Aus COVID-19 school holiday warning


With school holidays approaching, Australians are being urged to be COVID-Safe and rethink their travel if they’re feeling unwell. Picture: David Gray/Getty Images

Australians have been warned to remain COVID-safe as school holidays approach.

Deputy Chief Medical Office Dr Nick Coatsworth said people needed to be aware of how they were feeling before going anywhere.

He reminded people to wash their hands, remain socially distant and avoid leaving the house if unwell.

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“Where there is movement, there is potential movement of COVID-19,” Dr Coatsworth said.

“Work out where the nearest COVID testing facility is for your particular holiday destination and if you are sick on the day you have to leave out of your major capital, don’t be the one that takes COVID-19 in regional communities in Australia … The licence to move is not a licence to move unsafely.

People arriving to Sydney International Airport. Picture: Adam Yip
People arriving to Sydney International Airport. Picture: Adam Yip

“We’re clearly looking at numbers within seven out of eight jurisdictions in Australia that do allow movement within states from urban to regional areas. There would be no point in restricting that sort of movement because the numbers would not favour that as a proportionate response.

“With those numbers being low, the obvious way to keep them low and keep our school holiday as close to how they usually are is to keep as COVID safe as possible and that’s a responsibility for everybody.

“The licence to move is not a licence to move unsafely.”

Term three holidays in NSW will run from September 28 to October 9 while Victorians and Queenslanders began their break on September 19 and will run until October 4.

Dr Coatsworth said just because Australia was entering the summer months, did not mean people could be complacent.

“We’ve all expressed concern in the decrease in testing rates … We can only ask Australians with even the most minimal symptoms to get tested.

“It’s going to be a challenge (to lift testing rates) because we’re moving into the months of the year where there is less respiratory virus.

“We just saw the first and second waves in the northern hemisphere taking place in the summer months so we can’t be complacent.”

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Nick Coatsworth speaks to the media during a press conference. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas Coch
Deputy chief medical officer Dr Nick Coatsworth speaks to the media during a press conference. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas Coch

There is a total of 26,912 cases of COVID-19 in Australia, which only increased by 16 in the past 24 hours.

On Monday, NSW reported four new cases, Queensland had one new case while Victoria reported 11 new cases.

Dr Coatsworth said the results from Victoria — which had only two deaths — were pleasing and was testament to residents’ immense effort.

“We encourage them to keep up the good work. There is still some way to go … but it is pleasing when we see numbers so close to single digits and the control that implies we’ll be able to keep COVID-19 under control.”

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Finnish authorities failed to do due diligence to prevent school shooting in Kauhajoki in 2008


THE EUROPEAN COURT of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on Thursday that Finnish authorities violated the right to life of 10 young people by failing to do their due diligence to prevent the school shooting that occurred in Kauhajoki, Western Finland, in September 2008.

The ruling was delivered by a vote of six to one.

Nineteen family members of the 10 people who died in the shooting filed a complaint with the ECHR in 2012, questioning the decision of authorities to grant the shooter a gun licence despite his mental health problems. The decision, the complainants argued, violated article two of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Police also decided not to confiscate the firearm despite interviewing the shooter a day before the shooting for posting alarming firearm-related videos and references to the Columbine High School massacre in the United States in 1999.

The 22-year-old man committed suicide after killing 10 at the school on 23 September 2008.

The ECHR ruled in favour of the complainants, ordering the Finnish state to pay the family of each victim 30,000 euros in compensation for their loss and almost 7,000 euros for the legal fees incurred during the eight-year process, according to YLE.

Also the Finnish judicial system has assessed the actions of authorities prior to the shooting, reminded Helsingin Sanomat.

The Vaasa Court of Appeal in 2011 convicted the officer who interviewed the shooter of negligent violation of official duty for failing to use their discretion and confiscate the firearm. The officer, however, also had no justified reason to suspect the shooter was planning a school shooting, according to the court.

The families of the victims had demanded that the officer be sentenced for violation of official duty and several counts of negligent homicides.

