Forde: Did you know one of Canberra’s greenest suburbs is in Gungahlin?
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Chapman: A suburb of renewal and luxury in Canberra’s west

Macarthur: Is this suburb Tuggeranong’s best-kept secret?

While the convenience of inner north living typically comes with a price tag to match, there are a few suburbs that offer a (relatively) affordable foothold into the sought after district.

Watson is the only suburb in the inner north with a median house price below the Canberra-wide median.

According to Allhomes, Watson’s median house price in 2016 was $667,000, just under the $684,395 Canberra median.

The suburb record was smashed in 2016 when 9 Roma Mitchell Crescent sold at auction for $1,141,000. It is one of just two houses in the suburb to sell for more than $1 million.

However, Luton Properties Dickson agents Michael and Jenny McReynolds, who sold the record-breaking house, believe more seven-figure sales are on the way.

“People are doing knockdown-rebuilds, the recent Mr Fluffy sales mean new homes will be going up so you will have more million-dollar-plus homes,” Mrs McReynolds says.

“Watson has definitely gained momentum.”

The suburb sits on the north-eastern periphery of the inner north, six kilometres from the city centre, a commute soon to be made smoother by stage one of the light rail.

It’s also in the throes of a renaissance with young families moving back to Watson in droves.

Majura Primary School, Rosary Primary School and nearby Dickson College are among the draw cards for families. The suburb is also home to the n Catholic University.

Watson’s green space, its position at the foothills of Mount Majura combined with a great local shopping centre offer residents the best of both worlds.

There are a handful of modern eateries including the Cherryripe Brasserie, the Knox and My Friend Vietnamese. Dickson’s restaurant precinct is also within easy reach.

Artists, particularly those with a flair for ceramics, will also feel right at home in Watson. The Watson Arts Centre is home to the Canberra Potters’ Society and an exhibition space.

Units prices compare favourably with the Canberra-wide figures. Watson’s 2016 median unit price was $447,500, which is higher than the Canberra median of $413,697.

However, that figure is bolstered by several large townhouse sales and apartments can still be snapped up for less than $300,000.

New developments in Watson will stretch the suburb’s residential offerings towards the NSW border.

A 320-home “village” of townhouses and units is slated for the 4.4-hectare site currently occupied by Southern Cross Ten Austereo.

The Canberra Carotel is moving to an adjoining block to make way for Mt Majura Estate, a new development consisting of terrace townhouses and more than 100 single residential blocks.

Watson sometimes flies under the inner north radar while Braddon, Ainslie and Dickson steal the inner north spotlight.

But as Canberra continues its expanse to the north and the light rail is on track to pass through Watson, this unassuming suburb is certainly one to watch.

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Bangkok: Lawyers say the defence of two Asian women accused of the nerve-agent assassination of Kim Jong-nam has been damaged by Malaysia allowing North Korean suspects to leave the country.
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Gooi Soon Seng, a lawyer acting for 25-year-old Indonesian Siti Aiysah, says a suspect identified as Ri Ji-u, known as James, “is a key to our defence” as Ms Aiysah had met Mr Ri before the attack on Mr Kim at Kuala Lumpur airport on February 13.

She and 28-year-old Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong claim they were duped into believing they were taking part in a television prank show, Just for Laughs.

Lawyers for both women complained during a court hearing in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday about the release of Mr Ri and two other North Korean suspects on March 30, one of them a diplomat at North Korea’s embassy. They also complained they have not being provided with statements police obtained from the suspects.

The North Koreans were allowed to leave Malaysia under a deal brokered to end a bitter dispute between Malaysia and North Korea over Mr Kim’s body. Mr Kim was half-brother of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un.

North Korea had barred Malaysians from leaving the country, prompting a tit-for-tat response from Malaysia, following a rarely seen diplomatic meltdown from North Korea following the murder.

Malaysia’s decision to allow the suspects to leave came despite Prime Minister Najib Razak saying his government believed strongly in the principles of justice and sovereignty and that investigations into the murder would continue.

“Our police investigation into this serious crime on Malaysian soil will continue and I have instructed all possible measures be taken to bring those responsible to justice,” Mr Najib said in late March.

Under the deal negotiated with North Korean officials who travelled to Kuala Lumpur, nine Malaysians were allowed to fly out of Pyongyang to return to Malaysia.

About 1000 North Koreans in Malaysia were also allowed to leave Malaysia. Most of them were low-paid labourers.

