Hans Lovejoy, editor
Everyone has a bias – it’s a natural human condition. It’s always a surprise to hear a political actor complain that The Echo is biased.
The issue is really about fairness, not bias.
Judges have bias, as do police and educators. No one is immune; it’s all just a well orchestrated charade to keep the population placated while those who run the joint don’t get found out.
Imagine if the unwashed masses actually knew that?
Likewise, all government strategies and plans that underpin policy and law are also geared for outcomes, or bias.
Take for example, Council’s holiday letting policy, now on exhibition. It’s called Short-Term Rental Accommodation (STRA), and aims to formalise using a residential home in Byron Shire as holiday accomodation.
After years of inaction from the state government (owing to Airbnb lobbying and the fact that many political actors own holiday rentals), they finally announced a policy last year.
Graciously, these overlords of local government allowed the limiting of letting in Byron Shire to 90 days per year. But the map that accompanies Council’s strategy suggests 365 days in some parts of the Shire. When asked why Council didn’t present the lower limit of 90 days, planning staff replied that, ‘Precincts for higher day-limits have been included as an option, although this may be reconsidered or revised for the final planning proposal, taking into account feedback from the community’.
So it’s up to you, dear resident, to make sure that your neighbours aren’t advocating for year-round holiday letting. That is, assuming you like to live within a community.
Yet finding that out appears impossible, because there are no provisions for declarations of interests in this submission and survey process.
When asked why, planning staff replied, ‘We have received submissions from a wide range of people on both sides of the debate. All submissions will be considered on planning merits’.
The Byron Residents’ Group make a similar point about the survey in a recent press release: ‘…Although the survey asks for your postcode, it doesn’t ask if you are a holiday letting host or not. Airbnb contacted people prior to the last NSW state election, and told them to vote for the coalition, who have created the 365-day short term letting legislation. Airbnb will no doubt be lobbying the hosts of the 3,000-odd whole homes that are listed in Byron, and telling them to make a submission.’
It goes on: ‘Did you know that 1,331 listings for entire homes in Byron are listed by only 359 hosts? This is not just local people making some extra money, this is an industry that has its hooks in our Shire’.
It’s a tough balance to get right where individual freedoms don’t impinge upon the freedoms of others. Unfortunately, the Byron Shire councillor majority have form in the area of putting developer interest over community. Just before Christmas, they waived through a massive-scale rezoning of rural lands to commercial. That looks like a looming clusterfuck, and was among one of the worst decisions in years.
Submissions for the STRA close January 30 and the documents can be found on Byron Shire Council’s website.
Three cheers for community!