Tourism seen as the way ahead to growth
By MEGAN KINNINMENT
BARRY WALLACE has seen the face of Byron Bay change many times over decades, from being dependent on an abattoir, then zinc mining, then Norco for employment.
But it is tourism, says the owner of Wallaces Menswear, that has been the best industry for the town.
"Some people see tourism as being a negative, but it's a hell of a lot better than an abattoir or having only one employer, like Norco," Mr Wallace said.
"When Norco closed down the town was depressed.
"These days people have choices. There are several thousand employers, not just one."
Mr Wallace does, however, believe that the tourism industry cannot run unchecked.
"You have to have the right mix of people coming to the town," he said.
"You can't expect the locals to put up with sleepless nights caused by under-25s partying."
Byron Bay has opportunity to become a world leader in tourism, but it will only find success by thinking small, Mr Wallace said.
"I think we've been pretty lucky to have had a strong Greens influence. It's kept the village image of Byron Bay.
"I wouldn't like to see high-rises in the town, and I think we have to be careful to retain the individuality of shops; not have bland shopping and more franchises."
Mr Wallace does concede tourism has its problems, and parking and traffic woes are among these.
While he is supportive of a bypass for the town ("It'd be a brave person who said they weren't,") he doesn't think it would be the panacea for all traffic problems.
"I'd like to see Byron Bay become more pedestrian, not a shopping mall, but have more cycleways and have more, smaller parking areas on the way into and in the town," he said.
Mr Wallace said that by 2025 he hoped Byron Bay would be doing tourism better than anywhere else in the world.
"With the group of people we've got here, we've got a really good chance of making that happen.
"But we need to be able to talk through it more, and exchange ideas.
"We have the opportunity to create the world's best practice.
"Byron Bay is so different, so unique.
"If we can retain our village feel, keep development under control, and manage tourism professionally and correctly, I think were heading in a pretty good direction."