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Byron Shire
August 15, 2022

Surf school back in the water

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After six months, Byron Bay Surf School owner-operator Jayme Edwards has won a hard-fought battle to stay afloat as a surf instructor.

On July 30 last year Echonetdaily reported a tender application by Jayme’s ten-year business, together with one by elite surf coach Steve Foreman, was rejected in favour of a higher ‘blind bid’ from other operators. It was despite the pair being established longtime operators with impeccable records.

The decision led to the tendering process being reviewed independently and sparked division with the then-councillors, led by ex-mayor Jan Barham.

That review, by Sydney-based accountancy firm Grant Thornton, found that Byron Shire Council did not use ‘the most appropriate method for assessing and scoring the sub-licence fee criteria considering the nature and circumstances of the tender’. The reviewers also added they ‘do not believe there is a sound basis for the panel to make the recommendation to award the contracts to the successful tenderers’.

And now Council and state government departments have agreed to allow an extra commercial sub-licence – from four to five – for operators to teach surfing on Main Beach, Byron Bay.

Now a fixed fee 

Additionally, a fixed fee will be set for future commercial activities’ sub-licences, according to Byron Shire acting general manager, Ray Darney.

‘The fee will need to be determined and set prior to the next tender,’ he told Echonetdaily. ‘As yet, the tender process for the commercial activities’ sub-licences has not been reviewed, but will be reviewed prior to any further tenders being invited for commercial activities on coastal reserves’.

Jayme says the introduction of a standard fee for all surf school operators in future, ‘will be the ultimate gain in this lengthy and costly professional and personal ordeal’.

‘I sensed from the start something was wrong with this tendering process and this independent review simply vindicates my long-held suspicion that an alternative and undisclosed methodology was used to assess the sub-licence fee, one which disadvantaged me and favoured the money offer over local knowledge, experience and excellent safety record.’

‘I praise the new councillors of Byron Shire, led by mayor Simon Richardson, in backing the findings and recommendations of this independent review, and having the strength to overturn a decision made by the previous councillors, led by the former mayor Jan Barham. In doing so, they’ve righted a serious procedural wrong and nipped a dangerous precedent of “tender bargaining” in the bud; their work augurs well for the future of this much-maligned council.

‘And I am relieved I’ve got my livelihood, career and purpose back, after what’s been a challenging, expensive and stressful time. I hope this experience also puts the Byron Shire Council executive on notice that their internal processes are also not beyond reproach, as I start the process of rebuilding what was, before all of this, a successful and reputable business.’

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