The Last Drinks at 12 coalition has taken the extraordinary step of opposing Byron Shire Council’s plans for a safe and sober family New Years Eve.
The group has described the council’s measures as a ‘very costly, reactive approach’, which they say will do nothing to help prevent ‘the high levels of intoxication after midnight’.
And they have gone even further, attacking Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson personally for his roadblock plan, arguing that even though it had worked successfully before it would have had ‘implementation’ problems this time around.
The RMS withdrew its permission to maintain the roadblocks out of concern it would lead to increased traffic problems on the Pacific Highway.
Mayor Richardson said he was ‘mystified’ and ‘disappointed’ by the comments, from a group ‘I agree with 99.9 per cent’.
‘Byron Council’s campaign for a safe summer in the Bay fails to address the key element of alcohol-related violence: the oversupply of alcohol after midnight,’ the group said in a media release yesterday.
‘Cr Richardson’s proposed strategy of closing off roads into town was successfully implemented in the 90s. However, in 2013, this strategy was known to have implementation problems. There was always doubts that Council would get the necessary authorities required,’ they wrote.
‘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 Years 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,’ the group wrote.
Cr Richardson said he was mystified by the group’s attack.
‘I don’t know why they’re deciding I’m the enemy in this situation. Anyone who knows me knows I spoke against Dan Murphy’s, I was an important player in the topless venue fight, I volunteer at schoolies…
‘My only point of disagreement with Last Drinks at 12 is that I think 12 is too early. I’m open to a later time, which I understand half that group is as well.’
Last Drinks at 12 said the inclusion of Cheeky Monkey’s this week on the state’s most violent venues register was evidence ‘our Council is still not focusing on what needs to occur’.
‘If Byron Shire Council really wants to make Byron Bay a “family-friendly”, chilled-out place to celebrate NYE, it needs to address the basic causes of alcohol-related harm: the late-night oversupply of booze.
‘The antisocial 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.’
But Mayor Richardson said the council was doing everything it could to dampen down late-night partying in the town over New Year’s Eve and that changing the licensing provisions of late-night venues was not within its power.
‘The granting, the monitoring, the withdrawal or not of liquor licences, none of them are within our scope of power,’ he said.
‘If you want to change the drinking culture to have as one of your first ports of call New Year’s Eve is a very big ask. New Year’s Eve is one of those nights that people who may never drink all year have a drink.
‘By its very nature the climax doesn’t happen till 12 o’clock, so everyone doesn’t go home at 12.01.’
The group will be holding a meeting of members and supporters at the Byron Bay Community Centre today from 4pm to 6pm.