The crackdown on alcohol at this year's Australia Day Skyworks led to fewer young people attending the event, according to feedback on new research which also found older crowds flocked back to the fireworks.
The drop in attendance by 18 to 34-year-olds from 40 per cent of the total crowd in 2009 to 29 per cent this year comes as Perth Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi said the City of Perth was looking into options such as managed licensed areas to attract that group back.
And it comes as the Lotterywest board gave the council in-principle sponsorship support of no more than $500,000 a year for the Skyworks for another three years after doubts were raised earlier this year about its future commitment.
Research commissioned by the City of Perth found that while young people were turning away from the Skyworks, numbers of 35 to 54-year-olds increased from 40 per cent to 47 per cent. Attendance by over-55s jumped from 20 per cent to 24 per cent.
The research, based on a survey of 451 adults, estimated 400,000 people watched the event from vantage points across the metropolitan area, the most popular being the city foreshore.
Ms Scaffidi conceded the lack of interest in Skyworks from younger people was most likely a result of the alcohol ban. This year WA Police triggered heated public debate after saying people having "a quiet drink" at Australia Day celebrations would not escape police attention.
Ms Scaffidi said she would rather people wanting to behave badly stayed away. But losing any demographic group was not positive.
"It's just typical of the fact that (this group is) very focused on socialising with alcohol," she said.
Ms Scaffidi said she had had discussions with Premier Colin Barnett and the council was keen "to undertake some studies on whether alcohol could be a part of future events in a controlled environment".
The research found 90 per cent of respondents believed this year's event was as good as, or better than, last year's. The number who listed violence as a deterrent to attending decreased from 17 per cent to 9 per cent, which a report to the council said showed "the extreme behaviour problems of 2004 continue to improve". The number who believed Skyworks was the most appropriate way to spend Australia Day dropped from 43 per cent to 28 per cent.
A barbecue with family and friends was the preferred celebration.
Acting Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said it was pleasing if "louts who like to spoil the event for others stayed away".
Witnesses said they saw the Thunder River Rapids ride flip and crush passengers.