Schoolies are set to hit Byron Bay in huge numbers in November and concerted efforts are being made to ensure their safety and the safety of locals.
Chair of the Schoolies Strategy Committee and Byron United Board member, John Gudgeon, said the inevitability of Schoolies had now been accepted and acknowledged as a town 'event', and experience showed that managed events reduced impacts.
Mr Gudgeon said the committee welcomed Byron Council's initiative to appoint a tourism research officer, Joanne McMurtry, as events manager for both Schoolies and New Year's Eve.
“Key safety responses this year will include day-time activities and a 'hub tent' as a central assistance and information area,” he said.
“Byron Council has agreed to provide extra lighting, cleaning and rubbish bins, which will see an improvement in the look of the town during the three weeks in November.”
The council's contribution to covering the cost of managing Schoolies this year is $35,000.
Mayor Cr Jan Barham said the funds had been allocated to provide for additional safety such as lighting and surf lifesaving services on Main Beach, plus extra waste collection and cleaning of public toilets.
Cr Barham said the formation of a co-ordinating group to consider the impacts and develop an action plan for the influx of young tourists was a positive step forward, and the council was pleased to commit additional funds towards the management of public infrastructure.
She said Schoolies in 2008 cost the council an extra $14,000 in clean-up and garbage services.
“It appears that Byron Bay is becoming a more attractive destination for school leavers, and through service providers and the business community working together, we have an opportunity to guide how we would like to see the future of this event develop,” she said.
“School leavers will be coming to Byron Bay to unwind and celebrate the end of exams but we ask them to do so with respect to the environment and community.”
Mr Gudgeon said the Byron Bay Liquor Accord would contribute with wallet-sized information leaflets and wristbands to be worn by Schoolies.
He said there would also be additional support by 50 volunteer 'Red Frogs'- a non-denominational group from City Point Church in Brisbane which got its name through handing out red frog lollies to Schoolies at celebrations around Australia as an 'ice breaker' and to indicate there was support available.
“This has been a wonderful initiative that has seen council, business groups and the community come together to work effectively in managing the Schoolies event,” Mr Gudgeon said.
National Schoolies co-ordinator for the Red Frogs group, Amanda Turnbull, who was at Byron Bay last week for meetings with strategy committee members, said volunteers helped create a safe environment for Schoolies.
The 'hub tent', to be set up on the beachfront, will be co-ordinated by Nicqui Yazdi, team leader of the Byron Underage Drinking and Drug Initiative (BUDDI) group.
Ms Yazdi said the 'hub tent' would be manned 24-hours a day during the official two weeks of Schoolies celebrations starting on November 20, and she put a call out for volunteers to lend a hand.
If you want to help, you can call her on 0402013177.
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