Heavy Easter holiday traffic Easter holiday traffic starts to build north bound on the Pacific Highway through the Beresfield Hexham area. Picture: Marina Neil
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Picture: Live Traffic NSW camera

Picture: Live Traffic NSW camera

Easter holiday traffic starts to build north bound on the Pacific Highway through the Beresfield Hexham area. Picture: Marina Neil

Easter holiday traffic starts to build north bound on the Pacific Highway through the Beresfield Hexham area. Picture: Marina Neil

QUEUES: Traffic is banked back at the northern end of the M1 Motorway. File photo: Peter Stoop.

TweetFacebookUPDATE, 4pm: The Transport Management Centre said northbound trafficon the M1 Pacific Motorway is queued around 3km at Beresfield, which is adding about 15minutes to journeys

Northbound traffic on the Pacific Highway at Heatherbrae is queued around 4.5km, which is adding about fiveminutes to journeys

And further north at Macksville, northbound traffic on the Pacific Highway is queued around 8km, which is adding about 25 minutes to journeys.

HEATHERBRAE: Northbound traffic on the Pacific Hwy is queued around 4.5km, which is adding around 5 minutes extra travel time. pic.twitter苏州夜总会招聘/Kkc06eKqqN

— Live Traffic NSW (@LiveTrafficNSW) April 13, 2017


AUTHORITIES have warned Easter long weekend holidaymakers of growing snarls along the M1 Motorway as motorists head north.

The Transport Management Centre reportedat 1.40pm on Thursday of a 4km queue at the northern end of the motorway at Beresfield, adding about 20 minutes to travel times.

There are also congestion further north at Macksville, with 10km adding a further 25minutes to journeys.

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Charities tap into Sydney’s property market as young buyers seek shortcut with golden ticketPaddington deceased estate sells at auction for charityDeakin Charity House Project raises more than $2 million
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A tightly held Mosman home that sold for the first time in more than 50 years has raised millions of dollars for charity.

More than 100 people and one very cute guide dog in training gathered for the auction of 17 Bardwell Road – the former home of the late Josephine Virgona – on Wednesday night.

Auctioneer Jesse Davidson of Auction Works had his work cut out for him, drawing the attention of the crowd away from the real “star of the night”, the adorable three-month-old puppy named Jack.

Bidding started at $2 million, and mostly went up in $10,000 increments, as seven of 28 registered bidders battled it out for the home.

By the time the hammer fell at $2.71 million – $510,000 over reserve – a whopping 70 bids had been made for the home. The proceeds will be split between five local charities, including Guide Dogs NSW/ACT and the Children’s Hospital at Westmead.

“The puppy was as cute as a button,” said Mr Davidson. “We sent him over to a few of the potential buyers towards the end of the auction.”

The property was snapped up by a young local couple looking to create their dream home. It’s not clear if their bidding was affected by Jack’s encouraging barking or puppy dog eyes.

“Blank canvas homes like this are always very popular, they’re a rare commodity,” Mr Davidson said of the home which was inspected by more than 150 groups prior to auction.

“It was an amazing result,” added Bernard Ryan of LJ Hooker Lower North Shore. “It was all made possible by the generosity of Josephine.”

Mr Ryan noted that in his almost 20 years working in real estate, he had only sold one other property donated to charity – a small apartment.

“To have a property of this significance, a free-standing home in a good position like this, is extremely rare.”

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT chief executive officer Graeme White said the Mosman home was one of a handful of properties across the state left to the charity each year.

He said the charity has seen an increase in assets – including homes – being left to them in people’s wills over their last 10 years, as their profile had risen.

“A surprising number of people who have never even donated before, have left us something in their will,” said Mr White. “Josephine’s only other donation, was a $20 donation made many years ago and then all of a sudden out of the blue we get this.”

With property prices continuing to soar charities are reaping the benefits by auctioning off homes bequeathed to them and even purchasing homes to raffle off.

In Brisbane, the auction of a deceased estate in the inner-city suburb of Paddington, recently raised $835,000 for Medecins Sans Frontieres, while late last year a property constructed on donated land in Lake Macquarie, raised $662,000 for the Children’s Cancer Institute.

Charities are also increasingly competing in hot markets like Sydney and Melbourne by raising funds by buying homes to then raffle off as younger generations look for a shortcut to home-ownership in the face of rising prices.

Both the RSL Art Union and yourtown have seen an increase in ticket sales and the number of young people purchasing tickets – as the dream of home ownership slips out of reach for first home buyers.