Helsingin Sanomat also highlighted that the shooting served as an impetus for amending the firearms legislation. The amendments appear to have had the desired effect. The man who killed one and wounded several others in a vocational college in Kuopio in October 2019 stated in court earlier this week that he decided to use a sword in his attack due to the difficulty of obtaining a firearm.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT



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Yothu Yindi Foundation plans to build new school at Garma Festival site


Standing in an empty paddock at the Garma festival site, Murphy Yunupingu spans his arms wide — wide enough to take in full scope of his bold, costly and nostalgic new vision.

The vision is for a new school, a reboot of an old school, his old school, named Dhupuma College.

“My thought and plans were the college will be made into a yidaki [didgeridoo] design, a giant yidaki, with the students in it,” the project’s chairman said, motioning across the dusty plain.

Whether or not it comes to fruition exactly as Mr Yunupingu’s dreaming, the plan for the secondary school to be built at the Gulkula site has amassed some groundswell.

With Garma cancelled for 2020 due to COVID-19, Mr Yunupingu said it had given the Yothu Yindi Foundation (YYF), the corporation behind the festival, time to focus on the idea.

Mr Yunupingu said Dhupuma College would be an independent bilingual school, teaching children — or djamarkuli — in both English and their first tongue, Yolngu Matha.

“What we’re doing is bringing the djarmakuli’s knowledge to their second language. So they can climb their second language easy as, without slipping,” he said.

Gumatj man Murphy Yunupingu has a vision to see a new school built on the Garma site in East Arnhem Land.(ABC News: Michael Franchi)

The original Dhupuma College was opened at Gulkula — today the site of Garma — in 1972.

The residential college was hailed as a successful model for teaching young Northern Territory students, predominantly Indigenous children, how to exist in both the Yolngu and balanda [non-Indigenous] worlds before it was abruptly shut in 1979.

College prepared to take independent path

The Dhupuma College plan has progressed to the point of high-level discussions with the NT Government, which would be needed to help progress its path to independence.

But YYF’s chief executive Denise Bowden said the school would not be bound to the government and would work off its own syllabus.

“Independence is the key,” Ms Bowden said.

“It allows us to move in accordance with the ebb and flow of the local community.

“We’re hearing quite clearly that the local community want to be part of the design and the curriculum build and have that really strong Yolngu presence.”

A young Aboriginal boy dances, his body is decorated with traditional pigment markings.
The original Dhupuma College was opened at Gulkula, which is now the site of Garma Festival.(ABC: Mitchell Woolnough)

In a statement, the NT Government acknowledged “bilingual education is one example of how schools can enhance engagement” but wouldn’t go as far as committing resources to the project.

The NT Government scrapped bilingual education from its own school curriculums in 2008.

Dhupama plan will face challenges, costs

Going their own way won’t be easy. And building a new school on an empty patch of earth in one of the remotest parts of Australia would also have its challenges, and costs, said Gumatj Corporation chief executive Klaus Helms.

“The cost of running it here again in 2021 is very different than it was in 1974,” Mr Helms said.

He also cited possible hurdles with power and water delivery in bringing the project to life.

Gumatj CEO Klaus Helms and educator Murphy Yunupingu stand talking at the Garma Festival site.
Gumatj CEO Klaus Helms and educator Murphy Yunupingu at the site where Mr Yunupingu hopes the new Dhupama College will be built.(ABC News: Michael Franchi)

The idea to build the secondary school at Gulkula also coincides with a simultaneous plan from YYF to open an independent kindergarten and early childhood school in the Gove Peninsula community of Gunyangara, which could also compound plans to construct the second facility.

However, a chief architect of the idea, Murphy Yunupingu, remained confident not only that it would happen, but that it would happen in time for Garma Festival 2021.



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Relief as Queensland opens border to ACT in time for Canberra’s school holidays


Stacey Crampton had been filled with anxiety at the thought of getting married without the people closest to her being able to attend.

But the Queensland Government’s decision to lift border restrictions with the ACT means Stacey’s aunt Michelle can now watch her niece get married at Old Parliament House in Canberra.

“She pretty much became a mother figure to me when my mum passed away, so not having her here would have been worse than not having a wedding altogether,” Stacey said.

