Byron Bay in the grip of the booze
By Luke Prendergast firstname.lastname@example.org THE Northern Rivers has trouble with the drink. And admitting we have a problem is the first step to a cure. There was the famous 'Rex Hunt" incident at Byron Bay, the giant New Year's brawl at Brunswick Heads and regular reports of Friday and Saturday night trouble spots in Ballina and Lennox Head. So community leaders yesterday welcomed the news that the NSW Department of Gaming and Racing will target the region as an alcohol 'hot spot'. The department has committed $1.2 million for alcohol-related 'education and enforcement' programs in coastal 'hot spots', naming Byron Bay as one of the areas it plans to target. The money will provide additional resources for the department's 'strategic enforcement units' after various statistics from the RTA and police showed that alcohol-related incidents occurred more frequently than the State average in Byron Bay and other coastal areas. Inspector Greg Jago, of Byron Bay police, yesterday confirmed that Byron had more than its share of booze-fuelled trouble. "We have a number of licensed premises which trade for an extended period and, as a result, we do have a number of alcohol-related offences and incidents," he said. Police, the Byron Shire Council and licensed venues are working together in a bid to address the issue and Byron Shire mayor Jan Barham said she welcomed any additional funds to help increase safety and security. "We are identified as so-called hot spot, but really what the issue is is being a tourism town with a lot of venues that serve alcohol," she said. Railway Hotel owner Tom Mooney is also of the view that any trouble in town is usually tourist-related. "We live in a very highly regulated industry and the majority of our patrons realise the importance of the responsible serving and usage of alcohol," he said.
"I don't think it would be any different to anywhere tourists go. On the whole they're very well behaved. We get the occasional person who may get carried away ... but when you think of the number of people who come to Byron it's very few," he said.