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Coogee Alcohol Ban Raises Local Discontent

By Madeleine Gray on February 1, 2017 in News

Photo: Barry Watterson

Photo: Barry Watterson

For many years, Bondi Beach symbolised the ultimate backpacker Christmas destination. The rubbish would pile up; the rowdy behaviour would escalate. Eventually, Waverley Council decided to ban the consumption of alcohol at Bondi Beach. That ban remains in place today.

So where would the backpackers flock to next? Enter Coogee Beach. With slightly lower rental prices, a myriad of cheap hostels, and easy access to the CBD, Coogee has become Sydney’s latest backpacker haven. This was startlingly evident on Christmas Day 2016.

Approximately 10,000 people (mostly backpackers from the UK, Ireland and other parts of Europe) made their way to Coogee Beach to boogie on down. A local DJ played some sweet tunes, and people got happily drunk in the sun.

“What’s wrong with that?” you might ask. Unfortunately, what is wrong with that is that almost all of these partygoers forgot to, or simply decided not to, pick up their litter. 15 tonnes of rubbish (including glass bottles, plastic bags, nangs, and disintegrating beer cartons) was sprawled across the sand and grass.

Almost immediately after this environmental carnage occurred, Randwick Council responded by introducing a blanket ban on the consumption of alcohol at Coogee Beach for the rest of the summer.

According to Randwick Mayor Noel D’Souza, the ban has been well received.

“Since the total alcohol ban has been in place, I’ve had a number of residents thanking me for giving them back their parks and their beach,” he said.
However, not all locals were happy with the decision.

“I think it’s one of the worst knee-jerk reactions of all time,” Courtyard Café owner Dave Martin said.

“Businesses in Coogee are now suffering due to the lack of people coming to enjoy our beach.

“The ban affects everyone except those who were there on Christmas Day.”

Coogee resident Cynthia Colli suggested to The Beast that the alcohol ban actually “ignores the larger issue of ignorance about environmental sustainability.”

After walking down “plastic blizzard ridden” Carr Street on Christmas night, Ms. Colli took it upon herself to get down to the beach and start the cleanup. She managed to collect 18 huge rubbish bags full of litter, and estimates that she picked up around 8000 glass bottles.

“I don’t agree with the total alcohol ban because I think there has to be a more effective and nuanced response that does not disadvantage families and responsible drinkers,” Ms. Colli said.

“When I was cleaning up, lots of people said ‘Good on you for doing someone else’s job’, and I think that attitude – that cleaning up after your own mess is not your job – is pervasive, and it needs to change. If you do litter, it is your fault.”

Ms. Colli, who has recently established a grassroots sustainability initiative, cheekily called ‘F*ckgiving’ (www.fuckgiving.co), suggests that different approaches to public waste should be taken, and that ‘trickle cleaning’ (whereby council workers wander through and chat with the crowd, picking up rubbish and asking for a bit of help), as opposed to late night cleaning, is a good place to start.

Only time will tell, but it seems that an alcohol ban may not fix what is clearly a larger, attitudinal problem.

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