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Byron Shire
March 1, 2021

Byron Bay assaults down

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It’s a shame that so much misinformation and misrepresentation of statistics is being presented as ‘fact’ by individuals and groups with regards to alcohol-related violence in Byron Bay.

The ‘fact’ is that alcohol-related assaults in Byron have actually decreased by 12 per cent from March 2012 to March 2013, and have remained stable for the past five  years (NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics).

Furthermore, the initiatives implemented by the Byron Bay Liquor Accord have shown preliminary results of a further 20 per cent decrease in assaults over the past six months compared to the same period last year.

The ‘modest’ reduction of trading hours in Newcastle was actually changing the closing hours from 5am to 3am. Byron Bay already has 3am closing for all late-night venues, plus a 1.30am lock-out and the strictest drink restrictions in the entire state!

Alcohol-related violence is a complex and multifaceted issue that is not solved by a one-size-fits-all solution of closing up town at midnight.

Brian Pearson, Byron Bay

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  1. Independent researchers at the Newcastle CDAT conference on 16 September were asked by local Byron Bay representatives of the applicability of the modest reduction in late trading hours in Newcastle (albeit from 5am to 3am)to other communities such as our own and Tamworth that already have 3am closing?

    Leading independent experts on alcohol harm prevention Professors John Wiggers from the University of Newcastle and Professor Peter Miller from Deakin University both confirmed that a one hour reduction in late trading hours regardless of whether 5 or 3am would likely result in an approximate 17 -20% reduction in alcohol related assaults with similar disproportionate reductions in public and social costs.

    This “one hat fits all response” is a typical industry/political dismissive comment devoid of any real substance when compared with the overwhelming amount of independent peer reviewed research that established that the most effective way to prevent alcohol related harms is through modest reductions in the availability, supply and promotion of alcohol and effective enforcement of (non-existent) RSA.

    Of course such simple proven measures are despised and vilified by the powerful industry and their political supporters for obvious reasons

  2. Brian I’m glad that you are talking facts because the facts (NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics) are that in the 4 months March – June (generally our quietest months of the year) while the voluntary Liquor Accord measures have been in place, there have been 88 reported assaults ( non DV) and 134 liquor offences. And we know that a large percentage of assaults go unreported. I also note in June this year the number of assaults actually increased compared to year previous (I recall that was put down to unusually warm conditions which makes me nervous coming in to an unusually warm Spring). We can argue all day about averaging statistics, but this actual amount of alcohol related crime in 4 months in our small community is still too much for me. As a community we deserve and can do better than this.

  3. The measures voluntarily adopted by the Byron Bay accord members, already go above and beyond what was implemented in Newcastle. Don’t believe me, or what “Last Drinks at 12″ says just download the action plans for Byron and Newcastle from their respective accord websites and compare them. Also the Newcastle action plan included a whole range of sweeping changes to street lighting, late night transport, local policing, education efforts, not just a reduction of trading hours (which by the way was 5pm to 3pm, no one in byron trades past 3am as it is)

    The “trial” period for the measures implemented over winter ends in October, local police and OLGR will report on the success of the trial (or lack of) then and put forward changes for the accord to implement. The measures were never set to end in October, they will continue through summer.

    The measures were proposed and voluntarily adopted by accord members, but once adopted they are monitored and enforced by OLGR and local licencing police.

    • Sorry Darren, the information you have is wrong mate.

      I voluntarily led and represented over 150 local Newcastle residents, small businesses and concerned citizens in the complicated case leading up to the March 2008 landmark decision of a modest reduction in late trading hours and a package of other supply reduction measures.

      The Newcastle licensing conditions imposed by an quasi court independent of OLGR were and remain immediately enforceable 7 days a week on all late trading (post midnight) licensed premises across the whole Newcastle CBD.

      The recent Byron La La Land OLGR “love tap” proves the ineffectiveness of the Byron OLGR conditions implemented with no genuine local council and community input. OLGR (NSW government) in support of the local pubs and clubs baulked at any reduction in trading hours despite its resounding effectiveness as a proven cost saving harm prevention measure.

      The cornerstone of the Newcastle conditions was the modest reduction in trading hours. This is attributed by a number our leading independent researchers as being the most effective, cost saving international public health intervention to reduce alcohol street violence and other harms.

      We have now achieved in Newcastle after 5 years, a sustained and unprecedented 33% reduction in alcohol related non DV assaults, 82% community support, support from the majority of patrons themselves, an increase in the money they are spending in our CBD and actually more licensed premises including restaurants. So it has proven better for business; better for our tourism; better for our residents, better for our doctors, nurses, amboes and police.

      None of these other costly and reactive measures such as lighting, transport etc you mention have strong research support. Their beauty of course for the vociferous industry is that us ordinary taxpayer have to pay for the ongoing huge police, health costs (total social cost $4b pa) from a very small percentage of our licensed premises (less than 4% trade after midnight). Think how we could much better spend this amount of money on education, health and public transport.

      You should expect those who directly profit from maximising the volume and strength of alcohol supplied to thirsty drinkers to be promoting those measures that do not impinge on these business models.

