I commend the Byron Shire Mayor for his promotion of a safer Byron Bay.
There is however a danger in opting for an easy way out to combat the apprehended surge in alcohol violence this New Year’s Eve in Byron Bay.
Prevention is better (and cheaper) than cure.
‘Extra New Year’s Eve revellers and alcohol can unfortunately lead to a dramatic jump in antisocial behavior and our community needs to be assured that we will have the police support we need this year,’ Simon Richardson http://www.byron.nsw.gov.au/media-releases/2013/11/28/call-to-support-more-police-numbers-for-new-years-eve
Whilst all reasonable people share his aspirations ‘to ensure that the trashing of the streets and antisocial behaviour does not occur this New Year’s Eve’ and a ‘Safer Summer in the Bay’, the real debate we need to have now is which path we take to achieve a sustainable and effective outcome?
The possible deployment of an additional 200 police and the riot squad comes at an enormous public and opportunity costs with tax payer money frankly better spent on crime prevention, community policing or more needy public health and education services.
Why should we continually subject police officers and other brave emergency workers to be punching bags and spittoons for highly intoxicated binge drinkers who are estimated to represent nearly two thirds of drinkers under the age of 25?
The inescapable common denominator of all the costly reactive band-aid measures including a massive police presence and the proposed (now failed) ‘road block to minimise antisocial visitation’, is the ongoing dangerous oversupply and availability of alcohol in Byron to 3am and dirt cheap grog from bottle shops.
Rather than address this problem squarely at its source, the small but very powerful liquor lobby in Byron appear to continue to call all the shots.
Little wonder that the Byron Bay Liquor Accord donated $5,000 to the mayor’s Safer Summer in the Bay campaign. It studiously avoids any sensible reduction in the rivers of grog flowing through Byron’s streets.
This ‘donation’ was a very wise investment, particularly as the suppliers and servers of most of the grog that is the precursor of much of the alcohol fuelled violence and antisocial behaviour, escape the huge cost burden of additional police and council resources that is all too conveniently shifted onto the ordinary folk of the region to pay.
Resorting to riot squads and road blocks to quell anticipated alcohol-related violence in Byron Bay surely is the antithesis to the peaceful, harmonious and mellow spirit successive generations of the local community have worked so hard to achieve and sustain for future generations.
To me, it sadly represents pulling up the white flag or capitulation to a minority in the liquor industry and their political acolytes who capitalise and feed off maximising the volume of their sales to impressionable and vulnerable drinkers regardless of the disproportion public and social costs.
There is a middle ground with public safety put ahead of pub profits. The two can coexist through genuine collaboration and dialogue.
Immediate sensible modest reductions in the current dangerous oversupply, availability and service of alcohol will effectively moderate much of the unfortunate anticipated grog-fuelled violence, harm and dislocation in Byron this ‘festive’ season whilst simultaneously deriving substantial public cost savings.
This must become a key element of the mayor’s Safer Summer in the Bay campaign that has to extend for the entire year, even if it requires returning some of the ‘donations’ to those organisations that retain a vested private interest in the continuing unadulterated supply of alcohol to the public and festival goers.
Tony Brown, Byron Bay