Aslan Shand & Chris Dobney
Byron Shire Councillor Michael Lyon has expressed disappointment that pleas made directly to the NSW Premier during her recent visit for a special exemption for Byron Shire from the state’s Short Term Holiday Letting (STHL) laws have fallen on deaf ears.
‘We were hopeful, following those meetings, that we had been heard and that our ratio of tourists to visitors – unique in the world in terms of impact – would see us treated as a special case,’ he said.
The state government’s new regulations will see hosts able to rent out their accommodation, outside of Greater Sydney, for up to 365 days per year.
Local Councils have eight weeks to lodge an EOI to allow them to limit letting or they will be subjected to STHL for the whole year. Councils will have to allow at least 180 days letting.
Cr Lyon said the proposed amendments ‘make no efforts to reign in short term holiday letting and deny the Council the ability to protect long-term housing stock’.
‘The state government is now legitimising a situation in which short-term holiday lets, by default, have free reign to rent all year round without paying commercial rates or having to lodge a development application.
‘On top of this, we still have no clarity on whether we will be able to administer a licensing scheme locally, as is happening in many jurisdictions around the world, to ensure that the impacts and costs of compliance are not borne by Council,’ Cr Lyon said.
Preserve residential communities
Ballina Greens MP Tamara Smith says local councils ‘should be able to regulate holiday letting and preserve residential communities’.
‘Residential amenity is the bedrock of the very notion of community and unfettered holiday letting is its antithesis,’ she said.
‘I am so concerned about the future of community in Byron Bay. As well as the natural beauty of our region it is the people who live here that make us special – and without the capacity to regulate holiday letting we face [having] “virtual towns” with no permanent residents.
‘Who volunteers for Meals on Wheels, our Surf Clubs, the Rural Fire Service and the SES when all the folk in the town are holiday makers ?
‘The revolving door of corporate donations to the Lib-Nats has sadly trumped our community’s right to stay liveable and residential,’ she said.
Concerns raised in parlt
Nationals MLC Ben Franklin told The Echo that he’s raised concerns in parliament over the impact of STHL in Byron and says he ‘will continue discussions with the relevant ministers over the coming weeks.’
‘I have already secured an agreement from the government that a set of “Byron-specific” recommendations and proposals will be considered when they conduct a full review of the scheme in 12 months time,’ he told The Echo.
‘I do believe that there is significant merit in excising the Byron Shire from the state wide policy now and to allow Council to regulate the issue for the next year,’ Mr Franklin said.