Hunter residents are being urged to celebrate safely this Australia Day, as the state prepares to mark a national holiday that will look very different this year.
With large gatherings limited across NSW due to COVID-19, people can watch the “live” broadcast on TV from their home, have small COVIDSafe gatherings with family and friends, or book a restaurant in their local area to help support businesses.
However, a highly-visible and mobile NSW Police operation is in place for Tuesday 26 January for those who choose to reflect and celebrate outdoors.
General duties officers, assisted by specialist police, are expected to be deployed across the state to ensure a secure environment for everyone.
Port Stephens-Hunter Police District Commander Superintendent Chad Gillies said while 2021 celebrations would look different, local police were focusing on ensuring the community remains COVID-safe; and targeting alcohol-related crime and anti-social behaviour.
“After the year we’ve had, it’s a time to reflect on our sense of community and to come together to acknowledge everything that is great about being Australian,” he explained.
“Australia Day 2021 is a day to reflect, respect and celebrate the Australian spirit so we ask for residents to be patient and respect each other and any restrictions in place.
“We do have the power to ensure that the community is adhering to current public health orders, so let’s work together to ensure everyone enjoys Australia Day safely.
“Importantly, it you are planning to drink, look after your mates, drink in moderation, and always have a Plan B if you’re driving.
“Officers from the Traffic and Highway Patrol Command will also be on our roads.
“If you are caught doing the wrong thing, you will be put before the courts.
“We will have a high and visible police presence through our sectors to support our communities celebrating this important day.”
Marine Area Commander Acting Superintendent Joe McNulty said the police operation would extend onto the state’s waterways, so people celebrating on the water should anticipate a heavy presence.
“We expect significant maritime traffic on the harbour and waterways across the state, so we remind skippers of their responsibilities in complying with the maritime laws and to have all the required safety equipment – most importantly, lifejackets – on board the vessel,” he stated.
“We will also be conducting drug and alcohol testing on the water, so remember, the same rule applies to as if you were driving a vehicle, it is a 0.05 alcohol limit.
“Drinking alcohol or taking drugs while out on the water can end in tragedy, so look after your friends and family and act responsibly.”
For anyone heading out on the water, check the weather conditions prior to your departure, exclusion zones and movement times apply.
Visit www.maritime.nsw.gov.au/ for further details.
Police are also encouraging residents to monitor weather reports and follow health and safety advice, with the Bureau of Meteorology forecasting hot weather to continue into Australia Day.
For details about what’s happening in your area and further event-related information, visit the official Australia Day website: http://www.australiaday.com.au/