The Liberal-Nationals Perrottet government has broken their election commitment to Byron Shire on controlling short-term rental accommodation (STRA), the day before councillors voted unanimously on lowering the rental cap, in some parts of the Shire, from 180 to 90 days.
The NSW Independent Planning Commission (IPC) will now intervene to ‘provide advice’ to the government and, ‘whether the government should allow the proposed changes to go forward’.
Public hearings will also take place.
In the lead-up to the last election, the Liberal/Nationals Minister for Planning, Anthony Roberts, said, ‘following advocacy from Nationals senator Ben Franklin [and local election candidate]’, he had, ‘decided to issue a ministerial direction which invites Byron Shire to lead the way by proposing 90-day thresholds in the most impacted towns of the LGA (local government area)’.
Despite record pork barelling and promises to the electorate, Franklin lost the 2019 election to incumbent Tamara Smith (Greens).
Since then, the Byron Shire Council has jumped through all the hoops that the state government had insisted on – from community consultation to economic forecasts.
Not only had Anthony Roberts promised Byron Shire that ‘he would be open to all solutions, including limiting the number of weekends that were available for renting as a holiday let’; the importance of affordable housing in the region and support for the approach by Byron Shire had been confirmed by former NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and current Premier Dominic Perrottet.
Local Ballina MP Tamara Smith decribed moving the goalposts at the eleventh hour as ‘outrageous’.
She told The Echo, ‘We have been through countless consultation processes on this issue, and the community has repeatedly said “we want homes to live in for residents, workers, and the workers in frontline agencies that serve our communities”.’
‘[Premier] Perrottet has kowtowed to the bullies in his own coalition and the revolving door in Macquarie Street of powerful lobbyists and corporations with vested interests,’ she said.
The reneging on their election promise comes following a campaign from vested interests in the STHL industry who have lobbied against the 90-day cap.
Byron Shire Mayor, Michael Lyon, said, ‘I am surprised and disappointed because we have been working towards this for several years, and our proposal to cap areas for STRA to 90 days in parts of the Byron Shire is a modest one seeking balance, in the best interests of our community’.
‘We have done a comprehensive engagement and consultation process and the majority of feedback received supported Council’s proposal, with many feeling it doesn’t go far enough.’
In June 2022, the NSW government’s Department of Planning and Environment gave Council permission to seek community feedback on a planning proposal to reduce the number of days of non-hosted short-term rental accommodation in parts of the Byron Shire from 180 days to 90 days.
Council received more than 1,500 different forms of feedback, including 784 written submissions and 766 responses to surveys. One of these submissions was a petition containing over 1,000 signatures.
NSW Department of Planning and Environment’s Deputy Secretary of Planning, Marcus Ray, said the IPC would provide advice on the Council’s planning proposal to reduce the cap on non-hosted short-term rental accommodation in parts of its area from 180 to 90 days.
He said, ‘In light of the 1,500 pieces of feedback received by the Council on the proposal through formal submissions, an online survey and a petition, and the potentially significant economic impacts such a change could have on local businesses, the government has asked the IPC to not only advise on the proposal but also whether the government should allow the proposed changes to go forward,’ Mr Ray said.
Nationals candidate for Ballina in 2023, Josh Booyens told The Echo, ‘Short-term rental reform is a crucial component of that solution, and I support regulating the industry to return the right balance of housing stock to the private rental market. We need homes for families and workers in our community’.
Must rely on IPC, says Nats candidate
Booyens says the announcement by the DPE to defer Byron Shire Council’s planning proposal for 90-day caps ‘is no doubt a delay in the policy reform that our mayor and Council have been working towards to create a solution in this space’.
Asked if he agrees asking the IPC to advise the government is a broken election promise by the Liberal-Nationals, he replied, ‘As a candidate, I’m committed to working with the cards we’ve been dealt, looking to our future and to working on a world class, whole of community solution’.
‘There are some great components of the mayor’s proposal. However, there is too much of an impact on people’s livelihoods and our community to not get this right. On the broken election promise, that is a question for our local member and the relevant minister’.
Booyens also stands behind the IPC’s track record, despite them recommending a large increase of patrons to 50,000 for Splendour in The Grass in 2019, which led in part to this year’s event being a washout with congested traffic impacting residents.
He said, ‘We’ve seen the quality of the IPC output in the NSW Flood Inquiry – world class recommendations borne from professional advice and public hearings.
‘I have every confidence in the IPC, chaired by Mary O’Kane AC’.
The Echo also asked, ‘Isn’t it expected that the IPC will provide the government the answers it wants, and again sideline the community’s wishes?’.
Booyens replied, ‘This is a time we must rely on an independent, non-political process’.
‘Mary is a well-respected expert and I have every confidence in her ability to listen across our community. The inclusion of public hearings and putting our community voices on record means community voices will be heard and considered’.
Nats untrustworthy, says Labor
Labor candidate for Ballina, Andrew Broadley, says the state government’s backflip on capping holiday letting proves they are untrustworthy.
He said, ‘You can’t trust the Nationals or their election commitments. The 90-day cap was promised by the Nationals Party in the lead up to the last state election. Yet they continue to do everything they can to walk away from this commitment.’
‘We already had a housing crisis in the region but, with the loss of so many properties due to the floods, the situation is now even more desperate. There are simply not enough properties available for long-term rental and the only effective way to combat this in the short term is to reduce the number of houses disappearing into the holiday letting market.
‘Byron Shire Council have done a good job in ensuring that locals have had a say in developing this planning proposal, but yet again the Nationals Party are taking away the voice of the community by putting more and more roadblocks in place.
‘I welcome Byron Council’s decision today to continue to put the housing needs of our community first. Short-Term Holiday Letting is threatening the permanent rental market, and if elected I will work with both Byron and Ballina Councils to address the problem.
‘I support the decision by Byron Council and stand with our community to properly regulate Short-Term Holiday Letting in a way that puts local residents first.’