Cr Paul Spooner, Byron Bay
It’s clear Byron Shire Council needs a boost in income to solve an infrastructure backlog that’s been in a state of deterioration for well over a decade.
I’m not that interested in apportioning blame as to why we are in this situation. However, I am interested in getting out of it.
A rate rise is the easy way out for Council – not to mention the state and federal government. It’s not so easy for landowners.
And it will not be easy for those who rent off the landowners. Any increase in rates will immediately be passed on to tenants. This will make Byron Shire even more unaffordable than it is now.
We need another approach to this problem that does not burden the residents unfairly.
It’s argued by many that tourists impact on the ability of council to maintain public infrastructure at acceptable levels. If this is the case then increasing residential rates is not the appropriate policy response.
A better response may be a tourism infrastructure levy that is applied to any business deriving income from tourists. It will then be up to each individual business to determine whether or not they pass on this cost to their tourism customers. For example, by applying an accommodation surcharge.
The principle at play here is that it should not be the residents who should be paying for the infrastructure needs of the tourists but the tourists themselves or the businesses that are making money from them.
Residents should pay their fair share but not be expected to unfairly carry the burden for the tourism industry.
We need to ‘render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s’ – but let’s get the balance right first.