Thankfully, Stacey said, she will now be able to have have her mother’s two sisters and her Queensland cousins at the wedding in November.

However, her partner’s UK-based sister and nieces will still be unable to attend.

“It makes me less anxious especially knowing my Aunty Michelle is going to be here.”

Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles announced Queensland would open its borders to ACT in a week’s time.(ABC News: Chris Gillette)

‘Start thinking about a holiday’

Queensland announced on Friday it would reopen its border to Canberrans, who will be able to fly into the Sunshine State from next Friday.

“This is great news for the ACT and is recognition for the fact that they have been sometime without any cases,” Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles said.

“Now is the time we would urge them [Canberrans] to start thinking about coming up to Queensland for a holiday.”

The move comes after South Australia announced it too would allow ACT residents to fly into the state, provided they had not been in New South Wales for the 14 days prior.

The announcements mean only Western Australia and Tasmania will be off-limits to the ACT.

Qantas profits dive
Canberrans will soon be flying to Queensland without the need to quarantine.(Mark Baker: Reuters)

Family reunions and ‘compassionate travel’

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the new travel bubble with Queensland was timely for Canberrans ahead of the school holidays.

“I think it’s most significant benefit in the short-term is going to be for family reunion and compassionate travel, as well as those who might be looking for a break over the ACT school holidays,” he said.

Mr Barr also said it would directly benefit local tourism operators because Queenslanders would not be allowed to travel to New South Wales once they arrived in the ACT.

Andrew speaks seriously to the camera.
ACT Chief Minister Barr said the travel arrangement with Queensland will benefit the capital’s local tourism industry.(ABC News: Niki Burnside)

He said, now that more states were opening up to Canberrans, he had his sights set on a deal with Tasmania.

Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein today said travellers from the ACT and possibly NSW may be able to enter the state, if approved by the State Controller, earlier than December 1 — the previous date the Tasmanian Government had been sticking to.

“We are not declaring that we will open early [but] I think there is a good chance we would be able to open towards the end of the month [of October],” he said.

“Obviously the circumstances of each of those jurisdictions will be what will inform our decision, as well as our health preparedness, our aged care preparedness as well.

“The national aspiration is for the country to be open by Christmas, we will share that aspiration, but again, we won’t put Tasmanians at risk.”



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Bolivia cancels school year. Parents ask: What now?



Bolivia has been through the wringer over the past year, from contested elections and the flight of its ex-president to the arrival of COVID-19 and the challenges of online learning. But since early August, Bolivian parents are facing a new dilemma: no school, at all. Full stop.

Only about 25% of the country’s households have broadband internet, and continuing digital classes was unrealistic, the government argued. The rest of the school year, which typically ends in November, was canceled, though public school teachers still receive their salary, and many continue trying to reach out to students. There are targeted efforts to reach children in secluded Indigenous communities, and nonprofit groups are attempting to bridge the education gap with lessons, too. But many parents and observers are concerned about long-term effects.

“The pandemic lifted a veil on the historic disparities that still exist in Bolivia,” says Lina Beltrán, chief of education for UNICEF Bolivia. She notes that the longer students are out of school, the more likely they are to drop out entirely. “The learning losses also threaten to extend beyond this generation and erase decades of progress,” she adds.

Mexico City

Four kids. One cellphone. No internet.

That was the distance-learning setup for José Luis Torrez’s family in Tilata, Bolivia, a town on the outskirts of La Paz, at the start of the pandemic. “We were blowing through our savings” to buy phone credit, says Mr. Torrez, who runs a mechanic’s garage. But in early August, not long after a neighbor helped Mr. Torrez set up a Wi-Fi connection, Bolivia’s department of education canceled the rest of the school year.

Ever since schooling moved online last spring, just a month after classes started in the Southern Hemisphere, millions of Bolivians without access to the internet or electronic devices struggled to keep their children learning and engaged. The government argued that continuing digital classes through November, typically the end of the school year, was simply unrealistic – pointing to disagreements with the teachers union, its inability to provide universal education online, and the public-health danger of in-person classes. 

“Just like any parent, our dream is for the kids to achieve more and go further than their parents,” says Mr. Torrez, whose children range from 4 to 12 years old. “I always hoped they’d become professionals.”

