Mandy Nolan’s Soap Box: the option to Pass


Photo Larissa Dening

You can’t live here without having a favourite beach. I love The Pass. I love the way the shore is fringed by pandanus. The rock that we used to climb as a lookout that now has an official staircase and platform because too many dickheads were making the scramble. I love the sweep of the Bay, the ever-changing face of the beach pools, and of course, the crystal clear breaking water that gently deposits you about 200 metres down the beach if the waves are right.

There was a time when I would spend long days at The Pass, camped under the trees or an umbrella, enjoying that salty pleasure of swim and sun. Without sunscreen. I hate sunscreen. I figured I’m an 80s girl; I rode bikes without helmets, I crossed the road without looking, I lived in a house made from asbestos, I’ve had sex without condoms, I smoked cigarettes with abandon, so I might as well take a sneaky chance on skin cancer.

A day at The Pass had that amazing ability to renew me. I’d remember why I lived here. What was good in life. I’d feel that deep earthy happiness you get when you’re so blissed out you can’t think any more. The kids were small and so easy to love when they bobbed about in the surf, especially at that point where I could see but no longer hear them. All I could hear was the resonant echo of the waves hitting the land.

It was the only beach I went to. But I stopped going. Too many people. And far too many attractive people. On one visit I took a long, hard look at myself and thought, face it, old lady, you belong at Torakina. There I’m quite the specimen, but at The Pass, I’m Past it.

It wasn’t just the endless parade of beautiful bodies. It was the cars they came in. The big cars, with big surfboards. Everyone in the family seems to have a fricking surfboard. And you’re lucky if any one of them knows how to use it. But it won’t stop them having a crack and mowing you down in the process.

Then there was the traffic jam in the parking lot. The fights over whose blinker baggsed the one free spot first. The opportunistic Queenslander in the Range Rover who saw the ensuing standoff and whizzed in and stole the park in question, leaving you arguing with a tourist about a park that no longer existed. Where I once felt fuzzed out now I felt fury. So The Pass was taken off the favourite beach list and moved to the ‘beaches I can’t go to any more’ list… another wondrous local asset that we who live here once enjoyed but have had to surrender for the sake of our sanity.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t have tourism. Or tourists. I’m just saying I don’t like them. They shit me. A lot. I wish they’d go to Evans Head. Or back to the Gold Coast. I wish they paid for this, and not us. I still haven’t got over the smarmy passive aggressive note from council that was included with our rate rise, asking us to check a box against our preferred options like option one increase of 7.5 per cent ‘continued deterioration of our assets’, option two at 10 per cent offering basic maintenance and, of course, the 12.5 per cent increase of option three offering some council fantasy they called ‘improvement all round’.

Where was option four: charge the tourists instead of residents? They’re the ones deteriorating our assets, not us. We can’t even bloody use our assets, we’re at home hiding under the beds we haven’t rented on Airbnb to cover the rate rise. We can’t get a park. We can’t get a wave. And if you live next to an illegal holiday letting in tourist time, you can’t get a good night’s sleep either.

Here’s my option four: No rate rise. But zero tolerance of illegal holiday letting and a state government sanctioned bed tax so that legal operators don’t start bitching that it’s unfair they have to pay. I’m thinking this on the long drive to Byron for our swim at The Pass. Today I insisted we take it on. ‘It’s my favourite beach. We pay rates for this shit.’

The trip from Mullum only took an hour. Better than expected. The cars trying to get into The Pass snaked up to Lighthouse Road. I already wanted to kill someone and I hadn’t even got wet yet. John gave up and dropped us at the beach and parked the car a few kilometres away near Captain Cook’s on an off-road. The Pass didn’t disappoint. She was as beautiful as ever. I wedged my family in the middle of hundreds of hot bodies enjoying another one of our deteriorating assets.

It was hard to stay resentful. Who could blame them about wanting to be here? The beach doesn’t care about tourism. It just does its thing. After a few hours we made the long trudge to our car, still fuzzed out from surf and sand. Until we found the car. That’s when we noticed that someone, and more specifically a someone with a Queensland number plate, had parked us in. Barely 2cm from our bumper. How considerate.

