Enjoy yourself, but be safe: Police issue warning ahead of Southern 80

The 2018 Southern 80 kicks off this weekend, with 218 boats and 446 entries set to roar down the Murray River.
The 2018 Southern 80 kicks off this weekend, with 218 boats and 446 entries set to roar down the Murray River.

Police will be cracking down on drink-driving and anti-social behaviour this weekend as thousands descend on Echuca for the annual Southern 80.

The ski race is expected to draw more than 200 boats, 400 competitors and countless spectators to the Murray River over the next three days.

Inspector Geoff Owen said people should expect a heavy police presence across the weekend, with extra resources brought in.

“It’s one of our biggest tourism weekends in Echuca,” he said.

“We want people to come and enjoy themselves but we want it to be a safe family event not affected by alcohol or stupid behaviour.”

Police will focus on drink-driving, both along the river and on bitumen roads, and anti-social behaviour.

“We want people to drive to and from Echuca safe. Take your time and drive safe,” Inspector Owen said.

“There will be a big focus on ensuring people are not walking around with open containers of alcohol in the CBD.”

People who flout that rule will face a $300 fine.

Thousands of people flock to the Murray River each year for the annual Southern 80.

Thousands of people flock to the Murray River each year for the annual Southern 80.

Historically, Inspector Owen said alcohol played a part in incidents during the Southern 80 on Fridays and Saturdays, and as such, police would be out in force.

Temperatures are expected to reach the high 30s by Saturday with a very high fire danger on both Friday and Saturday.

Police will patrol the river in partnership with Parks Victoria to ensure people adhered to the rules.

Parks Victoria district manager Daniel McLaughlin said it was everyone’s responsibility to ensure they followed campfire safety.

“We are urging people to be careful, as the hot and dry conditions around Echuca will further increase the risk of fires spreading if ignited,” he said.

“In addition, we know from past Southern 80 race events that a huge amount of rubbish will be created. Dumping rubbish in our parks is not just unsightly and illegal but also potentially dangerous for visitors, and impacts on native plants and animals.” 

The annual event has been a major tourist draw for the region, but has suffered multiple ski-related deaths in recent years.

A 50-year-old New South Wales driver was killed during the race last year and a 51-year-old Sydney man died in the 2016 race