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Byron Shire
June 14, 2024

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: Have your Perfect Say

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Do you want your golden goose cooked? Have your perfect say!

Here in the Byron Shire our crisis is so famous it’s made international news. It’s been in the US Rolling Stone even. It’s been in documentaries. It’s been in The Guardian. It’s what we live with here – every day.

We live in a community where there is nowhere to live and the whole world is watching what we do next, wondering if we will do what their superstar tourist destinations did and regulate the housing market. People in places like Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Miami found out that tough regulations actually aren’t bad for business after all. That’s just property market profiteering propaganda.

For too long our houses have been used as hotels. Homes all around our region that were approved as residential dwellings are being used as commercial enterprises to generate income from the short-term holiday letting market. It’s been an investors’ free-for-all with hundreds of out-of-town owners profiteering at the expense of our community. And at the expense of all those with Council-approved regulated apartments or legal holiday lets. How do they even compete? One of the main things I hear when people argue against capping short-term holiday letting is that ‘it’s bad for business.’ But I ask: ‘Whose business?’ I know of over 500 businesses who actually think a cap would be good for their business, because they’re struggling now. They’re struggling because they can’t get staff. And they can’t get staff because we don’t have housing.

There is a cost for profiteering. It’s an ugly social cost. It’s homelessness. It’s single mums and their kids living in cars. It’s people paying $400p/w for a garage. It’s paramedics living with their four kids in one room. It’s living in a tent. Is that okay as the cost of an unregulated market? Are we happy to underwrite the profits made in our community with human misery? It doesn’t look good on Instagram, so we just crop it out of the shot. I guess if you don’t see it, it’s not your problem? But it is. It poses a serious question around capitalism’s favourite fairytale of continuous growth. Our region shows that continuous growth is unsustainable. Can we do it better? Can we have tourism and somewhere for our community to live at the same time? Must we allow short-term holiday letting to grow like the magic beanstalk, allowing the ‘I’m alright/ not-so-very-poor’ Jacks of the world in to steal the treasures that should belong to all of us?

Can a community compromise? In the end, that’s all we are asking for. The original agreement between state government and our local Council was set to deliver just that. It was never a perfect arrangement, and contrary to a lot of propaganda about how the introduction of a 90-day cap would ‘kill business’, there are hundreds of businesses saying they don’t just support it; they believe their business would benefit from it. Businesses across our region have recognised there’s no point having a town full of tourists if you don’t have any staff. We’ve cooked our golden goose and there’s no one to serve it. Our community needs the state government to put the original deal back on the table. It was never a one-way street. It was always a compromise between those who wanted to see tough regulations and those that wanted to see none. 

While those with vested interests complain about the introduction of a 90-day cap, they aren’t acknowledging that in certain precincts the 180 days was expanded to 365. That’s halving allowable days in some areas and doubling it in others. That people who actually live in their home can put their spare room/s up for short-term holiday letting 365 days anywhere in the region seems pretty fair to me. Why has that not been acknowledged as a reasonable compromise? I know why. Because people with money and privilege don’t like being told what to do. Because we have a broken system that has seen people turn to the real estate market for income and that is always going to come at the expense of housing equity in the community. Holiday rentals have a human cost. I know, because I speak to people every day who are in housing stress or are homeless.

If you think of our community as a bucket, and housing is water, and short-term holiday letting is a hole in said bucket, then it’s apparent – it doesn’t matter how much water you pour into the bucket, it just won’t hold. We can’t build housing for our community if there aren’t regulations in place to keep that housing in the hands of the community. We need to plug the hole. Regulating short-term holiday letting in Byron Shire is the first step. It’s the ‘straw’ plug for our housing hole. The lobby to push against the cap is cashed up. We’re not. So we need to share our stories.

The Independent Planning Commission is conducting a local hearing in March. Please help plug the hole in our housing bucket by supporting the 90-day cap the state government offered us before their backflip. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start.

Submissions for local hearing 10 February, written submissions by 2 March. The local hearing is for three days in Byron Bay: 21–23 February.


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37 COMMENTS

  1. I particularly like the point that the 90 day cap was already a compromise for many. Will it make a difference? When you take out change over/cleaning days and some low season time, it would not make the dent in profits many bemoan. Then who enforces it?

