Holiday lets campaign aims at polarising community
Many people have called HLO puzzled to read in the Q&A included in the council's exhibition of the proposed Byron Shire holiday letting model, that HLO supported this option at a 2006 workshop.
This is simply an unfortunate misrepresentation of our position. We did not support it then and are very much opposed to it now.
There have been endless assertions by Green councillors, going back years, that holiday letting is illegal.
The Greens seem very confused and contradictory to be so confident that it is illegal and yet, at the same time, busily trying to create legislation to make it illegal. If it were illegal, council would have been negligent in not shutting it down years ago.
The allegations of illegality have been part of an intentional campaign aimed at polarising the community.
However, holiday letting is legal.
Because holiday letting is legal, even if this draconian model were to get up, it will not stop holiday letting for the vast majority of premises which already exist. Existing use will ensure holiday letting continues well into the future throughout the shire regardless of any action by this council.
There is an acknowledgement of existing use rights in the Q&A sheet in the exhibition documents.
However, if the model were to get up, holiday letting will be banned throughout most of the shire, including the rural areas.
In the proposed precincts, along the edge of the Bay and in Brunswick, holiday lets would have to pay onerous fees and charges. There would also be very substantial capital expenses in converting residential dwellings into commercial premises. Housing stock is constantly bought and sold. It goes through a cycle of owner occupation to short and long-term letting. This model will cause many premises to become even more expensive and unaffordable.
Why? Where is any shred of data that says that residing in a short-term let property poses any extraordinary risk? Mathew Denehey, principal of Eagle Insurance, said: “There is no problem in insuring properties for holiday letting.”
The Bed & Breakfast sector is struggling to remain viable due to similar excessive demands.
It seems that the underlying ideological purpose of the proposal is to push back against tourism with scant regard to the local economy and jobs. The majority of available beds would be eliminated.
Any responsible government would have done an economic and social impact study. An attack on jobs is very imprudent at the best of times, but during a world-wide economic meltdown, it seems surreal.
Byron is where it is today through the efforts of its individuals who have built successive economic systems through the many years of change.
Our tourism-based economy is truly organic. It has emerged, grown and evolved through individual endeavour spurred by the driving forces of supply and demand. As with any organism, it is finely balanced.
Examination of our economic system clearly shows how the reduction of visitors affects the available employment throughout the community. Those directly involved will suffer first, quickly followed by others who rely on a fully employed, robust economy.
Our pool of trade and professional service providers will move from a healthy balance, which provides choice and variety to the community, to oversupply and non-viability for many.
Holiday letting provides an enviable low-density, flexible accommodation option that underpins the huge economic contribution made by the visitors to Byron. The demand to visit Byron will continue despite any council policy to reduce supply.
This demand will inevitably be met despite any effort of the council to stand in its way. The State Government cannot allow an economy based around an international tourism icon to be mortally wounded.
The pressure from large-scale developers will dramatically increase to fill the demand. And, unfortunately, there is an ongoing record of large-scale development approval being taken over by State Government.
In any case, outside the precincts, an unregulated black market is sure to flourish to meet the demand.
The proposal is also flying in the face of State and Federal government opinion.
An example of this was when The Hon Kristina Keneally MP, Minister for Planning, NSW, wrote to Cr Barham as recently as December 16, 2008, to the effect “I am advised that it is difficult to adequately and equitably control holiday letting provisions through land-use planning control.” Yet this is exactly what this council is now proposing
The proposed Byron Shire Holiday Letting Model represents yet another poor policy that is just creating expectations which council can't deliver.
So what about the real problem - behavioural management?
There is nothing in the proposed Byron Shire Holiday Letting Model about managing behaviour, apart from listing some areas of complaint.
Those areas of complaint are not exclusive holiday letting but pervade our whole community. Without addressing these societal problems overall, creating expensive and exclusive visitor ghettos seems to be an extraordinary mistake.
There is also no consideration for those permanent residents who wish to live on the coast in the council's proposed high-density 'tourist' precincts.
HLO has taken a proactive role since its formation in August 2005 to provide real solutions based on behavioural management. It has established a code of practice and a security system which together have achieved substantial results.
For more information about these and a broader discussion of this issue, please visit the web site at www.hlobyron.com.au
Byron Council has continually ignored or rejected the behavioural management options placed before it even though council staff often acknowledges the effectiveness of HLO's behavioural management system.
Council co-operation would greatly enhance this effectiveness.
Those who are concerned about the severe economic impact that could result from this proposal should seek explanations from our new council and also write to the four relevant NSW State Ministers - Planning; Tourism; Local Government and Small Business. Their addresses can be found on www.hlobyron.com.au
Submissions to the council could suggest it stop wasting time and money attacking holiday letting and start working in a constructive way with the community, including the holiday letting sector, on the real issue of behaviour management.
HLO is aware that there are important issues to be addressed with holiday letting. However, we are concerned at the process in which this policy was developed. We feel the increasingly acrimonious and emotional atmosphere created, and the polarisation of the stakeholders, is counter-productive. HLO would welcome the opportunity to engage openly with the new council and all stakeholders to examine realistic options for the future.