Mayor cautious of NYE plan
A push by Byron United to ramp up ‘dowdy’ New Year’s Eve celebrations at Byron Bay is not setting off fireworks for Byron Mayor Cr Jan Barham.
The mayor said she would be ‘interested’ to see what Byron United was proposing and urged the business body to remember the history of New Year’s Eve in the town.
“Byron United needs perhaps to make itself aware of the complexities of New Year’s Eve (at Byron Bay) and how it has got to the point it has,” she said. “It’s not about entertainment – it’s about community safety.”
Byron United vice-president Paul Waters said New Year’s Eve celebrations at Byron Bay at had become ‘rather dowdy and sad’. He said he was ashamed and embarrassed that ‘there was nothing going on’, that there was no real celebration and no countdown to midnight.
He said Byron Bay was a ‘huge’ destination for people to celebrate New Year’s Eve and all they were getting was ‘the same old, same old’.
Mr Waters said one out-of-control night many years ago didn’t mean the fun had to be cancelled forever.
While not wanting to ‘bag’ the council, he said Byron United wanted to be creative and work with other groups in the town in developing new plans for New Year’s Eve.
Funding options would have to be investigated, but Byron United would still expect the council to contribute towards the celebrations, he said.
After excesses of previous years and negative national publicity over hooligan behaviour, New Year’s Eve at Byron Bay has developed into a low-key, family-friendly event involving children’s rides, market stalls and a small parade featuring the Samba Blisstas drum group.
As part of the strategy, the town’s CBD is an alcohol-free zone, with a strong police presence ensuring it generally works.
Cr Barham said there was an acceptance by those who had to deal with any consequences of anti-social behaviour – police and emergency services – that the formula for New Year’s Eve at Byron Bay was a good one.
She said the town was already full at that time of the year and the very aim of the strategy was not to attract more people.
“If Byron United wants more entertainment, they have to be aware there has to be a commitment to the consequences of doing that,” she said.
“There is an additional cost that comes from attracting additional people to the town.”
Annie O’Halloran, who with husband Rory were the driving forces behind a number of New Year’s Eve celebrations at Byron Bay, culminating in the Last Night First Light celebrations welcoming 2000, said it was not all about what Byron United wanted.
Mrs O’Halloran said before Byron United went any further on the issue, it should do some research and ask the Byron Bay community what it wanted.
“They need to be aware they have to confer with the community to find out whether there is a consensus broader than Byron United,” she said.
“Do they want to turn back the hands of time?”
Mrs O’Halloran said the focus of New Year’s Eve celebrations in which she was involved was on providing a safe environment in the town, not entertainment.