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Byron Shire
December 4, 2021

Can you store this for me, Alan?

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Owning a self-storage facility is perhaps one of the best business models in the shire.

So why not operate a self-storage facility on your property?

This is an area of continual flux; owing to holiday letting, many renters are forced to continually move.

There are others who move here and then realise jobs are scarce, as is available housing.

But they all need a place to put their stuff. It’s a perfect business model really. Just give ‘em a key and let the cash roll in. Providing a much-needed service that helps people can only be a good thing, right?

Councillor Alan Hunter advertises via a website a self-storage facility on his Myocum farm; however, the legitimacy of it is unclear.

His neighbours are unaware of any approval for its operation.

All they were aware of is a change of use in his DA last May from a ‘farm building’ to a ‘road transport terminal’.

At the time staff said the proposed use did not comply with the zoning, but it passed with conditions. Neighbours opposed.

Cr Hunter was elected to Council in 2012 after winning a seat with Chris Cubis on councillor Di Woods’s ticket. He’s also a very high-profile figure within the local National Party, having run for the 2010 federal election.

And Cr Hunter seems likeable; his colourful mangled metaphors and folksy charm sure brighten up the council chambers.

But here’s the problem: there’s a perception that regulation outlines how you go about such things as establishing self-storage facilities. One could imagine there would be many more storage sheds in Byron if it were as easy as dumping shipping containers on your land and slapping up a website.

Perhaps this is yet another example of poor governance, bad decision making and a lack of explanation and definition in Council’s policies. All of which he and his fellow councillors preside over.

When Council took Cr Hunter to court in 2012, compliance staff publicly spoke of hefty fines in the order of $100,000 for illegal development. Yet in the transcript from that L&E court case, an agreement was struck, no fine issued and no costs awarded.

Cr Hunter claims that staff gave him the go-ahead this time and that this is legit under the ‘planning rules that applied in the 1988 LEP.’

What hasn’t been made clear is whether a DA specific to a self- storage facility is requred. Staff are yet to reply to The Echo as to whether this development is indeed legit.

Should we expect those elected to public office to be expemplars of best-practice compliance with the local government approvals process? Shouldn’t we also expect better from Council staff?

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