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Byron Shire
May 17, 2021

Byron ‘illegal hostel operator’ bites back

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The man accused of operating an illegal hostel in Byron Bay has blasted Byron Shire Council’s (BSC) legal team, claiming documents that will be used against him were tendered to him at the ‘last minute’.

Shai Major’s Jonson Street share-house, where BSC alleges a number of schoolies were illegally accommodated in substandard conditions last year, dissolved shortly after the charges were laid earlier this year. The property now operates as a car-hire business.

However Council’s governance manager, Ralph James, told Echonetdaily Mr Major was given the documents in due time. ‘The brief was provided to Mr Major more than three months ago, in time for this week’s hearing.’

Mr James went on to explain that, ‘Council believes it is important to take action against alleged illegal development. Where breaches of the law are flagrant, as Council is alleging in this case, a strong message of deterrence needs to be sent. People need to know that carrying on development that potentially risks the lives of visitors impacts negatively on resident amenity, and takes business from legitimate tourism operators who incur the cost that comes from doing the right thing, is not sustainable or acceptable.’

Mr Major was originally charged with operating a ‘backpackers’ but this was later changed to ‘hostel’ at Council’s request. In an email exchange obtained by Echonetdaily, Council’s chief prosecutor Ralph James requested to see Mr Major’s letters from former housemates at least 14 days before the court hearing.

‘Council is concerned that the matter be fully prepared and be capable of proceeding to finality on the hearing date,’ he wrote.

In response, Mr Major said in part, ‘I would have [also] preferred to be given the material you gave to court at least 14 days prior to the hearing, and not have to suffer your dirty trick of throwing two kilos of paperwork on an unprofessional, unrepresented, uneducated and unemployed person [for] whom English is not his original speech, three days before the hearing.’

The letters of support from his former housemates have been sighted by Echonetdaily.

Mr Major says he is representing himself as he can’t afford a lawyer. He also says that external legal consultants engaged by BSC put him up against at least three lawyers.

‘Their legal advice is always that they should sue more people about more issues, therefore allowing these legal advisers to get more of our taxpayers’ money. Mr Major previously had free legal advice, which Mr James arranged, but said it was of little use to him. He faces Byron Local Court on 20 July.

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