Louise Payet.
Louise Payet.

What now for Yamba?

HOW does Australia’s number one town – Yamba – bounce back from a national media battering?

The town has made the headlines for all the wrong reasons in recent weeks.

Not-so-glowing reports of Yamba have been broadcast throughout Australia, including the events surrounding a riot arising from a party early last month.

A police vehicle was torched and a police car damaged by rioters. Police made numerous arrests.

One Yamba resident recently holidayed in the Hunter Valley and found that any mention of her home town brought a ‘hum’ of conversation about riots, racial tension and kids running amok.

“It is truth without responsibility and an unbalanced view of the town,” she said.

While some tourist operators say that the fallout from recent media coverage cannot yet be measured as calls from concerned holiday-makers still come in, others say that people who know Yamba are not put off in the slightest. There seems to be consensus, however, that Yamba has its share of problems which need addressing by the community.

Club Yamba manager Louise Payet said that in the past week she had received three phone calls from guests, asking if it was still safe to walk home at night from Yamba restaurants to accommodation.

The calls came after people had read about Yamba’s darker side in newspaper reports.

Ms Payet said the community’s spirit had been damaged.

“One of the calls was from a group of women who wanted to know if there was off-street parking and security,” Ms Payet said.

“We have both, but not as a response to crime in the town but as part of our standards as a four-star luxury accommodation.

“I told the girls that they have to use their common sense like anywhere else.”

Ms Payet also wonders how many people were thinking of holidaying in Yamba but have been put off.

Colleen Kennedy is the youth services coordinator at the Grafton New School of Arts, the organisers of the Street Cruise program. It has been absent from Yamba’s streets for nearly a year.

New funding will see it reinstated with an emphasis on preventing binge drinking.

Ms Kennedy said that in her own experience on Yamba’s streets and from shift reports over the two years Street Cruise had operated, the town was quiet.

“A lot of time it’s the locals who are getting the rap for tourist behaviour,” she said.

It was, however, events in Yamba in the summer of 2005 and 2006 which led to Street Cruise being brought in.

Assistant manager at Yamba’s Blue Dolphin Holiday Park, Suz Harvey, was on the Gold Coast when the press carried reports of Yamba crime.

“We have had calls from guests leaving deposits but they were not too worried,” she said.

“A lot of them are return guests and know that (the riot) was unusual and probably won’t happen again.”

She did admit, however, that as recipients of two national tourism awards last year, she hoped the good work of promoting Yamba had not been undone.

Promoters of the Surfing the Coldstream Festival and the Yamba River Markets last week launched the We Love Yamba Facebook site, partly to counteract negative publicity and to give people the opportunity to say what’s great about the town.

So how does Yamba bounce back? Tell us what you think, leave your comments below ...

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