Malaysia also agreed to allow Mr Kim’s body to be returned to North Korea, although it is believed his closest next-of-kin are hiding in China.

The charges against Ms Siti and Ms Doan were referred for re-mentioning on May 30. They face execution if found guilty.

Malaysian police identified eight North Koreans as suspects in the assassination.

Four of the suspects left Kuala Lumpur immediately after Mr Kim’s death. Four North Koreans were deported.

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THOUSANDS of NSW public high school students will continue to “twiddle their thumbs” during scripture lessons because of the politics of scripture in schools, according to the NSW Secondary Principals’ Council.
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Students would not benefit from the NSW Government’s rejection of a proposal to allow the majority of secondary students to do regular schoolwork while a small minority attendscripture, council president Chris Presland said.

“If we have a scripture class with 10 students in it then another 740 students have to be occupied some way or another, and in our view that’s a complete waste of time,” he said.

The Secondary Principals’ Council argued strongly for the change in a submission to a 2015 review of special religious education in schools, which was controversially held by the NSW Government and not released until this week.

The government rejected major recommendations from the $300,000 review, including changing the school enrolment form so that students have to “opt in” to scripture, rather than parents being forced to “opt out” in writing. Under the current system primary school students whose parents do not formally opt them out of scripture are allocated to scripture as the default position.

Mr Presland, who is principal of a Sydney high school, said there were no scripture classes at his school but a Baptist group had applied to run a class. It would possiblyforce more than 1000 students who were unlikely to attend scripture to “twiddle their thumbs” during the scripture lesson.

“They can’t do school work. They can’t go home. They literally have to sit around and wait for scripture to end,” Mr Presland said.

The Department of Education’s support for special religious education was a response to NSW Government support for scripture, he said.

The government has been heavily criticised for backing demands of faith groups and Christian DemocratMP Fred Nile despite declining community support for scripture.

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Graham Arnold is demanding Sydney FC regain some lost momentum for the finals before they collect the Premiers Plate at Saturday’s A-League home clash with the Newcastle Jets.
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The coach was disappointed the all-conquering Sky Blues took their foot off the gas in last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Wellington Phoenix and has called for a step up in attitude as they gear up for the finals series.

“We have talked about that, we have looked at that and I expect this weekend that we will be back doing our best,” Arnold said on Thursday.

Guaranteed a bye in the first week of the finals after setting a host of A-League records during a dominant campaign, the Sky Blues need win just two more matches – a home semi-final and the grand final – to sweep the season’s honours.

But Arnold said that task starts on Saturday against cellar dwellers Newcastle.

“It is time to go higher… it is one of three big games and it is about winning those three,” he said. “We have shown consistently over the season that we are the fittest team in the competition and we want to show that again over the weekend.”

Sydney will receive the Premiers’ Plate at the conclusion of their encounter with the Jets at Allianz Stadium.

Arnold says while finishing top of the table was a “massive feat”, the prospect of collecting the accompanying silverware in front of their home fans should not be a distraction for his players.

“Obviously the Premiers’ Plate will be presented after the game but the focus is solely on the three points this weekend,” he said. “We are getting to the business end of the season… we have a healthy squad looking to improve.”

Meanwhile, attitude is everything for Western Sydney coach TonyPopovic.

UNRELENTING: Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold wants his players to win convincingly against Newcastle on Saturday. Picture: Getty Images

The sixth-place Wanderers travel to play Adelaide United on Saturday night in a tune-up for their A-League finals campaign.

Western Sydney will play an away elimination final, most likely against Melbourne City or Brisbane Roar, in the first week of the finals.

While Saturday’s round 27 clash against the Reds will have a bearing on the final standings,Popovicsays what’s more important is the game’s value as preparation for what lies ahead.

“The only thing we need is a good attitude, a good approach,”Popovicsaid on Thursday.

“If our mentality is right going in to the game and we are very focused, our performance will follow that and that will help us in our preparation for the finals.”

“I’m very confident that all the players are ready to go.”

Popovicsays internal selection pressure would also ensure a fierce approach from the Wanderers.

“There is competition for places,” he said.

“The players that have played the last couple are trying to put their (best) foot forward.

“And there’s some boys that if they get the chance against Adelaide want to stake their claim as well.

“It’s healthy competition and ultimately we’re preparing for that first final.”

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A man walks inside the fenced off area on the Euston Road side of Sydney Park where access to a public toilet is blocked. Anti-WestConnex protesters and local residents are unhappy with the blocked access to the toilet facility. St Peters, Sydney. 4th January, 2017. Photo: Kate Geraghty Photo: Kate Geraghty
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WestConnex road widening triggers need to insulate apartments???

