Schoolies surge rumours false

RECENT reports of a surge in schoolies visitors to the Coffs Coast are without foundation, according to accommodation providers and police.

Sydney media reports of a diversification in locations targeted by school-leavers and an embargo on police leave to cope with “the influx” have left locals mystified. Last year, the Dolphin Sands, one of the limited number of accommodation houses offering beds to school-leavers, had seven units booked for a month from this weekend to several groups of schoolies.

“We’ve had them for approximately six years and it’s probably a little bit quieter this year,” said owner and Tourism Association accommodation board member Graham Greacen.

“We had some bookings come in; about the same as last year,” said Coffs Harbour Visitors Information Centre manager Brian Bowers. “It’s not something we specifically track, but it is a slowly growing market for Coffs. There’s relatively few, if any issues with them.”

Any meeting involving a planned police response to a schoolies influx is one Detective Inspector Kehani Smith, Coffs-Clarence Local Area Command crimes manager, would expect to be invited to.

“I was a little bit surprised at that report. It certainly wasn’t a meeting I was at,” Det Insp Smith said, referring to the media reports of a police briefing. The only leave embargo he is aware of is in January during the busy summer period.

“We did some analysis on it (schoolies) last year and we have also been in contact with accommodation houses,” she said, dismissing suggestions of a dramatic increased need for schoolies policing.

“Last year we didn’t have any issues. The kids know where to go for wild, crazy stuff and it’s not here.”

Accepting schoolies bookings involves active management by accommodation providers. At the Dolphin Sands, Mr Greacen sends information packages containing rules of the house, tourist attractions and he obtains a bond and parent contact details. Unclean or damaged rooms are to be paid for and students may be evicted for bad behaviour.

“When you’ve got 45 girls aged 14 to 19 staying here it’s like bees in a honey pot; there’s lots of guys who want to come in,” Mr Greacen said. “I don’t let strangers in. If you’re not paying, you don’t come in. Most of the kids who come here are here for a good time, not a wild time.”

Local school-leavers and summer parties do create challenges for local police.

“Our summer crime strategy, Operation Illusion, is targeting beach parties, under-age drinking and the supply of alcohol to minors,” Ms Smith said.

She wants beachside residents to contact the police as soon as they see under-age drinking in parks, rather than waiting until property damage and assaults occur.

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