While media speculation about the cause of Cronulla’s violent clashes has centred on an altercation between Cronulla lifesavers and group of out-of-town visitors, one local says there is more to it.

Matt, a 20-year-old Sydney Airport worker who spoke on condition we only used his first name, lives in an apartment that overlooks the thick of where the action has been. He had his van trashed on Monday night in one of a series of lighting raids on his area and said the bashing of the two lifesavers was “probably the boiling point” but his memory of tensions between the two groups goes back several years to when his father had a work reunion at Gunnamatta Park, near Cronulla’s train station.

“It’s been renowned as a place where Middle Eastern families go, in groups of up to about 20, smoking their “hubbly bubbly pipes” with music blaring,” he said. He said there was always tension there between the visiting groups and locals.

From his Elouera Road balcony Matt has been able to witness much of what has been going on, including the incident he believes actually sparked the fighting on Sunday that had largely gone unreported.

“A car did a u-turn around the police barricade. It was like a done up car with a Lebanese flag strapped across the bonnet, Lebanese guys in the car, (it) went through the crowd,” he said. “The passenger stuck his head out the window and said “f*ck all you Aussies we’re gonna f*ck you up” and then what started it all was a bikie walked up to him, smacked him over the head with a bottle and put him in his place and then the car sped off.

Matt said there was a genuine climate of fear in an area in which he had lived all his life.