Nick White in Buninyong on Wednesday, and the ute that hit him. Photo: Lachlan BenceCyclist Nick White was doing 50km/h andhad no time to move whenaute suddenly cut in front of him on the MidlandHighway.
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“He got halfway across the road and then I started to think, this guy hasn’t seen me, he’s not going to stop,” Nick said.

Seconds later, Nick smashed into the ute with a sickening thud, shattering the vehicle’s windscreen and bouncing overthe bonnet onto hard bitumen along Buninyong’s main drag.

Pictures of the damaged ute that emerged after the collision on the morning of December 7 show the force of the impact when the 20-year-old’sbody struck the glass.

The ute after the collision.

Nick was able to walk away from the smash with only a grazed knee, but his family said it could have been much worse, pointing to the death of another young cyclist, Jason Lowndes, 23, who was killed in a crash while training near Bendigo last Friday.

Jason Lowndes.

Gerard White, Nick’s father, is callingfor tougher penalties to be introduced for drivers who recklessly injurecyclists, saying a minimum passing distance of one-metre needsto be enforced.

Police told Nick that the driver of the ute would be issued with a fine, meaning he would not have to front court, according to Gerard.

“Not all cyclists are angels and it’s everybody’s responsibility on the road to do the right thing,” Gerard said near Nick’s crash site in Buninyong.

“But the penalties for drivers who do not do the right thing are not strong enough.

“As a parent, when you get that phone call after a crash, it’s not a good feeling.”

The White family, who live in Millbrook,knew Mr Lowndes and said his death had sent shock waves through the tight-knit cycling community across the Central Highlands.

Nick’s older brother, Liam, 23, competed against Mr Lowndes only weeks ago.

Liam White (far left).

“He was the same age as me, his deathhits home pretty fiercely, because you’re racing with him week in, week out,” Liam said.

“Only 10 days ago he did his last race at Shimano Super Crit in Melbourne and got third place.

“You don’t think about the things that can happen in such a short period of time.

“He was a wonderful guy, and always smiling.”

A police officer inspects a damaged car that hit cyclist Jason Lowndes, killing the 23-year-old on Sedgwick Road near Bendigo last Friday. Picture: Glenn Daniels

In response to Nick’s crash, his father Gerard contacted Ballarat City Council and asked if more safety signs could be set up around Buninyong ahead of next week’sRoadNational Championships, which manyriders have been training for in the area, including the White brothers.

Councilinstalled two temporary electronic signs this week, warning motorists to look out for riders along the Midland Highway.

Gerard praised council for the move but hoped permanent signs would be erected as cycliststrain in the area year round.

The latest TAC numbers revealed 11 cyclists werekilled on Victoria’s roads this year, representing an increase of 38 per cent on the year before.

Meanwhile, the number of drivers killed in crashes haddropped by 15 per cent, according to the data.

A series of high profile collisions thrust the issue of cycling safety back under the spotlight in Ballarat recently.

In April, Rebekah Stewart, 24,was jailed for six years after she hit a cyclist while driving to buy drugs along Wendouree Parade on Good Friday last year.

Rebekah Stewart.

The victim, father Christian Ashby, was left to die on the road and now has permanent disabilities.

In May, well-known building designer Luke Taylor suffered critical injuries in a collision with a ute at the intersection of Cuthberts and Whites roadson Ballarat’s western outskirts.

A man driving the ute stopped to help Nick following the collision two weeks ago.

“There’sjust too many collisions,” Nick said.

The Courier, Ballarat

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FILE IMAGE.Three teenagers have been charged following an alleged series of robberies in the Lake Macquarie area.
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About 11.30pm on Sunday, December 24, police will allege, three boys broke into a shopping complex in Pearson Street, Charlestown, and stole a charity tin from a fast food restaurant.

Just before 2.30am on Monday, December 25, the boys allegedly entered a service station on the corner of Lake and South streets, Windale, while armed with knives and stole cigarettes, ice-cream and cash.

About 4.30am on Tuesday, December 26, the three youths entered a supermarket in Wilsons Street, Mount Hutton, and allegedly stole soft drink and chocolates.

Police from Lake Macquarie Local Area Command commenced an investigation.

Detectives arrested a 16-year-old boy and a 15-year-old boy in Windale on Wednewsday after officers fromLake Macquarie Local Area Command commenced an investigation.The boys were taken to Belmont Police Station.

The 16-year-old was charged with two counts of aggravated break and enter dwelling in company and steal, and aggravated break and enter and commit serious indictable offence while armed.

The 15-year-old boy was charged with aggravated break and enter dwelling in company and steal.

Both were refused bail and appeared at a children’s court on Wednesday.

