Tackling the oversupply of alcohol late at night in Byron Bay is a more effective way to tackle antisocial behaviour during the town’s New Year’s Eve celebrations, rather than roadblocks and more police.
That’s what campaigners for tougher licensing laws Last Drinks at 12 say, who have slammed Byron Shire Council’s strategy to deal with the anti-social behaviour and alcohol-fuelled violence problem during the festive time.
But Byron mayor Simon Richardson has defended the council and community organised event, saying it aimed to be family friendly and alcohol-free, finishing around 9.30pm.
Cr Richardson said Council was doing what it could in areas it had some control over.
‘We are attempting to fill the spaces in town will positive activities for the shire, rather than doing little or nothing and risking having them filled negatively,’ he said.
The Last Drinks at 12 group says Council’s campaign for a Safe Summer in the Bay fails to address the key element of alcohol-related violence, namely the oversupply of alcohol after midnight.
Group spokesman, emergency specialist Dr Blake Eddington, said mayor Richardson’s plan to close off roads into town was successful in the 1990s but this year was ‘known to have implementation problems’.
‘There was always doubts that Council would get the necessary authorities required,’ Dr Eddington said.
‘Support from the Roads and Maritime Services for the roadblocks was withdrawn and one of the reasons stated was that police would not be manning the town entry points.
‘Mayor Richardson maintains Byron Shire was trying its utmost to ensure that the trashing of the streets and antisocial behaviour does not occur this New Year’s Eve.
‘Yet instead of adopting proven, cost saving measures to help prevent the high levels of intoxication after midnight, the mayor has resorted to the very costly, reactive approach of more police to pick up the predictable pieces.’
Dr Eddington said that in the same week that nightclub Cheeky Monkey’s was named the third most violent in NSW, ‘our Council is still not focusing on what needs to occur.’
‘If it really wants to make Byron Bay a “family-friendly”, chilled-out place to celebrate New Year’s Eve, it needs to address the basic causes of alcohol-related harm, the late-night oversupply of booze.
‘The anti-social behaviour caused by extreme drunkenness is not a problem that will be solved by extra police.
‘The police themselves have acknowledged this repeatedly.
‘It’s a problem that needs to be tackled by cost-effective, proven measures including a reduction in late-night trading hours and limits on alcohol sales,’ he said.
Cr Richardson said Council ‘appreciated any tangible support’ from the Last Drinks group to help in organising activities for the event.
Meanwhile, Last Drinks at 12 has urged members and supporter to attend a public campaign meeting on the issue on Wednesday 4 December at the Byron Bay Community Centre from 4pm-6pm.