Here’s what you need to know this morning.

Man sought in model’s disappearance

Police have released an image of a man of interest in the 1994 disappearance of Revelle Balmain.

A coronial inquest in 1999 found that the model and escort had been murdered, and the matter was referred to the Unsolved Homicide Unit for future investigation.

The 22-year-old victim was working as an escort when she was last seen in Kingsford, in eastern Sydney, more than 25 years ago.

A number of Ms Balmain’s personal items were found scattered around Kingsford streets two days after she disappeared.

The NSW Government this year announced a $1 million reward for information on the case, leading to an anonymously sent photo of the man.

Police said he may have information that will assist their investigation.

No-one has been charged in relation to the case.  

COVID cases set to surge

a man walks across a street lined with parked cars

Liverpool residents are among those in three local government areas urged to stay at home.(

ABC News: Tim Swanston

)

NSW is preparing for a significant increase in locally acquired COVID-19 cases today, with the areas of greatest concern concentrated in three local government areas.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said today’s case numbers would be higher than the 27 locally acquired cases recorded yesterday.

Authorities are particularly concerned about the spread in Sydney’s south-west with residents in the Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown, and Liverpool council areas warned they could face further restrictions.

The Premier urged people in these communities not to leave the house.

“Can I say to everybody, don’t mingle with family, don’t think it is OK to visit your cousins or have sleepovers. Please, in those three local government areas limit your movement.”

NSW’s lockdown was yesterday extended for another week until midnight on Friday, July 16. 

Evidence filed against Gareth Ward

Gareth Ward talks to the media

Kiama MP Gareth Ward denies the allegations.(

AAP: Joel Carrett

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Police have referred allegations against member for Kiama Gareth Ward to the Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for consideration.

Mr Ward stood down as Minister for Family and Community Services and stood aside from the Liberal Party room in May and denied any wrongdoing at the time. He is now sitting on the crossbench.

Police said detectives from the child abuse crimes squad previously established Strike Force Condello to investigate allegations of sexual violence in 2013 and 2015 involving a 39-year-old man.

Police said the 2013 allegation involved a 25-year-old male victim, while the 2015 allegation involved a 17-year-old.

Detectives have submitted a brief of evidence to the DPP in relation to the matters.

It will be up to the DPP to decide whether charges will be laid.

COVID-19 business grants could be expanded

A takeaway sign outside a Sydney cafe

The hotels association says there are more than 50,000 hospitality staff across Greater Sydney out of work.(

AAP: Dan Himbrechts

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The cost of a NSW business support package could exceed $1.4 billion, as the government considers expanding the scheme. 

The government last week announced grants of up to $10,000 for businesses that had suffered a significant trade loss as a result of the Greater Sydney lockdown.

Those grants are currently only available to businesses with a turnover greater than $75,000 a year, but the NSW government is now considering reducing the threshold to include businesses with a smaller turnover. 

The Australian Hotels Association (AHA) said it was particularly worried about hospitality workers in NSW affected by the lockdown, and called for the federal government’s wage support to be increased.

It said more than 50,000 hospitality staff across Greater Sydney are currently out of work due to the lockdown.

Petrol prices soar to decade high

Sydney petrol is at its peak this week as some petrol stations hit 175 cents per litre.

Drivers paid an average of  164.7 cents a litre across the city over the past week for regular unleaded petrol.

The NRMA said the steady rise in pricing came as the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) continued to choke supply, artificially inflating global oil prices at a time when demand for oil was recovering globally.

NRMA spokesman Peter Khoury said fuel prices could see their highest jump in more than a decade. 

“These high prices are hitting our essential workers the hardest as they are still travelling to work every day, along with families going out to get groceries. These high prices are hurting at a time when the community needs relief the most,” Mr Khoury said.

Rent rises in regional NSW

Alex and Kylie privately rent a derelict three-bedroom farmhouse in Port Macquarie for $500, where they live with their two children and three dogs.

Data from the Department of Communities and Justice shows the median rent for the Port Macquarie-Hastings area increased about 15 per cent in the 12 months to March 2021, from $395 to $450.

Meanwhile, the number of available properties in Port Macquarie decreased drastically in the last 18 months, according to LJ Hooker’s Vanessa Higgins.

Roughly 350 rental properties used to be available before the pandemic.

Support for SummitCare families

Ambulance outside Summit Care

The COVID-19 cluster at the SummitCare aged care facility stands at 10.(

ABC News: Tim Swanston

)

A support meeting has been called for residents and their families involved in the COVID-19 outbreak at SummitCare at Baulkham Hills.

The virtual meeting organised by the Older Persons Advocacy Network and Seniors Rights Service will be an opportunity for residents to ask questions about the outbreak and what support they can receive. 

The cluster at the aged care facility stands at 10. Six residents have been infected, the latest case was the wife of a man who tested positive on Saturday. Both are fully vaccinated and were taken to Westmead Hospital on Sunday.

Four staff members have also tested positive. The centre has confirmed that two-thirds of its workers have not been vaccinated.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd, the Summit Care CEO and advocates for older people will be among those answering questions at tonight’s meeting.

Live: NSW Now: Police seek mystery man after model’s disappearance
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