Mr White said the money raised from the Mosman auction would likely be put towards the charity’s guide dog training program, which the adorable Jack is taking part in.

A dog will be named after Josephine, to remember her generous act, and the new owners of her long-loved home will also get to name a dog.

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SUDDEN EXIT: Former Newcastle Council manager of legal services Frank Giordano with Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes. Mr Giordano’s surprise resignation has baffled councillors. Picture: Jonathan CarrollTwo of Newcastle City Council’s most senior managers are departing the organisation, fuelling rumours of discontent among staff ranks.
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The sudden resignation of the Manager of Council and Legal Services, Frank Giordano, in particular has raised eyebrows, after councillors were informed of his decision in a memo that was circulated earlier this week.

Council’s Director of Infrastructure Frank Cordingley has also announced his retirement after nearly eight years with the organisation, including a 12-month stint last year as interim chief executive officer.

He will finish at the end of this month and theHeraldunderstands hisdecision was not unexpected among staff.

Councillors received the memo about Mr Giordano’s resignation on Tuesday and it’s understood his last day was supposed to be Wednesday.

But byMonday afternoon he had packed his things and never returned to the roundhouse.

Greens councillor Michael Osborne said the circumstances were “most unusual.”

“It is very surprising; the memo is so short –three lines long –and it just says he’s left the organisation and returned to Sydney,” Cr Osborne said.

“The normal approach would be to give notice and there could be time to explain what’s going on and say goodbye to staff and councillors. It’s very surprising.”

His colleague Cr Therese Doyle said she would be pursuing an explanation.

Mr Giordano’s decision comes after he publicly clashed withLord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes at a council meeting last month, when he suggested that minutes of a previous meeting were redacted because they could possibly be defamatory.

The Newcastle Herald understands the workingrelationship between the pair did not improve after an external audit was ordered into Cr Nelmes’credit card expenses.

Sources said Mr Giordanowas grilled by the Lord Mayor at a confidential meeting in March over why he sought legal adviceon a possible breach of the code of conduct by Labor Cr Declan Clausen, even though that had not been requested in any formal council motion.

However it’s understood that Mr Giordano responded that he had been instructed to by another member of staff.

Cr Allan Robinson (Independent) believes that both Mr Giordano and Mr Cordingley were motivated to leave because of thework environment.

Neither Mr Giordano, Mr Cordingley nor Cr Nelmes could be reached for comment on Thursday.

Mr Giordanowill be replaced byEmily Kolatchew.

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Why staging your home is your best optionWhen home staging takes the home out of homeHow to style your home for a quick sale and a better price
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Staging a home for sale has fast become the latest fad in the property world. It was once only destined for Sydney’s elite property sector but it now appears to be becoming a part of the norm within the outer suburbs.

The meaning of preparing a home for sale has diverged from the days of baking cookies to create a warm and inviting ambience. The truth of the matter, all it really did was leave prospective buyers hungry.

Vendors are now enlisting the help of professional stagers to showcase their properties, from minor decorative accessories to a home full of hired furniture. Staging is about highlighting the best selling points.

If you currently have your home on the market untouched by a professional stylist, you could be missing out on potentially tens of thousands of dollars from the sale price. Or are you?

It could be deemed a little narrow-minded to assume the vast majority of buyers have zero vision. Indeed, showcasing your home to the best possible standards will obviously have a positive impact on prospective buyers but is it really necessary to rope in a professional stylist?

Homes are meant for real-life family living, but it is like anything in life – it is always better to put your best foot forward. It is well known selling a vacant home can take significantly longer than one that is lived in. Styling in this case is surely a no-brainer.

Whether styling a home for sale has a positive impact on the end figure is something yet to be set in stone. Anecdotal evidence suggests the correct styling, in the right home, can lead to a better result for the vendor. Weylandts living room, styled in the Greenpoint, Cape Town showroom: Interior design is a matter of personal taste, but a stylist may understand which styles have broad appeal. Image: Annabel Ross

Recently I viewed a prestigious property on the market. It was built in the 1930s and was the first time this well-loved family home had been presented for sale. The fact it had been relatively untouched over the last 30 years made it ripe for renovation and opportunity. It is not often gems like this present to market.

To my surprise the home had been styled professionally. The latest designer blanket had been precisely strewn across a faded old wingback chair. The chair deserved retirement, not decoration. In my mind, the staging had been taken too far in this particular case.