“After this,” he says with a sad laugh, “Bolivia’s best hope may be for a generation of mediocre professionals.” 

Bolivia has been through the wringer over the past year: From a contested presidential election, nationwide political protests, and the flight of its leftist ex-president, to a right-wing caretaker government that has postponed new elections, and the arrival of COVID-19. The political unrest and presidential elections promised for next month have created an additional layer of uncertainty. Although nongovernmental organizations, individual teachers, international organizations, and even the Ministry of Education are trying to bridge the schooling gap, many observers and parents are concerned about the well-being of Bolivia’s children – and the future of the nation.

“Imagine the implications of having six months without any type of instruction,” says Gustavo Sever, the director of a private school in Cochabamba. “Not having the continuity of formal education – whether virtual or not – is huge. You create a discrepancy and create gaps between the world and the students in this country,” he says. As a private school, Mr. Sever’s institution is still offering online courses, though nearly 60% of parents withdrew their children, in many cases due to economic hardship, once the academic year became optional.

The government says all students will be promoted to the next academic year, regardless of grades or attendance.

“It’s a child’s right to access education and it’s the responsibility of the state to provide that,” Mr. Sever says.

Continental challenge

Only about 25% of Bolivian households had broadband internet in 2016, well below the Latin American average of 45%, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. A 2018 report by Bolivia’s Agency for Electronic Government and Information and Communication Technologies found only 42% of Bolivians have access to a computer and 10% have fixed internet. In rural areas the numbers are ever more extreme: 19% and 3%, respectively.

“The vast majority of rural areas don’t have internet,” Yerko Núñez, a government minister, said in August when clarifying the decision to end the school year early. “There’s no other option than to close out the year.”

The Ministry of Education did not respond to written request for comment.

“The pandemic lifted a veil on the historic disparities that still exist in Bolivia,” says Lina Beltrán, chief of education for UNICEF Bolivia.

“When education systems collapse, [peaceful], prosperous and productive societies are undermined,” Ms. Beltrán writes in an email. “The learning losses also threaten to extend beyond this generation and erase decades of progress, not least in support of girls and young women’s educational access and retention.” She notes that the longer students are out of school, the more likely they are to drop out entirely, and estimates the closures could decrease affected students’ future earnings by 8% to 10%.

Plenty of Latin American countries struggle with internet access. But Bolivia is the only one to use it as a reason to halt education entirely.

Mexico deployed pre-recorded, televised classes featuring trained actors and teachers to reach its estimated 30 million public school students. It’s not a perfect model for learning, says Gabriel Sánchez Zinny, an expert on Latin American education. But it’s a success in terms of the government trying to reach the most vulnerable.

“TV may not be the best, but it’s certainly better than nothing,” says Mr. Zinny, the former education minister for the province of Buenos Aires. “Governments aren’t making enough of an effort to create opportunities and share knowledge” during the pandemic.

Peru, Chile, Colombia, and Brazil have incorporated some televised education into their distance learning approaches, as well. The Dominican Republic has expanded free access to internet hotspots across the country and teamed up with a cellphone company to offer internet plans at special prices. In Buenos Aires, government institutions already delivering meals to vulnerable children are also printing out school materials for students without access to computers or printers.

“Kids are desperate to do work”

In Bolivia, public school teachers are still receiving their salaries, and many are still making an effort to send students materials, parents say. Some educators put on superhero costumes to try and keep their students motivated online, while others travel house to house to try to keep their most isolated students looped in. There are targeted efforts to reach children in secluded Indigenous communities, like radio education programs that UNICEF estimates reach more than 6,000 children. The United Nations organization also teamed up with cellphone provider Tigo Bolivia to provide teacher trainings for online instruction, counseling for students, and other resources for not just learning but staying healthy during the pandemic.

For Alicia Layme, the pandemic has been a blur of stress. Her husband, a construction worker, lost his job. Her family, complete with an 8-month-old baby, 8-year-old, and 10-year-old, have been forced to move twice due to evictions over late rent payments.

