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April 17, 2021

NSW Greens move to ban holiday letting

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Greens state MP and former Byron mayor Jan Barham has tabled a motion in state parliament to ban holiday letting except in defined tourism zones.

Chris Dobney

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.’

Mayor reacts

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.’


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21 COMMENTS

  1. Can’t ban people from deciding who’s going to stay in their homes, whether paying or not.
    This is just so impractical as well as being autocratic. There will always be ways around it so why bother?

    • Yes, Jon, you can. We have literally hundreds of years of jurisprudence behind determining uses. You see, there’s this thing called Western Civilization that involves ordering our lives to live alongside one another.

  2. The cats well out of the bag, the horses bolted and have brumby grandchildren. Bunnings will be supplying the final nails at a discount price to the coffin lid that is the West Byron development. All hail the new dollar worshipping version of this once great community! or leave I suppose…

  3. The role of Government is to protect peoples’ interests and a community has a right to exist and to have a neighbourhood in an area that was zoned for that purpose. To use a house that was approved in a zone for permanent residential occupation and turn it into a tourism use is a matter at law, its been proven by court decisions and planners advice. Also its an issue for insurance and the safety of those who stay. Not to mention all of those who have been doing it, making a buck out of Byron and not contributing at all to the upkeep of the area, the maintenance of roads etc or to a council who tries to protect and preserve what is special in this precious place, some call home. Ask a legitimate business how they feel about others getting away with not contributing, when they pay for commercial land, pay DA fees and planners to do an application, pay developer contributions and then pay commercial rates. Not very fair for anyone except those who are unfairly profiting.

    • so as i see it jan barham is saying that ‘community’ doesn’t exist in the tourist precinct and that section should be sacrificed to ensure the ‘community’ of those outside the tourist precinct is maximized- and her interpretation of that is what she wants to impose on the community by the higher power of the state government? why not spread the tourists and travellers around in the community, but within a controlled frame-work of locally established rules and guidelines? don’t much like the idea of further state govt involvement. perhaps best for it to be open for the community to decide and not as an impost from afar?

  4. Short term holiday letting in no more a commercial activity than long term rental, and is treated exactly the same by the ATO and the Building Code of Australia.

    Ms Barham’s claim that her attempts to address holiday letting was thwarted was when it was pointed out to her that Holiday Letting was not an illegal activity under the then existing LEP of 1988. Under the LEP, it was never intended that Holiday Letting was to be included as a tourist facility. The definition of Tourist Facility was later hijacked.

    The issue is behavior management. If all holiday let managers managed properly, excluded such historically bad behaved groups such as schoolies, Hens and Bucks parties and managed the behaviors of their guests properly, there wouldn’t be the problems Ms Barham complains of.

    • hi Lorna, not quite right, not sure that the ATO checks on this issue, but the BCA is very clear on the difference rules for permanent residential and tourism use and this is why insurance and safety is an issue.i never said the thwarting was due to it not being illegal under the existing LEP, council planners have advised that is a prohibited use since 2003 and so have the courts. It was the State Government who thwarted, they didn’t allow a change in the LEP to clarify ‘holiday lets’ as distinct from ‘tourism’ and said they were ‘looking into it’ and would deliver a response. Its not behaviour management so much as the lack of housing stock, the increased property prices and ultimately the loss of community. Also no-one hijacked the definition of tourism, it is pretty clear and straightforward, as is the definition for a dwelling – ‘ a place of permanent occupation – you know that means the place where you are enrolled to vote. Dwellings are what is allowed in residential zones and what is required to meet future population growth.

    • Lorna, you are just spouting the pack of lies and propaganda that the holiday lets mob have been pushing for years. The worry is that they actually believe this.
      How is the bad behaviour going to be controlled? I have not seen anything in print giving detail from the mob. The self regulation using their weak as water code of conduct and security hotline does not work. If it did there wouldn’t be any complaints.
      The word out in town is that the council sponsored meetings with community reps, the mob and councillors showed that there was no goodwill from the mob and the only interest they exhibited was self interest. Nothing about protecting the community. Threats of legal action were mentioned if they didn’t get their way. Intimidation !
      I find it interesting that they didn’t come to the help of the Ewingsdale and Terrigal holiday let owners during their Land and Environment Court actions. Financial assistance did not happen. Maybe they knew that it would be a waste of their money because they would lose. With this greedy attitude there is little hope to solve the holiday looting problem in the future.

      • I can’t understand why council even bothered to have meetings with and to seek the opinion of the illegitimate operators of illegal holiday lets. I was informed that not only was there self interest shown by them but council staff and some of the councillors were astounded by their outspoken arrogance with many believing that they did not truly represent the majority of illegal holiday let owners who want a genuine solution to this problem.

  5. It’s not impractical at all, Jon. What’s impractical is taking a lazy attitude on the matter. We need to protect our community from further erosion due in part to organizations like Byron Coastal, Byron Bay Holiday Rentals and all the other holiday let management companies that are destroying this town for their own financial gain. Shame on you lot. And shame on the council for not acting to put a stop to it.

    On one hand you can agree to the lawful terms in the LEP that limit building heights and prevent us from turning our front yards into swimming pools, but on the other, you won’t agree to the lawful terms in the LEP about holiday letting in a residential area. Pick and choose what works for you, eh? Such hypocrisy. Shame on Council for once again being so wishy-washy on their own policies, and shame on the greedy owners, marketers and managers for turning our neighborhoods into deserted ghost towns during the off season.

    Go Jan, go! I support her 100% on this matter, as will others.

