SHOTS FIRED: Byron Shire Mayor Simon Richardson and Airbnb go head to head in a debate over illegal holiday lets in Byron Shire.
SHOTS FIRED: Byron Shire Mayor Simon Richardson and Airbnb go head to head in a debate over illegal holiday lets in Byron Shire. Contributed

Airbnb fires on mayor over fresh holiday lets comments

AIRBNB has slammed Byron mayor Simon Richardson as "demonising" his shire's residents "turning to home sharing to make a little extra income".

The holiday letting company's criticism of Cr Richardson follows comments he made to the Sydney Morning Herald that Airbnb properties in the Byron Shire were "gutting" the community.

"It's eroding the fabric of who we are. We can't have a community if people aren't living together," Cr Richardson told the SMH.

On numerous occasions Cr Richardson has blamed unauthorised holiday lets for the rising cost of living in the shire - a claim denied by Airbnb's head of public policy Brent Thomas.

"Over the last four years, Byron Shire Council's rates have increased cumulatively by 33.55%," Mr Thomas said.

"With the cost of living high in the Byron Shire - driven partly by sky-rocketing council rates - locals are understandably turning to home sharing to make a little extra income."

Mr Thomas said the "extreme policies" the mayor was pushing for the State Government to implement would only serve to hurt locals and small businesses relying on guest spending.

"Given the vital importance of tourism to the local community, it is simply staggering to see a mayor pursue such an anti-innovation and anti-tourist agenda," Mr Thomas said.

"(His policies) are so out-of-touch with the views of Green voters, who polling shows are the strongest supporters of home sharing and most likely to use Airbnb as a guest or host."

However, Cr Richardson said he had no interest in "stopping or curtailing" the rights of anyone wanting to come and enjoy Byron Shire.

"We've got to go beyond the silly black and white, more tourists or less tourists, it's not about that," Cr Richardson said.

"I mean that's like putting your fingers in a dam to stop the water - it's not going to happen. We are a tourist community and always will be.

"When we are talking about Airbnb, we're not talking about the traditional model of Airbnb.

"Airbnb selling themselves as 'helping locals help themselves' really is disingenuous because that may have been the original business model that they started with but it is certainly not what they are going for now."

What both parties can agree on is the current rules for home sharing in NSW are "fragmented and confusing", as revealed in the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into short-term holiday letting.

"Airbnb wants fair, progressive and statewide rules for home sharing in NSW," Mr Thomas said.

"We will continue to work collaboratively with the NSW Government and councils in NSW to develop sensible, balanced rules for home sharing."

Cr Richardson said he hoped to get everyone around the table to discuss the best solution for local residents and tourists moving forward.

"We need to get the solution and stop bickering about the problems," he said.



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