Cr Basil Cameron, Goonengerry
All beaches in our Shire need to be safe for residents and visitors. This needs to remain our focus.
For many years there has been a problem with unacceptable and predatory behaviour centred on Grays Lane and this has seriously impacted on the amenity and safety of the beach for residents and visitors. There has also been substantial improvement in the last twelve months. Unfortunately this improvement has been obscured by some generalised reporting of the number of offences. Most notably an ABC report (19 October) that quoted 89 offences in the ‘Tyagarah-Belongil area since 2017′.
The actions initiated by the Council 12 month ‘trial’ did not commence until September 2017. In 2018 during the last nine months of the trial there were 47 offences recorded. Of these, 43 were for ‘obscene behaviour’, which is police speak for skinny dipping. There were three sexual assaults reported in 2017, two at the ti-tree lake and one at the beach. In 2018 there have been no sexual assaults recorded in either location. Of the remaining four offences, three were for wilful and obscene exposure and one for an act of indecency, which represents a 50 per cent reduction on the previous year for these offences.
The high number of offences for nude bathing is not surprising due to the shifting of the boundary for the clothes optional beach 200 metres further south in September 2017. It also demonstrates the increased police presence that has seen the reduction in serious offences around the ti-tree lake and Grays Lane area.
Along with the NSW Police, credit must go to NPWS, beach users, residents, Councillors and Council staff who all worked together as part of the Safe Beaches Committee to bring about the improvement.
Byron naturists are to be commended for continuing to play a significant role in ensuring that any anti-social behaviour does not intrude on the clothes optional beach through a range of activities including patrols, protecting the dune areas, video logs and talking to bathers about beach safety. Women and men using this section of the beach are daily reporting a friendly and safe atmosphere.
While there has been a considerable reduction of activity around Gray’s Lane section of the beach, there is more work to be done to push back against anti-social behaviour. This will be the work of the new Byron Safe Beaches Committee armed with an enhanced mission focussed on practical action, that builds on the work of the community to date and works with residents to reclaim our safe beaches.