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Backpacker “frenzy of hate”

Backpackers revelling at a Sydney hostel

Burgeoning numbers of backpackers are extending their stay in Sydney due to economic pressures overseas, and the trend is straining community relations in Potts Point.

Local residents have banded together to compel 24 hostels in the area to introduce voluntary plans of management to quell noise and antisocial behaviour. The group have threatened to lobby State Government to introduce regulation over the sector.

City of Sydney Councillor Jenny Green said that noise from backpacker drinking and partying in the streets had worsened in the last year.

“The last year it has been much more difficult because of the increased numbers of backpackers coming in,” she said.

“The backpackers are using the hostels like their homes so they’re starting to become a lot more social on the streets drinking and partying – so you’ve got all the noise affecting nearby residents.”

A resident of Potts Point said that disruption to her sleep made it difficult to concentrate.

“It is the emotional and physical stress of waiting for summer to arrive and knowing that the noise will recommence in full force,” she said.

“To face a busy day in the office and be expected to perform at a high level when feeling tired and stressed due to a lack of sleep on a continuous basis is unspeakable.”

Sydney is the most visited region by international backpackers in Australia with 423,000 staying in the city last year – an increase of 8.4 per cent on the previous year. International backpackers contributed $985 million to the NSW economy in 2012.

Carl, a resident who has lived on Victoria St for 30 years, said he had never experienced an issue with backpackers and felt a small group of residents were intolerant towards young travellers.

“I have lived on this street since 1980 and I have never had a single problem with backpackers,” he said.

“I think there are lots of people who have a fairly mean spirit, and particularly as they enter late middle age, they just become quite censorious about the behaviour of people in their twenties.

“Sometimes four or five people start to whip up a bit of a frenzy of almost hate towards a minority, which in this case will be those people who choose to stay in a backpackers.”

Emily, a backpacker living at the Chilli Blue hostel on Victoria St, has been working full-time in Sydney for almost a year and said residents must have been aware of the hostels when moving to the area.

“I have been living at this hostel for 10 and a half months and work 40 hours a week,” she said. “People know that they’re living next to a hostel so they can’t really complain about it that much – obviously it’s a bit annoying but they’ve always known the hostels are here.”

Figures from the Bureau of Statistics show that Potts Point is Australia’s second most populated suburb with 13,600 people residing per square kilometre.

One resident who wished to remain anonymous said he and other locals would take action if the noise did not stop.

“I can see residents banding together to form their own version of response,” he said. “Should that occur I hope it is a peaceful response, but when people have their civil rights ignored history shows normal people can become deeply passionate when backed into a corner.”

Ian, a resident of Potts Point, said new people moving to the area wanted to gentrify the suburb.

“The biggest problem is in the last five years you’ve had people move in, they’ve sold the big house and they’ve moved in and they want to make this a sterile and clean environment,” he said.

Carl emphasised that it would never solely be an affluent residential area.

“They want to turn this area into Vaucluse,” said Carl. “Well it’s not Vaucluse and it never will be.”

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