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April 15, 2024

Strap in for STRAPP, and the govt’s intervention on holiday letting

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With the NSW Liberal-Nationals government breaking their promise to allow Council to control short-term rental accommodation (STRA), Byron Shire residents are being asked to ‘engage’ with a process that will lead to the government making a decision on the industry.

According to page 3 of Council’s STRA Planning Proposal (STRAPP), NSW Minister for Planning, Anthony Roberts (Liberal), issued a Local Planning Direction on February 15, 2019, ‘that gave Byron Shire Council the opportunity to lodge a planning proposal that could identify or reduce the number of days that non-hosted STRA may be carried out in parts of its local government area’. 

The day before the December 15 Council meeting, which saw a unanimous vote to proceed with a STRA Planning Proposal, the NSW Minister for Planning, Anthony Roberts, withdrew Council’s ability to finalise its proposal. 

Council’s policy sought to establish small precincts in Brunswick Heads, beachfront Byron and Byron CBD for unrestricted, non-hosted holiday letting. 

All other areas of the Shire would become restricted to 90 days per year. 

According to Council’s STRA Team, ‘The decision now rests with the minister. Prior to making this decision, the minister has asked the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) to provide him with advice’. 

16,000 ratepayers and 2.3M visitors

Byron Shire’s resident population, according to the 2021 Census, ‘was 36,116, living in 16,996 dwellings’. 

The ratepayer base, according to Council, is around 16,000. Every year, the Shire is visited by around 2.3M visitors, which puts enormous pressures on infrastructure and available long-term rental homes. 

Yet the holiday letting industry dispute whether these homes could become rentals for essential workers and the like, owing to them being upmarket, luxury accommodation. It is understood many of homes that are rented for holiday letting are owned by investors who live outside the Shire and who own multiple homes.

The Independent Planning Commission will hold public hearings in February and wrap up its ‘engagement activities’ on March 2, 2023 before recommending to Planning Minister Roberts on how Byron Shire should proceed.

Lobbying 

Within documents posted at the IPC’s website are email exchanges between the Council, DPE, the minister, the holiday letting industry and two councillors – Mark Swivel and Alan Hunter. 

Despite both Crs Hunter and Swivel voting to adopt Council’s policy, both expressed opinions contrary to the policy, with Cr Hunter urging ‘the state government to remove delegated authority from Council on this matter’.

Meanwhile, Cr Swivel told the minister that there is a risk that a 90-day cap ‘will not achieve its objective and leave us without the new housing and tourism accommodation we sorely need’. 

He wrote on October 19, ‘Byron Shire has also been self-indulgent. It seeks special treatment when its own policy house is not in order. Our LGA has not even signed off on our Residential Strategy – now years overdue and endlessly delayed – and has not signed off on our Sustainable Visitation Strategy’. 

As for lobbying from the industry, A Perfect Stay’s Sarah Workman wrote to Minister Roberts on December 6, and accused Council of ‘discounting’ the economic impacts of Council’s proposal on the industry, and advised the minister that an independent assessor was ‘subsequently engaged by Byron Shire Council to undermine the Tourism Research Australia and ABS data that was commissioned’. 

Workman is also a former Byron Council employee.

Another email to the minister is from the Byron Chapter of the Australian Short-Term Rental Accommodation Association (ASTRA). 

ASTRA chairman, Colin Hussey, who is also A Perfect Stay CEO, accused Council of misleading the public over the percentage of housing stock that is holiday let. 

He wrote on November 25, ‘There are only 1,136 registered non-hosted STRA properties in the Byron Shire, forming just 6.5 per cent of total housing’. 

‘Not the 5,428 claimed by Council, or 35 per cent of the total housing stock’. 

‘STRA guests are predominantly families who spend approximately 38 times more in the local economy than the average day-tripper; 

‘STRA properties support 1,448 jobs for trades, cleaners, managers, gardeners, and other services and add $267M per year to the local economy. The proposal puts these jobs at risk’. 

