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Is it harder to fix Byron than clean up Kings Cross?

Part of the heavy police presence at Byron Bay on New Year's Eve.
Part of the heavy police presence at Byron Bay on New Year's Eve. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

IN JUST three months, the NSW Government has reformed the state's most notorious red light district through its "cleaning up the cross" strategy but it seems cleaning up Byron Bay is going to be a whole lot harder.

Following revelations from fed-up Tweed/Byron crime manager, Acting Inspector Saul Wiseman, that alcohol related violence in the party centre was on par with Kings Cross, three state departments were quizzed on what the government planned to do about it.

If police and licensed venues were facing the same problems in Byron Bay as they were in the Cross, could the same no-nonsense approach on double- strength alcohol, opening hours and life bans be taken to the North Coast?

How was State Government going to tackle the tension between police, who say local licensed premises aren't doing their part, and the owners of those premises who believe they are not to blame?

While it was widely acknowledged Byron Bay faced "unique policing problems", it was unclear whose responsibility it was to fix them.

Police Minister Mike Gallacher was adamant he had done his part - 23 additional police had been sent to the region since the last election and operational capacity was at 98%.

He "recognised the challenges" faced by local police and promised the government would continue to "drive the need for more resources in regional areas".

The Byron Bay statistics released this month provided a stark comparison to its neighbouring Richmond command where a significant reduction in crime has been put down to positive relationships between the police and community groups like the local liquor accord.

The state's liquor watchdog would not be drawn on whether officials were concerned about tensions between police and Byron Bay venues but instead highlighted recent, permanent changes - a "no drinking-on approach" to tackle street drinking, continued "voluntary" 2am lock out, capacity restrictions, additional security and strict conditions at major events like Splendour and Schoolies.

It's hoped that a meeting between the Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing police, the Byron Bay Liquor Accord and council early next month could address these issues.

Topics:  alcohol-fuelled violence, byron bay, kings cross, nsw government, nsw police



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