Carefully laid plans for a safe and family-friendly New Years Eve in Byron Bay are in tatters after Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) have withdrawn permission for roadblocks at entry points to the town.
The refusal has left Greens mayor Simon Richardson seeing red and calling on more police to be rostered on to man the roads leading into Byron, prepared to turn away the kind of drunken rabble that trashed the town last New Years Eve.
Mayor Richardson is hoping to meet with the police commissioner and the emergency services minister to press his point.
He has already booked a meeting with local police early next week to ‘see what they need, how Council can help and be reassured necessary police numbers will be on the ground’.
‘Extra New Years Eve revellers and alcohol can unfortunately lead to a dramatic jump in antisocial behaviour and our community needs to be assured that we will have the police support we need this year,’ he said
‘The streets of Byron Bay town centre have been declared alcohol free and we need to ensure that our local police will have enough numbers to enforce this on our busiest night of the year.’
The call comes the NSW Police Association has itself backed the campaign by local community group Last Drinks at 12 to have the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority intervene in Byron Bay to prevent the expected escalation in alcohol-related violence and harm in Byron over the Christmas–New Year period.
This news comes as Byron’s Cheeky Monkeys and Lismore’s Cocktails bar were today named equal third most violent venues in NSW, with 16 violent incidents each in the past 12 months.
Last Drinks at 12 have requested an urgent community conference of all local stakeholders before Christmas chaired by the ILGA chairperson.
Scott Weber, the president of the NSW Police Association, has written to the head of ILGA, Chris Sidoti, endorsing the Last Drinks campaign and asking that he ‘urgently consider the concerns and requests of the Last Drinks at 12 community group, to pre-emptively avoid tragedy before it happens’.
Despite the RMS refusal, the Council will push ahead with its plans for a more family-oriented celebration, moved from the beach to Jonson Street, and ending at 10pm.
‘The Community Centre’s creative flair will highlight Byron’s character as a chilled-out community that embraces colour, dance, humanity and the environment,’ Mayor Richardson said.
‘This is a whole-of-community response. Our residents and business community have stepped forward with the Safe Summer in the Bay program. Bottom line is our community also needs extra police support on the peak night of the year.’