Backpackers buying booze for kids at Byron, inquiry told

KIDS as young as 13 are having alcohol bought for them by backpackers in Byron Bay, a Parliamentary inquiry was told yesterday.

The inquiry into strategies to reduce alcohol abuse among young people in NSW was held at the Byron Regional Sport and Cultural Complex yesterday with witnesses including police, youth workers and the Byron Bay Liquor Accord among others.

The inquiry heard that like Manly and Kings Cross in Sydney, Byron Bay was "a magnet" for young people staying in backpackers.

"We have the same issues (as Manly and Kings Cross) of a lot of licensed premises in a small area," Detective Superintendent Stuart Wilkins from the Tweed/Byron Local Area Command told the inquiry.

Supt Wilkins said funding was needed for increased street lighting in Byron Bay; CCTV cameras; a safe transport/taxi hub, and he called for stronger police powers around street drinking by allowing the confiscation of unopened containers of alcohol in alcohol-free zones.

Byron Youth Services director Di Mahoney said youth workers regularly heard that young people were being supplied alcohol by international backpackers who did not understand the laws around secondary supply.

Schoolies, festival punters and footy supporters stay in backpacker accommodation and do a lot of "pre-loading" (drinking before going out), to save money, she said.

Ms Mahoney called for a cap on the number of licensed venues in town and more funding for transport, education and community safety measures such as the Schoolies Safety Response Hub.

Chairman of the Byron Bay Liquor Accord, Hannah Spalding, told the inquiry there were more than 70 licensed premises in the town, with 25 having voluntarily signed up to the accord.

The accord had brought in a 1.30am lock-out, a no shots, doubles or jugs rule, and no entry to those drinking on approach among other measures, she said.


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