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Celebrations marred by drunken youths

Australia Day celebrations in Woy Woy and Umina Beach were marred by the anti-social behaviour of drunken youths on January 26, according to Gosford mayor Cr Chris Holstein.

Cr Holstein said festivities in Woy Woy and Gosford were a great success but he was disappointed by the drunken behaviour of a handful of people.

"For the most part, the Woy Woy event was a great success with great displays of Aussie spirit," Cr Holstein said.

"However, there was also a show of Aussie stupidity by a minority and this is of major concern to council, the Australia Day Committee and volunteers.

"It is especially disappointing for the volunteer committee that is made up of hard-working residents from the Gosford Local Government Area, to see a small minority of people marring what is otherwise a great family celebration."

According to Cr Holstein, a number of drunken youths played havoc by throwing rocks at kayakers and jostling children who took part in the Woy Woy lantern parade.

He also reported an incident involving the assault of a volunteer.

Cr Holstein said he would be doing his foremost to maintain events for the benefit of the community who do the right thing.

"It would be very disappointing to see Australia Day celebrations in the local government area abandoned because of the acts of stupidity and drunkenness of a small group," Cr Holstein said.

"I had a productive meeting with Brisbane Water Police Superintendent Geoff McKechnie and together we are looking at proactive strategies to help curb anti-social behaviour at future events.

"The Australia Day committee is currently in the process of debriefing, and once finalised, this will also assist council, police and event stakeholders to discuss strategies to deter anti-social behaviour in the future.

"I can assure you that there will be greater liaison with local police and Gosford Council rangers in planning and executing these events in 2010 and beyond.

"I am also seeking claims for damages incurred by Gosford Council from individuals arrested for their behaviour on Australia Day.

"We need to make it clear that we have a no-tolerance approach to anti-social behaviour and drunkenness.

"People should not have to put up with hooligans while they are out enjoying themselves, and have the right to a safe environment."

Cr Holstein said he estimated a clean-up bill of $2000 was expected for Umina Beach, where a crowd of more than 200 drunken youths gathered for Australia Day.

Umina Beach surfer Mr Wayne Priestly said he was shocked to see the mess of broken glass and litter left in the car park and surrounding areas of Umina Surf Club the following day.

"Many surfers turned out for an early morning swim only to come across a war zone," Mr Priestly said.

"These kids wouldn't leave their own homes in a state like this, so why should they do the same to the beach?"

Mr Priestly, along with members of the local surfing community, are hoping to turn around the trend of anti-social behaviour before Anzac Day.

"It seems these sorts of drunken gatherings occur around the public holidays including New Years, Australia Day and Anzac Day.

"A clear message needs to get sent out amongst these kids that no alcohol whatsoever will be tolerated in public.

"Umina Beach is already an alcohol-free zone.

"We believe police should be at these known hot spots to stop the consumption of alcohol before it gets out of hand.

"Kids were down at Umina Beach by 9.30am drinking.

"If police were down there at this time, word would have spread amongst these kids quickly that drinking would not be tolerated and the problem could have been avoided."

Ocean Beach Malibu Club member Mr Craig Coulton agreed that a more direct approach needs to be looked at.

"With all the alcohol fuelled violence state-wide in the guise of patriotism, I believe the time has come to make the drinking of alcohol in all public areas illegal on these public holidays and, of course, having sufficient police numbers at the troublesome locations to enforce it," Mr Coulton said.

"If two police officers were to be located near the surf club and confiscated the alcohol from the youths as they arrived, word would quickly spread that the gathering wasn't going to be tolerated.

"It is no good the police arriving when there is already 200 youths priming themselves for a big day."

According to Mr Priestly, police arrived at the scene around 2.30pm.

Mr Priestly said the Umina Boardriders Club, Ocean Beach Malibu Club and the Surfrider Foundation would be rallying together to put pressure on the State Government.

"We just want to see a long term solution to stop this kind of behaviour in the community," Mr Priestly said.

"We are very thankful of the hard work of our local police but we feel more needs to be done to prevent incidents like this from reoccurring.

"This may mean seeing more police presence on the Peninsula.

"We are sick of being referred to as the Mt Druitt by the sea when this type of behaviour keeps happening in our area."

Cr Peter Freewater said he would be supporting the surfing community in its endeavour to curb anti-social behaviour.

"Mr Priestly makes a valid point about Mt Druitt by the sea," Cr Freewater said.

"This sort of behaviour hurts us all - not just our sense of community pride or our lacerated feet - think about the value of our homes.

"There was a time when housing prices on the Peninsula were similar to the rest of Gosford. "We've got a lot more going for us than most other places.

"Perhaps we just need to return to a forgotten time when the responsibility of raising children was shared by the entire community: A time when kids were taught to show respect."


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