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January 25, 2021

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: Gross Estate

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Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: The Sol of Mullumbimby

I love walking through cemeteries. I love to read the gravestones. They are like the first and last page of a novel whose contents I will never know. Here lies many from my community; they were born, lived, and then lost. They were loved. This evening I am walking with my 11-year-old daughter and my husband through Mullumbimby’s cemetery. It is a quiet and beautiful place. I feel the stories rumbling under our feet. I never understand why people see these places as creepy. They are places of reverence and remembering.

This sort of wealth should not be celebrated. It’s destroying us. What is going to happen to our town if this continues?

Last week in Byron a house that doesn’t yet exist hit the market for $60 million. A beach front holiday house. A tidy little weekender. The buyer will purchase  a drawing of the house that is yet to materialise. It’s not even a home.

It’s for holidays. A holiday from what? Makes me want to puke. We should all be appalled. This sort of wealth should not be celebrated. It’s destroying us. What is going to happen to our town if this continues? Where will we live? This whirlpool of speculative wealth in a coastal village is not sustainable. Real Estate is our coalmine. It’s an ugly quarry of gauche profits laced with infinity pools and Japanese spas, yoga rooms and private walled oases. The capitalist model of continuous growth may favour a few, but in the end it impoverishes the many. Extreme wealth does not come without extreme poverty. Homelessness is our quartz lung.

So why are the super affluent coming here? Why not any other coastal village in Australia? For ‘the vibe’. As many times as someone says ‘It’s over’, or ‘Byron’s overrated’ it’s not entirely true. There is still something potent about Byron Bay. It exists because of the generations of story that precede it. The Kaye sisters who walked back from Cabbbage Tree Island to later claim home, the working class who worked in abattoirs, the surfers who found the waves, the hippies who protested development. The wealthy come here because we have something money can’t buy. A real fucking vibe. It doesn’t exist in Surfers Paradise or Coffs Harbour. It exists here. They buy the magic of our intoxicating ‘connection’ and in the process they create disconnection, disharmony and disadvantage.

How will the super wealthy engage with our town? Will they care for country? Will they volunteer to replant the sand dunes? Pick up cigarette butts off the beach? Plant thousands of trees? In the future it won’t ‘just’ be the coast that has eroded, it will be our sense of community – and once that has disintegrated, this place is finished. The vibe they paid $60 mill for will be gone. Byron will be a town full of multi-million dollar mansions full of rich pricks who can’t work out why they can’t find a cleaner. The cleaners moved out years ago.

I find that kind of money repulsive. It’s like concrete cancer. It undermines the foundations of our social cohesion. There is no place for the poor in Byron Bay. Except on the streets, or in the parks or sheltering in the doorways of public buildings. The numbers are growing. Every time we get a new record price in real estate, there are more people made homeless. They move unseen, like ghosts amongst us.

There is something grotesque about billionaires buying yet-to-be-built holiday houses in a town where so many are homeless. I hope they don’t mind stepping over the sleeping bodies on their way to the beach. Fortunately privilege renders those without it invisible; you’re not responsible for something you can’t see. But it’s their legacy. I wonder how they sleep in their $60 million mansion knowing that they’ve authored the increased homelessness of the people in our town. I guess they tell themselves when people become homeless it’s their own fault. And that the government should do something. But you should do something about it. If you can spend $60 million on a holiday house, why wouldn’t you spend another $60 million doing something meaningful in this town where the privilege of the few underwrites the suffering of the many. I’d like to see them take social responsibility; make a purchaser contribution – of another $60 million. Build social housing on one of our disused hospital sites. And if you find the views of ‘social justice warriors’ like me nauseating, then let’s reframe this call to social responsibility as self-interest. You need a town that has good low cost housing, otherwise where will your cleaners live?

I am not impressed by your stupid wealth, your stupid house, or your stupid car. In a world of social inequity and climate change these boring badges of excess are immoral. We need to stop being impressed by money and start being impressed by kindness, compassion and meaningful action.