Hussey’s email indicates that he met with Planning Minister Roberts on November 3, and included Crs Swivel and Hunter’s statements as supporting material.

Submissions thus far

According to the Short-Term Rental Accommodation Planning Proposal Engagement Report from November, there were 766 survey responses and 784 written submissions provided to Council from September 1 through to October 31, 2022. 

The report reads, ‘Overall, the feedback showed general support for some form of regulation of the STRA industry, and that better management of STRA is required, particularly to address amenity impacts’. 

‘Many also agreed that it is important to provide more housing stock that is affordable for people in the Shire, particularly essential and frontline workers. 

‘However, many felt that the planning proposal will not address the issues relating to housing affordability, availability and security in the Byron Shire and that housing supply is a separate issue (requiring different policy responses) to regulating STRA’. 

The report also noted ‘Overall, there was limited support for the proposed precinct model’. 


Submissions and public hearings

The Independent Planning Commission (IPC) are calling for submissions on holiday letting impacts and have scheduled public hearings over three days: Tuesday to Thursday, February 21 to 23, 2023.

Specifically, the IPC will examine ‘housing and rental affordability and rental availability in the Byron Shire; the local economic contribution of the short term rental accommodation industry; and Council’s proposal to cap short term rental accommodation in parts of the Byron Shire’. 

Registration to speak at the public hearing is open from Monday, January 16, 2023 and closes at 5pm on Friday February 10, 2023.

For more information visit Byron Shire Short Term Rental Accommodation Planning Proposal.

♦ Locals are also seeking support for the Byron Deserves Balance campaign that is gathering signatures on a petition in support of the 90 day cap.


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13 COMMENTS

  1. Why did Cr Mark Swivel’s and Alan Hunter’s letters to NSW Planning Minister Anthony Roberts be sent as attachments in an email sent by Colin Hussey who signed himself as chair of ASTRA and CEO of A Perfect Stay? They need to explain themselves. It appears to be a favour for a mate and could be perceived as having the foul odour of corruption about it!

  2. All those houses and all those tourist visitors by car yet we still have no decent public transport nor a rail connection , how absolutely backwards can we get . The last thing we want or need here is a rail trail

  3. Given the very large discrepencacy in the two estimates of non hosted short term rental properties, it would be great if if the recently appointed IPC could establish what the correct number of these properties is. If the correct number is as low as the number currently registered then, even if the 90 day cap is ultimately adopted, it will have a relatively minor impact on the availability of long term rental accommodation, thus making adoption of other solutions imperative. I think Council should encourage building of some new good quality backpacker style accommodation to at least help house some of the temporary workers in hospitality and retail. More affordable long-term rental accommodation for permanent residents is a much bigger challenge, unfortunately.

    • IT WOULD BE GREAT IF THE IPC WILL SHOW THAT THE FABRICATED FIGURES OF $267m AND 1468 JOBS LOST FROM THE BYRON ECONOMY AND ATTRIBUTED TO RESEARCH FROM TOURISM RESEARCH AUSTRALIA ARE FAKE.

  4. Council over reach…. if i go to work and pay a mortgage its my right to set up my investment in a way to achieve the best ROI. A 90 day cap may be the way to go for new property purchases, but to do it to individuals that already have an existing short term structure in place is wrong……
    People rely on that income to cover their costs.

    You can never win with the Byron community, the issue is there’s not enough housing but every time a subdivision application is presented there’s uproar.

    This is a council trying to apply a band aid solution……

    • STRA was illegal in Byron Shire until 31 January 2022. I want the State government to compensate me for taking away my right to live in a strictly residential zone rather than allowing instant hotels in my neighbourhood.

    • Setting up your investment as a servo or a panel beaters might be an even better ROI and pay off the mortgage faster. With that mortgage paid off you could perhaps get a loan to buy another dwelling and turn it into a wine bar. No end to the possibilities and your neighbours should like it or lump it – it’s YOUR investment!

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