NO BIG DRAMA: New Year’s Eve in Byron Bay was a subdued affair.
NO BIG DRAMA: New Year’s Eve in Byron Bay was a subdued affair. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Bedlam at Belongil Fields

BYRON Bay police had their work cut out for them on New Year's Eve with crowds gathering at many centres around the town, making law enforcement difficult.

Acting Inspector Saul Wiseman of the Tweed Byron Area Command told The Northern Star yesterday that while the crowds at Main Beach and downtown Byron were "no big drama", the site of greatest concern on the night was Belongil Fields, where a brawl resulted in a woman being hospitalised with a broken jaw and glass in her face.

There was also a reported sexual assault and several reports of robberies at Belongil Fields.

"It was absolutely unacceptable," Insp Wiseman said.

"There were six or seven thousand of people, poor lighting, and the place was very poorly managed,"

"People were walking about drinking alcohol with cuts all over them and bleeding feet from broken glass.

"Some were standing on cars, others were wandering around in the bushes.

"They had fireworks there and if there had been a serious incident or a fire we doubted we could get emergency vehicles in to the site. I drove through there and it was dark. People couldn't find their way around - it was like something out of a movie, just disgraceful."

Insp Wiseman said all the sites had been occupied and the owners were making a lot of money but had poor security and little safety for their customers.

"We will definitely be talking to the owners and to Byron Shire Council to ensure that Belongil Fields has an effective emergency management plan," he said.

Responding to Insp Wiseman's comments, Belongil Fields Caravan Park manager David Rowley said police who came in that night "came in slowly and left within a minute."

"To say it was poorly managed was wrong," Mr Rowley said.

"The police didn't want to come out here. When they were called in to an incident by our security, the police told us they had too much going on in town to worry about Belongil Fields."

Mr Rowley said he had used four cars to block emergency access roads 24 hours a day so they could be cleared, and when ambulances had been called to the site, they had been escorted to where they were needed.

"The police are trying to put issues that were happening around Byron Bay on to us, to take attention away from what was happening in the Bay," he said.

"Everyone in Byron was caught by surprise at how many people came to town. It was like it used to be years ago when there were street parties - thousands of people wandering the streets, but no party."

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