Following rowdy scenes at East Esplanade last weekend, Northern Beaches Council is closing the popular reserve to the public.
Council issued a press release today (Tuesday, 12 October) announcing the temporary closure which made no reference to the issue of anti-social behaviour that has been extensively reported.
The media statement, quoting Northern Beaches Mayor Michael Regan, said the area will be closed from Friday, 15 October, so it can be returfed, fertilised, aerated and top dressed, ready to reopen ahead of summer.
“East Esplanade has been highly impacted during COVID and the wear and tear is evident. With the local pubs and restaurants reopening this week we expect less demand for picnics in this area which gives us an opportunity to get in and get this work done now. We look forward to having the area reopened for people to enjoy ahead of summer,” said Mayor Regan.
According to the council statement, ‘the works are part of Council’s annual turf renovation program’ and the area will be fenced for approximately three weeks, expected to reopen for use in early November, weather permitting.
A senior Council source who wished to remain anonymous said Council’s response was ‘typical’ and demonstrated they had failed to manage the situation.
“It’s a cop out. It has long been known that Council needs to monitor this issue carefully. It has an East Esplanade management plan that hasn’t been properly implemented. They had a working group that met once and did no work. Now Council has given up because they couldn’t be bothered to do their job,” said the source.
Outgoing Manly Ward Councillor Pat Daley OAM said the decision to close East Esplanade was unfortunate but vindicated his concerns.
“I spoke to [Northern Beaches Council CEO] Ray Brownlee this afternoon [Monday] regarding this issue. This is a good first step as we try and get the area back to some normality. I fully support this action.
“Over the last two years I have heard a large number of horrendous stories from local residents who have been severely impacted by all this. I have tried my best to try and rectify the situation.
“It is sad that due to very poor public policy we now have to take this action however there is no other option. Unfortunately, the whole community will now be inconvenienced,” said Cr Daley in a statement.
Deputy Mayor and Manly Ward Councillor Candy Bingham was also more forthcoming on the real reason for the closure of East Esplanade, agreeing the situation was out of control and required a ‘circuit breaker’.
“I believe that there were 3,000 people who turned up there last weekend and you just can’t control that. The police were there and the rangers were there but it’s just impossible to control it. So I think shutting it down for a period of time is the only way that we’re going to have a circuit breaker with this.
“We need to change people’s habits. People are used to going down there and being in large groups, and it’s just not on. The anti-social behaviour is not acceptable and we can’t expect our residents to put up with that any longer frankly.
“The challenge is groups of 30 will be allowed together in parks. It’s clear that East Esplanade has become a target for this sort of activity so we need a circuit breaker.
“Also, we want to encourage people to support the local pubs and restaurants that have been shut for so long. I think that’s really important as well,” said Cr Bingham.
Manly ward Councillor Sarah Grattan supported Council’s decision to take this time to perform maintenance on the turf at East Esplanade, saying a few poorly behaved people were spoiling it for the many.
“I think it’s a sensible idea at the moment. It has had a lot of wear and tear, it’s been really blasted over the last month or so with a lot of exuberant use. I think it’s a good time to just do a little bit of maintenance there.
“It will also give a bigger opportunity for the local businesses to encourage people back into licensed premises and give that area some time to recover from over-use over the last month or so,” said Cr Grattan.
Asked about the need for the closure being driven more by anti-social behaviour than wear and tear on the turf, Cr Grattan defended the needs of young people and said most were well-behaved, with a few exceptions.
“The police have said that there was largely a happy crowd. There weren’t any major problems but we’ve got the continuing issues with a few people ruining it for the whole.
“These young people have been cooped up for so long and it’s quite a big proportion of their lives. They were just letting off some steam, admittedly not in a very COVID safe way. I think it’s good timing, we can let that area recover and let people go back into licensed premises and just give it a bit of a break,” said Cr Grattan.
With an estimated 3,000 people at East Esplanade on Saturday, 09 October, well in excess of the COVID limit of 800 allowed at the time, it is understood that police and council rangers resorted to turning on the sprinkler system to move people on from the area.
NSW Police received at least half a dozen incident calls in the immediate vicinity in response to public complaints. NSW Police would not confirm the number of arrests, saying that they had a number of patrols in the area and issued a number of move on directions with most people complying and dispersing.
Images: Northern Beaches Advocate