Byron Bay was remarkably quieter as coronavirus (COVID-19) fears affect people's behavioural patterns last week, but the town and beaches were reportedly packed with people across the weekend.
Byron Bay was remarkably quieter as coronavirus (COVID-19) fears affect people's behavioural patterns last week, but the town and beaches were reportedly packed with people across the weekend.

Carparks, sports hub closed in council's attack on COVID-19

UPDATE: 6.45PM

BYRON Shire Council has put extra measures in place to protect the region from the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). 

The council will be closing carparks at Main Beach and Clark's Beach this week.

Council-managed community halls will also close for three months.

There will be a temporary three-month suspension of all busking licences.

Byron mayor Simon Richardson said the decisions were made in response to social distancing protocols set out by the state and federal governments.

Those rules were put in place in an attempt to flatten the curve of COVID-19 spread.

"The carparks at Main Beach and Clark's Beach are popular gathering points and groups of people continue to park their cars and congregate in these areas and we need to do what we can to stop this from happening," Cr Richardson said.

"We also have enormously talented local musicians and with pubs, clubs and venues closed, authorities fear that buskers will be a drawcard for large crowds and while some people might see this as an over-reaction we cannot be too cautious."

Halls affected by the closures, including Bangalow's A&I Hall and Marvell Hall, were closed from 5pm today.

Councillors have received a briefing on the current situation and the roles of each level of government in addressing the pandemic.

The council also discussed further measures that may be put in place. 

They will be followed up this week.

"I would like to take this opportunity to assure the community that council is well-prepared and will continue its emergency response with a strong focus on the delivery of essential services for the community including water, sewer and infrastructure during the challenges we are facing," Cr Richardson said. 

"Council's Crisis Management team has been meeting for weeks, to ensure there is no disruption to essential services.

"Council offices and customer service areas remain open for now, with social distancing in place, though we request that people call us or contact us online as much as possible from now on.

"It is critical, at this uncertain time, for all of us to do what we can in relation to the protocols put in place by the State and Federal authorities and this includes observing the new rules surrounding events and social distancing."

The council has urged people to seek information about COVID-19 from NSW Health and the Australian Government.

CLOSURES:

  • Cavanbah Centre: closed. Effective from 12 noon Monday, March 23, Byron Shire's indoor sporting venue, The Cavanbah Centre will be temporarily closed until further notice.
  • Community Halls: closed. To adhere to the Australian and NSW Government's bans on non-essential gatherings, all of the Shire's community halls are also now closed.
  • Libraries: closed. Libraries are also closed, along with those in the Lismore, Ballina and Tweed Shires who are also a part of the Richmond Tweed Regional Library.
  • Lone Goat Gallery: closed.

STILL OPEN: 

  • Outdoor pool facilities. Byron Shire's outdoor pools remain open at Mullumbimby and Byron Bay.
  • Sandhills Childcare Centre
  • Public Toilets 

 

 

UPDATE: 1.30pm 

COUNCILLORS are expected to meet this afternoon to discuss an appropriate plan of action to help protect the Byron Shire from the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). 

Cr Michael Lyon said councillors had been in frequent contact yesterday after criticism of many people flouting the social distancing rules.

People have been urged to keep 1.5 metres away from others and there must be four square metres of floor space for each person at indoor gatherings, which cannot exceed 100 people.

But a group gathered at Cape Byron Lighthouse on Sunday evening didn't seem bothered being in close proximity.
Cr Lyon said Byron was also "bustling" on Saturday.

He said councillors planned to meet to discuss the matter at 4pm today. 

"We're discussing what our powers are, what we have the authority to do or what we have the responsibility to do and how we get people to take it seriously," Cr Lyon said.

"At the  lighthouse yesterday evening ... groups of people were too close together.

"We've had weddings at Broken Head …like it's business as usual."

Cr Lyon said he was "extremely concerned" the situation wasn't being taken seriously enough.

"I think we've already missed the boat," he said.

"People haven't paid enough attention and I think the actions over the last few days may come back to haunt us.
"Saturday night in town was bustling.

"We only need one person who's been (near) an infected person to have been in that crowd (for an outbreak)."

He welcomed the shutdown on "non-essential" services, which has seen pubs, clubs and other businesses close.

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"I think it's better late than never is the way I look at it," Cr Lyon said.

"(On Saturday night) people in Byron were just not paying any attention at all."

He acknowledged many in Byron were in holiday mode but said residents and visitors alike "just need to start taking things seriously".

"We're going to convene a meeting of council at 4pm (to discuss) what we're allowed to do, what we're required to do," he said.

He said they would be gathering as much information as possible.

"People need to understand the gravity of the situation and not act selfishly," he said.

"We don't want to be in the situation Italy's in, where people can be save but we don't have the beds or resources."

Initial report:

BYRON Shire Council has asked visitors and the broader community to pay attention to social distancing recommendations from the state and federal governments.

Some people were reportedly flouted the recommendation to keep a 1.5 metre distance from others in the Byron Bay township and at the beach over the weekend.

But the council has issued a statement stressing social distancing protocols - aimed at reducing the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) - apply to the beach, too.

The council's general manager Mark Arnold said the council would be guided by the State Government on the closure of any public spaces.

Richard Sandilands captured this shot of people flouting the social distancing rules at Cape Byron Lighthouse at sunset on Sunday.
Richard Sandilands captured this shot of people flouting the social distancing rules at Cape Byron Lighthouse at sunset on Sunday. Richard Sandilands

Currently, the four square metres of floor space is required for each individual for indoor events, with a limit of 100 people indoors.

This will apply to the council's ordinary meeting that's scheduled for this Thursday.

"We are encouraging people who normally attend council meetings to choose the option of listening to the audio recording of the meeting which will be available on our website," Mr Arnold said.

"Some members of the public may not be able to enter the council chambers and we ask that they respectfully accept the guidance of staff should this occur."

Anyone who wants to ask a question during the public access portion of the meeting has been urged to do so by emailing council@byron.nsw.gov.au.

Richard Sandilands captured this shot of people flouting the social distancing rules at Cape Byron Lighthouse at sunset on Sunday.
Richard Sandilands captured this shot of people flouting the social distancing rules at Cape Byron Lighthouse at sunset on Sunday. Richard Sandilands

This is an evolving situation and people need to check in with NSW and Australian Government websites for the latest information on the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a post on social media, councillor Michael Lyon said councillors were "seriously concerned" by reports the town centre and beaches of Byron Bay were "still packed" despite the social distancing rules.

"I don't see what choice we have in a town with so many visitors but to try reinforce the strict restrictions that have been announced by State and Federal Governments and keep people isolated, close beaches etc," he said.