  6. Zoning precincts, such as the eastern side of Tweed Street for holiday accommodation was in the Brunswick Heads Settlement Strategy approved by Council in 2004. It went no where. With the increasing number of festivals at Yelgun, increasing capacity of those festivals, the weekenders from the Gold Coast/Brisbane, discovering Brunswick Heads, the incentive for people to rent rooms etc would thwart any planning controls to contain it. All the horses have bolted and are well and truly out of their stables and running wild.

    What should also be of paramount concern is the fact that the Short Term Holiday Accommodation strategy cannot raise monies for its own implementation, monitoring and enforcement. Council cannot charge differential rates on holiday lets, nor can it charge a registration fee for a holiday let. Thus, it will fall to the ratepayers of the Shire to fund it.

    With an average household occupancy of 2.4persons at the 2011 Census, and with the holiday strategy inviting all dwellings throughout the Shire to holiday let with up to 8 to 10 people per dwelling the impost on ratepayer funded infrastructure needs to be taken seriously. (Of course, some people will not take up the invitation to holiday let, but planning controls stand as an invitation to a maximum development.) Certainly, Vallance’s Rd’s STP didn’t factor in this level of occupancy in its planning and I doubt very much if West Byron’s STP did either?

    Then of course, is the problem of garbage, road maintenance etc, the cost of which will fall to all ratepayers. Add to this will be the monies needed, most probably for more Council rangers, (wages, holiday pay, sick pay, superannuation being their due entitlement) plus more vehicles.

    Summed: For the ratepayers, particularly those living in residentially zoned areas, this is one very expensive strategy.

  7. Bull crap Jon. Holiday letting in R2 is illegal. Is that so hard to grasp?
    R2 owner occupiers or long term renters are legal , not commercial short term tourist accomodation businesses. Holiday letting is a commercial activity, and it impacts the people living within the law.
    Councillors owning any level of interest in residentially zoned properties which are being holiday let should resign or face corruption charges.

  8. Ms Barham doesn’t want undesirables living next to her expensive beach front home she bought from the banks as a distressed property The Greens want control over all aspects of peoples its worse than communism

  9. Lorna, you are wrong. The current Byron LEP clearly states that the use of a dwelling for short term accommodation in residential zones is a prohibited land use. This illegality was confirmed in the NSW land and Environment Court last year.

    You are correct in saying that many occupants of holiday lets are badly behaved. They destroy neighbourhood amenity and the owners and managers don’t care because it is not a priority. Their priority is making a profit and bugger anything else!

  10. Cheap shot and not the case. It’s not about control over people’s lives, it’s about caring about people and actually following the rules that have been laid out for a long time. It’s just been very difficult when you come up against those who are What concerns me are all the people over the last decade whose lives have been disrupted, dentists, teachers, nurses, shift workers, students – many with little sleep or who regret the loss of neighbours and a sense of community. Some people who have moved here to be part of a vibrant and caring community have been distressed to find that they don’t have neighbours and instead have an ever changing set of people next door. So sad for city folk who have moved here in search of a sense of community and the opportunity to engage with like minded people who care about the environment, community and culture.

  11. Thank you Jan for all you continue to do for the shire. As local, it is distressing to see the charm and character of the town sacrificed for the benefit of a few property owners. Rules are rules, and the law is the law – why aren’t we enforcing it?

  12. It was a stupid mistake to start down the line of ‘precincts’ for HL as blind freddy could see it would not work – see the Mayor’s contribution.
    Unfortunately it has now opened the door for the ‘pragmatic’ approach of allowing HL in residential zones controlled by a DCP which has ample scope to drive a fleet of trucks through.
    If the council could ever marshal the will and the capacity to implement the controls in the DCP (which requires extensive strengthening) then we may have a better system but I have grave doubts that this will ever happen.
    During my 8 odd years on council all I ever observed was conservative-councillor obstruction and staff misinformation and intransigence until the latter days when some suites were launched to be defeated by HLO tactics.
    With the Rose-coloured, Sol-conducted, three stooge majority now in power you may look forward to another paper tiger.

  13. Has anyone stopped to think about what the precinct area, or central byron will turn into if holiday letting in residential areas is banned?? Dwarf Gold Coast here we come!!! Then where will the amenity of the local village or heart of the residential community be? It is already over the top with resort style accomodation and food and clothing outlets for the tourists!
    At least with residential holiday letting in homes it attempts to have the tourists become part of the community instead of taking over the heart of the community. Precincts will just create an us and them outcome!

    • Lynn, no locals want a mini Gold Coast with its ugly high rise. This includes the councillors. Any future potential candidates for council should be thoroughly quizzed as to whether they are pro development and would allow this. Be careful of the person you vote for.

      Lynn, you have not said anything about protection of the characteristics and amenity of our residential areas and the permanent residents who form the backbone of this community. Community is already being eroded by out of control and unregulated holiday lets owned by greedy and unscrupulous operators who don’t care about the neighbours surrounding their property. These holiday lets already cause a lot of problems, stress and angst in the community. For your sake Lynn I hope you don’t get a holiday let next to your home.

      Apply the law and ban them from all R2 residential zones.

  14. Not only do we have the crook and dodgy holiday let owners but the scammers have moved in on the act as well.

    I was reliably informed recently about a woman who paid a $3000 deposit on a Byron Bay holiday let listed on Stayz last May. She said that the place looked beautiful from the photos shown. On contact by email she was told by the “owner” that he lived overseas. The only problem was the let didn’t exist. She contacted Stalz who informed her about the fine print in the disclaimer. She lost her deposit.

    She noticed that the listing was withdrawn by Stayz soon after. The scammer will probably do more cons. A council registration system may help overcome this growing problem.

    Holiday looting at its best!

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