I thought about a few diplomatic options and then I rammed them with our tow bar and drove off. But I did leave a note. I gave them some options: Option A: You can keep coming here and degrading our sense of community, our infrastructure, and be hated by locals, but pay nothing, or B: You can keep coming here, but not as many of you, and pay to maintain our assets so our community can afford to live here and in the end you’ll have a much better experience, or my preferred option, C: You Can Fuck Off.

It’s really good to have options.

26 responses to “Mandy Nolan’s Soap Box: the option to Pass”

  1. Len Heggarty says:

    “What if I pull this bloke’s leg” said the shark to the dolphin. “Ok, I will pass” said the dolphin as he was just too dull with his fin while the shark said flashing his teeth for a bite “oh what a lovely shin.”

  2. Matt Hartley says:

    Nice work Mandy. Now, who protects illegal holiday letting from the law? Take your time…

  3. Tony Parker says:

    Thanks Darl. Spot on.

  4. Brian says:

    Well written Mandy. You’ve hit the nail on the head, too many people is why I never go to Byron any more. In fact, there are too many people everywhere. Almost all of the world’s problems (depletion of natural resources, environmental degradation, conflict, poverty, traffic, anger) stem from the problem of overpopulation. If the world would address the problem of rampant population growth, a lot of our problems would go away

    • Hugo says:

      Human birth rates are high in underdeveloped nations, as conditions improve birth rates drop and population plateaus, even leading to declining populations in some instances.
      I suggest the problem isn’t overpopulation, but poor education, high child mortality rates and poverty.

  5. Fred Schack says:

    I agree,,A Tourist tax would be the go..Three dollars each from patrons going to Splendour,Falls and Bluesfest would rise nearly a million $ s..and solve most problems.No need for a rate rise!

  6. David says:

    It would be interesting to know what percentage of visitors per year stay in holiday rentals as opposed to approved hotels / motels etc. I think the percentage would be very high given the huge number of visitors and small number of formal holiday accommodation. It would then be interesting to see a projection of the impacts of removing this accommodation on the town. I.e how many bunniesses would close, how many local jobs lost, what would happen to real estate prices, rental incomes, investment in the area… If you look around the world popular places without big hotels survive on holiday letting. E.g south of France, Tuscany etc. It keeps a village feel and pressure off council to approve big hotel developments – so there are pros and cons. Unless of course the goal is to remove tourists altogether – which the NSW and Federal government actually want to grow – to replace lost income from mining. Byron is a beautiful place, the world is overpopulated and everyone has a right to come here. I personally think a bed tax with proceeds going to local council is the only way – at least this way locals benefit from better infrastructure and lower rates. But then the place is even more desirable which means more tourists and higher rents! There is no easy answer.

  7. ange keenan says:

    All too true!. And that’s just the tip.

  8. Krappy Chino says:

    Should have gone to Wategos, Mandy. And btw there is no beach left at high tide from the Pass to well west of Clarkes.

  9. Buzzy says:

    Perhaps you should look at the greedy council before you blame the tourists first.
    Tourist bring the money to the area for local business and to the council. The council are the ones that are selling off the land to the highest bidder happy that they are making a massive percentages which is bring the new people in that are holiday letting and driving the price of everything up…

    The council is the ones that sold off the parking meters off to a company that charge absorbent amounts for parking and the council refuses to put that money into the roads. One lane in and out each way, when thousands of cars are trying to get about each day… ridiculous !!

  10. Andrew Loomes says:

    After reading the headline I was so looking forward to a positive, light hearted editorial. I was thinking nobody can turn a day at The Pass into a miserable negative.
    But you succeeded.

  11. Peter Chown says:

    You hit the nail on the head Mandy. The situation is deteriorating by the minute. Yes to a tourist tax. And hands up all those people running an Airbnb. You should also be paying your share for the contribution you are making to the Shire being overrun by tourists and further degrading the already inadequate infrastructure.

  12. Ian says:

    Sorry, I don’t think Byron is any less of an overblown tourist resort than the Gold Coast, although Byron’s traffic is obviously far worse and the people are way more up themselves. Let’s face it, The Pass is over. I’m not the first person to say that. It’s sad but true.

