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Byron Shire
February 1, 2023

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: Putting their money where our house was

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Please join us this Saturday at Apex Park in Byron Bay at 10am for a rally to tell the state government what you think. I will be the MC and will be joined by Greens MP for Ballina Tamara Smith, Byron Shire Mayor Michael Lyon, Councillor Cate Coorey, local resident Gyan, and local business and community members.

In the Christmas story, pregnant Mary rides into Bethlehem. There is no room at the inn, so her partner Joseph finds a barn. If she were in the Byron Shire she’d be sleeping on her donkey, because people here pay big money for barns.

We have the worst housing crisis in NSW and the state government couldn’t give a rats.

In fact, the state government have told our region that we don’t deserve secure housing.

They have sentenced our community to homelessness and housing stress. 

They have sent women and their kids back to their cars.

They have told businesses they won’t have staff.

In the lead up to a state election they have chosen sides. And it’s not ours.

They have backed the money NOT the people. Why are we surprised? It’s the coalition. They always back the money. They put the money where our house was.

Housing is a human right. It is a social determinant of health and wellbeing. The more precarious your housing situation the more precarious your health. If you want to address the rise in mental health-related conditions, then start by housing your community. That’s what we have been trying to do here in the Byron Shire. For years our local Council and our state MP have worked collaboratively towards a shared outcome: to limit the amount of days for unregulated short-term holiday rentals. 

It was one issue in our local politics where there was consensus. The state government had given our local Council the planning powers to go ahead and make the decision. With some of the worst housing affordability in the state, rental availability rates below 0.1 per cent, international attention on the fact our relatively tiny population had homeless numbers second to Sydney, businesses in staffing crisis, and many people, a lot of them women and children, living in their cars it’s clear to the whole bloody world that our region is in a housing crisis.

One that can only be addressed by first regulating holiday accommodation. You can’t build your way out of our housing crisis without first addressing the hole in the bucket. That hole is short-term holiday letting. There is no guarantee that new houses built, even those under the guise of addressing ‘affordability’, won’t just end up on the short-term holiday market. There is no water in our housing bucket, and there won’t be until we plug the hole. Our Council was just about to do exactly that.

When the state government took back our power to make meaningful change in our housing market one day before the Council vote, they sent families back to their cars, and businesses to the wall. 

They took away our capacity to impose a 90-day cap in some areas in Byron Shire. This does not apply to residents who live on the premises they let. Just absentee landlords. Investors. People who profiteer at the expense of our community. People who own multiple properties and who use our region like a Monopoly board. People who mainly don’t live here. Who are these faceless owners? I want to see them. I want to ask them if they know how they are hurting us.

But the real issue is the state government. They have failed us. In a region that got smashed by flooding, where many still don’t have housing options, they took away our local planning authority on our most important issue. Why?

I want to ask that the state government declare any conflict of interest. How many investment properties do MPs or their partners own in the Byron Shire? Or their friends? State government staff? 

The campaign to protect unregulated letting in our region messaged that it would damage our visitor numbers. That it was bad for business. What bullshit. You know what damages our visitor numbers? Our inability to service visitors because our businesses have no staff. 

One business owner I interviewed told me he had advertised for staff with Tursa for two years and he’d had two applications. He was left to appointing 16-year-olds, junior staff, to watch the grill where he would once have had mature, experienced staff. He’s had to close early to  shorten opening hours. It has given him permanent anxiety and meant his family business has run his family into the ground. He is not alone. Every business owner I speak to is hurting. The lack of housing means they don’t have staff. Our businesses are closing their doors, not because of a lack of customers: it’s a lack of staff. They don’t have the capacity. It’s part of the supply chain they just can’t control. Capitalism is eating itself.

Our community deserves housing. We demand the state government give our council back their planning authority on this issue. And if not, that they have the balls to follow through with the 90-day cap. If you want to solve a problem that impacts on individuals, you have to stop thinking as individuals and act as a community. 

Please join us this Saturday at Apex Park in Byron Bay at 10am for a rally to tell the state government what you think. I will be the MC and will be joined by Greens MP for Ballina Tamara Smith, Byron Shire Mayor Michael Lyon, Councillor Cate Coorey, local resident Gyan, and local business and community members.

(For those worried about NSW protest laws, this is a legal assembly with police consent.)


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6 COMMENTS

  1. Yes & yet again, it’s like the aged Don Henderson song regarding war – ‘all reason & logic are gone.’ Multiple faceless owners
    belong in the Lockup.

  2. Joseph had a housing issue for his family due to government snooping (Census) and government wealth redistribution (Taxation). That’s why they were forced to travel to Bethlehem instead of being at home surrounded by family in Judea.

    You don’t what wealthy investors hanging around, and building more houses destroys Koala food or something, and building slums made of shipping containers doesn’t seem to be working out, so…population reduction? There are exactly 3 options to get rid of excess population.

  3. I don’t agree with a lot of what Mandy says, but I support her 100% in this. I’ve never been involved in a single protest, but if I was in the area tomorrow, I would definitely get behind this. Housing is an issue for all of us no matter your gender, colour or creed. We should all be demanding better from our leaders on this issue. I speak as an “investor” in this area, however I rent my place out to a single Mum with 4 kids at below market rent. The Mum works in the local area and her children all go to school locally. I plan to retire up there someday and I’m doing my best to preserve some resemblance of community in the lovely Northern Rivers region. I already have enough money for my needs. Holiday letting would only allow my ultra luxurious life to be come uber luxurious. I already have everything I want – except a real sense of community spirit…

  4. Hmmm.
    Curious why nobody is talking about the council kicking families out of their homes because they have multiple dwellings on their properties.
    Or why numerous social housing and affordable housing proposals are blocked by residents who are only concerned about there effects on their own housing depreciation.
    Not in my back yard mentality.

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