NORTHERN Rivers police are worried that alcohol-fuelled violence is becoming more of a problem on Australia Day than it is on New Year’s Eve.
But despite a state-wide push to implement tough restrictions on alcohol sales on January 26, local licensees will not have to take on the recommendations.
Instead, police will be out in force on Australia Day as part of Operation Medallion.
“People can expect to see an increased number of police, particularly in coastal areas where people tend to gather in large numbers,” Richmond Local Area Command crime manager, Detective Inspector Greg Moore, said.
Hotspots will include Lennox Head, Ballina and Evans Head.
Det Insp Moore admitted last year’s brawls in Lennox Head had prompted a review of policing strategies for Australia Day.
“There was a fight and it escalated, but it was dispersed within 15 minutes. It was dealt with swiftly,” he said.
“However it left an unfortunate impact on the reputation of what is normally a peaceful location.”
Lennox Head Residents’ Association president, Fred Goodman, said something had to be done to prevent a repeat of last year’s behaviour.
“Anything to prevent that from happening again,” he said.
“People were disgusted at how things turned out at Lake Ainsworth. I think there should be more police around.”
Mr Goodman also supported the NSW Alcohol and Licensing Branch, which this week called for licensed premises to only sell drinks with less than 4 per cent alcohol before 2pm on Australia Day.
“I personally agree with that approach,” Mr Goodman said.
“It’s not the only answer to the problems but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.”
Ballina Shire mayor Phillip Silver said he would also support voluntary restrictions on alcohol sales.
“But I don’t think this is a problem that’s limited to Australia Day,” he said.
“It’s about the consumption of alcohol in public. It’s going to have to become more restricted. I do think it’s becoming increasingly unacceptable for people to drink in public.”Det Insp Moore said Australia Day had not traditionally been a concern for police, particularly compared to the problems on New Year’s Eve.
“Over the years we’ve refined our planning for New Year’s Eve and we’ve been successful in reducing the risk,” he said.
“But Australia Day has presented a higher risk in recent years, right across the state.”
Det Insp Moore said it was up to licensed premises to work with police and liquor accords to implement relevant strategies.
Lennox Head Chamber of Commerce president, Louise Owen, supports proposed restrictions on the sale of full-strength alcohol.
But she also said parents had to take responsibility for their children.
“Parents need to seriously look at where their kids are and where they should be,” she said.