said “land banking” was a complex issue, with frustrations on both sides.

He said there were many instances of developers being unable to bring land to the market, due to a lack of utilities and services provided to the site by councils.

“Equally, there’s plenty of examples where developers have been speculators and have land banked,” Mr Stokes said.

South of the Tweed Shire, Lismore’s mayor has voiced similar frustrations about developers land banking vacant lots that have been rezoned for residential housing.

“It’s been a real issue because we’ve been told that we need to have a certain amount of housing, so we’ve planned for that,” Cr Vanessa Ekins said.

Cr Ekins said in addition to a sunset clause on residential developments, she would also like to see incentives for developers to build more affordable housing.

“One thing that we’re really good at building around here is huge houses — five bedrooms, three bathrooms — because developers get a premium for that,” she said.

“We want to see more medium density because we know only about 13 per cent of our housing is in that category, yet over 60 per cent of our households are made up of one or two people.”

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Victoria reports four positive cases from northern suburbs – as it happened | Australia news

NSW Health has put out an update on how it is handling the Melbourne cases – it is still watch and wait.

NSW Health is closely monitoring the situation in Victoria as local health authorities investigate four Covid-19 cases detected in Melbourne’s northern suburbs.

The new cases visited a number of venues while infectious.

People arriving in Sydney from the Greater Melbourne area are reminded that they must complete a declaration which confirms they have not attended one of these venues of concern.

The declaration form is available on the Service NSW website, and can be completed in the 24-hour period before entering NSW or on arrival.

NSW Health will be contacting people who have completed declarations to ask them to check the Victoria Department of Health and Human Services website and immediately follow the outlined public health advice. Venues may be updated, so it is important to check this page regularly.

If you have been in Victoria since 10 May and attended any of the venues identified at the times listed, please contact NSW Health immediately on 1800 943 553.

The travel declaration provides critical information to enable NSW Health to contact travellers if required, and is for all travellers who intend to enter NSW by air, road and rail having been in Greater Melbourne in the previous 14 days.

This form includes contact details and confirmation of whether people have been to any venues of concern. Declaration forms can be completed within the 24-hour period prior to entering NSW, or on entry to NSW.

Drive-through Covid testing in Bondi, Sydney. Photograph: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

People who have been in the Whittlesea local government area should not visit residential aged care facilities, or hospitals unless seeking medical attention.

The Whittlesea LGA includes the suburbs and rural localities of Beveridge, Donnybrook, Doreen, Eden Park, Epping, Humevale, Kinglake West, Lalor, Mernda, Mill Park, South Morang, Thomastown, Whittlesea, Wollert, Woodstock and Yan Yean.

There are more than 300 Covid-19 testing locations across NSW, many of which are open seven days a week.

To find your nearest testing clinic, visit, or contact your GP.

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The Northern Territory's Attorney-General has used a late night speech to parliament to strongly criticise federal Greens senator, Lidia Thorpe.

The Northern Territory’s Attorney-General has used a late night speech to parliament to strongly criticise federal Greens senator, Lidia Thorpe.

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A family in the Northern Territory farms a beetle that eats the noxious Sida weed.

A family in the Northern Family is cultivating the Calligrapha beetle to combat the spread of the Sida weed. The beetle can reduce densities of the weed in weeks.

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