My wife and I are long-term residents of the Byron Shire. We have both lived in and around this beautiful region for over 50 years. We are locals.
My early career revolved around the backpacker industry as travellers from across the globe descended onto Byron Bay, falling in love with its spectacular beauty and vibrant atmosphere. Then, in 2001, I was diagnosed with leukaemia, which resulted in a sudden shift for the worse in our lives. We had two young children and for the unforeseeable future my ability to generate an income for our survival would be severely compromised. Needing a solution to help us get through this tumultuous period, my wife was offered a single studio in Wategos Beach to manage as a short-term holiday rental. This was the beginning of a business that, over the next 20 years, would sustain not only our family but many families in the Byron Shire. We now employ 25 locals full time and provide work to 90+ separate businesses in the local area, such as cleaners, linen hire, shuttle bus services, handymen, plumbers, electricians, garbage collectors, gardeners… the list goes on! And then there’s the flow on to other business sectors in our Shire with the dollars that our guests contribute to: the cafes, retail outlets, bars, caterers, wedding industry personnel, taxi/uber drivers…
Council’s 90-day cap proposal will totally devastate our local economy. Byron Shire Council is looking at our industry as a scapegoat for their lack of foresight and planning in providing affordable housing for the influx of new residents that have descended upon our region over the last 20 years.
One of the most distressing and disappointing aspects of this whole saga is how Council is attempting to drive a wedge into our community. I grew up here, I care about our community, we ensure our guests (mostly families) understand what the community expects of them when they visit our beautiful part of the North Coast. These families deliver huge economic benefits to our region and the homes they stay in will not return to the permanent rental pool and are not what you would class as ‘affordable housing’.
We are locals. We are business owners. We love our region. We contribute to the economy of the Shire in a significant way. We have worked our hearts out at building a business for 20 years and now we have a proposal from our council that could, in an instant, wipe away everything that we have built.