It is a subjective matter, to stage or not to stage. It really does depend upon the individual case.

There is no real way of statistically determining at a macro level whether staging can add a significant amount to the end sale price.

It is made even harder under the current heated market conditions, with many homes already achieving above vendor and even the agent expectation.

There is no doubt that staging a home for sale is likely to attract potential buyers and the odd sticky beaker. It is a personal choice and worth a discussion with colleagues the next time you’re gathered around the water cooler.

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Big Cat: Many people have reported panther sightings in the Hunter Region. Topics has been reporting in recent weeks about the elusive and mysterious black panther.
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We were surprised bythe number of sightings of big black cats around the Hunter. Many readers posted comments about pantherson the Newcastle Herald’s Facebook page.

Here’s a selection of the comments:

Lou Richards: Saw one years ago in the bush at Morisset. Nobody believed us, didn’t have a camera at the time. Pulled up in my driveway, right on bush land. It was in the long grass. I will never forget it.

​Robert Moore: I was out doing some night 4WDing in Wallaroo State Forest [at Clarence Town]. Me and my girl saw it in the middle of the trail. It was about knee-height [to him]. Itran off into the bush.

Joshua Mundy: Saw it up close from 10 metres about15 years ago at Frying Pan Creek. It was about to eat two boxer dogs at the camp next to us. Definitely a black panther. Told the story hundreds of times with no belief. Its back was the same height as the ute tray and its body was the same length as the cab, tail as long as the tray. Hilux single cab 2×4. Its head was the size of a small gym training ball. This was no small cat. Pop told me many many years ago, the travelling circus would let go [of panthers] out there.

Mel Johnson: They escaped or were dumped by the circus. An old family friend used to travel with big circus families and said it happened a bit. My family have seen them in the Merriwa district and had terrible livestock losses that dogs couldn’t have caused.

La Toya Main: I swear to god I saw one in the bush across the road from my house, just outside Cessnock. I know what I saw. It was black and cat-like.

Josh Hargrave: I saw the black panther around the banks of the Hunter River under Singleton bridge. Can’t tell me otherwise.

Jacob Binnie: I’ve come across one in the bush between Wallsend and Minmi.

Kerry Deane: I swear I saw one in bush near Minmi on the way home from Wallsend a couple of years ago.

Kasey Davis: I swear I’ve seen something like that at Mt Sugarloaf.

Shane Parkes: I’ve seen it twice – once in the bush at Wallsend and a second time at Kurri Kurri motorbike track.

Alex Roth: We saw one in the uni bush down from Bar on the Hill.

Christos Halaris: Yep saw it at Bar on the Hill uni bush, straight underneath a light post. It was no dog, it was no wild cat.

Maria Lawrence: I saw it out the front of my house in Stroud in November 2009.

Phillip Dwyer: I saw one at the bottom end of Lake Macquarie a few years ago on the Pacific Highway between Swansea and the freeway. Did a u-turn to get a photo, but was too far away to get a decent shot.

Josh Convery: I saw one at Swansea lookout up near Caves Beach. Was a very scary moment.

Kerrie Hill: I saw one run off into the bush as we were driving through Frazer Park, Lake Munmorah.

Raymond Collins: I saw one about three years ago near Dungog. So I know they are out there.

Susan Williamson: My dad saw a panther in the Watagan Mountains whilst riding his motorbike about 40 years ago.

Sharyn Kane: The cat was seen in the Mandolong area back in the 1980s.

Heidi Ho: Saw one at Medowie about two years ago.

Andrew Urbanowicz: Saw one at Stroud Hill Road, Dungog about three years ago.

Easter Rip-OffAre we the only ones to feel ripped off with the cost of Easter eggs?

See how thick this Easter egg is? This is how Easter eggs should be.

We know there’s bigger things to worry about with Syria, Trump, affordable housing and that type of stuff.

But come on,chocolate is important. Back in the day, chocolate eggs were awesome.We used to get HotWheels Easter eggs. The chocolate was at least a centimetre thick. And the egg had a toy car inside. Nowadays the ubiquitous Cadbury eggs are thin and fairly small, despite theMASSIVE packaging. That’s disappointing for us, but then Dental Association is probably pretty happy about it.

“Easter is fun, but tooth decay is not,”said Professor David Manton, the association’s oral health committee chairman, adding that people should “consume their treats in moderation and continue their good oral health habits”.

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