As well as the issues already addressed with the new regional editions, personally I'm not particularly satisfied with the direction Nine News Sydney has been going in recent times. More about that later and in a more relevant topic.
You do realise that aside from the 6pm metro bulletins, all Nine News bulletins (Early, Morning, Now, Afternoon/Live) have Openers without the headlines right? Mind you, I do think there's some sort of expectation to see Opening Headlines at the start of evening news bulletins.
You may or may not remember that in 2011 (the same time Peter Harvey VOs and the 2011-12 style titlecard which only Sydney used were introduced, which was around April or May from what I remember), Nine News Sydney temporarily dropped the Opening Headlines from it's Openers. Of course with the Sydney market being one that's very accustomed to the traditional methods of TV news presentation and this happening at a time when Nine was starting to become a serious ratings competitor against Seven again, viewers didn't respond well to the new style of Opener and the headlines were reinstated after a few weeks at most.
Unfortunately, I don't think there's much more of the set (previously used for Nine News Now and as an alternative set for ACA) that can be shown on screen since the space is pretty small.
I definitely agree that Vanessa & Mike should be bantering.