I have often despaired at my observations of the effects of mass tourism on Byron Bay.
For a period of 20 months my family and I were subjected to disruption from a short term holiday let. Our previously peaceful environment was subjected to yelling and screaming at all hours, loud music, parties and overcrowding at the let. The absentee owners didn’t respond to our approaches and were only interested in maximising their profits. Police visited when there were problems but this started again with the next group of visitors.
Early during this period I came to the conclusion that Council was risk averse and unable to control this widespread illegal business. This was confirmed at a council meeting when one of the conservative councillors said, ‘I never believed that holiday letting is illegal’. This is contrary to legal advice given to councillors by management and a recent NSW Land and Environment Court decision.
Is this pandering to the holiday-letting industry or wishful thinking?
I decided that the only path was to take legal action. The lawyer that I appointed took the case on ‘pro bono’ as they believed that the successful judgment in Dobrohotoff v Bennic, was similar to my situation and assessed that there was a high possibility of success.
In that case the primary part of the judgment was that the holiday let did not comply with the planning laws. The disruptive behaviour of the occupiers of the let was secondary. Justice Pepper awarded costs against the holiday-let owner, and the local council was highly criticised for its inaction.
I commenced legal action, but the property was quickly sold. Our peace has been restored.
Seven months ago Byron councillors voted to investigate the development of holiday-let precincts. There does not appear to be any development since. I have limited hope for a successful resolution to the problems of illegal holiday letting.
I encourage residents who have been subjected to illegal holiday letting to consider legal action. I know that this is difficult, but sometimes it is essential to take steps to protect your rights.
John Judge, Byron Bay