NSW Greens MLC and former Byron Shire mayor Jan Barham has taken exception to the council’s holiday-letting strategy and tabled a motion in state parliament to ban the practice except in defined tourism zones.
The current Byron draft holiday letting strategy is on exhibition until 4pm Monday, and has been shepherded through council and a community consultation process by Greens mayor Simon Richardson.
The plan has moved away from its original zoning strategy towards allowing holiday letting throughout the shire contingent on conditions.
But Ms Barham said the practice is ‘eroding communities’ and has vowed to campaign against it, including by legislation when parliament returns following the state elections in March.
Ms Barham told Echonetdaily the proposal ‘makes a mockery of the process of strategic planning’.
‘It’s ironic when you consider that West Byron was approved by the state due to the “housing crisis” in Byron Shire. The fact that dwellings previously approved in residential zones to meet residential population needs are now being used for tourism is of great concern for the future character and community of the shire.
‘A change in the LEP would further diminish the supply and affordability of residential housing with the use made permissible in any zone,’ she said.
‘This would mean that the recently approved West Byron development could become a holiday-let area,’ she added.
Ms Barham said recent legal judgments, including one examining the practice in Gosford on the central coast, ‘prove that the use is prohibited in residential zones; it also makes it clear that council has a responsibility to address it’.
But she said previous attempts to address holiday letting in residential zones in Byron Shire had been ‘thwarted’.
‘In previous councils there was an inability to gain a majority of councillors willing to resolve to take legal action.
‘Then when council did act it was a case of premises who received notice of legal action, ceasing the use. The requirement for notification… has meant that notice is given to the owners and they avoid legal action.’
Ms Barham added that a recent briefing with the department of planning had confirmed her view that tourist accommodation was not a permitted activity as part of the existing LEP. But she warned that changes to the new LEP could allow it to spread across the shire and further erode the stock of housing available to residents.
‘If the issue of holiday letting is to be resolved then it should only be allowed in defined tourism areas as it is a tourism use and the protection of residential areas must be a priority to retain a sense of community,’ she said.
‘Council has a responsibility to address the amenity of residential areas and also to provide for a permanent population. The potential for tourism use to be permissible in all zones across the shire would affect the availability and affordability of dwellings in Byron Shire. This move could result in the area becoming a resident free area.
She said that despite the proposed controls ‘the most important asset for Byron Shire is committed residents and this move to change the LEP could change that forever’.
‘The attraction for property purchasers to gain profit from [holiday letting] would override permanent residential use and defy the need for retaining Byron Shire as a community. It is only with a committed community that the protection and preservation of the unique character is maintained and that is in jeopardy with this move to change the LEP.’
Ms Barham said she had ‘great concerns that this would change the character and nature of the shire forever’.
‘Byron Shire Council should be protecting the rights of residents to live in a community. Too much effort has been undertaken by the community to have it turned into a commodity.’
Byron Greens mayor Simon Richardson said he was initially attracted to the precinct model.
‘It logically makes the most sense in terms of providing clarity in letting people know what they can do and where. If you live in an area that allows holiday letting it allows people to invest knowing they won’t be hassled in the future,’ he said.
But he added that ‘anytime you draw a line on the map there are some natural injustices and inequalities’.
‘It’s easy for me or anyone not affected to just draw a line but if you live on the wrong side you might find yourself in a holiday precinct that you never wanted, or you might have to sell out [if you were an investor].
‘Many people found [the precinct model] way too arbitrary and with the state government responding negatively, many people found it just too punitive.’
Cr Richardson said the new aim of ‘improving the management of holiday letting and increasing requirements for it’ would ‘encourage some people to let their properties long-term instead’.
‘The latest data shows a large majority of holiday-let dwellings are bought by people in Melbourne and Sydney who are holiday letting until they make their sea-change.
‘Most properties, by the time you add in extra cleaning etc, aren’t making massive amounts of money so by the time you add in extra charges it will allow the professionals to get on with what they’re doing in a more professional manner but make it slightly less alluring [for many] than getting someone in permanently.’