“We don’t know what to do. We can’t cry anymore,” Ms. Layme says. “These schools don’t recognize the realities for so many of us.” Many students didn’t have a chance to buy their books for the academic year before Bolivia mandated a quarantine. She doesn’t have a smartphone, and before classes were called off, her kids’ teachers were frustrated that she couldn’t receive photos of assignments and print them out. Her kids told her she’s not their teacher when she tried to help them through tough homework.

But Ms. Layme says her family is fortunate in some respects. A local initiative run by the international NGO Bolivia Kids and the local Sariry Foundation delivers food and psychological support to communities surrounding La Paz. Roughly 30 families, or 70 kids, have weekly visits from three foundation staff who give informal lessons on the street in front of participants’ homes.

“Kids are desperate to do work,” says Elisa Aguilar, director of programs and community development for Bolivia Kids. On top of connectivity challenges, many parents don’t have enough education themselves to help their children with schoolwork. Staff members walk from house to house – there’s no public transportation running in the area – delivering printouts or giving lessons.

“I think we’re going to see a lot of kids dropping out of school next year – nationwide,” Ms. Aguilar says. “We’re trying to help in the ways we can, but at a certain point, we all feel powerless.”

Ms. Layme can relate.

“Parents are told we have to make sacrifices for our kids,” she says. “What does that even mean at this point? Am I supposed to steal phone credit so that my child can keep learning?”

Ms. Layme says the distance education situation was bad, “but there are alternatives to closing schools or doing it online.” 

“The government just needed to try.”



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Two more men charged with murdering Victor Codea in Adelaide High School car park



Two more men have been charged with murder over the fatal bashing of Victor Codea at Adelaide High School last month.

The two Salisbury North men, aged 23 and 29, are expected to appear in the Adelaide Magistrates Court today.

Police said Mr Codea, 24, of Ridleyton, was set upon by up to four men in the school car park and beaten on August 28.

He was taken to the Royal Adelaide Hospital on the night of the incident, but died a few days later.

There are now four men charged with Mr Codea’s murder.

On Wednesday, SA Police arrested and charged a 24-year-old man with murder.

A 23-year-old man from Adelaide had a charge of aggravated assault causing harm upgraded to murder on September 7.

Police believe Mr Codea, who had faced drug charges, was wrongly accused by his assailants of being a police informant.

Police are seeking further information from the public as investigations continue.



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Coronavirus: Swansea’s Olchfa school sends home 455 pupils


Image caption

Hundreds of pupils have been sent home from Olchfa Comprehensive School

Hundreds of children at one of Wales’ biggest schools have been sent home to self-isolate after a pupil tested positive for coronavirus.

Olchfa Comprehensive School has sent letters to parents of those affected advising them of what they have to do.

A total of 455 sixth formers must stay at home for two weeks. No staff are self-isolating.

Head teacher Hugh Davies has told parents of other pupils at the Swansea school that they may still attend.

Swansea Council said the rest of the school was running normally and the authority was working with Public Health Wales and NHS Wales’ Test Trace and Protect service to ensure appropriate measures were in place to protect students, staff and the wider community.

A spokesman said: “All close contacts of the case have been identified and have received appropriate advice to self-isolate. Children who have not been identified as a close contact do not need to self-isolate and do not require testing for the virus.”

Image caption

Head teacher Hugh Davies has written to parents about the matter

The letter to parents of children who were not close contacts of the child with the positive test also advised them to continue to keep an eye on their children as a precaution.

It said parents should be alert to any symptoms of Covid-19 and should self isolate if they develop symptoms.

It is believed that more than 50 schools across Wales have reported Covid-19 incidents to date.

All Year Seven children at two Newport secondary schools were told to self-isolate after pupils tested positive for coronavirus.

At Bridgend’s Bryntirion Comprehensive School, more than 200 pupils were sent home.

In Cardiff, eight children and three staff at Llanishen Fach Primary School were asked to self-isolate, while 57 youngsters and two employees at Whitchurch High School were also sent home.



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Protest-Plagued Belarus Strongman Transfers Son to Moscow School – Reports


Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has transferred his youngest son to an elite boarding school in Moscow amid ongoing protests against his disputed re-election, Russian tabloids reported Thursday. 