      There still is no escaping (and the grog industry and government know this) the most effective and public cost saving measures to reduce non domestic violence are those that tackle head on, the ongoing dangerous oversupply, availability and promotion of alcohol and the lack of effective RSA. We can’t keep on simply blaming it all on “a lack of individual (patron) responsibility”.

      There are no clearer choices the whole Byron community, Council and political leaders have to make to prevent the totally unacceptable levels of primarily preventable alcohol related harms (despite the statistical debate) adversely impacting upon Byron’s community and its invaluable but fragile international tourism destination as a safe and inviting town.

      These choices are an evidence based approach or, the one currently driven by the liquor industry and their political supporters.

  4. Vicki, unfortunately you have misrepresented the statistics again to support your side of the story.

    The 88 reported assaults (non-domestic violence) from March-June 2013 do NOT distinguish if they are alcohol related, so we have no way of knowing how they are representative of the debate regarding alcohol related violence.

    Furthermore, instead of just comparing June 2012 to June 2013, if you look at the full 4 month period (March-June), reported non-domestic assaults are DOWN 14% from 102 to 88 the same period the year before.

    I completely agree that we can do better, but the venues are already doing their part by implementing the strictest drink restrictions in the state. Now all we need is for Council to improve the street-lighting & transportation options, and for the police to be on the streets addressing the areas where 75% of assaults happen (on the streets, not in the venues) and we will be much further along to addressing this complex issue.

  5. If they wound back the closing time in Newcastle by 2 hours without a problem (except cries of doom and gloom) then maybe they could do that here.I will order in about 5 tonnes of ice for the next warm weekend!

  6. Hi everyone!

    I want to thank Brian Pearson for his comments about alcohol-related violence in Byron and drawing attention to the statistics that he sees as misinformation and misrepresentation.

    I am very happy to see that there has been some downward movement between the statistics on one indicator – alcohol-related non DV assault – for the results in the month of March 2012 and March 2013. I think we need to cautiously review the BOCSAR stats for this crime as the latest data sets also show that while the month of March might be down from 29 to 26, other months in the same comparison, have increased. eg June 2012 and June 2013 went from 16 to 20. So we all need to be careful about what is presented. The stable statistics Brian refers to over the past five year are far higher than we need.

    The statistics on a WHOLE RANGE of indicators for Byron Bay – including, but not limited to – the crime statistics show a major problem with alcohol-related HARM. Currently the Byron Bay Liquor Accord members are focussed on a limited number of crime statistics, however there are many other stats that should be of concern to anyone raising – or caring – about children, young people and young adults – in our community – or those who visit here.

    Here”s the stats that the NSW Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing (OLGR) put together as the social profile for Byron LGA in 2009:

    The OLGR Social Profile Report for Byron Local Government Area (LGA) identified alcohol abuse amongst teenagers as a major problem on the north coast. Table below indicates key problems

    Risky Drinking 16+ age group               Byron = 38.4%           NSW   = 31.9%
    High Risk Drinking 16+ age group         Byron = 11%         NSW   = 8.4%
    High Risk Drinking males aged 16+ Byron = 15.4% NSW = 11.3%
    High Risk Drinking girls age 12-17         Byron = 5.1%         NSW   = 3.8%
    Liquor Licences per head of pop Byron = 351 per 100,000 NSW = 220 per 100,000
    No.of alcohol-related weekend assaults         Byron = 612 per 100,000 NSW   = 212 per 100,000

    Driving Under the Influence of alcohol stats and crash stats:
    At the ILGA community conference in 2012, the staff from Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) presented the following stats:

    Drink drivers involved in a crash in Byron LGA for 2007 to 2011:
    62 drink drive crashes /100000 population vs 22 for State (2011) – almost 3 times state average
    72% of drivers were from Byron or the 3 adjacent LGAs (Tweed, Lismore, Ballina)
    47% of drink drivers recorded a high-range blood alcohol content (ie. >0.15 BAC)
    86% of drink drivers recorded 0.08 BAC or greater

    Sexual Assault:
    We have had higher than the state average for sexual assault rates – which are highly recognized as the most unreported crime. According to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) in the Byron Shire there were 34 sexual assaults reported in 2011 or 105 per 100,000 population. This compares to the NSW average of 59.6 per 100,000 population. Almost twice the state average! in 2011.

    And yes we already have 3am closure ! So what does that say? The point is that even with 3AM closure we have these problems that is why the group Last Drinks @ 12 have taken their position – we all need to do more to address the issues in Byron – either by restricting alcohol availability further or implementing a range of other measures that have also been proven to be effective – such as reducing the promotion and advertising of alcohol, and looking at the prices of alcohol, providing late night transport, and trying to work on some of the cultural factors associated with binge drinking amongst young people and visitors to Byron.

    At Byron Youth Service (BYS) we recognise that the culture of binge drinking and pre-laoding amongst young people is a significant issue that requires addressing. We recognise that this may not be in the control of licensees. However there are some very well established evidence-based strategies documented by professional academics from Australia and around the world showing that reducing the supply of alcohol after midnight can reduce harms by 17% each hour.

    In hoping to keep our young people safe, happy and valued within our community, we are committed to working with all the stakeholders to tackle the issue including all our licensees.


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