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Byron Shire
February 24, 2024

Precinct liquor accord ‘needed now’

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Campaigners for tougher alcohol-sales restrictions in Byron Bay have called for the town’s voluntary liquor accord to be abolished and replaced by tighter conditions that all venues would be required to abide by.

The Last Drinks at 12 campaign, which has lobbied with NSW Police for the precinct accords to combat rising alcohol-fuelled violence, has asked the state government to immediately establish a precinct liquor accord (PLA) for the town and says it wants to be involved in the process.

Emergency specialist Dr Blake Eddington and spokesman for Last Drinks at 12 says it’s vital the precinct accord be set up before the oncoming summer holiday period, during which drinking and violence in the town escalates.

Dr Eddington has again written to the Department of Trade and Investment’s director-general Mark Paterson over the issue, saying the expected escalation of booze-fuelled violence over the holidays will take a high toll on health and policing costs.

‘We believe that these health and police resources could be more productively and constructively deployed elsewhere; for example, reduce extensive hospital waiting times, improved facilities and greater proactive community policing and crime prevention tasking,’ Dr Eddington said.

‘
We welcome recent correspondence from Minister (George) Souris suggesting that our group would be included in the PLA,’ he said.

‘We believe such an organisation with its mandatory membership of licensed premises and immediately enforceable additional conditions is warranted by the ongoing levels of alcohol-related harms and unacceptable levels of noncompliance by some licensed premises.

‘Our group would appreciate inclusion on PLA on the basis of:

‘1. The existing BBLA (Byron Bay Liquor Accord) constitution be immediately abolished as it renders community members such as ourselves an inferior “spectator” status. The community should be afforded the same degree of input and voting rights (if not higher) than the handful of licensed premises who continue to look after their own interests to the detriment of Byron Bay’s increasingly fragile international tourism reputation as a safe and inviting paradise for all to responsibly enjoy regardless of the time of day or night.

‘

2. The PLA recognises and endorse an independent evidence-based approach for the immediate adoption and independently evaluated trial of a reduction in the supply and service of alcohol back to midnight (or an agreed meaningful alternative) and a package of other effective supply, promotion and RSA practices that address the interdependent alcohol supply and service chain. We consider the OLGR proposed half-hour reduction in the late provision of alcohol to be tokenistic and completely inadequate.

‘

3. The PLA immediately include known feeder problematic premises such as the Beach Hotel (trades till 12.30am), Cheeky Monkey’s, Woody’s, and Cocomangas (all 3am) that disproportionately contribute to high levels of alcohol-related incidents reflected in the police’s linking data obtained under GIPAA.

‘4. The PLA tackle the significant problem of dangerous preloading recognised as a major predictor of consequential alcohol-fuelled violence and harms. This will involve much more effective controls on the availability, timing, supply, promotion and strength of heavily discounted take-away alcohol.

‘5. OLGR lends the community the same level of financial and other support it gives to the licensed premises.

‘

6. The PLA immediately resolves to recover from the licensees and related financial interests, the true public costs of the high level of health and enforcements resources associated with responding to the premises’ operations and the conduct of their patrons.

‘

7. The PLA act on our above requirements immediately to avoid the necessity of the possible deployment of a substantial number of additional police and the riot squad in our town over the New Years Eve period.

 This above possible application of scarce police resources alone provides sufficient evidence justifying the immediate instigation of a PLA along the lines we have respectfully outlined above. We note however, a PLA can only be effective as the compulsory licence conditions it imposes on all its licensed members. 

We would be pleased to discuss this and the community’s preferred package of harm-prevention cost-saving measures with you further.
 
We, however, recognise it is now time for decisive, meaningful, independent evidence-based harm-prevention action by the NSW government on behalf of the whole community. Action must substitute continued talk and pontificating, more committees and ongoing noncompliance and low regard for community safety, quiet and good order by a handful of licensees and their dependent followers if we are to avoid a repeat of intolerable levels of alcohol-related violence and related harms, disturbances and community fear and displacement,’ Dr Eddington concluded.

But the Byron Bay Liquor Accord (BBLA) says it has already put some of the strongest restrictions on its members that any licensed premises has in the state, voluntarily implemented by the local licensees.

BBLA’s Hannah Spalding said liquor authority staff had conducted numerous covert and overt operations in the town recently, monitoring compliance with liquor accord terms and NSW licensing laws.
Ms Spalding  said as a result, there appeared to have been 100 per cent ‘compliance by BBLA members with the implemented terms.
‘Police and OLGR (Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing)  all agree that there needs to be steps other than just the BBLA restrictions in place to combat the town’s issues,’ she said.
‘The major change required is an improvement in the environmental aspects of the town, such as lighting, night rangers, and improvement of the town’s public spaces and facilities.
‘A Precinct Liquor Accord is not a silver bullet solution and the terms of a PLA is decided at a state level.
‘Even though local input is  sought during the process of the implementation of a PLA, the final decision on what a PLA would contain is not left to local stakeholders but decided purely at a state level.
‘Working together as a local community, incorporating local stakeholders as Byron Shire Council has sought to do last month in a forum chaired by mayor Simon Richardson, is the best way to ensure we get the local solutions for our local area.
‘(We should be) focusing on positive ideas that can improve and add to the public amenity of Byron’s locals and visitors alike,’ she said.

 


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10 COMMENTS

  1. This is, to coin a phrase, a ‘no-brainer’. The evidence is unequivocal. The Last Drinks at 12 initiative will work. It is only vested interest as embodied in the ByronBay Liquor Accord that stands in the way of real progress.