About 10.30am on Wednesday, target action group officers arrested a 14-year-old boy in Windale. He was taken to Belmont Police Station.

He was charged with three counts of aggravated break and enter dwelling in company, aggravated break and enter commit serious indictable offence, and aggravated robbery with offensive weapon.

He was refused bail and is due to appear at a children’s court on Thursday.

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The information of stocks that lost in prices are displayed on an electronic board inside the Australian Securities Exchange, operated by ASX Ltd., in Sydney, Australia, on Friday, July 24, 2015. The Australian dollar slumped last week as a gauge of Chinese manufacturing unexpectedly contracted, aggravating the impact of declines in copper and iron ore prices. Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg MARKETS. 7 JUNE 2011. AFR PIC BY PETER BRAIG. STOCK EXCHANGE, SYDNEY, STOCKS. GENERIC PIC. ASX. STOCKMARKET. MARKET.
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Stock information is displayed on an electronic board inside the Australian Securities Exchange, operated by ASX Ltd., in Sydney, Australia, on Friday, July 24, 2015. The Australian dollar slumped last week as a gauge of Chinese manufacturing unexpectedly contracted, aggravating the impact of declines in copper and iron ore prices. Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg

In equity land, the story of the night has been the FTSE 100 breaking out to new all-time highs, although the 0.4% gain was hardly spectacular and even less so when one thinks the total value traded was 41% below the 30-day average. The long and short of it

1. Wall Street: US equities have barely moved across the major indices, with volumes non-existent. Even if we drill into the multiple sectors there have been limited ranges, with utilities having the strongest upside move with a 0.2% gain, while energy succumbed to modest profit-taking with a loss of 0.4%. So a 60 basis point variance between the various sectors tells you all you need to know and the S&P 500, Dow and NASDAQ 100 look to be closing out 2017 with gains of 19.7%, 25.3% and 28.9% respectively and one suspects these percentages won’t deviate too greatly in the two remaining trading sessions.

2. ASX: Aussie SPI futures caught a bid just as US equity markets opened, gaining 20-odd points into 6033, but the move has been faded somewhat and at the time of writing the futures index are up just one point. Our ASX 200 opening call sits at 6060, so a modestly weaker open is expected, but this reflects the 11.6 points coming out of the market with 21 stocks going ex-dividend on open, so there is a headwind from this factor. Still, it’s hard to get too carried away with proceedings today, and participation will be extremely poor and an extension of what we saw yesterday with a pathetic, yet not unexpected $2.78 billion of value traded through the market, which is just over half the value we’d usually trade over an average of a 30-day period. So slight tweaks to portfolios, but that’s about it.

3. Stocks to watch: We can turn to the US markets and look at the lead from various Aussie equity ADR’s (American Depository Receipt) and see the flat lead from SPI futures reflected here too, with BHP, CBA and NCM all basically unchanged in their respective ADR’s. Materials and energy provided the support for the ASX 200 yesterday, putting in 9.16 index points, but the catalysts are lacking here today, with copper down very modestly and looking ominously like it won’t make it 15 consecutive days of gains.

4. Copper: Keep an eye on the monthly chart of copper, where we can see a pronounced bullish outside month reversal in play, where we need to see a monthly close above $US3.19 p/lb to complete. One suspects there are risks in January given price is quite extended here and pricing in a lot of good news, notably with China’s biggest copper producer ordered to cut production, so the bulls have to push for a move through $US3.30 p/lb or the risk of a reasonable pullback is elevated here. US crude is lower by 0.5%, while spot iron ore fell 4.5%, although iron ore futures, which are lower by 0.3%, are probably the better lead.

5. Bright days ahead: An unexciting day may be in store, but it has to be said that the monthly chart of the ASX 200 looks outright bullish and highlights a solid platform to progress into 2018. This strong underlying trend paints a compelling picture, although the valuation argument is one to debate. Here we see the market expecting 12-month (blended) earnings-per-share (EPS) of $3.75 (for the ASX 200 on aggregate), which is the strongest earnings estimate seen since 2014, but the question for 2018 remains whether this is as good as it gets and where we get earnings upgrades to boost EPS, which in turn could lower the index forward price-to-earnings ratio from its current level of 16.18x (12-month blended). Recall, in the last decade the consensus forward P/E multiple has rarely been higher and if we use a 16.5x multiple, which is punchy, we get 6187 as a potential target. So in the absence of any earnings re-ratings, if we apply a multi-year high P/E multiple, then we have around 2% upside for the year.