    I’ve never heard the rationale for this number. It still means neighbouring properties disturbed by noise and neighbourhoods bereft of neighbours. The other jurisdictions you mention have introduced much better restrictions.

    The STHL industry doesn’t just take up housing stock, it drives up housing prices and thus rents. Then our “affordable housing” provision, which attempts to sugarcoat many a DA, is based on market rents – up to 80% of market rent in this area is hardly a bargain and still unaffordable to most.

    Anyone who cares about this situation needs to make their voice heard in this process because you can be assured there will be some loud, powerful and well organised forces on the other side.

  2. Majority of the population live on the eastern
    Seaboard, and this trend is not changing anytime
    Soon. Population of 26/ 27 million we are a
    Emerging nation mandy ..how many hundreds of
    Millions would like to call Australia home ?
    If and when they get here, some will be able
    To afford the great Australian dream of owning
    a home , and maybe purchase a investment home
    That is just the way it is .. you can still buy just over hour from Byron for 400k ..
    Millennial’s with beer money and Champagne
    Taste wont .. not good enough.. as for the 90 day
    Cap good idea in my opinion… however cost of living and that means everything.. this is why
    Not just some are letting short teams just to pay
    For cost of living kids Uni Fees etc ..Capitalists?
    Not really just trying to survive.. ! And just for good
    Measure accross the ditch NZ is more expensive
    Than Australia.. and the average wage in NZ
    Not Good ..

  3. Well said, Mandy. It’s not perfect, but it’s a very good start. We need our State Government to relinquish some of the regulatory controls that they hold over the housing market – especially the Short Term Rental Accommodation market – and hand these to local councils. Give local councils the ability to manage their STRA situation and this will allow for a rebalancing of supply, increasing potential long term rental accommodation by regulating the short term rental situation. They’re doing it in other states, why not here?

  4. “.. people with money and privilege don’t like being told what to do”… Are you freaking kidding me! Why should they!?! These “people with money and privilege” have worked damn hard, gone without at times and saved in their lifetime. Oh please, go tell someone who cares. Move to an area you can afford then. I started out west in my real estate stepping stone days, went without at times… kids and all. What a non-sense this article is. My heart ain’t bleeding for them. Move elsewhere if you can’t afford it.

    • How could such a smart realestate guy miss the point so? Who will clean your gold toilet and mind your kiddies, Thor and Coriander? Nurses, police, baristas, teachers etc all need a roof. Might be time for a good long look at yourself.

    • They may have worked hard but no doubt so too have the owners of backpacker establishments, motels and registered BnBs who are paying their way with commercial rates, registrations and health and safety compliance. All this compensates for the extra demand on services and infrastructure that tourism businesses cause and provides for the safety of those whose business they are taking,

      This free enterprise mantra of I work hard for my money is amusing coming from the same cohort who no doubts hold dear the principle of user pay.

      Then there’s the planing requirements. If you buy/rent a home in a residential area, it’s a bit tough to find a virtual backpackers next door.

    • Poor people on the other hand love being ordered around and being told what they can and can’t do with their stuff???

  5. Well said Mandy.
    Paid parking was going to “kill business”. It didn’t.
    Restricting booze fuelled hooliganism was going to “kill business”.It didn’t.
    Managing tourism via bed tax, lotto entry system and free bus services on a popular site circuit, will not kill tourism. It can only enhance it, because people don’t want to come and stay at an overcrowded, traffic snarled location.
    Time to care for, not kill, the golden goose.

  6. People with money – my family included – did it the hard way. That Italian tradition never saw a friend or relative
    go down in flames or water. A world of change is a breed we can all do without. I agree with Mandy.

  7. Something in ‘my waters’ asks…..”How much does Corporation AirB&B donate to the current NSW State Government? They sure want the Byron Shire as a ‘gift’ in exchange. Is this too cynical?

  8. God help us with this generational breed. I don’t have a golden throne or a house cleaner, but I worked damn hard to have my own. You realise many workers in Sydney drive 2 and half hours in traffic to get to work from either Wollongong or Newcastle. You realise people drive hours and sit in traffic to get to work in Brisbane. I would love to live in Noosa but can’t afford it so I live on the Northern Rivers. One day I hope to live on the outskirts of Noosa. Save yourself a good deposit and buy yourself a property way out of town and drive hours to work like others do. Do the hard years of saving and going without and earn your home. Want, want, want and expect, but don’t want to do the hard work to get it. People should be able to do as they please with their properties. I support the Landlords 100%. Stepping stones out of a major town or city does not have to be forever. It’s up to you to save hard and get a roof over your head.

