SATISFIED TOURISTS: Michelle Watters and Manelle Issa, from Brisbane, have had no problems securing accommodation in Byron Bay
SATISFIED TOURISTS: Michelle Watters and Manelle Issa, from Brisbane, have had no problems securing accommodation in Byron Bay

Over 1000 new beds for Byron

By MEGAN KINNINMENT

A MASSIVE spike in Byron Bay's tourist accommodation has taken place over the past six years, new Southern Cross University research reveals.

The research, released yesterday, showed that the number of bed spaces available to tourists at Byron Bay has increased by 11 per cent since 1998.

SCU PhD tourism student Meredith Lawrence's audit showed that there were now 766 establishments offering visitor accommodation, with ten thousand bed spaces available at Byron Bay.

Caravan and camping grounds provided 43 per cent of accommodation, holiday houses and apartments accounted for 27 per cent while traditional facilities of hotels, motels, resorts and B&Bs provided only 22 per cent.

The research has been released just as Byron Shire Council grapples with ways to regulate the booming holiday home industry within its draft Byron Bay, Ewingsdale and Suffolk Park Local Environment Plan (LEP).

The council has put forth two options on the table for regulating holiday letting in residential areas.

One would see a map defining precincts where holiday letting would be permissible, leaving most residential areas free of the practice.

The second approach, proposed by Byron Shire mayor Cr Jan Barham this week, would allow holiday letting to become an approved activity across all areas, except industrial zones, but would be restricted to only 90-days per year.

Both systems would require property owners to comply with noise, parking, house-size and waste collection conditions.

However, Cr Barham's plan has come under fire from both the tourism industry and residents' groups.

Both say they would prefer the planning model that maps out precincts for holiday letting.

One of Byron Bay's leading tourism accommodation providers, Grant Hawkins, partner in Byron Bay Accomm, yesterday said Cr Barham's time-limit model would damage Byron Bay's lucrative $100 million-ayear holiday industry.

"I am in support of regulation, it is needed," Mr Hawkins said.

"But, I don't support the idea of a three-month time restriction as the primary means of regulating the industry.

"It would completely remove the possibility of full-time holiday letting and destroy the industry."

Mr Hawkins estimated at least 600 homes were tied up in holiday letting across Byron Bay, with many being let all year-round.

But, he says the industry would be prepared to lose some of these under the precinct plan in return for being able to continue with full-time holiday letting.

"This industry has been operating for over 30 years," he said.

"(Cr Barham's plan) is far too drastic."

Ironically, the residents group which has often been at loggerheads with accommodation providers is also calling for the precinct system to regu- late holiday lettings.

Peter Wilkosz, spokesperson for resident's group, BRACE (Byron Residents Against Community Erosion), said he acknowledged tourism was an important industry in Byron Bay.

"But it should never be conducted at the expense and exploitation of permanent residents or host community.

"Holiday letting subjects residents to unacceptable levels of noise, abuse, anti-social behaviour, garbage, traffic and sleep deprivation," Mr Wilkosz said.

"BRACE supports the development of regulatory conditions to manage holiday lettings within approved areas that are not 2a residential zones."

Cr Barham's plan effectively legitimises the practice of holiday letting, which is 'the very crux of the residents' problems', Mr Wilcosz said.

While Cr Barham argues that her plan would enable residents to rent their homes out for a limited time to help offset high rates and land tax, Mr Wilkosz counters: "It is not council's role to design income or commercial schemes for its residents.

"We believe there needs to be a buffer between residential living and tourism activity.

"We believe that we are entitled to look forward to holiday periods just as the rest of Australia does, not cringe at the prospect of what lies ahead."

The draft LEP which will determine the future of holiday letting in Byron Bay is still under debate within the council.



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