Byron gears up for influx of schoolies

JAKE LONGWORTH  hadn’t been never been to Byron Bay before, but his first visit experience as a schoolie will ensure his return.

The 17-year-old from Bulahdelah and four of his friends were enjoying their last swim at Main Beach on Thursday after six days in the town.

They said they came mostly to relax before starting their new lives outside school and chose Byron Bay because it was close and cheaper than some other places that were fun.

The best thing was the relaxed vibe and warm water, they said.

“I heard it was the party town, it was close to where we live, had cheap accommodation where we wouldn’t have to spend thousands of dollars like in Brisbane, and was not too hectic,” said Jake.

His friend Luke Stobbart, aged 18, agreed and said they had spent most of the time, when it was not raining, at the beach.

“We did not really want to do the whole schoolies thing. We were just looking for a week to relax,” he said.

The men said they had a great time and in their six days only had two incidents of any note, one where they were listening to loud music in their cabin early in the morning and were asked to turn it down and another, they say, was diffused quickly by their good humour.

“We were walking down the street and this guy offered us drugs. We said no and he tried to fight us,” said Jake.

Police said they had not experienced any trouble so far but thought the majority of schoolies were arriving this weekend.

“Our influx will really kick into gear tomorrow and for the next three weeks,” Inspector Doug Conners, of Byron Bay police, said yesterday.

“We’re fairly well prepared and we will be having additional street patrols. We will be focusing on providing a safe environment to enjoy their celebrations.

“We will be targeting street offences, anti-social behaviour, excessive intoxication and will be enforcing the alcohol-free zones within Byron Bay.

“We bear in mind that schoolies may be a time for opportunistic drug supply and that is something we are mindful of, but it is not an offence that we are targeting.”

Knowing what to do in an emergency and how to get appropriate help could make all the difference to having a positive schoolies experience, said Shaun Hazeldine, the Red Cross’s national manager of youth programsat Red Cross.

“If young people are worried about their friends at any time they shouldn’t be afraid of calling an ambulance,” she said.

“Many young people are scared to call an ambulance in case the police also attend and they get into trouble. In most instances police won’t attend these scenarios.”

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