The alleged ‘schoolie slumlord’ says he is helping young working locals put a roof over their heads.
He has hit back at both Council and media over his recent Council compliance bust but failed to explain why a raid on his leased property on Bangalow Road last week allegedly found 19 people in the house, including eight schoolies.
Council staff told the media the accommodation was unsafe and unsanitary.
Shai Major, former editor and owner of the now defunct Byron Times magazine, is critical of media reports, including in Echonetdaily, for publishing the property address. He claims that since it went to press, negative comments by locals towards tenants of the property have been both unfair and stressful.
Mr Major told Echonetdaily, ‘With the great difficulties that local young 20-something years old people are faced with when trying to find a place to call home in Byron Bay, it is really sad that the local Council, under the pretence of caring for their “safety”, is making it so hard for them to enjoy their life in peace.
‘Hospitality, to remind all concerned, is not only the name of an “industry”. It is also the name of a way of life.
‘I shall continue to offer my hospitality, with pride, to those I can help, and will fight any attempts of the local council to portray it as an “evil” or “unsafe” act.’
‘The tactics of intimidation, misinformation, propaganda and blunt lies that our local council is enjoying resemble the manners employed by communist Russia more than our so-called democratic Australia.
‘I was extremely surprised that the media, including your newspaper, published such comments as “an illegal backpackers hostel” etc. I am still under the impression that until a court will prove a man guilty he is to be considered innocent.’
Mr Major also defended claims he avoided his court appearance. ‘I had to be in Brisbane to board a flight, due to work commitments I had scheduled months in advance, and so I got a solicitor to plead for me.
‘I did meet the Council ranger coming to my property (that is at Jonson St and not Bangalow Rd) while I was entering my car to drive to Brisbane, at exactly 11am.
‘If I were to stay, I might have lost my flight and this is the only reason I sent someone else on my behalf.’
Claims by council staff that the property was found unhygienic are strenuously denied.
‘Our house is not a slum,’ he says. ‘It is a normal house and quite clean. I understand that the Council sent private photos of our home – and the people in it – to all the newspapers. I was relieved at least that The Echo was the only paper not to print such private photos.
‘Regardless of the pending court case, the property I am leasing is currently enjoying the presence of seven long-term, friendly, pleasant, locally working tenants. I am leasing the (four bedrooms plus a studio/garage) property under a contract that allows me to accommodate up to eight people.
‘The tenants who live there only pay their fair share of the rent that I am, as the leaseholder, charged by the owner.
‘Each person pays $100 per week for their share of the rent, plus each person pays $15 p/w to cover their share of the bills, and an extra $10 to share/buy everything the household requires.
‘Therefore, there is no commercial activity taking place at that property.’
Mr Major is yet to enter a plea for ‘Carry out development without consent’.
Magistrate Michael Dakin specified that a plea must be entered at the next court date, 22 March 2012.
The property in question was until a few days ago advertised for $588 on popular schoolies website www.schoolies.biz.