    • Driving two hours would not be the norm, nor desirable for employer/ee or the planet. Certainly not good for our choked roads.

    • Brightside, your patronising attitude is a fine example of of those who lack consideration of the community who built and protected this Shire so it is what it is today. Many of them left the cities and sacrificed their corporate incomes, so they could find new ways of living, care for their families and have a sense of belonging to a community. They built this area with values that are the antithesis of what you appear to think life is about. They regenerated the land and created more sustainable ways of living where everyone could live in area no matter how much money they had. These values are called living your best life, and caring for each other and planet. It’s a more visionary human way than simple, self-centred capitalism offers.

      Do you know the meaning of family and community, Brightside? Where were your kids when you were rushing around in peak hour selling off properties and making lots of money? Community here worked their entire lives so that they could keep this area beautiful, read about all those community actions, events and contributions made by generations to create the area what it is today. It’s a place for us all but seem to believe it’s fine for community members to move an hour or two away and then come back and clean your house? Really?

      Brightside, every other industry is regulated, why are you so special that you think yours should not be?

      • The bias of civilisation is property rights. No one would ever work for, or build, or make anything if someone else could just come in a take it. That’s why we have laws and police. Owning land simply means having the exclusive right to decide what happens on it. Taking a property right off someone is thief. When you advocate to take property rights off others it makes you a co-conspirator in that theft. If you want the right to determine what happens on some property, go earn it like we have.

          • You can’t appeal to principals the Aboriginals didn’t share. They would steal each others land and women through force of arms regularly. And are you claiming stoneage societies without even a code of law count as civilsation? That would push western civilisation back to at least 50,000 years old.

        • You mean “that doesn’t count”. Stealing each other’s land isn’t the preserve of any one population.

          The thing is, as you suggest, British law had a very strong foundation of property rights. They had to invent the fiction of terra nullius to get around this little obstacle.

          And you don’t think they had a code of law? What limited thinking. We should add anthropology to your long list of areas of expertise.

          • Do you have a copy of their pre-colonial law books? If not, please learn about the code of hammurabi and how big of a turning point it was. We still use the phrase ‘written in stone’ because of it. The term ‘terra nullius’ has existed since the Romans. It refers to a land with not written code of law.

          • That took you a while but, I’ve got to hand it to you Christian, you can come up with the most imaginative and inventive narratives when pressed.

            So laws aren’t laws unless they’re written down? A very subjective interpretation. Not in the sense of “statute” but that’s a very limiting interpretation and not worthy of your wide ranging imagination.

            Given that “terra nullius” is Latin, it certainly has existed since the Romans. But nothing about a “code of law” there. It’s simply two Latin words – “terra” being land or earth and “nullius” which is slightly more complicated. It comes from the stem “nulla” which means no thing or nobody. Latin has six cases though – Nominative, Genitive, Dative, Accusative, Ablative, and Vocative – used according to context and meaning. “Nullius” is in the genitive form which denotes possession. Hence “terra nullius” simply means land belonging to no-one.

            My Google translate tells me that Latin for “code of law” is “codicem iuris” so land without a written code of law might be something like “terra sine codicem iuris”. A little bit different.

            Certainly the British were not the only colonisers to use the concept of “terra nullius” but, given that property ownership was so intrinsic to their social hierarchies and legal traditions, it was damned handy.

            Btw that vast stretch of land from an east to west we call the Nullarbor is good old Latin again. Nulla meaning no and arbor meaning tree.

    • Hahaha, my family had a holiday unit in Noosa Sound for a decade. My parents then sold it when the Sheraton was built and tripled their money. Same difference. It’s only going to get worse on the east coast Australia, you can’t stop the well off and wise southerners and international buyers… I’d be saving damn hard now instead of complaining.

