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Byron Shire
May 26, 2024

Stop ‘fleeing’ to Byron Shire amidst COVID-19 outbreak

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Byron Council is calling for a ban on long-distance bus services into the Shire.

Paul Bibby

Byron Council is calling for a ban on long-distance bus services into the Shire as scores of people flock in from the city in response to the  COVID-19 crisis.

‘We’ve got the issue of people fleeing the cities and coming to regional areas like ours,’ Byron Mayor Simon Richardson told yesterday’s full council meeting.

‘The idea that you could sit on a bus for 20 hours with a bunch of other people at this time just strikes me as complete idiocy.’

The Council expressed grave concern and disappointment that the Byron Shire had been promoted as an attractive place to ‘self isolate’ by AirBnB and other short-term holiday letting properties.

Council will ask AirBnB and Stayz to seek the removal this promotional messaging.

It will also launch a #Stayathome Byron campaign for visitors and locals alike.

In keeping with this message Council implemented a number of measures in a bid to ensure people adhered to social distancing throughout the Shire.

This included the closure of Clarke’ Beach and Main Beach car park for three months, a three month ban on the use of public spaces for busking and other similar activities such as tarot card reading and pop-up clothes stalls in public areas.

In terms of operational matters, the council suspended footpath dining and associated fees for three months, and reduced face-to-face hours at the customer service centre for three months – though it will remain open for telephone and electronic enquiries.

Councillors also voted to review current fees and charges at the Byron Community Centre for management and operation of homeless shower services.

‘My plea is for people to be compassionate and kind and for us all to play our part in stopping the spread of this terrible disease,’ Mayor Richardson said.

♦ Please note that Australia Wide Coaches are not bringing tourists to the Byron Shire during the pandemic.

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  1. All good moves. The State Government should put an immediate ban on all unapproved, unlicensed STHL. There should be ample accommodation in regulated places – with greater control of movement and activity – for legitimate, essential visitors. I hope real estate agents have stopped taking STHL bookings as well. Now is not the time for touring!

  2. I am aware of an illegal holiday let locally that has two couples currently self isolating for 14 days. They are meant to stay on the premises but have been seen on the beach. They are placing the Byron Community in a dangerous position if they have actually caught COVID 19.

  3. Asking greedy people to stop making money out of tourists, is as effective as giving a hungry dog a piece of steak and asking it not to eat it.

    The state govt must immediately BAN all unnecessary travel with stiff penalties for those who don’t comply. We need to do what Queensland is doing-stop people at the entrance to our towns and if they’re not locals, or don’t have a legitimate reason for being here, send them back.

    Otherwise it’s useless asking people to distance themselves from others while people are allowed to pack into crowded buses to come here and party, go to the beach, and potentially spread disease. Our hospitals are understaffed, underfunded, and don’t cope well at the best of times.

  4. I was getting cabin fever. So yesterday I went to check out what the rest of Byron Bay was doing from the safety of my car. Very concerning to see how crowded the boardwalk on route to the lighthouse was. Not much social distancing happening there! Several bunches of touristy folk and a few locals I recognised, still strutting their stuff… joggers running past huffing and puffing over all and sundry. Clueless. Then there were the cafes…..
    I drove back home somewhat plerplexed!

  5. “Byron Shire had been promoted as an attractive place to ‘self isolate’ by AirBnB and other short-term holiday letting properties.”

    What would one expect: Morals? by Airbnb? by Stayz? by their analogues? by the bus companies? Nope, just milk the short-term cash-cow for all it’s worth – until it turns around and bites you!

    Council is right to stop this dangerous influx. If that gets us called xenophobic, so be it. With Byron town’s overload, where’s the room for adequate Personal Distancing (the WHO’s new, preferred term)? Byron has the immediate potential to become a petri dish for the virus. Close the gates.

  6. We were pushed out of Byron Bay two years ago after living there in our family home for 35 years for me and my wife was a fouth generation Bay local by a greedy crazy party house AirB&B next door . All the people from Byron Shire that thought it was trendy to own one of these community destroying holiday lets are going to get their own back now that the Pandamic is arriving by the bus load . Good luck with the council doing anything to stop them . An impossible task . Wallow in it now as you will not stop it . I feel sorry for the police , as they will be the people called upon to enforce the social distancing laws . Paradise lost!

