AS a forum in Sydney last week discussed ways to tackle alcohol-fuelled violence following the death of teenager Thomas Kelly on a night out in Kings Cross, representatives of Kiama’s Liquor Accord praised the program locally but feared it could be undermined by funding cuts.
Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) has indicated it will cut funds for accord success story, the Summer Bus.
Accord representative, Kiama Leagues Club general manager John Bambury, who has been involved with three liquor accords for 15 years, described the current accord, involving representatives from the Lake Illawarra Local Area Command, RMS Kiama Council, licensed premises and Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, as one of the most proactive.
Mr Bambury cited venue lock-outs and reduced trading hours, funding of responsible service of alcohol training for high school students, and education campaigns as highlights of the accord.
But he said the introduction of the Summer Bus, to take drinkers home, had proven to be one of the most effective tools in combating incidents of violence, malicious damage and anti-social behaviour.
The Summer Bus operates on Saturday nights between December and March from 11pm-3am from Gerringong to Minnamurra. Mr Bambury said that at the May meeting of the accord the RMS had flagged diverting funding from the Summer Bus.
An RMS spokeswoman said the service had contributed 50per cent or more to the cost of buses, security and promotion since 2004 and that it was one of 10 late-night buses funded by RMS in the southern region since 1995.
Each of the municipality’s major licensed venues fund the other half of the costs.
‘‘The funding was always meant to demonstrate to the community these sorts of services are valuable and viable, and to help establish a self-sustaining program, as is the case with all similar programs around the state,’’ the spokeswoman said.
‘‘Funding will be continued until December to allow the liquor accord subcommittee to explore other funding sources.’’
Lake Illawarra Local Area Command licensing sergeant Gary Keevers agreed the Summer Bus had played a significant role in reducing alcohol-related problems.
He said Kiama faced the same issues as other places in getting people home after a night out, but on a smaller scale.
“Kiama is a difficult one because for a transport service to be effective, it has to be one that moves people out of the CBD and turns around quickly to get the next lot, so you don’t have 500 people on the streets.’’
Sgt Keevers said if the RMS would not pay for the Summer Bus, then he believed the licensed venues had an obligation to fund the service.