‘Going to be packed’: Byron braces for schoolies invasion
SCHOOL leavers from Victoria are set to stream over the NSW-Victoria border and into Byron Bay after the border reopened just after midnight, almost 140 days since it closed.
NSW Police officers and Liquor and Gaming NSW inspectors have warned they will be out in force, despite Byron Shire Council initially warning school leavers to stay at home in the coronavirus crisis.
There are no formal schoolies activities at Byron Bay this year, night clubs in Byron remain closed and the Byron Schoolies Safety Response has pleaded with revellers to follow the directives of NSW Health.
Schoolie celebrations have also been scrapped on the Gold Coast, though it has not stopped a much smaller number of school leavers descending on the Glitter Strip to celebrate.
NSW Police urged Byron schoolies to abide by COVID-19 restrictions.
Tweed Byron Police Superintendent Dave Roptell warned the riot squad would be on call.
"It is going to be pretty packed. We're anticipating a full house, so to speak, so a number of policing resources will be up here to assist," he said.
"There'll be police from the Tweed Byron Police District, the Richmond Police District, from the Northern Region Policing Districts, the operational support group, the public order and riot squad and youth command, police transport command."
He said police would be ensuring people maintain social distancing, no more than 20 people are in a house and no more than 30 people are gathering in public.
Byron mayor Simon Richardson urged schoolies to stay safe in the shire.
"Let's face it - we all know what an amazing feeling it is to finish school and this year's cohort have certainly been faced with enormous challenges - but as guests in our community we are asking you to do the right thing," he said.
"This means observing social distancing and abiding by the rules relating to parties because the last thing we want to see is an outbreak of COVID-19 here in Byron Bay."
Meanwhile, Liquor and Gaming warned inspectors would be out and about, checking schoolies celebrations were in line with COVID-19 public health orders.
Inspectors will also be monitoring the responsible service of alcohol and underage drinking.
Liquor and Gaming Director of Compliance Dimitri Argeres said although there would be no official schoolies events this year, accommodation has been entirely booked out in popular spots including Byron Bay.
"With limits on travel to traditional schoolies locations including the Gold Coast and Bali, school leavers are looking closer to home for end of year post-exam celebrations," he said.
"We will be focusing on bars, pubs, clubs and restaurants to check COVID compliance, reminding venues they must comply with public health orders and their COVID safe plan.
"These plans take into account a range of measures including the wellbeing of staff and customers, physical distancing, record keeping and hygiene practices."
Mr Argeres said venues should make sure they are properly staffed so they can follow COVID safety measures with increases in patron numbers.
"We will also be undertaking checks to ensure there is a responsible service of alcohol across all venues, including stopping any promotions which promote excessive drinking and rapid intoxication," he said.
"With many school leavers aged under 18, venues will need to be vigilant to check for ID and ensure minors are not served alcohol."
Members of the public were urged to report potential COVID-19 safety breaches online at nsw.gov.au.