Out-of-towners cause trouble

REPORTS of larger, unruly crowds and aggressive drunken behaviour in Byron Bay could force a rethink of next year's celebrations.

Police were still collating final figures yesterday ahead of a report to be released today, but estimates put last Saturday's crowd at anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 revellers.

Estimates of the previous two "low-key" new year's eves were between 5000 and 15,000.

Paramedics reported a "very heavy workload" compared to previous years and several youth workers on the ground said this year's crowds of mid-20 to mid-30-year-olds were larger and more intoxicated and unruly.

NSW Ambulance Service duty officer Inspector Greg Powell said paramedics were markedly busier than the previous two years, listing multiple assaults and several ecstasy overdoses involving patients in their 30s.

Byron Youth Service worker Deb Pearce, who was stationed with another female worker in the service's outreach bus near the surf club, said she was disgusted with the crowd's behaviour.

While she said they had few problems with local youth, it was the older demographic made up of mostly out-of-towners that caused the most trouble.

"The young people got kind of lost in the adult mayhem, and as usual it's all to do with alcohol," she said.

"In fact a lot of them actually rang us because they wanted to find us.

"There were so many drunken adults ... and once again it was the smashing of bottles and the throwing of rubbish - that total disrespect for Byron.

"There was vomiting, urinating and a complete disregard for other people's space.

"We had to be absolutely hyper-vigilant because they were just falling and crashing into us.

"Young people cop a fair bit of flak but if that's an example of their role models, then we're in trouble."

But chamber of commerce president Paul Waters, who helped organise the event, disagreed, claiming crowd sizes were the same as the previous year and there was "much less drama".

"I think that it was a well-behaved crowd," he said.

"In previous years without entertainment there was a huge crowd and they just had nothing to do - this year we actually gave them something to come out for."

Tweed Byron police Inspector Jim Kane said he couldn't comment on the situation in town until the report was released.

Insp Kane did say that Belongil Fields camping ground, where two 19-year-old men were hospitalised after being struck by a bottle during a brawl, was a major concern for police.

"Several thousand people were camped and police were called there on numerous occasions for assaults and anti-social behaviour - and one man was seriously injured in a glassing," he said.

He said the crowd was very hostile towards officers and paramedics had been told not to attend incidents without a police escort.

But the police also drew a bit of flak from several witnesses who reported that there were as many police officers outside the police station and at the railway crossing, as there were patrolling in town.

Cr Jan Barham, who voted against the extra entertainment provided this year, which included fireworks and a band, said she did not attend the festivities but was waiting on a council report before proceeding.

"Then I think we will have to reconsider what next year will be," she said.

"What we've done in previous years is create an atmosphere for families and people earlier in the night rather than catering for that midnight thing.

"If people want to be partying then venues are the place to do it, not public spaces."


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