Do something good.


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27 COMMENTS

  1. Do something goood !!
    Yep lets all move out of the shire
    We are doomed the local government authority
    Have declared a Climate emergency ..
    The deniers are still here !! However the
    Believers have not moved on ??

    • Relax barrow, it doesn’t matter where you move to, the climate emergency will exist there too.
      BTW did you even read the article? or do you just post the same comment to every story whatever the topic?

    • I’m surprised by Vincent’s reply to what I find is a well-considered thoughtful article. I might ask Vincent which part or parts of the column that he objects to and why?

      I grew up on the Northern Rivers and have seen the changes to the Bay since my childhood, so I agree from the perspective of a life-long observer to what Mandy has written. I think even the Ferals have gone!
      Vincent, perhaps you might elaborate on your view about the town and what you see are its faults and what could be done to fix them.

  2. Good on you Mandy! Keep on telling it like it is.
    Love your work.
    PS: Lived in the region some years ago. sad what’s happened. I now
    reside on the Kapiti Coast in NZ -which I give thanks for every day.
    Bless!

  3. when the trains ran to byron, rumour was they gave the poor people (aka local indigenous folks and ‘ferals’) living in the park a one way ticket to whereever… the rich comers solutions to homelessness and public image… money don’t care , never will.

  4. Nothing ‘flowery’ about your article Mandy. Straight to the point. Good Stuff!
    You’ll get my vote in the next election!

  5. Mandy your. views spring from a human compassionate heart. Those devoid of compassion are the dregs, or animal consciousness. The lowest animal in society thinks and feels for himself and maybe
    family. They are not human they are animal. Now Vincent Communism is based on distribution of wealth not caring for others. So get your heart out of your wallet, open up your heart expand your horizons and feel good about your existence in añ ocean of humanity

  6. Nail! Hammer! Head!

    Maintain the rage, Mandy! (Ignore the “commo” baiters – they be iggerant.)

    Our whole shire, including the hinterland, is being BOUGHT out at an alarming rate and community is being SOLD out in the process.

    Parables of Paradise and Parking Lots come to mind.

  7. Unfortunately Byron has been on this trajectory for 30 years now.
    Back then Tom cruise and Jamie
    Packer where the all star visitors.
    Byron has been loved to death.
    It’s time to move the rainbow flag to
    Other destinations and create a bit
    Of magic elsewhere.

  8. What vibe has Byron Bay got left? Do you mean the eroded Main Beach, the expensive car parking, the endless traffic jams, the drunks and littering mob, the commercialisation along the streets, the rich showing off their wealth with their houses and cars? Byron Bay is not only overrated but a perfect example for a transition from beauty to ugliness in a very short time.

    • Great article Mandy. Totally agree with you.

      In answer to the Byron’s dead comments, it ain’t. The magic is still here, in the forest, still there at the waterfalls and as I see being in the water 2-6 hours a day , the ocean.

      Yesterday following giant jelly fish and manta rays, riding waves with a dolphin escort.

      Wategos, little wategos ( always empty) such beauty.

      I keep away from town centre unless I need food or a haircut.

      Byron’s beauty is still here, some people get caught up in the busyness of Main Street… traffic? Have you experienced william street sydney on a Monday morning…. we still have the best town in the world. …

  9. GREAT STUFF Mandy.
    Can’t wait to vote for you.
    These rich selfish ignorant people should definitely be made to take some responsibility for ruining our town and destroying our community.
    Contributing to the keep the homeless off the streets is the least they can do, and to social housing to keep essential workers and older or less privileged people in this community is essential too.

