Alcohol-free zones mooted by Wollongong council

Residents and tourists could soon lose the right to partake in a tipple after dark while enjoying some of Wollongong’s council spaces, after a motion to investigate the introduction of new alcohol-free zones was passed by Wollongong City Council last night.

The motion was brought before councillors after a group of concerned northern Illawarra residents complained, saying alcohol was a major factor in the anti-social behaviour of ‘‘hoons’’ who were leaving behind bottles and litter after drinking at lookouts.

The original motion, brought forward by councillor Greg Petty, included Bald Hill, Bulgo and Otford lookouts, but councillor Janice Kershaw put forward an amendment to investigate turning the entire Wollongong Local Government Area into an alcohol-free zone.

Councillor Leigh Colacino then put forward an amendment to introduce time periods to the alcohol-free zones to allow socially responsible drinking to continue during the day time.

The amended motion was passed unanimously.

Addressing councillors before the meeting, spokeswoman for concerned northern Illawarra residents Heather Smith said hoons were vandalising lookouts while drinking, creating a bad look for the region.

‘‘Despite their high value as tourism drawcards, these sites are being allowed to degenerate,’’ she said.

Residents were tired of discovering ‘‘broken bottles and syringes’’ at the sites.

Despite Ms Smith’s concern, Wollongong police acting crime manager Detective Inspector Darren Kelly said there was little to suggest the lookouts should be made alcohol-free zones.

‘‘We’ve had no recorded instances of alcohol issues at Bald Hill or other similar lookouts to support them being marked as alcohol-free zones,’’ he said.

There are five such zones within Wollongong City Council boundaries, which include areas of Wollongong CBD and foreshore, Dapto CBD, Thirroul CBD and beach, Warrawong CBD, and parts of Helensburgh, Berkeley and Corrimal.

Insp Kelly said Wollongong local area command officers policed the areas by tasking patrols or calls directly to the location.

‘‘They are ... more heavily policed on occasions such as New Year’s Eve and Australia Day,’’ he said.

‘‘In essence, the existing areas are useful.’’

There is no longer a penalty for being detected with alcohol in an alcohol-free zone. Instead, police are able to confiscate alcohol belonging to someone found drinking in the area.

If the person refuses to hand over their alcohol, they can face fines of up to $2200.