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Byron Shire
April 22, 2024

Mayor says Cr Swivel’s populist flip-flopping on STRA ‘astounding’

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Byron Shire Mayor councillor Michael Lyon. Photo supplied

Mayor Michael Lyon has told The Echo that Cr Mark Swivel’s letter to the planning minister, which was sent as an attachment to A Perfect Stay CEO Colin Hussey’s submission on Council’s STRA policy, ‘raises serious questions’.

The Echo asked the mayor whether Cr Swivel’s letter to the minister undermined the process.

Cr Lyon replied, ‘You either accept that STRA needs regulation, or you don’t. If you accept that it does, as Cr Swivel claims he does, and if you had been following the issue over the last five years, you would know that this Council wanted to regulate STRA in a different way than the 90-day cap proposal, which was the State Government’s idea as a compromise position’.

‘We had to fight hard for this modest concession, and this fight has now been undermined from within.

He described the changing of Cr Swivel’s position over the last year ‘even more astounding’.

‘From not supporting the 90-day cap at the start of this term (because he didn’t think it would get up), to then supporting it publicly once it was granted in June, to then backing his STRA mates and endorsing their “Byron Deserves Better” campaign with a personally penned letter in October to the minister, and in the process undermining over five years work on the issue by engaged and informed councillors who are across the issue properly.

‘Letters like that matter’.

It was hard work to get a concession out of the government on such an important issue to our community, not to mention the other communities watching closely across NSW and beyond, hoping for some movement on this from a state government seemingly intent on bypassing local government planning powers in favour of one-size-fits-all policies.

‘Cr Swivel accusing others of division is surely irony, given what has transpired? More disappointing than his populist flip-flopping of position on the STRA issue, culminating in his vote of support at December’s ordinary meeting, just six weeks after having written his letter against it, is his lack of understanding of the broader housing picture as evidenced by his comments on [Council’s] Residential Strategy. 

[While Cr Swivel claims it hasn’t been adopted]* It has been adopted by Council, but it is the government that has held up its endorsement owing to a range of factors, including ironing out details of the Affordable Housing Contribution Scheme, which is now in place. Byron Shire is the first regional Council to achieve this scheme and within it lies the template for the longer-term solutions to the housing crisis in the Northern Rivers. It seems, however, that Cr Swivel doesn’t like the facts getting in the way of a good story, especially when they don’t suit his narrative of Council inaction. If Council were to get the 90-day proposal across the line that would counter that narrative of course, perhaps therein lies a clue as to why the letter was really written.

‘At its peak a few years ago, pre-COVID, STRA in the Byron Shire was at the highest concentration in the world. A temporary lull as the dust settles on the pandemic does not reduce the need for regulation, especially as we know that the long-term trend of visitation to Byron Shire is strongly upward. Indeed, that need is greater than ever as we have lost many more homes in our community to the newest wave of tree and sea changers, many of whom are not contributing to our local workforce. The floods have eroded our stock further, at least temporarily. It is vital that we get some form of regulation on STRA to reduce the incentive to convert long-term lets and to preserve our housing stock for our workers. I look forward to arguing this in February at the IPC hearing’.

 


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