  10. Hmm – there are some great points in your article, but I also feel it is a little inflammatory, combative and one sided. For a minute there i thought you were going to call for the horned guy to storm the council headquarters..! Inequality is a global issue and we cant hide from it in a byron bubble. This town/region has been changing for 30 years, accelerated intensely by Covid the pace of change is mind boggling.
    Perhaps (you) we could consider a more open minded approach to those wealthy peeps moving here (they are coming whether we like it or not) – one that is more human, accepting of people and giving them a chance, not judging by the car they drive or house they buy and allow them a onramp to be adopted into the community and share likeminded values so they can deploy their wealth and abilities to the types of issues you talk about.
    Byron does have something magic about it, but getting angry and building hate rhetoric only makes things worse.

  11. I find it ironic that “the Vibe” which I thought was meant to be inclusive and all that jazz.. is very much an exclusive club for the axe grinders of society.

  12. Mandy shot from the hip & no gun was needed. Facts are facts sometimes &
    it just so happens this ‘show plus tell’ is true & a ‘must’ to be dealt with. Axe
    Grinders? Surely not. Below the belt, Vincent; uncalled for. Move out of the
    Shire – the best to you, Barrow. You can pretend there’s no climate ‘change’
    going on but you will run into it come rain or shine or another flood, hey.
    Animals 2 x 2.

    • Well said Mandy, I couldnt agree more. $60 million for a house. Hahahaha suckers, no house could possibly come close to costing that, more fools them. The elite corporate psychopaths need to be charged “rates” that “fit their property price”. At least then Council will acquire some reasonable funds from these invaders, who in my experience, very rarely care to really join the existing community, and often have little respect for the environment for which they have come to enjoy.

  13. Frank, fearless and funny – go Mandy – hope you can persuade our wealthy neighbours to contribute to community development and social housing as they appear to have monopolised all available funds!

  14. I agree Russ… great article Mandy but why are we fearing the wealthy incomers… we need to teach them to be like us! To respect the Shire, the environment, the people… Let’s encourage them to participate, to be a part of a Byron we can all be proud of.
    We haven’t lost this town yet and nor should we… Byron is bigger than this!

  15. When people move because they can’t find housing
    We loose the back bone of our community
    The football ,cricket coaches
    The parents that volunteer at Nippers
    The parents who volunteer to do canteen
    The parents who put there hands up to fund raise
    The children from out local schools
    Our workers

  16. $60 million is not just gross, it’s sickening and disgusting. There should be a sliding logarithmic scale of s.149 development contributions for such ostentatious and obscene displays of wealth.

    If a person has the desire and the means to waste that much filthy lucre on themselves in such a fashion, it should be reflected in the amount of compulsory contributions levied upon their development. As noted both in the article and many of the comments, this completely over the top development has the capacity to detrimentally change the nature of the whole neighbourhood or suburb. If a logarithmic scale of contributions relative to development cost was imposed, imagine how many millions could be obtained for council coffers and community needs – parks and open spaces, ecological restoration, affordable housing or even everyone’s favourite shire whinge, road maintenance. To not do so risks creating an enclave of snobbish exclusivity.

  17. Hmm I dont get all the gushing for this article. It contains no solutions. If australia had a net zero population growth policy for the next 20 years, no negative gearing and home loan interest rates around 5-6% then we have no housing bubble in the cities and no housing bubble in byron. Advocate for that! There are so many solutions, you can also push for airbnb restrictions, extra restrictions on investors instead of owner occupiers (eg much higher council rates, or 20% deposit needed for all purchases), or a hundred other financial disincentives for investment housing speculation and for driving housing prices down. Its so easy to fix because the problem is completely government made. What we need to do it intervene to make lower housing prices and retain communities and be unapologetic about it.

    To repeat in another way, its insane to think you can have zero percent interest rates, government aiming for 10 million people in each of sydney and melbourne, maybe 10million in SEQ as well, endless tax breaks for housing investment and expect to ever have housing in byron shire or any nsw coastal town that a local worker can afford. Let alone be cheap. To those resigning to the ‘fact’ that high housing prices are here forever and venting by hating on rich people, if you want to see affordable housing and arent just a tree tory hypocrite, there are lots of actual solutions.

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