Nikolai “Kolya” Lukashenko, 16, has become a social media sensation as he has grown from a pudgy kid to an apparent “successor” to the presidency who is frequently seen at his father’s side at public events. Lukashenko has suggested that Nikolai is pro-opposition, saying in an interview ahead of the disputed Aug. 9 vote that his son is “inclined to oppose power in general.”

More recently in August, Nikolai was filmed wearing military fatigues and toting an automatic rifle next to his father as mass anti-Lukashenko protests raged outside the presidential palace in Minsk.

According to the Russian Komsomolskaya Pravda tabloid, Nikolai is in the process of transferring to a Moscow State University (MSU) boarding school and has been secretly taken to Moscow. 

Nikolai had initially passed exams to enter 10th grade at the Belarus State University lyceum, but source-based reporting said he had withdrawn after journalists were unable to find him among the roster of incoming students.

“Kolya took his documents and will study in Moscow,” Alexander Voytovich, chief researcher at the Belarusian academy of sciences, was quoted as saying. 

“Lukashenko’s services assessed the situation and concluded that Kolya will be very uncomfortable” at the Belarus lyceum, Voytovich said, adding that the academy’s staff condemned the violent crackdown on post-election protesters.

An unnamed former Belarusian KGB agent told the tabloid his active-duty colleagues said that Nikolai was taken to the Russian capital under a shroud of secrecy.

“I know they first discussed sending the boy to study in Europe or the United States. But they decided Kolya would be safest in Russia after Lukashenko’s talks with the Russian president,” the alleged ex-agent was quoted as saying. 

Lukashenko met President Vladimir Putin earlier Monday, where the Russian leader backed his counterpart and promised a $1.5 billion loan in exchange for Minsk’s stronger ties with Moscow. 

Nikolai, who has apparently been settled at the Belarusian Embassy in Moscow, will first attend classes remotely before switching to in-person studies, Komsomolskaya Pravda reported, quoting the alleged former agent. 

The MSU boarding school told the state-run RIA Novosti news agency that Nikolai is not currently studying there.



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Tasmanian primary school students imitate burrowing crayfish, all in the name of science


It seems kids and crustaceans share a thing in common — they both love mud.

This year, primary students in north-west Tasmania have had a legitimate excuse to get dirty at school.

It is all in the name of science, to monitor the endangered central north burrowing crayfish.

The species, measuring about 10cm long, is found nowhere else in the world, except between the Don River, Port Sorrell and Sheffield.

The crays like to build distinctive chimneys made from balls of mud at the entrance of their burrows.

Education initiative, the Book End Trust, has been expanding its efforts to map out the crayfish population.

It is supporting more schools in the area to get involved with the Claws on the Line program.

Citizen science co-ordinator Clare Hawkins said it was designed to drive awareness of the species and threats to its habitat.

“You just see a few in a particular area and you think, ‘well, that can’t really make a difference if I build a house on those, or I plough up a field, or put cattle there’,” she said.

Students from Andrews Creek Primary at Wesley Vale have been counting crayfish burrows and creating model chimneys out of clay.

Other activities include studying invertebrates and microhabitats on the school grounds along a creek line.

“They have their own population of central north burrowing crayfish, so it’s a fantastic place to centre all of this,” Ms Hawkins said.

An endangered Tasmanian burrowing crayfish.(ABC News: Henry Zwartz)

Protecting crays on farms

a man squats close to the ground pointing at a pile of mud in a forest reserve
Geoff Loane says: “I don’t think you ever regret fencing an area off, so that nature can flourish.”(ABC Rural: Sarah Abbott)

Geoff Loane runs a beef cattle property, not far from Andrews Creek Primary.

He estimates the burrowing crayfish are spread across a hectare of the farm.

Mr Loane has made a concerted effort to fence off a number of creeks to keep cattle out of their habitat.

“We found that when we had the dairy cows, the cows used to get in the creeks and it just seemed logical to fence them off,” he said.

“The Government are always saying there are grants for planting trees and things like that, and they become animal corridors.

“I don’t think you ever regret fencing an area off, so that nature can flourish.”



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