6. Aussie dollar: Another area of interest though has been in FX markets where the USD has been seen modest downside versus all G10 currencies. The notable moves have been seen against the SEK and AUD, but it’s the AUD that interests most here, with AUD/USD hitting a session high of $0.7779. The bulls have been enthused, not just be the near multi-year lows in the JP Morgan FX volatility index, which has helped the hunt for carry, but we can also see yield differentials working in favour of AUD appreciation. Here, the yield premium demanded to hold Aussie 10-year debt over US Treasuries has widened by 4bp on the day to 27bp and recall this yield spread got as low as 8bp in late November, so moves here have helped AUD upside.

Again, we can put AUD/USD on a monthly timeframe (for the bigger picture) and see a bullish reversal potentially in play, with price trading below the November low and needing a close above the high of $0.7730 to complete. The daily chart looks quite constructive here too and there is scope for a move into $0.7810/20 in the short-term.

7. US data: Keep in mind we have seen a fairly uninspiring US December consumer confidence report, with the index coming in below consensus at 122.1. One can also look at the Citigroup US economic index, which effectively measures US data relative to the consensus expectations. This index currently sits up at the highest levels since 2011 and rarely has it been higher, so in essence, it shows that US assets have been partially buoyed by positive data shocks. Again, we ask the question is this as good as it gets? Personally, I don’t see a collapse in US economics and the data flow should continue to be upbeat, but in terms of positive shocks to support asset prices then it seems we may be hitting a turning point.

8. Market watch:

SPI futures up 5 points or 0.1% to 6027

AUD +0.6% to 77.75 US cents

On Wall St: Dow +0.1%, S&P 500 +0.1%, Nasdaq +0.1%

In New York, BHP +0.8% Rio +0.7%

In Europe: Stoxx 50 -0.1%, FTSE +0.4%, CAC +0.1%, DAX flat

Spot gold +0.3% to $US1286.83 an ounce

Brent crude -1% to $US66.33 a barrel

US oil -0.8% to $US59.49 a barrel

Iron ore -4.5% to US72.62 a tonne

Dalian iron ore -0.3% to 516 yuan

LME aluminium +2.7% to $2252 a tonne

LME copper +1.6% to $US7239 a tonne

10-year bond yield: US 2.43%, Germany 0.37%, Australia 2.69%

This column was produced in commercial partnership between Fairfax Media and IG

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Classrooms destroyed in high school inferno BLAZE: A fire tears through a building at Hunter Sports High. Picture: Michael Bell/Merewether fire station
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BLAZE: A fire tears through a building at Hunter Sports High. Picture: Michael Bell/Merewether fire station

BLAZE: A fire tears through a building at Hunter Sports High. Picture: Michael Bell/Merewether fire station

BLAZE: A fire tears through a building at Hunter Sports High. Picture: Michael Bell/Merewether fire station

TweetFacebookPOLICE have not ruled out suspicious circumstances as the cause for a fire that destroyed a block of classrooms at Hunter Sports High School on Wednesday night.

More than 50 firefighters raced to the Gateshead school shortly after 11pm.

But the single-storey building was already well-alight when firefighters arrived, sending a thick plume of smoke overLake Macquarie.

There were existing plans for the building to be demolished as part of the school’s $45 million redevelopment, but the damage bill was still estimated to be half a million dollars.

Firefighters brought the fire under control in about two hours after some initial difficulty in sourcing a water supply.

PrincipalRachel Byrne saidthe fire wiped out five industrial arts classrooms and a storeroom, which were still in use.

She said the building also housed expensive industrial arts equipment.

The school made contact with the Department of Education on Thursday and confirmed industrial arts classes would take place in demountable buildings in the new year, which were being arranged to replace the fire-ravaged building.

The new industrial arts block is expected to open late next year.

Firefighters were still on the scene on Thursday to guard against potential spot fires.

And security guards attached to the construction site remained on site.

Police said the cause for the fire was still undetermined, not yet rulingout suspicious circumstances, if only because the investigation had thus far failed to show otherwise.Authorities appealed for anyone with information to come forward.

“Our investigation is still ongoing and we are chasing any information from the public as to how it occurred,” Lake Macquarie police Inspector SteveGallagher said.

“We would encourage anyone who can assist to come forward.”

The fire comes amid a substantial state government investment to rebuild the school.

At a site tour of the construction site in November, Education Minister Rob Stokes hailed the redevelopment as one of the biggest school upgrades in the state.

Mr Stokes said the reconstructionwas“a case study in complexity” and challenging for planners.

“Trying to keep a school operating in situ at the same time as building around it and all of the work place health and safety issues that need to be managed, it’s a case study in complexity and … an incredible logistical challenge,” he said.

The schoolmoved to reassure parents classes would resume as normal at the end ofholidays.

