It seems to have gone unnoticed that Byron Shire Council in the new LEP has quietly legalised holiday letting in one part of Byron. As you proceed into the Bay along Shirley Street you will see a number of commercial operations with an office and vacancy signs out front. This is pretty cheeky considering they are all zoned 2(a) Residential.
The only outfits that seem to be legal are the motel and the youth hostel, both of which qualify as exemptions under the rules. Not that anyone would likely complain about the main entryway into town being given over to accommodation, that being the norm throughout Australia.
Council’s solution has been to rezone these for ‘serviced apartments’, which has the effect of legalising short-term accommodation in that area. There is no requirement for any onsite management presence, only a specification that it is ‘regularly serviced or cleaned’ by the owner, manager or agent. Mmmm.
Presumably, however, the owners will be required to lodge formal DAs and then would be subject to the same regulation that other accommodation providers ‘enjoy’. They would even be able to obtain insurance. I wonder how they feel about this.
Assuming that the state bureaucracy ratifies this change, the result is that maybe up to 100 of the Shire’s problems have been dealt with, leaving as many as 800 holiday lets – according to planning director Ray Darney’s recent quiet memo to councillors – as ongoing.
Readers may remember that Christmas before last Council made a big PR play of making sure that the new flats on the corner of Shirley and Dryden streets (Byron Luxury Beach Houses – which may well be accurate after the next tsunami) didn’t become holiday lets and threats were apparently sent to the owners; these flats now fall within the new ‘serviced apartments’ zone, which leads one to question Council’s commitment to housing as opposed to tourist accommodation. I don’t object to the rezoning, only the hypocrisy.
You can be sure that planners and bureaucrats all over the state are racking their brains for further ways of legalising holiday letting. State bureaucrats recently assured councillor workshops that changes would be made to the rules – to benefit holiday letters, of course. The recently announced local government changes, however, deferred the matter for at least 12 months.
This leaves your elected councillors in limbo for another year – which will not, of course, prevent them from appearing to be doing something and thereby wasting further ratepayer resources in a continuing headless-chook routine. Neither is there any evidence from the records to suggest that Ray Darney will put them straight.
Why is the problem so difficult?
Perhaps because it involves conflict between two conservative fundamentals: the right to quiet enjoyment of one’s castle versus the holy duty to make a profit. I can’t see any solution.
Certainly Brad Hazzard’s letter to local councils telling them that it was their job to ‘manage’ the situation was simply a copout, the real meaning of which was ‘It’s your problem not mine, so stop annoying me’.
Fast Buck$, Coorabell