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Byron Shire
June 7, 2023

Ready for the re-introduction of secondary-dwelling fees in Byron Shire?

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Hans Lovejoy

The case for re-introducing fees to build secondary dwellings has been made by Council staff, with those predicted funds pegged for a new central Byron Shire library, halls, public toilets, bike paths, and open spaces such as playgrounds.

The 180-page draft document, available for comment on Council’s website, also suggests removing ‘the waiver for the payment of water and sewer contributions for secondary dwellings’. 

Yet the report provided by staff omits data that are essential to understanding the context and history of secondary-dwelling fees.

Additionally, staff assumptions of infrastructure projects are not underpinned by any evidence of community consultation.

A detail of proposed new costings is broken down by towns, rural areas north and south, and includes contributions for a standard dwelling unit, one and two bedroom dwelling and ‘area per person’.

‘Area per person’ is not clearly defined within the report.

Fees for secondary dwellings are pegged more for Mullumbimby than for other areas across all dwelling types.

For example, the proposed cost for a one-bedroom unit DA in Mullum is $10,661.60, while a Mullum two-unit DA would be $14,538.54. In Ocean Shores, a one-bedroom unit DA would be $3,853.19 and a two-bedroom unit $5,254.35.

High-growth areas pegged by staff include Byron Bay/Suffolk Park, Mullumbimby, Brunswick Heads, and Bangalow. Low-growth catchments, according to the report, are Rural North Rural South and Ocean Shores/South Golden Beach.

Central library

Remarkably, staff suggest building a new central Byron Shire library (page 64), claiming the current Byron Bay one ‘is too small to meet the current demand’.

Despite only opening in 2013, staff did not refer to any evidence of why a centralised library was needed, nor provide any evidence of consultation with Friends of the Library or other stakeholders within the report.

A Friends of the Library spokesperson told Echonetdaily they were not consulted, yet added the 2012 document predates the 2013 library.

Additionally, there is no reference as to when the developer contribution amendment was reported to Council, the year the fees were withdrawn and why. Echonetdaily asked staff to explain, and they replied it was reported to Council on February 22, 2018. ‘Agenda item 13.24, p215’.

Perhaps the most remarkable omission regarding transparency and accountability by staff is that the plan does not include any deletions/amendements of the existing document with a ‘strike through’, which is commonly used by bureaucrats to reference what details are being amended and deleted.

Staff replied on that matter: ‘The sections being amended are made clear in the public notice. The proposed amended document is available to download on the public notices page. The original document is also on Council’s website. Put “developer contributions” into the search bar on the website.’

Aimed at easing rental stress

While the withdrawal of secondary-dwelling fees in 2011 was aimed at easing rental stress (under the Affordable Rental Housing SEPP), staff reported in February 22, 2018 that their review found it had ‘no impact’ while rents have instead increased.

Yet that February 22, 2018 staff report does not include any further historical information, such as what the the previous secondary fees were before they were withdrawn.

Echonetdaily understands it was around $20,000.

Another justification by staff for re-introducing secondary-dwelling fees is based on ‘continued population and employment growth’ as well as an ageing population.

‘The resident population of the LGA is forecast to grow by approximately 6,940 between 2011 and 2026’, staff write.

Public submissions for the draft close August 21 at 4pm. For more information visit the public notices tab at the Byron Shire council website.

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  1. Many rural properties in my vicinity have multiple dwellings, unapproved, with many vehicles coming and going, but only pay a single rates levy.

    I went through hell converting to Community Title and we now pay four lots of rates.

    Council Compliance will do NOTHING about continuing illegal building.

    My rates go up and up and up … and the road out here is disgraceful.

    Council must introduce some system that makes properties pay for their impact on infrastructure, and it should be spent where you levy it. Not down in town.

    • I agree…Byron Shire Council are still holding the mantra of most incompetent planners….
      Beyond embarrassing …

  2. Parking meters were introduced to cover these infrastructure costs.

    With a huge shortage of affordable dwellings in this vicinity, new dwellings should be subsidized, and not further introduced fees and taxes.

    I cannot believe the audacity of corporate style tactics in this area.
    Less concrete, more sustainable structures at a more affordable cost to all.

