Council to test holiday lets

Byron Council has given up waiting for the state government to act and is planning to bring the long-running and controversial holiday let issue to a head through the courts.

Councillors have voted to pursue legal action against owners of holiday let homes who don’t have approval to operate as tourist facilities.

The issue has been added to the ‘very high’ priority list of the council’s 2011 compliance program.

 A report will be prepared by council officers on ‘running’ a case on holiday lets, which is expected to go before the council early in the new year.

Mayor Cr Jan Barham said most councillors were ‘pretty confident’ such a case would be successful. Cr Barham said the council had resolved at the start of the year to establish ‘legal clarity’ on the issue, but had held back at the request of the Department of Planning, which had said it was reviewing the situation and would come up with options to cover all councils.

She said that as it was now December and the government still had not addressed the issue, the council had decided ‘to clarify the legal position ourselves’.

“It needs to be addressed. We need to resolve this problem,” she said.

Cr Barham said the council had tried different ways to resolve the issue, including a middle-ground stance of holiday let precincts which had been rejected by the Holiday Let Organisation.

She said as well as the impact on the amenity of residents, unapproved holiday lets also presented a fire risk to tenants.

Fire safety standards were far more stringent for commercial operations, Cr Barham said.

Cr Barham said approved tourist facilities were also commercially disadvantaged by holiday let operators who didn’t have the same establishment costs.

“The Department of Planning is not doing anything about it, so we are trying to get clarity to support the community and lawful tourism businesses,” she said.

Holiday Let Organisation spokesman John Gudgeon said he had not been contacted by the council on the issue.

Mr Gudgeon said the decision was ‘typical of Byron Shire Council, just shooting bullets off with no idea of what they are doing’.

He said he would respond more fully in next week’s Byron News.

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