Of Australia’s two biggest stories in 2020 – COVID-19 and the Black Summer bushfires – surprisingly our top story was neither of those.
An amazing photograph hooked in Region Media‘s readers and helped one tale go viral.
Bushfire-related content comprised a majority of our most popular posts, but we’ve decided to bring you a broader view of the year with 12 of the stories that captured your attention in 2020.
Take a look back at the year that was.
The $55 million project for the Batemans Bay Regional Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre on the site of the Batemans Bay Pool came under fire with allegations of cost blowouts, lack of community consultation and possible rate increases.
The Eurobodalla Shire Council’s bold business plan for the site – which got the green light in May – includes replacing the ageing 50m outdoor pool with a 25m eight-lane pool that can operate all year. The new pool area will include a warm-water therapy pool and spa, freeform indoor leisure pool with learn-to-swim and toddler areas, waterplay splash pad, waterslides, gym, group fitness and a wellness area.
The family owned 138-year-old Hyne Timber company continued to call for government support to direct Australian saw logs destined for China to their mill in Tumbarumba.
The company’s chief executive officer, Jon Kleinschmidt, said employees and the community were increasingly concerned about the mill’s future following the Black Summer bushfires, which decimated 40 per cent of Hyne’s local log supply.
A Bigga couple got the fright of their lives during one of 2020’s wild storms when a lightning strike blasted their home, causing extensive damage to their kitchen.
The lightning strike to their home, north of Canberra, caused the wall to crack in multiple places; blew the air conditioning unit off the wall; threw a picture frame and phone socket to the other side of the kitchen; and melted electrical wiring.
As the NSW Far South Coast began to put together the pieces of a horrific end to 2019, the two men who died while trying to save their house west of Cobargo were named.
Father and son Robert Salway, 63, and Patrick Salway, 29, were prominent members of the Bega showjumping community. They died in the blaze as they stayed to defend their property in Wandella, 10km west of Cobargo.
Then Bega Valley Shire Council Mayor Kristy McBain fought back tears briefing her bushfire-ravaged community after a devastating day.
“Look! A whale!” is an often-heard cry between May and September along the NSW South Coast.
But those lucky enough to be out on boats one day in September 2020 were treated to humpback whales en masse, with witnesses saying there were up to 100 whales all breaching and feeding, creating a spectacle that will not be forgotten.
Tathra-based photographer David Rogers was on Merimbula Marina whale-watching boat True Blue, and says seeing the whales – referred to as a ‘mega pod’ by locals – was the most amazing natural spectacle he’s ever seen.
Batemans Bay found itself in an unwelcome spotlight as a potential COVID-19 hotspot in July.
Hundreds of people were asked to self-isolate after two tourists who dined at Batemans Bay Soldiers Club tested positive to the virus.
A rural block east of Moruya TAFE, between Albert Street and the Princes Highway, was confirmed as the site for the long-awaited new Eurobodalla Regional Hospital.
The site was announced by Member for Bega Andrew Constance and NSW Health representatives on 7 December, 2020.
As if bushfires and COVID-19 were not enough, the NSW South Coast also had to contend with floods in 2020.
In August, Moruya residents were being urged to brace for possible evacuations as heavy rain continued to fall.
A NSW South Coast spearfisherman, who came face-to-face with a great white shark, warned people against going in the water with the prevalence of sharks due to the migration of whales.
“It was right in front of me, about a car’s length distance away, and not even moving, just staring straight at me,” said Glen Thurston, a well-known former professional bodyboarder and ocean lover who lives near Ulladulla.
The blaze that claimed the lives of three American firefighters in an air crash during the Black Summer bushfires 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.
It was a showdown with all the markings of Banjo Paterson’s ‘colt from old Regret’, the one that got away. In mid-May, a quiet insurgency took place in the Victorian Alps, with horsemen across the high country riding in to save mobs of brumbies from a shooting cull of feral horses.
It’s a face only a mother could love, but it was enough to send readers into a frenzy.
Trained snake handler and WIRES volunteer Kay Mallitt rescued this entangled red-bellied black snake from netting at Long Beach on the NSW South Coast and her story sparked a storm of interest.