Summernats. You either love it or you hate it. I’ve always been aware of it, but this is my first year living in the North when Summernats has been on. I definitely noticed it. In a big way.
Like most other people, I spotted the classic cars as well as the ‘done up’ cars a few days before the festival began, as well as hearing the occasional burnout. That’s fine, I can deal with that. What I can’t deal with is extreme behaviour from revellers, putting other people’s lives at risk outside the confines of EPIC in locations without security and/or police presence.
On Friday night, at around 11pm or so, a friend and I drove down the road to the Lonsdale Street area (what, I really felt like a McDonalds Coke), and to my surprise found it PACKED with people. Literally, hundreds and hundreds of people. Lining the streets with their cars, some had deck chairs and were sitting around chatting which is obviously fine, however, the majority of people were behaving very badly. Cars were hooning around the block at top speed, people were stepping out in front of cars, walking all over the road, alcohol was being consumed in a public place, there was rubbish everywhere, firecrackers were being let off, and we even saw people jumping from car roof to car roof in a dealership. It was similar to the extreme Schoolies behaviour you see on the news at the end of each school year.
There was zero police presence.
Out of pure concern for the general safety of people in the area (including ourselves) we called the police (131 444, not triple-0) and asked if they could send a car to the area in the hope that a police presence would settle some of the crowd down and you know, maybe discourage people from jumping on cars in a car yard and maybe not to drive around like maniacs. The police said to us that they were aware of the situation but didn’t have enough resources or people available to send a car around.
In my opinion that’s really not good enough. I was told that Summernats attendees hanging out at Braddon at night was not unusual and that they’ve been frequenting the area as long as Summernats has existed, over 20 years. So it’s not like the police wouldn’t have known this was going to happen. It could have been planned for and dealt with.
A few people suggested to me that it’s just some kids having fun on the street and the police have bigger problems to deal with. Ordinarily, yes. I would agree. However this time a police presence could have prevented damage to the cars in the dealership (see police media release on the incident here). The way some people were driving around Braddon, I am genuinely surprised there were no injuries or fatalities, not to mention the firecrackers being let off at random. I did not feel safe driving around there in my own car, and I wasn’t even there for an extended period of time.
On another note; the place was trashed. There was rubbish everywhere; alcohol cans and bottles lining the streets. A few groups of people had also set up camp outside cafes, leaving their rubbish behind. It’s really disappointing that these cafe owners would have turned up for work the next morning to find crap all over their premises. Hugely unfair that they would have had to clean it up as well.
When an event like Summernats comes to town, the police can’t just confine themselves to the official Summernats area. There needs to be greater control over revellers. If people have been frequenting the same spot for 20-odd years and creating a ruckus, I think it’s reasonable to expect a patrol car or two to be sent down to keep a close eye on things.