Calls to stem the tide of short-term holiday letting in Byron Shire have finally been heard with Anthony Roberts, the minister for planning, announcing a ministerial direction allowing Byron Council to have some degree of determination over how holiday letting is implemented locally.
New planning rules (short-term rental accommodation (STRA) act passed by the current NSW government in August 2018) are set to apply from late 2019 and will allow absentee landlords to rent their regional properties for up to 365 days per year. Regional councils will be able to impose a 180-day limit per year.
Byron Shire exceptional
Mr Roberts, speaking outside Byron Shire Council chambers today (February 11), said that if re-elected a Liberal-National government would introduce caps of 180 days per calendar year to apply when the host is not present in STRA properties in metropolitan Sydney and some regional areas.
He then went further to state that the Byron Shire had exceptional circumstances and following advocacy from Nationals senator Ben Franklin he had ‘decided to issue a ministerial direction which invites Byron Shire to lead the way by proposing 90 day thresholds in the most impacted towns of the LGA (local government area). Council can now begin the preparation of a planning proposal to make this happen.’
Mr Roberts told Echonetdaily, ’I love innovations and I don’t want to pre-empt the proposal from Council. I am open to any planning proposal.’
While Mr Roberts said he would be open to all solutions, including limiting the number of weekends that were available for renting as a holiday let, it doesn’t appear that the minimum of 90 days of short-term letting is up for negotiation.
‘We cautiously welcome the announcement,’ said acting Mayor Michael Lyon.
‘Zero days of short-term-holiday-letting is not on the table for current precincts. We were listened to in relation to new housing developments. Where new developments go ahead there may be the opportunity to exclude holiday letting,’ he said.
Real consultation needed
Greens Member for Ballina Tamara Smith MP has welcomed the decision by the NSW Government to reverse its ‘one-size-fits-all holiday letting legislation’.
‘This is great news for residents of Byron Shire and for Byron Bay who have been so dramatically affected by the large numbers of whole houses available for short term letting for long periods of the year, forcing long term renters out of Byron,’ said Ms Smith.
‘The Minister had a lot to say today but there wasn’t a lot of substance in what he said. He is allowing Byron Shire Council to prepare a planning proposal to limit short term holiday letting.
‘The Minister is using words like “bespoke” and phrases like “self-determination” but there is no indication that our community will have a complete say on what limits will be placed on short term holiday letting.
‘There’s also no indication that this issue will be resolved before the election.
‘I’m calling for comprehensive community consultation on the maximum number of days that Byron Shire should allow unregulated holiday letting. Given the industry uncertainty around this issue, I urge Council to consider an interim 90-day cap because we do not want to see compliant operators go out of business while proper consultation takes place.
‘Consultation should not be rushed, because we need to get the balance right, but neither do we want to see all our approved operators go down the gurgler while the politics play out,’ said Ms Smith.
‘The Nationals and Liberal members in the upper and lower houses all, without exception, voted for the legislation that would allow all-year-round holiday letting in Byron Bay and voted against Greens’ amendments seeking to let local councils decide. The NSW government should not now be expecting the people of Byron and Ballina Shires to be grateful for fixing the mess that they made in the first place,’ said Ms Smith.
Greens Acting Mayor of Byron Shire Michael Lyon said: ‘What we’ve been advocating all along is for our local council to have the power to regulate short-term holiday letting according to our needs.
‘A one-size-fits-all state policy on short term holiday letting was never going to work in Byron where commercial activities are taking over residential zones to the detriment of character and amenity,’ he said.