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June 3, 2023

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This letter is in response to the article on B&B rates that appeared in Echonetdaily last week.

I would like to correct the piece by stating that the 11 B&Bs I represented acted on a proposed motion put forward by Cr Jan Barham our Mayor. We decided to support her proposal of a reduced rate for B&Bs by requesting public access for that particular meeting and giving our side of the story.

We strongly believe that the B&B industry is a small and non-intrusive way to provide overnight accommodation. The hosts are the ambassadors of our Shire as diverse as the people who live here, contributing to the community as a person, an employer, as a tourism operator.

In these times when the tourism industry – so important to our Shire – is struggling there can easily be concessions made for us as we are a small-scale industry, which has so far been made to well and truly pay its way. We feel there is unfair competition with holiday letting and other unapproved accommodation places, which do not comply with any of the processes or inspections we deal with on a regular basis, do not pay GST or increased rates.

The decrease in rates would only come to maybe a couple of dollars for the community, but it would be a substantial amount for the individual B&B operators, a small reward for doing the right thing.

The process to obtain and maintain the approval to run our business is onerous and expensive. Requirements include, but are not limited to, hard-wired smoke detectors, fire blankets, extinguishers and other fire safety regulations, disabled access, car parking within the boundaries of your own property with enough space to turn cars, signage or no signage depending on your neighbours, manager living on site, restriction of size of the building, a significant S94 contribution (up to $5000 per bed) and of course business rates.

This has resulted in a small, dedicated and professional industry – maybe 25 shirewide – that offers high quality, unique accommodation places with a wide range of pricing. Our guests receive personalised service and advice on what to see and where to go. Our guests are generally looking for low-key and nature-based experiences.

Additionally, we obviously contribute to the job market as we all need electricians, plumbers, cleaners, (relief) managers and buy our supplies and consumables mainly locally.

One of the important requirements of a B&B approval is the fact that a manager has to live on site, which has the added benefit that noise and intrusion on the surrounding area is kept to a minimum. There is someone on site to contact, someone the neighbours know, and someone who lives on the property.

There is no problem like two people booking a room and ten staying, no night after night partying, no late night pool parties. We strongly believe our place has less of an impact on our neighbours than if there was a 5-bedroom share house or if we would decide to holiday let our house.

Wandy Hochgrebe, Planula B&B, Byron Bay


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