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Letter Of The Month… Ibiza In North Bondi

By Marcus Braid on June 5, 2014 in

Dear Beast, I am a life-long resident of Waverley writing in response to an article titled ‘Zero Likes For Council’s Permit Policy’ that appeared in the April issue of this magazine. My letter has two parts. Firstly, I wish to address the inaccuracies of the said article, and secondly, to discuss the REAL issues at hand in North Bondi at the moment.

The Mr Vago that was quoted in the above-mentioned article was responsible for organising a protest against ‘Council’s Permit Policy’ at Biddigal Reserve, North Bondi a few months back. In that article he stated that “this is a clear breach of our freedom” and “the beach is a public domain and belongs to the people”.

He also went on to explain: “If Council stops people’s ability to meet in a public space, you’re creating a dictatorship – you’re restricting people’s freedoms. We’re a community and they’re not letting us be one!”

David Vago is the director of Architectural firm, Habitation. This company tendered the plans for the proposed makeover of Bondi beachfront that incorporated the construction of a three-level underground car park, and has been quoted as stating that Bondi “needs more activation and a sculptural quality similar to the Spanish beachfront project, Benidorm”. This is HIS vision for Bondi. The plan was never given any serious consideration by Council.

So, who arranged this story, and was Mr Vago randomly chosen to comment? I suspect not! One must question the validity of the article as it is biased and un-researched – Council’s permit policy has been in place for at least 10 years and ZERO changes have been made to that policy in recent times. The story is literally a storm in a teacup and seemingly a very personally motivated one.

In regards to the existing permit policy, we should really ask ourselves WHY such policies have been implemented in the first place? As anyone who has a teenager will testify, social media can be dangerous. It has the ability to reach hundreds if not thousands of people within days. Before you know it, your 15 year-old’s party has become a major problem! If people were allowed to use our public spaces for whatever they deemed appropriate, or were able to carry on and do whatever they liked generally, our society would be an absolute disaster. Life is not like that and, unfortunately, many of the rules and restrictions we have placed on us in our communities are the result of ‘the few’ who ruin it for everybody, or have been made to afford some protection to the majority of the community.

I would also like to add that at the time of his protest, Mr Vago was questioned on Facebook by some community members as to what his protest was actually about. He could not come up with any reasonable comment other than to label anyone who questioned him as ignorant, unprofessional or uneducated. Not only this, but we were also “narrow-minded nut jobs”.

He also promptly blocked these people so that they had no right of reply and went on to state the following on his own Facebook wall: “Council have copped much of the flak for these laws but, looking at some of the comments in the aftermath, they are not entirely to blame for the lame laws restricting people having events. The council have been pushed by a minority of xenophobes. There is this discriminating evil exclusionary undertone not far removed from racism that exists among a minority of locals in Bondi.”

Really? What a bizarre comment!

I can tell you with 100% certainty that Mr Vago does NOT speak for the local community. In actual fact, his little protest only succeeded in highlighting to the local community the REAL problems that are occurring at North Bondi, in particular at Biddigal Reserve.

Consider the following: Each weekend, weather permitting, the grassed area at Biddigal Reserve turns into a pub/day-club from approximately 1pm onwards. This area is traditionally a family-oriented and family-friendly one. Over many decades, it has been purpose-built to be such. It is the safer end of the beach, it is patrolled, it has two kiddie pools, it has a barbecue area and a purpose-built playground for children. It is not uncommon for those of us who grew up in this area, who now have children that we wish to be able to give the same wonderful upbringing we had, to avoid the area entirely on weekend afternoons because it is simply not a safe environment for kids anymore.

Consider the following:
1. Widespread alcohol use and abuse (all parks and beaches are Alcohol Prohibited Zones).
2. Foul and abusive language, especially if you dare to ask someone not to drink, swear or smoke on top of your children.
3. Inappropriate behaviour such as overt sexual conduct and urinating against the timber wall or in the bushes, as toilet facilities are limited and a few minutes walk away.
4. Blatant and open drug selling and use (witnessed).
5. Major littering of cigarette butts, bottle caps, cans, empty food containers, etc.
6. Smashing of glass bottles with little or no attempt at cleaning it up.
7. Invasion of personal space.
8. Intimidation tactics to push families off the barbecue tables.
9. Use of extremely loud music.

The pure disregard and absolute lack of respect for other people and the local environment/community that we see here on such a large scale and regular basis is seriously concerning.

In order to begin to address these issues, we have formed a community action group called NORTH BONDI FOR ALL. We have hundreds of signatures and over 385 members already.

As a community group of concerned current and previous residents, NORTH BONDI FOR ALL wants to return Biddigal Reserve to ALL people – local and visiting families with children alike. We are opposed to the culture of drinking, partying and drug taking that has taken over Biddigal Reserve. It is as simple as that. Are we being narrow-minded, uninformed or ignorant?

Yes, the beach is a public domain and belongs to the people. Why then should the majority of our community and visitors be ostracised from this area because there is a certain minority that wants to turn it into something reminiscent of Ibiza? How do we as a community just sit back and allow this to happen? It is an Alcohol Prohibited Zone and has been since 1995! Both Council and the local police seem to have brushed their hands of it, and we want to change this. I have written two letters to our mayor in recent weeks and have unfortunately had zero reply. I am in consultation with the Safety Advisory Committee, the Local Area Command and our local councillors. We are currently gathering signatures for a petition that will be presented to Council in a few weeks’ time and hope to seriously start the process of finding an acceptable solution to this problem.

These are the real issues. If you are interested in supporting this campaign, please find us on Facebook, sign the petition and join the movement.