Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson.
Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson.

Holiday-letting businesses slam council’s proposed 90-day cap

BYRON Shire Council has been criticised by holiday-letting operators for its proposed restrictions to short-term rental accommodation.

The council’s planning proposal, which puts forward a case for a 90-day cap on non-hosted holiday lets, will go before the NSW Department of Planning for Gateway Determination.

Colin Hussey is the CEO of Byron Bay-based business A Perfect Stay, which primarily lists luxury properties.

Mr Hussey said the council’s plan was “perplexing” and argues his business supports the kind of tourism industry called for in the Byron Shire Sustainable Visitation Strategy, one that has “a low impact on the environment, supports and respects our local culture and community while providing jobs and a living for the sector”.

With overnight visitors spending hundreds more in the region than day-trippers, Mr Hussey said the right kind of holiday-makers brought benefits to the region.

He said, with their guests, this often meant whole families and being cashed-up enough to stay in luxury digs meant they could splurge at local businesses, too.

“It’s perplexing to us because they appear to be driving away the very guests that they want,” he said.

Mr Hussey acknowledged there was little affordable housing available in the shire, but said restrictions on a $20 million mansion wouldn’t fix that.

He said the “vast majority” of property owners primarily own their Byron properties as personal holiday homes but lease them through his business when they would otherwise be standing empty.

“I think there’s this fallacy that people come here and buy property to make this enormous amount of money holiday letting.”

“For the vast majority of people, it’s their own holiday home.”

Holiday-letting companies have criticised Byron Shire Council’s approach.
Holiday-letting companies have criticised Byron Shire Council’s approach.

An “inexact science”

Byron Shire Mayor Simon Richardson said the council couldn’t fairly implement one set of rules for luxury homes and another for other properties.

He said any “whole of shire” planning strategy was an “inexact science”.
“Short-term holiday letting does have a role to play,” he said.
Cr Richardson said of all the areas of governance, it would be hard to find for which the State Government had demonstrated “less interest, less understanding or less leadership”.

Holiday rental website, Stayz, has asked the council to wait for the state’s registration process, but Cr Richardson said Byron should be given a chance to tackle the issue.

“Colin and his team at A Perfect Stay are good operators, they’re good people,” he said.

“Whenever you let any industry self-manage, their motivations can get very strained.

“We want to be able to manage what’s been currently occurring on an ad hoc or industry-led basis.

“That way, it’s not up to good operators, (because) it’ll just be a given.
“I think sometimes governments get scared of change.

“We’ve often said to the State Government, let us be a trial place.

“There’s no place in NSW that has the stats of short-term holiday letting like Byron.
“Let us trial some of these measures. If it’s a disaster, we can unpick it and we can change it accordingly.”

Cr Richardson said while State Government wants to handle licencing and registration – and to take the revenue from that process – but lump local council with management costs, Byron Shire is looking to take on the responsibilities and benefit.

“If we’re given the cost of management we should be given the revenue and right to hold the licences to offset the cost,” he said.

“I think that’s reasonable and fair.”

“Arbitrary restrictions” criticised

Stayz corporate affairs director, Eacham Curry, has urged the council to be patient and await the state’s broader regulations for the industry, which will encompass other companies like Airbnb.

“Stayz understands the desire for action by local governments, however night caps and arbitrary restrictions will fail to resolve the most commonly cited questions about holiday rental accommodation,” Mr Curry said.

“Night caps and other use restrictions for holiday rentals not only put the economic uplift associated with the tourism sector at risk, but also fail to address the four most consistently raised questions about our industry, namely; housing affordability, housing availability, the impact on government resources and service provision, and finally, impact on neighbourhood amenity.”

Mr Curry said he’d like to see statewide regulation with “a single registration scheme for all holiday rental listings”, a code of conduct and an industry body “to adjudicate compliance” with that code.

“Rather than jumping straight to onerous night caps and use restrictions, Byron Shire Council should wait until NSW Government introduces its register for holiday rentals and let the data that is collected point to solutions that will address the key concerns of locals,” Mr Curry said.