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Byron Shire
April 18, 2024

The compliance push

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I was rather bemused by David Lovejoy’s perplexity last week when he quoted a Council press release to the effect that a former Nationals candidate had had a compliance matter raised against him in court. David’s question was ‘What does Mr Hunter’s political affiliation have to do with anything?’

Quite a bit actually, David. For a while now I’ve been hinting that all Council’s compliance actions seem to be aimed at the left/hippy side of the local population. At a Council meeting late last year I came right out with it in a light-hearted question to the GM: ‘What do you say to rumours circulating in the community that staff are deliberately trying to drive hippies out of rural areas?’ There was this moment of silence during which Cr Woods, in a rare moment of insight, mumbled that I’m the one who’s circulating that notion, after which the GM smilingly dismissed what I was suggesting. (Indeed all the staff were smiling, come to think of it.)

Anyway my point seems to have hit home. I suggest that the reference to legal action in the press release was a deliberate attempt by the staff to counter any suggestion of selective prosecution. The Echo was meant to print this prominently so that the community would then get the impression that staff were even-handed and fearless in their pursuit of law-breakers. What a pity for them that The Echo declined to play ball.

The prosecution of Shai Major was also essentially political. If you go back to Council’s press release late last year you’ll see the suggestion made that this was proof that Council was serious about illegal holiday accommodation. In reality, however, Major was charged with running an illegal backpackers hostel, not with holiday letting as such.

In that same press release the suggestion is also made that the owners of a new residential complex in Shirley Street will be charged with holiday letting, further proof (allegedly) that Council is serious. Really? The context of this matter is that over the past couple of years Council staff have been adding a consent condition to new dwelling approvals which disallows tourist accommodation.

Staff claim that this condition makes it easier to prosecute them. This is utter rubbish; holiday letting is prohibited in a residential zone and adding those words to the consent merely restates what is already legally the case. What’s really going on is this: the old boys in the holiday-letting scene will be allowed to continue doing it because it’s ‘too difficult’ to prosecute them, while new entrants run the risk of being shut down, supposedly because of the consent condition. In other words we’ll have a two-tiered system where the old guard are protected both from prosecution and from competition.

Where do the, um, intellectuals on Council stand on this? I’m referring of course to Cr Morrissey, who apparently has a PhD in something that doesn’t involve any excessive opening of the eyes, and Cr Cameron, who apparently has a law degree but is quite unconcerned about irregularities that Council routinely indulges in.

Both recently voted against getting councillors involved in the disputes resolution committee, where it would be councillors rather than the staff who decide who gets prosecuted for what. This exceeding gutless Pontius Pilate copout act of theirs absolves me of restraint I might otherwise have felt in any future criticism of them.

Indeed I will be examining their propaganda during the last election campaign to see what exactly they promised. Somehow I doubt that they promised that holiday letting would be systematically protected while rural hippies would be harassed at will by the staff, and more and more power handed over to the GM. They are an embarrassment to democracy and I don’t know why David Lovejoy didn’t actually name them in his opinion piece. Am I to be the only person calling a spade a spade?

Which leads to the question I am increasingly being asked: Am I serious about running for mayor? To keep Pontius Cameron out, yes, I would make that sacrifice. I don’t like opportunists with big egos.

Fast Buck$, Coorabell


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