Four areas of public land in the Ballina Shire are to stay alcohol-free zones for at least another three years.
In one of the last unanimous decisions made by the outgoing Ballina Shire Council, alcohol-free zones [AFZs]in Lennox Head, Alstonville, Ballina and Wardell are to be reinstated when the relevant state rules regarding time expire at the end of January next year.
Independent Councillor Sharon Parry moved the resolution at the November ordinary meeting, upon advice from council staff and police.
‘I think it’s a good idea for lots of spots,’ Cr Parry told The Echo, ‘it’s about keeping Ballina family-friendly’.
Nearly 60% of under-age drinkers found by police in public spaces
Cr Parry said she lived in Alstonville and noticed public areas near the showground tended to attract alcohol-drinking youth at certain times of year, particularly the coming festive season.
The Geoff Watt oval and Crawford Park were both near the showground and included in Alstonville’s AFZ.
Police data given to the Ballina Shire Council showed 58% of under-age drinkers recorded between November 2020 and October 2021 were drinking in public immediately prior to interacting with officers, compared to a similar figure representing people overall tested for blood alcohol content.
Most people tested for blood alcohol content were recorded as drinking at home immediately prior to the police tests.
Fines of up to $2,200 for drinking booze AFZs
Ballina’s AFZ was near the Richmond River and included streets between Kerr, Swift and Norton Streets.
The Wardell AFZ only applied to Sinclair and Richmond Streets and a section of Bridge Drive, while the Lennox Head AFZ applied to parkland alongside Seven Mile Beach.
‘Lennox tends to get a bit riotous over the Christmas / New Year period,’ Cr Parry said, ‘but we can’t do it on the beach because that’s Crown Land’.
‘When there’s an influx of visitors, we want lots of safe spaces,’ Cr Parry said.
Saturday and Sunday nights were the worst in terms of numbers of alcohol-related police incidents in the Ballina Shire, with police saying the continuation of AFZs would help officers control anti-social behaviour and alcohol-related crime.
‘The declaration of an AFZ provides the NSW Police with the power to seize and dispose of alcohol without the need to issue a warning,’ Ballina Shire Council staff notes said in November’s meeting agenda.
Fines of up to $2,200 could apply to anyone caught drinking alcohol in an AFZ, the notes said.