Byron Shire’s holiday-letting lobby says the controversial issue of holiday rentals is not a council responsibility and has slammed Byron Council for failing to address ‘behavioural issues’ of occupants.
The comments by Holiday Letting Organisation (HLO) spokesman John Gudgeon follow last week’s Land and Environment Court case win by the neighbours of a central coast holiday rental.
The win by the Terrigal couple to stop their neighbour’s house being used as a holiday let has thrown the spotlight on the controversial issue in Byron Shire. The court found Gosford Council failed its constituents by not resolving the issue.
Mr Gudgeon said holiday letting was not a council responsibility under its current planning powers and Council has been ‘very ineffective to date’ in addressing behavioural issues that involve both short- and long-term occupants.
‘HLO’s position is that owners have a right to let their properties whenever
they want to, short term or long term. On the other hand, they should ensure
that their properties are managed responsibly.’
Mr Gudgeon pointed to a letter by former Byron shire president Oliver Dunne saying the underlying problem is the confusion over the definition of holiday letting which had arisen as Council had ‘struggled to deal with difficult noise and amenity compliance issues within the parameters of the LEP produced in 1988 and the shortcomings of the Local Government Act of 1993’.
‘What was once widely accepted as a beneficial activity that should be encouraged and promoted is now seen as a negative activity that should be banned or regulated out of existence,’ Mr Dunne had said about the issue.
Mr Dunne wrote that the correct way to change the definition would be for council to amend the LEP or produce a new LEP which reflects the ‘changes in community attitudes of the present day’.
‘That Council has not more vigorously pursued the appropriate statutory course for planning for changed community attitudes points not just to the weakness of their case in relation to these definitions but to the lack of majority support for such change on the elected council,’ Mr Dunne said.
Mayor Simon Richardson says it’s too early to tell what the ramifications could be for the shire as a result of the recent court case as the issue in the shire was yet to be tested.
Cr Richardson said that for many years Council has challenged unapproved
development in the courts with major recent successes.
‘However the issue of holiday letting in our shire has focused on whether a tourist facility, as per the Byron LEP 1988, can be operated in a residential zone, and this is yet to be tested,’ he said.
Council will hold a meeting with key stakeholders on the issue of holiday letting next month.
Greens MP and former mayor Jan Barham said that in an area already under housing stress such as Byron Bay, it had diminished the available rental stock for locals ‘and has meant that essential workers such as teachers, nurses and tradespeople have not been able to find affordable housing’.
Ms Barham said that ‘in terms of tourism use, holiday letting has not served the community well’.
‘Holiday letting has operated as an unapproved use that hasn’t contributed financially to Council to offset the pressures of tourism,’ she said.
Land and Environment Court Justice Rachael Ann Pepper said the short-term holiday letting of a six-bedroom house was unlawful because the property is located in a 2A residential zone.
Justice Pepper also said that the fault did not entirely lie with the holiday let owner, as she had never been told by Gosford Council that it was illegal to rent out her property.
Doug Luke from the newly formed ‘Victims of Holiday Letting’ group told Echonetdaily that it’s up to councils to regulate and explain the laws.
‘They are letting us down,’ Mr Luke said.
‘We need to tread a bit carefully here, but we are really pleased for those people [who won], and we are working on getting the same result. People want it
stopped here, not regulated.
‘We need to get back to being a community.
‘Regulation by HLO (Holiday Letting Organisation) is insulting and
makes no difference, even with security guards. It only addresses a problem
after it occurs. They may address one lot of punters, but next week there’s another.’