Elisabeth Brown, Byron Shire Council, and John Brophy, of Byron Lions Club, at the meeting.
Elisabeth Brown, Byron Shire Council, and John Brophy, of Byron Lions Club, at the meeting.

Byron seeks to reclaim New Year's Eve



In 1993, 600 people met to passionately discuss how to save Byron Bay from New Year's Eve drunkenness, mayhem and partying crowds.

Twelve years later, the same problems abound, but only 60 people attended a meeting on Wednesday night to discuss the future of the event.

Some of the faces from 1993 were still there, tackling the same problems: Byron Bay's 30,000-plus NYE crowds are here to stay and the community has to deal with them.

Some called for the Bay FM dance party to be scrapped or moved, others for the town to be closed down and pubs shut, others for more entertainment to attract a different crowd and calls to move the town away from its party image.

Jackie Wilkosz, of the NYE committee, summed up her fellow committee members' exhaustion: "We are feeling overwhelmed," she said.

"Try to remember this is all run by volunteers. Look at us, we're not Incredible Hulks, but we are trying to handle 30,000 people."

Yet, nobody volunteered to take over the mammoth task of organising and insuring the NYE event, which the Byron Bay Lions Club had withdrawn from a week earlier.

Lions club president John Brophy was still steering the ship at Wednesday's meeting, steadfastly brokering the peace between the many disparate voices and explaining the financial realities of hosting, policing and cleaning up after each year's crowds.

Dieter Horstmann offered to take the dance party out of Byron Bay and host it at his Tyagarah property over two days, complete with live-streamed, global Internet coverage.

"I came here to Byron Bay 17 years ago for the culture. Why not exhibit our culture to others," he said.

Artist Kathrin McMiles called for a more Woodford Folk Festival event, professionally co-ordinated by a problem-solving facilitator.

Byron Shire councillor John Lazarus also suggested re-inventing the event: "We could call it Hardly Normal Byron Festival," he joked. "We need to re-badge it. The young kids will still come for several years, but we could eventually change it."

Byron mayor Jan Barham asked for people to accept the reality that Byron Bay's popularity was not going to be stopped.

"The idea that people won't come here if we don't have a dance party is a fallacy," she said.

While there were some creative ideas bandied about at the meeting, there was more steam-letting than solutions.



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