Byron Shire Council has admitted that dealing with the rubbish generated by thousands of new-year revellers flooding into Byron Bay is stretching council resources to the limit and says it may have to look for additional funding next year just to keep the town from turning into a garbage dump.
Hot on the tail of calls for a bed tax published in Echonetdaily yesterday, the council has issued a media release detailing how council staff and contractors have dealt with the 15.5 tonnes of garbage dumped on the streets and beaches of the town by careless party people, threatening wildlife, generating pollution and wasting ratepayer contributions that could otherwise be spent on improving the shire’s infrastructure.
So much garbage was left lying on the beaches that Council had to call in a backhoe to trawl from Main Beach through to Belongil to ensure rubbish could be collected before it washed out to sea on the tide.
Choosing his words carefully, Byron Shire acting general manager, Phil Warner, said the cleanup efforts for Byron Bay over the holiday season have been ‘challenging’.
‘New Year’s Day saw a cleanup crew of 32 staff and contractors start at 4am and they worked throughout the day picking up waste.
‘It’s not a pleasant job cleaning up after a night like New Year’s Eve. Staff and contractors have picked up over 15.5 tonnes of bottles, rubbish and human waste from Byron Bay over the two days from New Year’s Eve,’ Mr Warner said.
Council rangers also worked 21 hours each day from December 26 through until January 1. Working in pairs, the only time the rangers were not present was between 6pm and 9pm.
Mr Warner said during this period the six rangers issued almost 650 fines with over half of them relating to street camping.
He said feedback from the rangers included that people had admitted that they saw the ‘no camping’ signs but still chose to camp in the areas.
‘The no-camping street signage is only a deterrent. With a penalty fine of $110 it was considered by some to be cheaper than finding accommodation.
‘Rangers also woke up occupants of an additional 100 cars on New Year’s Day; however, the occupants were too intoxicated and could not be moved on.
‘Feedback from one caravan park manager reported that he fielded up to 300 phone calls for people looking for accommodation on New Year’s Eve from Sunday 30 January.’
Mr Warner praised police, emergency workers, hospital staff and council crews for the hard work they have undertaken over the holiday season.
‘It’s not an easy job being on the front line and particularly more so when staff are abused by intoxicated people for trying to help and clean up the town.
‘This year has seen a sharp increase in numbers and if this trend were to continue, Council may need to consider additional funding and staff resourcing to manage the cleanup,’ Mr Warner said.
Sixty-six additional bins were placed throughout the town centre of Byron Bay on New Year’s Day. Bins were emptied mid-afternoon on 31 December, early morning on 1 January and again mid-afternoon. High-usage toilet blocks throughout the shire were also cleaned three times a day.