      • In the 80s, the locals wanted to succeed our state so we didn’t have to deal with the migration problem. Snipers and landmine on our side of the brown snake. I ended up moving to the desert and learning how to slur my words, curse, and spit, just like a local. When in Roma…

  9. Hi, I’m an ex Bryonite, I currently live in Haight Ashbury, San Francisco, California. San Francisco has the same problem just as bad, but a million times bigger. The state of California, USA, has twice the population of Australia. In San Francisco, where Airbnb was founded, the city is discovering that transients don’t keep businesses open year round. Local residents and local workers keep business open with steady year round business.

    The times I’ve been back to Oz, my family won’t take me to Byron. They say it will break my heart.

    Anybody advocating residential housing be used for transient holiday poop is a selfish narcissist creep, or a bloody idiot. If it’s zoned residential, it’s residential. Transient needs its own zoning like it used to have. Byron gov needs to make up it’s mind. Transients aren’t looking out for Northern Rivers, Byron or its residents. Transients and owners of holiday and transient homes, and govs that advocate for it, couldn’t give a flying fk about Byron or San Francisco or their residents. They don’t care they’re making people homeless, making families with children live in their cars. They don’t care that it increases crime and garbage on the street that locals have to deal with. Airhead bnb fks just want their money and selfies.

    California at least has the excuse of bad educations, no math or history. Schools here suck, even universities. But what’s Australia’s excuse? If gov policy, or lack of, is fking up residents, boot that gov up the bum loudly. Make them live on the street. They won’t get it through their pea brains until they experience it in real time. Unless they are living on the street, tell them they have no clue what they’re talking about.

    Make a big statement all over the web, the news, press release outlets, discussion groups. Especially comments on the transient airhead platforms and discussion groups. Get loud individually and as decentralized collectives. Rent your driveways and backyards to caravans for homeless people you know. If gov says boo, scream it all over the press. SHAME THEM! You have a tiny population where word gets out fast. And the rest of the world will look. Make it count.

    AUSTRALIA DON’T BECOME AMERICA!

    If you live on a farm off grid, you know that money is only a fear construct, FOMO. Even the Jesus dude in the Bible tells us that.

    (Hmm that’s interesting, airhead didn’t register on spell check. I didn’t know airhead was a real word.)

    • ooo another thought fix… renting out caravans in your backyards and driveways. As many as you can fit and let rapper graffiti artists have them as canvases. When a neighborhood or city does that, the wealthy and tourists tend to see a ghetto not in a good way. In this moment you can do that. You’re solving a very real homeless problem that gov is too “roo in the headlights” to wrap their pea brains around. You want to kick the wealthy out, make your neighborhood a place they’re afraid to be seen in. Bring your friends and family back to your neighborhood and you all save money at the same time.

      I’m neurodivergent and go off in tangents when patterns show up. Old friends can probably confirm that 🙂

      • It was valuable input. Stress less. Be proud you got a comment that big though moderation.
        I’m working hard to stop Northern Rivers being destroyed by wokeness, lest they to move to Texas. We have a Texas in QLD. We are thinking of building a wall just incase 😉

  10. Sure enough, Brightside. All the monkeys see & do. It won’t be long before a done deal’s on the run – backwards.

  11. What I don’t understand is why are there currently 88 houses listed on realestate.com.au as available to rent in the Lismore/Goonellabah/Wollongbar/Alstonville area, the bulk of which are under $600/wk. This is on top of another site I have heard of that lists properties for health staff. Are we not allowed to ask the question why these areas so close to the expensive areas are not good enough?
    This is a really big issue and it’s an Australia wide rental shortage problem and STRA is an easy target. Of course it needs some regulation but it’s not going to fix the problem as the areas being targeted will still rent for higher then most people could afford whilst trying to save for their own place.
    Things change, areas gentrify. Look at areas of inner Sydney that used to be working class areas that are now considered affluent expensive areas. Areas in our region have similarly been effected.
    I just wish politicians would look more broadly at the issue instead of firing off cheap bullets at easy targets that won’t fix the problem.

  12. councils need to allocate land a for people to camp on for free and provide toilet amenities, this should be the base level of housing assistance for abled bodied people, the ability to own and or build a home takes alot of human energy if you dont have the energy you will be at the mercy of others its just nature. some of my earliest ancestors to this nation spent their entire life living in tents on a property 100km from bourke why cant this be acceptable again?.

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