There was a strong police presence on New Year's Eve in the streets of Byron Bay.
There was a strong police presence on New Year's Eve in the streets of Byron Bay. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Bogans bruise Byron's bliss

MANY Byron Bay locals are seething with anger over the behaviour of "bogan" tourists over the New Year's period, with fears that the town was again descending to the point that saw a riot erupt in 1993.

There are calls for the community to come together and discuss ways to reclaim the town from visitors accused of trashing it and of violent and anti-social behaviour.

Many believe this year's crop of visitors was the largest the town has seen in five years, resulting in a legion of illegal campers from downtown Byron to the outskirts.

Some areas were transformed into party zones by brazen illegal campers.

Rubbish and human feces on beaches, sand dunes and in the streets have been a common sight.

Families have been grossly outnumbered by large packs of young men roaming the streets.

"A bogan trash can," is how youth worker Deb Pearse describes her home town of 26 years at the moment.

"I've lost count of the number of guys I've asked to pick up their rubbish and bottles and to stop pissing right in front of me and they give you a mouthful (of abuse)," Ms Pearse said.

"I think it's time we stop whingeing and say enough is enough and do something. We're at the tipping point.

"We are the people allowing this invasion to happen."

Retailer Jason Adamek from The Big Fish said he had had visitors in his store who vowed never to return.

"It's not just the locals, it's the quality tourists who are over it," Mr Adamek said.

Rory O'Halloran spearheaded a committee that organised entertainment and crowd management strategies in the wake of the 1993 riot, and he said it may be time to re-visit some of them such as setting up roadblocks on the way into town on New Year's Eve.

Mr O'Halloran said nearly 20 years had passed since Byron created national headlines and a lot of people may not be aware of how much damage the riot did to the town's reputation.

"It could happen again and it will take another two years to rebuild Byron's reputation as a safe town," he said.


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