Bathurst fans bury beer to avoid limits

Last updated 11:03 11/10/2008

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As Australia's biggest motor race gets into gear this weekend, police have warned Bathurst racegoers will again be restricted to one carton of beer a person a day.

But that has not stopped some keen fans. There are rumours some punters buried cartons of beer on the top of the hill last week, before police roadblocks were put in place.

Police have found no evidence of this, but people have been seen wandering camp grounds with shovels, and there are pockets of disturbed soil.

The beer intake restriction, as one spin doctor politely put it, is a significant turnaround for an event once sponsored by a brewery; in years gone by it was almost compulsory for every spectator to at least drink their fair share.

However Paul Dillon, from Drug and Alcohol Research and Training Australia, says a carton a day is not a restriction at all.

"This so-called restriction is almost laughable," he said.

"A carton of beer in one day is hardly a limit. If it was restricted over the weekend it might have made a difference." He said a carton of beer a day is "high-level problematic drinking".

Race organisers have been trying to clean up the image of the event, make it more family friendly, and helping a few spectators to be in a position to remember the race.

When the alcohol restriction was introduced last year, police at the bottom of Mount Panorama filled a shipping container with grog.

But contrary to what most people thought, the alcohol was not destined for the police Christmas party; rather it was stored there so each carton could be rationed to its rightful owner each day. Any uncollected beer was destroyed last year.

Police numbers are down from 850 to 600, and so is the number of people charged. In the first two days of the operation 22 people were charged for offences relating to alcohol, drugs and antisocial behaviour. In the same period last year police had charged 69 people.

But police and organisers say this is because race fans are getting the message. In previous years it was almost a ritual to burn cars and couches, and toilet blocks and fast food vans have been fire-bombed or destroyed.

"Some families have been coming here for 20 years and they just want to enjoy the race," the commander of the Western Region, Assistant Commissioner Steve Bradshaw, said.

"When someone blows up a toilet block, people in the camping area don't have a toilet to use, and that's not fair on everyone. In the past it had been getting out of control but now we have zero tolerance for antisocial behaviour."

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The toilet blocks and fast food caravans were unscathed last year after police dogs were widely used to sniff out explosives, but fans were disappointed yesterday that the ice-cream van, destroyed two years ago, had not returned.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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