Police enforcing COVID-safe rules for schoolies

Cape Byron Lighthouse, Byron Bay. PHOTO: Destination NSW.
Cape Byron Lighthouse, Byron Bay. PHOTO: Destination NSW.

New South Wales Police say they will have a strong focus on enforcing Public Health Orders during 2020 schoolies festivities as the COVID-19 pandemic response continues.

Police emphasise they will still target drug and alcohol-related crime and anti-social behaviour during schoolies.

Officer in Charge at Byron Bay, Detective Chief Inspector Matt Kehoe, is reminding the Shire and St George school leavers that this year will be very different.

"This year is different. This is not schoolies as you know it'," he said.

School leavers from the Shire and St George are due to arrive in Byron Bay and other parts of Northern NSW from Friday, November 20, 2020, and are expected to stay into December.

Police are expecting thousands of school leavers to descend on coastal towns to mark the end of their 13 years of schooling.

In anticipation of the large crowds, Police will conduct an extensive and high-visibility operation for the duration of the 'schoolies' period.

Local police commands will be assisted by the Public Order and Riot Squad, the Mounted Unit, the Police Dog Unit, Traffic and Highway Patrol, and the Youth Command and PCYC.

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," he said.

"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.

"With the NSW and Queensland border now re-open to regional NSW, Byron Bay is included in that zone. And with the border between NSW and Victoria to re-open early next week, we are expecting thousands of school leavers to come to our area.

"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.

"In saying that, we have a very clear message to those choosing to come to Byron and other coastal towns in 2020, 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."

Superintendent Roptell said school leavers need to be extremely aware of the dangers of COVID-19.

"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," he said.

"While we will be enforcing the Public Health Orders, Police want to remind school leavers that we aren't 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 crime.

"Not only will Police be ensuring Public Health Orders are being followed, but officers will be targeting drug and alcohol-related crime, as well as anti-social behaviour.

"Drugs and alcohol impairs 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."

For all information related to schoolies during COVID-19, visit the website: https://www.schoolies.com/covid-19-faq

Anyone who has information regarding individuals or businesses in contravention of a COVID-19-related ministerial direction is urged to contact Crime Stoppers: https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au. Information is treated in strict confidence. The public is reminded not to report crime via NSW Police social media pages.