Riot warning for Byron New Year

By Megan Kinninment

Police have warned Byron Bay risks a return to the New Year's Eve riots of a decade ago, following the withdrawal of the Byron Bay Lions Club from organising and insuring the event.

In 1993, with no organised entertainment to distract them, thousands of NYE revellers rioted in Byron Bay chanting "Let's kill the coppers".

Dozens of police were injured, cars overturned, people jumped from balconies and over 60 arrests were made.

Organised activities have so far averted a repeat of 1993, but the Lions Club withdrawal had left the town open for a return to trouble, Insp Owen King, of Byron Bay police, warned.

"If there's no entertainment and you have a large group of people together in town, there is that potential for large-scale antisocial behaviour," he said.

"There is the potential there of running the risk of riots again."

Insp King said extra funding used to deploy additional officers for the night could be jeopardised if there was no organised NYE event.

"It may stop us from getting extra police because they are funded through Operation Viking to handle specific events," he said.

Byron Shire mayor Jan Barham yesterday said the council would seek advice on the council's responsibilities.

"I'd like to see if the council can ensure a safe New Year's Eve and complement police efforts," Cr Barham said.

A public meeting to decide the fate of New Year's Eve in Byron Bay will be held next Wednesday at 6pm at the council training depot, Bayshore Drive Arts and Industry Estate.

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