After thirteen long years, the classes of 2020 who want to continue their traditional celebration in Byron Bay are in for a 'very different' experience.
School leavers from across NSW and interstate are expected to arrive in the coastal town from today, Friday, and stay into December.
In anticipation for the large crowds, Tweed/Byron Police District will conduct an extensive and high-visibility operation for the duration of the ‘schoolies’ period – assisted by the Richmond Police District and other Northern Region commands, the Public Order and Riot Squad, Northern Operational Support Group officers, the Mounted Unit, the Police Dog Unit, Traffic and Highway Patrol, and the Youth Command and PCYC.
‘Schoolies 2020 – but we must be COVID-Safe’
Officer in Charge at Byron Bay, Detective Chief Inspector Matt Kehoe, is reminding school leavers that police will be targeting drug and alcohol-related crime, anti-social behaviour, and will also be enforcing Public Health Orders as the COVID-19 pandemic response continues.
Tweed/Byron Police District Commander, Superintendent Dave Roptell, said this year’s celebrations must be conducted in a COVID-safe environment, with officers to enforce all current Public Health Orders and conduct regular business compliance checks.
“We know this has been an extremely tough year for HSC students, and we appreciate that school leavers want to have a memorable time.
"However, these are not normal times, so we ask anyone coming to the far North Coast to be respectful – we have come this far in managing COVID-19 in our regional communities, let’s not undo all our hard work now,” Supt Roptell said.
'This year is different, this is not schoolies as you know it’
He added that police are expecting thousands of school leavers to come to the North Coast due to NSW and Queensland border opening zones now including Byron Bay, and also that the NSW/Victorian border being set to re-open early next week.
The NSW Police Force continues to work closely with health officials and other government agencies, businesses and the community to manage the COVID-19 crisis and minimise the spread of the virus.
“We have a very clear message to those choosing to come to Byron in 2020 – this year is very different, there will be no large gatherings, no dance parties in the park.
"Social distancing is the new normal, and we all have to do our bit to stop the spread.
“The risk of community transmission is still present here in Australia, and with people from interstate expected to come to Byron, school leavers need to be extremely aware of the dangers of COVID-19," Supt Roptell said.
Public Health Orders currently state that no more than 20 persons can be inside a home at any one time – this includes short-stay accommodation.
The orders also state that up to 30 people can be gathered in a public space at any one time, this includes places such as parks, beaches, etc.
Supt Roptell said while police will be enforcing the Public Health Orders, they are not here to ruin the fun.
"Our officers are here to protect you and keep you safe; approach police or authorities if you are in danger, if you feel threatened or you are a victim of any type of crime,"
Police remind school leavers that drugs and alcohol will impair your judgement and can lead to risky behaviours or choices which can impact the rest of your life.
"Know your limits and look out for your mates,"
“With the increase in activity in the Byron town centre, we are urging all visitors and locals alike to plan ahead; those not joining in the celebrations are asked to watch out for increased pedestrian activity and keep an eye out on the roads.
“As always, if you’re planning on drinking – you need a Plan B to get yourself home,” Supt Roptell said.
The NSW Police Force continues to work closely with the Schoolies Safety Response agencies, which include Byron Youth Service and Red Frog volunteers, alongside all health officials and other government agencies, businesses and the community to minimise disruption and maintain a COVID-Safe environment.
For all information related to schoolies during COVID-19, visit the website: https://www.schoolies.com/covid-19-faq