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June 15th 2018

Notice to members

After 13 years since HLO Byron was founded we have finally arrived at point where most of the issues that we have battled the Byron Shire Council are almost resolved.

It has been a very stressful journey for some and certainly very confusing for just about everyone.

You will all be aware of the release of policy by the NSW State Government and will be wondering about how it may affect you.

The first thing to understand is something that has not really been made apparent in the ministerial press release but is of utmost importance.

This is that the planning certainty that we have urged the government to deliver will be the cornerstone of the new policy.

Simply the activity of providing short term residential accommodation (STRA) in a residential dwelling will now be defined as exempt development in the Standard Instrument Local Environment Plan. This finally stops all the allegations by opponents such as the Byron Shire Council that have consistently asserted that STRA is unauthorised or illegal in residential zones.

STRA was, alongside permanent rental accommodation, an innominate use prior to this which, just because it wasn’t defined, certainty didn’t make it illegal.

Opponents, such as Byron Shire Council, did not look at the planning legislation to determine their view. Conversely and contrarily they formed their negative view and then searched the legislation to justify it. It is why they arbitrarily chose to put STRA into the Tourist and Visitor Accommodation definition because it would then generally need to be excluded.

Reflection shows that in reality the whole anti STRA campaign has been somewhat futile and a unfortunate waste of ratepayers’ funds.

HLO Byron has tabled legal advice over the past thirteen years that has effectively stopped any action being taken by the BSC. We find it very puzzling and frustrating that despite all past and current councillors having access to this history they have chosen to ignore it and continued to address the issue from an ideological perspective.

So, relax in the knowledge that the Byron Shire Council must reconcile itself to the fact that they must accept the premise that they have operated on is not valid. It seems unlikely that the request to be exempted from a policy which is applied to all councils in the state will go anywhere.

Planning Focus to Behavioural Management

Behavioural management holds the key to resolving the issues associated with STRA that cause problems. These issues cannot be effectively addressed through planning law alone.

Part of our objective, when lobbying the state government to provide planning certainty, was to move the focus from a planning law solution to systems that focused on behavioural management.

We realised this in 2005 and used a local Code of Practice that was replaced by the State Government endorsed and sponsored Code of Conduct in 2012. (I represented HLO Byron on the Code committee.)

It is indeed very pleasing to see that the Code of Conduct is to be the foundation of the behavioural management in the Government’s policy. The adoption of this will provide all the necessary tools and information that will enable owners and managers to perform satisfactorily. On the other side guests will learn that only the highest standard of behaviour will be accepted.

365 days vs 180 days

This is the most contentious issue with the new policy except for the conditions relating to strata title. In my view it was simply a political concession required to get the policy through. I think anyone that looks at how it would work and how it could be monitored will readily see that it is impractical. However we still need to see the detail.

However, it appears that the Byron Shire Council may be motivated to push for the maximum 180 day cap. However we all can hope that they may consider any unintended consequences or whether it is appropriate for Byron’s visitor economy.

So the struggle may not be over yet. However they simply can’t just vote and tick a box to achieve any change from 365 days. The fact is that the BSC will have to go through the standard processes to apply to amend the policy. This means all the usual stakeholder consultations and the Gateway process. Hopefully we may be spared from needing to engage in such a process.

We have always wanted to engage with the BSC in a cooperative platform to provide practical responses and management of STRA issues. The very successfully Noisy Neighbour Hotline security response is a part of a industry operated and funded system. We hope that with the clarity and leadership  given by the State Government brings the opportunity to discard the past conflict and allows us to work together.

When the actual detail of the policy emerges we will dissect it and get expert opinion of the practical consequences to provide to you.

Finally, thank you for your ongoing support. Whilst not totally over the line it is a great step in the right direction.


John Gudgeon
President HLO Byron