Anyone with information should phone Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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My father was always disapproving of people who excused their failure to turn up to his Sunday meeting by saying they’d been “worshipping God in the great outdoors”. But the older I get, and the more I read, the more I think it’s not such a bad idea.
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I’m much attracted by the American biologist Edward O. Wilson’s hypothesis of biophilia, that humans have an innate tendency to seek connection to nature, for its calming effects.

While most people will be heading for the beach in the next few weeks, I usually head for a national park, to lift my quota of trees, bush, grass and anything else that’s green.

Illustration: Andrew Dyson

This time, however, we’re heading for a jungle – otherwise known as Manhattan – to do babysitting duty. Ideally, this means I’d be virtually living in Central Park, but that may be a bit too snowy.

My regular reading of the universities’ blogsite,The Conversation, has garnered a fair bit of evidence for biophilia.

According to a survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2007, each year one in five Australians experiences a mental disorder. Most common are anxiety disorders, such as panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Zoe Myers, an urban design specialist at the University of Western Australia,says researchshows that city dwellers have a 20 per cent higher chance of suffering anxiety and an almost 40 per cent greater likelihood of developing depression.

Research shows that exposure to nature increases calm and rumination, decreases agitation and aggression, and improves concentration, memory and creative thought. Photo: Brook Mitchell

Fortunately, research also shows that people in urban areas who live closest to the greatest green space are significantly less likely to suffer poor mental health.

Myers says more than 40 years of research shows that exposure to nature increases calm and rumination, decreases agitation and aggression, and improves concentration, memory and creative thought.

But it’s not emptiness or quiet that has these good effects, she says. “Nature in its messy, wild, loud, diverse, animal-inhabited glory has most impact on restoring a stressed mind to a calm and alert state.

“This provides a more complete sense of ‘escape’ from the urban world, however brief.”

Many studies have attested to the restorative effects of forests but, though holidays in national parks are nice, we need something closer to home.

Melanie Davern, of RMIT University, with colleagues from Melbourne University,say recentresearch on the benefits ofurbangreening has found, for instance, lower rates of anti-depressant prescriptions in neighbourhoods close to woodlands in Britain, happier people living in areas with more birdlife, and better health in areas with increased neighbourhood tree coverage in the United States.

Planting trees in parks, gardens or streets has many benefits: cooler cities, slower stormwater run-off, filtering of air pollution, habitat for some animals (such as birds, bats and bees), making people happier and providing shade that encourages more walking.

Professor Pierre Horwitz, of Edith Cowan University, is a great advocate forurban bushland– a bush park of native trees, a wetland, or any native vegetation characteristic of the local region.

“With its undisturbed soils and associated wildlife, urban bushland is more diverse than other types of green spaces in our cities, like parks. The more unfragmented the landscape, or unaltered the bushland, the more likely it will be to retain its biodiversity,” Horwitz says.

“Exposure to biodiversity from the air, water, soils, vegetation, wildlife and landscape, and all the microbes associated with them … enhances our immunity. This is thought to be key to the health benefits of nature.”

Horwitz says we know that wealthier people tend to live in greener suburbs, and that wealthier people tend to be healthier. So is it wealth rather than nature that’s doing the good work?

Fortunately, no. Many studies have controlled for wealth but still found direct health benefits from exposure to biodiversity.

The benefits go not just to individuals, but to the wider city. Forests and woodlands clean our urban air by removing particles and absorbing carbon dioxide. This reduces premature death, acute respiratory symptoms and asthma across the city.

As well, urban bushland improves city water. Wetlands and the vegetation around them clean water by filtering, reducing exposure to pollutants carried in groundwater or surface run-off.

And not forgetting that vegetation moderates extremes of temperature, providing shade when it’s hot and less exposure when it’s cold, thus reducing heat- or cold-related illnesses.

Trouble is, urban bushland shrinks as new suburbs are developed on the outskirts of our cities. Worse, bigger houses and more high-rise living is causing backyards to be shrinking, too, even though they contribute to our health and our kids’ development.

Not to worry. There’s a lot of urban roof space, and we’re getting more rooftop gardens. Sara Wilkinson and Fiona Orr, of the University of Technology Sydney,studiedthe use of a rooftop garden at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney as part of two “horticultural therapy” programs for people recovering from mental illness.

Among the many benefits participants identified were regular connection with others, developing friendships, experiencing enjoyment and restoration of health.

And if you don’t have a spare rooftop, you can join the latest trend and install a vertical garden.

Sorry, I’m getting a bit over-excited here. I wonder if “green space” still counts as green when its covered in snow? Hope the apartment we’re renting at least has some indoor plants.

Ross Gittins is theHerald’seconomics editor.

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