  3. Secondary dwellings that were exempted from fees have not created affordable housing.as The fee exemption was in place as an incentive to create affordable housing not undeclared, untaxed income. Ask anyone on any type of benefits or part time work if they are accepted to rent or can afford the rents asked, ask them if they can apply for rent relief, if they somehow can afford the rent.. most times the owner won’t want anyone applying for it, as they then would have to declare the income.. how many more tax breaks do wealthy home owners need?? Use the extra income council makes on improving amenities for locals & not another library…

  4. The present new library is beautiful, and wonderful.
    It is wonderful to hear of a council, any council, talk of wanting to spend money on a library. That is hardly the sort of thing councils prioritise.
    But, we already have a wonderful new library. So thanks Hans for pointing out how bizarre this situation is.
    Think of all the civic improvements that could be done with a pile of money, that can benefit everyone, and make sense.
    Instead the council continues down its path of destroying wetlands
    What is staggering is how they act like there is no consequence. Each individual that approves crazy decisions – namely, destructive development, has to wear the burden of that consequence for the rest of their life.
    They aren’t personally exempt just because they have a title before their name, and just because it’s their day job

  5. I don’t think the February 22, 2018 staff review that found fee relief ‘had no impact while rents have instead increased’, tells the whole story behind this proposal.

    Based on a (probably very well founded) fear that the secondary dwellings thus exempted were largely being used for short term rental rather than affordable housing, Council sent out a questionnaire to the owners of exempted properties asking them to identify how their secondary dwelling was being used. The response rate was very disappointing. Probably points to the reasons the rents are going in the wrong direction.

    Didn’t this fee waiver come with prohibited usage provisions? It seems though, rather than follow up and enforcement it’s easier to penalise those who are genuinely interested in housing family or permanent residents in an impossible housing market.

    It seems enforcement’s all too hard – and it probably is! Funny though that, depending on the agenda, we can be happily assured that there will be no problems that proper regulation and enforcement won’t fix eg weddings and function centres in the sticks!

  6. To be clearer, it was the response rate (the number who bothered to reply)) that was the disappointing aspect not I believe, the answers given by those who did.

    • 598 questionairres were posted. Council received 400 replies. Only one was honest and said they were illegally holiday letting. It can be safely assumed that the other 200, 33%, are illegally holiday letting. Council should be prosecuting.How many has Shannon Burt, head of Sustainable Environnment, sent to Ralph James, head of legal governance , for prosecution? The Echo should ask this question and if there hasn’t been any, ask why they are not applying the planning law?

  7. The article does not say why Council decided to stop the S94 and S64 waiver. One of the major reasons is that unscrupulous people were taking advantage of this waiver, then holiday letting their secondary development contrary to their DA approval that said in 2 places that there was to be no holiday letting or tourist and visitor accommodation. This was signed by the applicant.

    In other words this illegal holiday letting mob was rorting the system and other ratepayers.

  8. A new library? The lovely new library in The Bay was only opened 6 years ago & is about 10 times the size of the shoe-box it replaced. Mullum library, which we moved into the oversized Admin building, is perfectly adequate. If better library facilities are affordable, why not look at improving the small Bruns facility, & small branches in Bangalow & Ocean Shores.
    The whole business of deciding how any extra revenue is spent should be examined by exhibiting a revised Section 94 Plan, not by tacking it onto a debate about secondary dwellings.

  9. In regards to the waiver of secondary building fees in 2011 by Council to create more housing in the area. We all know that many property owners on the coastal fringe took advantage of this also took a greater advantage in the process
    Secondary dwellings were built and understanding that the homeowners needed to recoup the costs of building and such, the rents asked were not affordable by many locals at the time.

    Then as we know these same homeowners further down the track jumped on the Airbnb bandwagon.evicting tenants in the process. Which then brought a bigger influx of tourists to the area.

    These same Airbnb businesses are not registered They do not pay short term holiday taxes to Council . They do not pay extra rates which would assist in revenue for the upkeep of the roads and other amenities so badly needed. The dollars go in their pockets!!

    As we aware there are now registered short term holiday businesses that are needing to close their doors due not being able to compete to with the Airbnb prices asked in this area. Which will also create a flow on affect those employees at these businesses lose their jobs ..and so on…

    Good on Council staff for proposing this. I salute them

  10. Compliance on those used for holiday letting would release these properties for their intended use of providing for the Shires highest need of accommodation, for singles, young parents, unemployed, retirees, students etc.
    Other option – use Councills Compulsory Acquisition powers with Councills capacity of very cheap govt loans, to start purchasing unlawful holliday lets to turn them into Council owned community housing.

  11. I live in Byron. I use the library. I have never ever noticed that it was too small. What on earth are council thinking??!!

  12. Councilors voted to stop the S94 exemption waiver at the February 2018 general meeting. Why has it taken 18 months foe staff to get this out tp public exhibition?


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