Revellers pack Byron beaches
THE crowds returned to Byron Bay's New Year's Eve celebrations on Saturday, with about 10,000 revellers packing into the area to see in the new year.
Police reported well-behaved crowds but said the sheer number of people kept officers, St John Ambulance volunteers and surf lifeguards busy.
After several low-key years with no entertainment, this year the chamber of commerce, Byron United, organised a band and a fireworks display.
The plan coincided with the increased influx and barely a patch of beach could be seen for the sea of people crammed onto Main Beach.
Mobile phone networks also crashed.
By the strike of midnight as indiscriminate French kissing began, confusion momentarily reigned as the fireworks were set off in town, causing a mass exodus from the beach as people sought to catch a glimpse of the spectacle.
With alcohol a key factor in night-time drownings, lifeguards were again rostered on till 2am this year to monitor partygoers.
Australian Lifeguard Service members Dan Andrew and Loudin Potter were unperturbed by the task.
"We just keep an eye on the people on the water's edge and make sure they don't wander too far into the water. We've got rescue boards and rescue tubes if we need them," he said.
"There have been a few go in but nine times out of 10 they only go in knee-deep and come back out again - there's a wind-chill factor tonight which helps keep them out of the water.
"We just try to control them and stop them getting in the water in the first place."
Superintendent Dennis Trevithick, of St John Ambulance, said injuries were relatively low with his five volunteers mainly treating cut feet and elbows, while others were treated for excessive alcohol consumption.
"So far (people have) been pretty well behaved but the night's only young yet," he said.