  7. I fully agree with stopping the buses from coming here. Only people who are not taking self isolation seriously would choose to travel this way and ipso facto, we don’t want them here.

  8. Queensland border is closed! I had to go to Southport Qld today for medical reasons so was allowed through but I had to stop at 2 police roadblocks before the border. Nothing coming back into NSW, everyone can come in.

  9. Well done.. thank you.

    Yesterday I turned round in the supermarket isle in Mullum attempting to distance.. woman local, one way, other way 3 tourists. What are they doing in Mullum?

    Tonight in to buy pet food.. campers in the car park. Shut the borders to the shire.

  10. As I understand all local caravan parks in the area are at full capacity. Note the Article (Is reflections heeding the virus threat) in last weeks echo. This is deinatly not time for holidaying making. With compliance of current lockdown law what are these 1000 odd people per week doing?
    Locals here have taken this on with utmost precaution and as I understand all motels are now closed for this very reason.
    As casualties continue to rise in the area and across Australia why the exemption here?
    Do the right thing here – Close these parks &
    Go Home!

  11. Byron should remember that people have long memories, calling people idiots and acting like a bunch of Xenophobes isn’t going to help the situation. If the Gov allows it, no laws are broken.

  12. As a reply to Anne, I’m sorry but that wasn’t my view at all. I was a short term self-isolated tourist this week, and saw everyone complying with the rules. There were no buses, crowded cafes, or group gatherings. Joggers are no risk, and the people at the beach were well apart….the only problem was a group of homeless people who were kindly moved on. The police had a clear and respectable presence. And the shopkeepers were complying with the current guidelines. I was kindly asked to leave by my accom managers, but offered a voucher for return travel….

  13. A lot of the Air BNB ads promoting Byron Shire as the ideal self-isolation location, are placed by locals who own one or more properties in the area, looking to cash in. Locals. The same locals who complain about the changing demographics, but are only too willing to make a fast buck on the property market.

  14. Are we really that surprised that airbnb and the like are exploiting the situation ? I think thats part of their business model . Someone always gets paid .
    How else are the home owner hosts going to afford the boho soft furnishings ?
    Look after the ones you love and be a role model for the ones you dont !

  15. I hope we all learn from this and do not return back to the same old greedy commercial consumptive lifestyle that was NEVER part of the North Coast from Tweed to Coffs!!! We were simple working families. We all lived on the land and made good use of what we had. I am so sad to see the City ways of life morals and greed overtake our towns till generational locals can’t live there anymore who should be. Who know life here like the back of their hand to lose it to those who have not integrated to where they are or how to live here. The whole air b’n’b thing should be shut down. The attitude of making money out of ‘space’ is over the top and does not belong here. Go back to Sydney or Melbourne or wherever if you have that mentality. Unless people learn to adopt humility, kindness and less indulgence , consumerism and egotistical behaviour then don’t be surprised by the outcome . Our land needs to remain rural not urbanisation. We have always grown crops here , food fruit vegetables that’s what the North Coast is about not Tourism and real estate Wake up !

  16. Ignorance of God always leads to selfish enjoyment, exploiting loopholes, profit (“Just because I can!!!”), and lack of consideration for the WHOLE. This fact will never change. Not now, not in past nor in 1000 years. There’s no news here folks.

  17. What perhaps the best idea is simply to isolate off the Byron Shire from the rest of Australia and have the border there. and send all the covid positive people there to have a big party. And only let those back who are clear of the virus. Work that way it can be a kind of immunisation Herd testing ground to develop a vaccine. And all elderly people can be shipped out. then no need for social distancing or lockdowns or anything and all the bars and pubs and everything can be open. If they develop severe symptoms there is always the tarot cards the massage therapists especially the Chinese ones who who often offer an extra rub in sore places. And if all else fails the big communal circle love hug. And the sacrificial send-off into the Pacific Ocean.


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