Byron Shire councillors voted 7–1 last Thursday to ease off on policing unauthorised dwellings in the hinterland and concentrate instead on unapproved holiday letting in town. Council has re-ordered its compliance priorities program to this effect, and only dwellings that threaten safety are likely to attract compliance attention.
Cr Tom Tabart, who put up the notice of motion to accomplish the change in Council’s priorities, told Echonetdaily he was happy with the outcome. He said he was also happy with mayor Jan Barham’s move to have Council write to the state government to seek low-interest loans for landlords so they could rectify compliance problems for their tenants in affordable housing.
Council is expecting a staff report to its December 15 meeting on some 50 properties engaged in holiday letting, legal or otherwise.
One already in council’s sites is Byron Luxury Beach Houses located at 59 Shirley Street, Byron Bay.
The complex of six free-standing units within a fenced estate was recently completed following the demolition of three original cottages. It abuts the strip of serviced apartments that flank the entrance to Byron Bay. However, 59 Shirley Street was, and remains, zoned residential.
The complex’s website www.byronluxurybeachhouses.com.au describes it as a ‘boutique resort’ complete with a concierge service for babysitting and gifts upon arrival. Prices range from $2,800 to $9,000 a week, with a three-night minimum.
Residents objected to the developments on the grounds that it would become a tourist facility. Approval was granted, but Council inserted a consent condition prohibiting its use as short-term accommodation.
Order to desist
According to Ralph James, council’s manager of compliance, ‘This specific condition gives us a much stronger legal basis to prevent holiday letting than the general provisions of the LEP. It’s clear from their website that the site is operating as a tourist facility. An order to desist has been drafted. We expect to issue it next week.’
59 Shirley Street is owned by FMQ Pty Ltd, a company with four directors and four shareholders in equal parts.
The directors, all domiciled in Victoria, are Scott Emery, Andrew Walkley, Andrew Didier and John Fowler.
Attempts to contact the directors were made through Byron Luxury Apartments’ booking agency, but no response was received.
FMQ may defend the order in court, but if found to have acted illegally, sanctions include fines of up to $1 million.
The validity of Council’s new holiday letting condition, and the court’s willingness to levy fines that are effective deterrents, are yet to be given the acid test. With the enormous revenues generated by the complex, a test case may be brewing.