Police dealing with crowds on New Years Eve in Byron Bay 2012.
Police dealing with crowds on New Years Eve in Byron Bay 2012. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Lockout lowers Byron’s assualt rate

A "critical" annual general meeting of the Byron Bay Liquor Accord presided over by the Office of Liquor and Gaming (OLGR) yesterday has heard that since the introduction of the trial 1.30am lockout in March, Byron Bay has had the lowest assault rate in five years.

Speaking after the meeting, Accord chair Hannah Spalding said it was too early to know if this result reported by Superintendent Stuart Wilkins was due to the new suite of voluntary measures introduced by licensees to tackle alcohol-related violence, but it was a promising start.

Ms Spalding said representatives from OLGR, which helped draw up the measures, outlined the stringent actions they could take against non-complying licensees even though the measures were voluntary.

She said all major hotels and clubs had signed up to the new measures which had then been signed off on by the Director General. If licensees were found to be in non-compliance by OLGR they could have conditions placed on their license, their license changed or be breached.

OLGR staff also stressed they would be closely monitoring licensees with covert operations to continue until the conclusion of the trial in September.

The success of the measures would then be assessed with a meeting scheduled for October to publicly release the results.

"The Accord is at a critical juncture in terms of where we go from here to make things better for Byron Bay," said OLGR's Kerry Burgess opening the meeting before The Northern Star was asked to leave so that attendees could feel free to talk openly

After the meeting attendee Cr Paul Spooner, who is also the general manager of the Byron Community Centre, called for more transparency and consultation with a broader cross-section of the community than just licensees.

Byron businessman Geoff Bensley, who has spearheaded the formation of a new group of residents and business people known as "12", also met with OLGR yesterday afternoon echoing that call.

Mr Bensley said he had received assurances that members of his group could attend Accord meetings.

"We want to keep the community informed because really the community thinks the Byron Bay Liquor Accord is very secretive," he said.

Ms Spalding said she would be seeking to more widely publicise the Accord's actions to promote greater understanding in the community.


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