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Byron Shire
May 12, 2021

Byron council’s honeymoon ended

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The sheen is already coming off the recently elected progressive Byron Shire Council, with Byron Labor attacking the Greens-led council over its proposed major rate increases and its handling of negotiations with the state government to purchase the Suffolk Park sports field.

Acting secretary of Byron Bay Labor, Asren Pugh, has effectively lobbed a hand grenade into the middle of the council chambers, accusing ‘recent and current council leadership’, including current and previous Greens mayors Simon Richardson and Jan Barham, of being ‘unable to deliver for our shire.’

But he goes further, saying the Greens have ‘terrible relationships’ with state and federal governments, are ‘simply ignored’, and are ‘unable to lobby effectively’.

As a case in point, Mr Pugh criticised the mayor’s negotiations for Byron council to purchase the Suffolk Park sports field for $900,000, telling Echonetdaily that if they had been properly conducted Labor’s policy to see the land gifted to the community could have been achieved.

‘This is why you need people leading council who have some access to governments and an ability to effectively negotiate with them,’ he said.

Low income residents hit

Mr Pugh said a rate rise of more than 60 per cent would ‘have a major impact on the cost of living for low income residents of our shire.’

‘While it is clear that Byron needs to be able to raise more money to invest in community infrastructure, it should not be done by slugging residents with by far the highest rates in the region,’ he added.

‘One of the council staff at an “information stall” recently estimated that council spends 30 per cent of ratepayers’ money on supporting tourists.’

Rather than excessive rate rises for residents Labor says the council should consider:

  • Significantly increasing rates for commercial properties, as well as Byron CBD commercial properties
  • Ensure that properties used as short-term accommodation, holiday lets or Airbnb, for more than three months of the year are classified as businesses and included in the increased business rates, creating a de facto bed tax;
  • Increase parking fees in specific areas, such as Main Beach car park or Wategoes
  • Investigating other opportunities to raise money from tourists

Mr Pugh said these are ‘all within the power of council to achieve and would help limit the impact on local ratepayers.’

‘This drastic rate increase clearly shows the lack of leadership and responsible financial management over the past decade or so,’ he said.

‘How did previous councils, under Greens leadership, manage to allow our infrastructure to get into such a parlous state?

‘Despite years of discussions around bed taxes and special infrastructure grants, it is also clear that recent and current council leadership has been unable to deliver for our shire.

‘They have terrible relationships with state and federal governments, or are simply ignored, and are unable to lobby effectively on behalf of the shire.

‘And now it is local ratepayers that have to cough up for this failure,’ Mr Pugh said.

Echonetdaily has approached Byron mayor Simon Richardson for comment.

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  1. We wouldn’t need a rate rise as high if festivals had to pay a sliding scale on ticket purchase say $25.00 – $20 for big festivals per day and smaller festivals 10.00 with over approx 100 festivals held in the Shire per year an approx and this is where it get interesting. You hear we have approx 1.2 million visitors a year we do but that is the norm, when a festival comes to town you can just about double that figure, so we could have over 2million visitors. Can you imagine the revenue from this. One festival is with the State but should come to council in 2017 as long as they don’t get State Significant.
    Wake up Byron we are only 14,500 rate payers with 36,000 residents. SOOOOOOO why not council an councilors. People are struggling now and this is going to add to their woes…… Council is a business so are Festivals user pays, we have to…

  2. Wow! What a piece of propaganda from Labor. This isn’t journalism…it’s a translation from a labor mouthpiece. It’s sad to see Councillor Paul Spooner taking Pugh’s lead by continuing his failed election tactics of attack, attack, attack the Greens. He failed running in Ballina for State Govt., He failed in the Mayoral race in local Gov. You’d think he’d get the message. Byron Shire folk are sick of negative and combative politics. If Spooner wants to take over where Di Woids left off he’ll quickly find the people will never support him in any capacity.

  3. What’s the poit in throwing dirt? Council should do better than reorchastrating party politics. Let’s rather look at the problem at hand. On the back of an 18% rate rise due to valuation increases, the need for special rate rises is obsolete. The strategic council documents of the last three 3 years do not ask for a special rate rise. Infrastructure backlog is hte only area of concern, which can be managed with the additional funds available. The council is otherwise in a good financial state of health. NO SPECIAL RATES RISE NEEDED.

    • Jens Krause is wrong to claim that the rate take for councils goes up when the state government does official land evaluations about once every three years – almost invariably resulting in an average increase in valuations. The state government requires councils to adjust (down) the rate in the dollar on these (tri-annual) occasions so that the rate take remains the same.

      The process described above is somewhat separate from the annual task of setting the rate. A council can try and convince the state government that it should be allowed an increase above the stipulated fairly low, automatically allowed, maximum increase. It has been my experience at Tweed Council that if a council does not regularly try and get a bit more than the automatically allowed small increase, the rate base can quickly drop well below the increase in costs, and trying to recover the lost ground can be very difficult and painful.

  4. The local Labor Party says “•Ensure that properties used as short-term accommodation, holiday lets or Airbnb, for more than three months of the year are classified as businesses and included in the increased business rates, creating a de facto bed tax.” This is NOT a de facto bed tax as holiday lets are a business. They should be charged a commercial rate as they are not residential. If they holiday let for one night they should be charged a commercial rate.This is only fair and equitable.

  5. One thing we should have learned by now around here. With adversarial politics only ‘business as usual’ wins.
    WAKE UP!!!


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