OPINION: Byron’s new loos a high tech disaster

CREDIT where it's due, Byron Shire Council has shown real ingenuity in managing to make the public toilets at Main Beach and Railway Park even worse than they already were.

It's an exceptional achievement. As anyone who has had the misfortune of having to use them can testify, the old Main Beach and Railway Park toilets were about as nasty as you're likely to find outside of the 1990s movie, Trainspotting.

The whiz-bang electronic toilets they've replaced them with certainly look prettier with their flashing lights and built-in soundtracks - certainly my two young kids reckon they're the ant's pants. The big drawback is that a lot of the time you simply can't use them.

Each unit of three toilets replaces two large men's and women's toilet blocks, which means most of the time you're left hopping from one leg to the other for 10 minutes or so waiting for your turn, at which time they invariably cycle into their cleaning mode. That appears to involve closing a cubicle for another 10 minutes while its sprayed with water, leaving it dripping and unpleasant when you finally do manage to get through the door.

I haven't experienced or witnessed this personally, but there are also reports of doors unexpectedly opening on people mid-way through a number two, leaving them exposed and slapping frantically at the door-close button.

Clearly something needed to be done about Byron Bay's public toilets and I'm as susceptible to whiz-bangery as the next person, possibly more so.

However, I struggle to understand the thought processes that could lead a group of grown-ups to think it a good idea to replace between 10 and 20 individual toilet stalls with three. (I'm extrapolating here based on my hazy memory of the number stalls and urinals in the old men's toilet on Main Beach.)

Having done it once, to what sounded to me like universal discontent, to do it again down at Railway Park is just astounding.

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