Byron wages lowest in region
BYRON Shire residents may live in one of the most sought after real estate spots in Australia, but they are also surviving on some of the lowest incomes in the State.
But while Byron workers are doing it tough, the rest of the Northern Rivers’ local government areas (LGA) are not much better off, falling about $10,000 below the national average wage and salary income of $46,480.
Recent figures released by the Australia Bureau of Statistics show wage and salary earners in the Byron LGA earn an average wage and salary income of $30,892 – the lowest in the region and sixth-lowest in NSW.
The areas with lower incomes than Byron shire have fewer than 3000 wage and salary earners, compared with Byron’s 12,369 wage earners.
On the Northern Rivers, the Ballina LGA has the highest average wage and salary income of $34,522, followed by Lismore with $33,401, Richmond Valley with $32,825 and Kyogle with $32,119.
The average wage and salary income figures do not include government pensions or allowances.
Low incomes, combined with having the highest property and rent prices in the region, means that many Byron locals are calling on emergency relief agencies for help.
Cat Seddon is the emergency relief co-ordinator at the Byron Community Centre, where she responds to calls for help from locals every day who struggle to buy food and pay their bills.
“It is becoming more difficult for low-to middle-income earners to survive in Byron Bay,” she said.
“They can’t afford rent and find it difficult to get jobs. We have a lot of people who are not able to pay bills and people who have enormous power bills they cannot pay, which I believe is only going to get worse.
“The kinds of people who use emergency relief are good at budgeting, but they have been caught out.”
Emergency relief assists between 12 and 20 people in Byron each week, but often people are turned away due to a lack of funds and resources.
Ms Seddon said only about 10 per cent of people who sought emergency relief were not unemployed or receiving a government pension or Centrelink benefit.
Further south and Sydneysiders are living it up, with the wealthy area of Mosman topping the ABS statistics with an average wage and salary income of $109,491.
Byron Shire mayor Jan Barham said a combination of the incomes statistics and the area’s property prices was a ‘bad thing if people are doing it tough’.
“It is quite true that tourism areas are notorious for having low incomes with their seasonal and part-time workers.
“We need to broaden our industries as tourism businesses are subject to fluctuations and there are some major issues there.”