In 1979 Debbie Hutton of Tweed Heads kisses Coolangatta’s Senr Const Terry Honours.
In 1979 Debbie Hutton of Tweed Heads kisses Coolangatta’s Senr Const Terry Honours. Contributed

NYE was a real riot for Tweed in years past

AS pubs and clubs around the Twin Towns advertise their programs to welcome in the New Year, locals and visitors are left with a wide choice of venues and events.

Celebrating the start of a new year has been a long held tradition in the border towns and in earlier times family orientated festivities were held in a peaceful manner.

As the Christmas and New Year holiday period grew in popularity and attracted an increasing number of visitors it was not long before unwelcome and unruly groups of young men looking for trouble started to appear.

A previously unheard of incident took place when a party of young men quietly celebrating the advent of 1920 at Tweed Heads were set upon by a number of rough young men looking to create mischief.

During the altercation a bottle was brought into play by one of the troublemakers and it was broken over the head of a young man whose injuries required hospital treatment.

The following day an organised group of local young men was determined to confront the ruffians and clear them out of town however the resultant fight near Tweed Heads post office forced police to intervene.

Later in the day a search was made on the train leaving Tweed Heads and Coolangatta in order to wreak vengeance upon those thought to have been involved in the New Year's Eve fight.

Trivial as this 1920 incident may appear in comparison to what takes place now on any given night of the week, this antisocial behaviour and disregard for the safety of others was only the start of a disturbing trend of damage and destruction carried out by young malcontents who had a point to prove or a grievance to air.

The New Year riot that took place at the Twin Towns in 1968 brought nationwide attention to the area. About 600 teenagers went on a rampage through Tweed Heads and Coolangatta early on New Year's morning in what was described as an orgy of destruction. Police reported that about $1,000 damage was caused to parked cars, ornamental trees, street signs and shop windows in the towns.

Earlier in the night a group among the more than 7,000 people celebrating in Coolangatta's Griffith Street pelted a "pop" band with eggs and empty beer cans. The band was forced off the dais where it was performing and when its members returned a short time later the same group cut off the electricity supply to the instruments.

Youths climbed power poles and threw beer cans from rooftops and awnings.

Police who climbed after them were pelted with eggs and beer cans before making two arrests. Later the Coolangatta Police Station which had been stoned by teenagers on the morning of New Year's Eve attracted a crowd of 1,000 young people.

When police moved to arrest the ringleaders the crowd headed to Tweed Heads where damage was caused before the mob returned to Coolangatta.

Police made 22 arrests in Coolangatta and nine in Tweed Heads. The following day seven youths faced Coolangatta Magistrate's Court while 15 others failed to appear.

In 1971 daylight saving was introduced in some States including NSW and Qld but was abandoned in Qld in 1972 (although a three year trial was held in 1989-92.) Two New Year celebrations created double the trouble in the border towns and police were kept busy.

This trend continued over the ensuing years.

In order to create a better relationship between police and revellers, Qld Police Commissioner Terry Lewis stated that revellers seeing in 1979 could kiss policemen if the officers did not object but not everyone behaved well and 52 arrests were made for offensive behaviour, obscene language, resisting arrest and assaulting police.

Violence and vandalism marred the 1983 celebrations and the next year up to 400 revellers spent the first day of 1984 behind bars charged with disorderly conduct and drunkenness after two wild New Year celebrations in Coolangatta and Tweed Heads.

In 1997 a move was made to reduce the vandalism and minor crime that had become commonplace in Coolangatta when the town's clubs and hotels joined forces to form the Southern Gold Coast Licensed Venues Association.

This new association, in conjunction with the Licensing Commission, Coolangatta police and the Coolangatta Chamber of Commerce, hoped to solve some of the local problems especially those caused by the excessive consumption of alcohol.

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