  13. Roz says:

    Bless you, Mandy, you have read my mind – again! Such a cruel time of year for those of us who live here on a permanent basis, and pay dearly for the privilege. Well sussed, and opined…

  14. Paul Bevear says:

    Ive been going to Byron since I was a child.The town used to be run on time from the whistle from the Norco factory & the abbattoirs.That was in the early fifties.I returned to live in Byron in the summer of 63/64 Byron was still a country town.I remember going to the top pub on a Friday night
    There were only 9 surfers wanting to go surfing the next day.Due to work I had to live in Brisbane for a number of years spending my weekends between Noosa & Ballina.I spent another 8 months in Byron in 1969 still a laid back town, but getting busy,I now live on the Sunshine coast which is very busy but not as crowded as Byron.After a recent trip to town in summer i doubt very much that i will return,Byron is overloved unfortunately.

  15. d roberts says:

    Why not call for a community forum…………???????

    Simon and the councillors need to answer for the situation at hand…………before its all too late…..

  16. Robyn Hobbs says:

    It’s over. I blamed Lonely Planet in the beginning. It’s just over. We had the best of it over 40 years, can’t complain. Just moved to the Southern Highlands to see the change of seasons again.

  17. Brad says:

    I gave up on surfing at The Pass about….2002 ? Broken Head about 2007, Lennox and Boulders not much later. I had had 30 years surfing these breaks after all. I gave up on Byron Shire late 2015 (after 43 years), just had enough of all you mention. Moved to an Island in Qld. Very nice, WAY cheaper than Byron Shire. A bit less enlightened perhaps, but less guru mystic wankers as well.

  18. Sarah Buchanan says:

    Bruns is starting to feel the pinch as well.
    Too many people.
    The riverbanks are worn and eroded, the rubbish bins are overflowing (no recycling).
    The atrocious public ammenities are, well… more atrocious.
    Holiday letting and B+ B’ing is like watching a bomb go in slow-mo.
    If we had ‘normal’ long-term rentals for un ‘normal’ long-term residents…things would settle down a bit.
    Bed tax is the way to go but BSC have to try to encourage long-term rentals with incentives and rewards.
    Secure housing (in my my opinion) is the number one social problem.
    It must be solved or we will have a gazillion tourists and no one to serve them!!

  19. upset, overcharged, long term renter who lives in overpriced substandard accommodation says:

    i wrote this option to the council on their feedback form. i am sure that i am not the only one. when even a green council doesn’t listen to its residents…what to do!!!!!!

  20. Chris Leach says:

    Rome has a bed tax, collected by the hotelier and remitted to the local authority and it seems to work very well. I am not aware if there is any constitutional, legal or administrative impediment to the same concept in Byron, but I intend to ask the Council.

    Margaret Thatcher’s oft quoted legacy “the wealth trickles down” has a dark corollary. The costs that trickle down with the wealth are more of a torrent. I suspect the real thing here is that our Council actually don’t think drowning in tourists is a problem. Thanks for your usual trenchant analysis of this self-created mess, Mandy.

  21. John says:

    Another reason not to go to Byron… with anything valuable anyway!…

  22. Angela says:

    Thanks Mandy. My favourite is being harrassed for my park with on average being asking four times if im going. Yes im going, im going to fuckin lose it if one more person asks.i think we owe it to ourselves to keep going to our fave spots and tell peoole we are not going under any circumstances.
    Good points David but if supporting commercial enterprise means changing our town to the point of being uninhabitable then I don’t back it. More jobs, more income, more busibess , more investment sounds like a slippery slope to me.

  23. Jake says:

    I’d give my left nut to live on the north coast and hang out at the Pass! Spare us your first world problems please, and know that karma will bite you for damaging that persons car, then boasting about it no less

  24. Well put Mandy. I left ‘the town of all Co-ops’ [Qld] above the Sunshine Coast & overlooking the Glasshouse
    Mountains for the same reasons Byron & The Pass has your back up. It’s not easy to leave 40 years behind
    but I’d have spat the dummy if I hadn’t. Yes… too many people. The immediate want-a-fix & bugger the
    environment lot. The ‘moneyed fodder’ who bring more of a kind. No one will find a home/town house/ or
    unit that’s price right soon. Specs will buy & those who rent will [because they must] help the billion-build
    their growth. Best cop it, I suppose. The whole bloody world’s on-the-nose.
    Stefanie Bennett

  25. Luke McKelvey says:

    Your articles are the best Mandy, Addressing current, controversial issues with integrity AND homour.

    My favourite section of the Echo and the part I always turn to first.

    Don’t stop!

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