Byron mayor Simon Richardson has welcomed a state government inquiry into holiday letting across the state but says he won’t hold his breath waiting for the report.
Cr Richardson, who was too busy to attend the inquiry’s only regional sitting in the Tweed yesterday, said it was ‘obvious’ the state government should do something to ‘provide certainty’ to the tourism industry and local communities.
He described it as ‘a wicked problem that requires all community groups to give a little to get something.’
And while he welcomed the move, he said Byron council would press ahead with its own plan regardless.
‘We’ve been waiting for the state government for decades – and they’ve failed regional tourist centres for decades. We can’t stop and wait for them,’ he told Echonetdaily.
The Greens mayor has been pivotal in attempting to broker a deal between holiday-let business owners and self-described ‘victims’ who have been at loggerheads for years.
Under his mayoralty Byron Shire Council has prepared amendments to its LEP to regulate the practice, despite a Land and Environment Court ruling in 2013 that it was technically illegal.
The proposal went on exhibition late last year. Some 60 submissions were received and it will be referred back to council’s April meeting for final consideration.
‘We’d obviously like the government to step in and make some sort of decision so we don’t have the community fighting over the vagaries of what’s available to us,’ mayor Richardson said.
‘It would be good if they could listen to tourism industry and the local community. We need to find a middle ground,’ he said.
‘Holiday lets are too important to the economy to let go but there is a need for strong management and enforcement to ensure they don’t negatively impact local amenity and neighbours,’ Cr Richardson said.
He added that the state government had ‘a role in adjudicating and creating certainty.’
‘And there’s a need for clarity, so people can invest knowing they don’t break the law.’
Cr Richardson restated his preference for the so-called ‘Gosford model’ that creates precincts where holiday lets are allowed, although this concept has been removed from Byron’s current control plan.
‘The other issue is rating. We have people who insist they have a “residential property” but are potentially letting it out to a different person every day of the year.
‘That’s a business and should be rated as such,’ the mayor said.
He added there needed to be a control on the proportion of properties that could be holiday let.
‘Byron Bay’s permanent population is continuing to decrease, suggesting more people who own houses don’t live here.
‘We want to ensure people can continue to own a house and live here. And we need to include long-term rental accommodation in the mix – it’s about getting that balance right.
He said locals also needed to feel confident that if their neighbouring holiday let ‘turns into the party house next door, they’ll lose their capacity to do it.’