Alexandria residents fear ‘disaster’ as WestConnex plans morph and expand

Foul odours from the construction site, growing concern about increased traffic and a lack of information from authorities are causing many residents near the proposed WestConnex interchange at St Peters to fear their future in the neighbourhood.

The release on Tuesday of the New M5 Draft Urban Design and Landscape Plan, which provides details on proposed cycleways and green space around the site, has done little to reassure locals.

Nor did a WestConnex information session on Wednesday at a temporary building on the construction site offer locals the answers they were looking for.

Residents discovered that no representatives from the NSW government – which is paying the privately owned Sydney Motorway Corporation (SMC) to build WestConnex – were present.

Instead, they were greeted by employees of a joint venture – between CPB Contractors, Dragados and Samsung C&T – that has been contracted by the SMC to construct the interchange.

The employees were authorised to provide information on the newly-released design and landscape plan but not to accept feedback. Some residents told Fairfax Media that the employees were unable to answer basic queries about the extent and duration of nearby construction work.

“We were hoping to come here to get a lot more information but they just told us to write an email,” says Ruby Ho, an accountant, who lives in an apartment on Euston Road in Alexandria with her partner, Paul Drummond, a graphic designer.

Fences were erected in front of the couple’s apartment yesterday ahead of round-the-clock works that will widen Euston Road to seven lanes.

The widened road will come within two metres of the couple’s front door and traffic is expected to increase tenfold.

“There are supposed to be places for impacted residents to stay during the works, but we’ve been given no details about that,” says Drummond.

An SMC spokesperson told Fairfax Media via email that “project team members regularly update local residents of construction progress via letter box drops, door-knocking and street meetings”.

“The New M5 has a community information centre based in St Peters for local residents and business owners to discuss construction matters, which is open weekdays 9am to 5pm, as well as a dedicated 24/7 phone number,” the spokesperson said.

The state’s roads authorities are considering retrofitting “mechanical ventilation” units and noise insulation in apartments along Euston Road because the noise and fumes may be too intense for residents to open their windows.

“Having mechanical ventilation, which is basically airconditioning … Who’s going to pay the power bill for that?” says Drummond. “No one will comment. We’re going to have to move eventually.”

A representative from the joint venture said employees at the information session were only able to provide information about the M5 Motorway project, a portion of the overall WestConnex plan. That project covers the interchange but not the roads in Alexandria.

The SMC spokesperson confirmed that the Euston Road widening was progressing. “Local residents have been notified of the upcoming work schedule and every effort will be made to minimise noise and disruption.”

Residents say this apparent lack of co-ordination between the joint venture, the SMC and government departments is making it impossible to obtain accurate information about WestConnex and is creating a sense of hopelessness in the community.

“I know one woman who’s very depressed at the moment,” says Janet Dandy-Ward, a social worker and spokesperson for the WestConnex Action Group. “She doesn’t even go out of her front door because she’s sick and depressed with the construction, the noise and the intimidation from some of the staff.”

“Our lives have been turned upside down by this thing,” says Dandy-Ward.

She and her husband own a house on Roberts Street, close to St Peters Public School.

Four months ago, fearing the health impacts of the interchange construction site nearby, they decided to vacate their home and move to Stanmore so their young son, who had just graduated from a Newtown infants’ school, did not have to enrol at St Peters Public.

“Before we made the decision to move, I had been speaking to the SMC about what their plans were for the school,” Dandy-Ward explains.

“They said, ‘If there’s air pollution on the outside, we’ll keep the children inside,’ which I found unacceptable.”

She adds: “We are now renting. That was our home, and we’ve moved to another suburb because of the impact of WestConnex.”

Dandy-Ward says she and her husband may attempt to sell their property. They are afraid that the ongoing impacts of WestConnex – such as the installation of a ventilation stack to remove vehicle exhaust from the M4-M5 Link tunnel – will make life there unbearable.

“The proposed poison stack would be 150 metres from our home,” she says.

In the meantime, she visits the house regularly to make sure it is secure. When she visited late last month, she was hit by a foul odour that the Environmental Protection Authority said was emanating from the construction zone, which is on the former Alexandria Landfill site.

“The smell was vile,” she says. “It made me nauseous.

“The unholy mess they’ve uncovered on the landfill site has caused an awful stink that’s horrible at best, and harmful at worst.”

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