  2. Anti-drinking laws like this almost always backfire.

    if you stop serving drinks at 12 the drunk ppl will leave then they won’t make it to the next bar because of the ‘lock-in’ law. they therefore end up wandering the streets.

    you need to keep the drunkenness contained – not send them out into the streets JUST as the booze kicks in.

    (i’d like to point out, for no particular reason, that I rarely drink at all)

    • Loz, the fact is NO VENUES will keep a drunken person in their venues… when they (security guards) notice someone is drunk, and begins to annoy someone, they have to be thrown into the street.. so fine if they feed them alcohol and babysit them when they get drunk.. but the case isn’t like that. Take their money, let them be pissed drunk, and the waste of they moronic behaviour is thrown with them into the street and whoever happens to be around is potentially at risk of getting harm by their conducts under the influence of alcohol. I don’t drink at all, and never my whole life, I never take any drugs and never smoke cigarette or weed. Yes I have been verbally abused by drunken people in the streets of byron and being a local who happened to pass by the streets after work. If it means saving a life, why not..?
      This is no anti drinking policy, this is to do with caring to listen and see what damaged has been done.. and this is for a community that recognises the well being of it’s residence. This is not as easy as throwing an opinion as it’s done by temporary residents who comes to be here for a year of two or even less who say locals are being hypocrites.. Save a life today, then we have one more saved life to save another life or two the day after tomorrow..its nothing bad about that. Salut..

  3. A Precinct Liquor Accord in Byron Bay would be effective in enforcing the changes in business practice needed to reduce the levels of public intoxication on the streets of Byron Bay in the late evening. It is glaringly fundamental.

    The existing voluntary local liquor-industry-run Byron Liquor Accord has proved inept and without real conviction to change the status quo. It has not the full support of the late night liquor barons, and no real powers of enforcement. There is perceived and actual conflict of interest relating to the Accord’s members who are the suppliers of late night alcohol and whose business practices are under scrutiny. The late night venues who are most heavily implicated in getting young people intoxicated then turfing them onto the street late at night, don’t even belong the Accord.

    Self-regulation by the local liquor industry has not worked, and will not work in Byron Bay.

  4. Why is Hannah apparently speaking on behalf of the Police and Byron Council? Why aren’t the results of all Police/OLGR compliance audits made public? I understand at the last BBLA meeting Police expressed concern with the level of violence and offences that had begun to increase necessitating the deployment of additional very costly police resources over the Xmas NY period.

    Will our local liquor industry pay for this?

    Concentrating on CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) eg “lighting, public space and facilities” is a very costly “cop out” paid for Byron ratepayers. There is little if any contemporary comparative independent evidence of the effectiveness of costly CPTED measures compared with those successful measures based on modest reductions in the dangerous oversupply and availability alcohol – like reduced service times. I invite Hannah and Simon Richardson to produce this evidence.

    “CPTED” is a code word. It is deployed by the industry with the acquiescence of the authorities to deliberately avoid or too conveniently sidestep the core problem of industry culpability – dangerous levels of intoxication caused in large part by the free flow of grog to willing binge drinkers to 3am, lack of effective RSA and the sale and promotion of unlimited cheap alcohol in bottleshops.

    12 has put forward evidence based “local” solutions for what is a national problem.

    The national problem really is about the disproportionate and perverse influence and control a relative small proportion of the liquor industry continue to exert over politicians at all levels of government to keep putting their profits over the greater public interest

    • Steve, what do you think the words in brackets “reduction in the supply and service of alcohol back to midnight (or an agreed meaningful alternative)” mean in 12’s above letter?

      It sure seems to me that 12 is prepared to consider a reasonable evidence based alternative package of cost saving measures. What has they BBLA offered? They even refused the OLGR “suggestion” of a token 15 minute reduction in the time last drinks are served and they refused enforceable additional conditions.

      They are so used to getting their own way, calling the shots and controlling their political marionettes and public authorities to jump to their tune like we still see today in Byron. Do you call that “compromise”?

      Not once I believe has this local growing community group 12 ever advocate prohibition or temperance.

      Just whose interests do you think these late trading liquor lords are really serving?

      Your alarmist scare mongering comments don’t add to an informed debate over the very important topic of alcohol harm prevention, public cost savings and our associated damaged international tourism reputation

  5. I encourage the Echo to use a more accurate symbol than a crossed out wine glass denoting the Last drinks at 12 motivation and action.

    Whilst I don’t speak on their behalf, I believe their primary focus is on preventing the terrible levels of alcohol related violence and related harms occurring in Byron and ensuring the whole community (just not the liquor lord cabal) have a right to have a dominant say in liquor related decisions that so adversely impact on our community safety and our international tourism reputation.

    A more appropriate symbol would be a red crossed punch to a head, drunks vomiting and urinating in a shop door way and fast bucks flowing into the pockets of just a few late trading licensees associated with big smiles and hand rubbing from politicians.

  6. Why is the BBLA claming that better lighting, more police and CCTV will cure the alcohol related assaults when it is clearly obvious that this will not make the slightest difference? Kings cross is an example of this. It has lighting, a huge police presence and CCTV yet the sad reality is that it has the most alcohol related harm in all of NSW. Regardless of all the adove, funded by us the tax payers, Thomas Kelly was tragically killed by a highly intoxicated person. Closing the bars earlier and stopping the over supply of alcohol is the most effective remedy. Financial greed is the only thing stopping it from happening.

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