FOLLOWING from my Byron Shire News story last week on research suggesting Byron Shire should embrace and monetise free camping, things escalated pretty quickly. To put it another way, the fertiliser hit the ventilator big time.
There were more opinions ricochetting around the inter-webs than there were van packers mooching off our community's goodwill and 'live and let live' ethos.
- Dear tourist: Forget about Byron Bay, Lismore loves you
- Dear tourist: Would you mind going somewhere else this year?
My article was based on some pretty solid research by Dr Rod Caldicott, from Southern Cross University, who broadly stated that free camping was a phenomena as old as the tent itself and we needed a variety of policy and practical measures to manage it before we police the living bejeebus out of it.
The debate then began to focus more generally on how much we locals (yes, the old who is a local debate again), were fed up with tourists in general, with some suggesting we ask them to cross Byron Bay off their "to do" list.
Ironic really when our whole local economy relies on tourists and heaven help us all if they suddenly stopped coming, because:
a) We are too up ourselves;
b) We turned Byron into the Gold Coast;
c) We failed to manage tourism effectively; and
d) All of the above.
Meanwhile the word from Canberra and Macquarie St regarding real financial or practical help to manage the the 2.2 million tourists heading our way is likely to be the same answer that comes from the Republican Party (aka the political wing of the NRA) after each weekly American mass shooting in that:
Their thoughts and prayers will be with us (ie: will do nothing) because now is not the time for politics (ie: doing something), now is a time for coming together to heal (ie: maintain the status quo until the media stop squawking about it.)
As far as gun control goes, America is a lost cause but in Byron Shire we could still see some sense prevail in the area of tourism management.
I will list some ideas for you to stick on the fridge to jog your memory when the next election comes around:
a) A bed tax;
b) Bigger slice of tourism GST revenue for Byron;
c) Regulation of Air BnB and holiday letting so they pay proper business rates;
d) An affordable housing policy for those down and out and forced to free camp whether they like it or not;
e) Cheap camping grounds with basic toilet facilities for van packers;
f) Reasonably priced secure spaces for short stay campers with on-board toilet and shower facilities;
g) Police the bejeebus out of it;
h) All of the above.
The right answer is h) All of the above but we may have to console ourselves with thoughts and prayers, leaving us free to get back to being victims of our own popularity.