Main Beach Byron Bay
Main Beach Byron Bay

We need to take back control of our town: OPINION

BYRON Bay remains caught in a perfect storm of popularity.

There is a paucity of affordable accommodation for those living and working here and unrelenting pressure to subdivide and develop in ways many consider to be unsustainable.

There are 10,000 of us versus two million visitors a year, which can leave us ratepayers feeling like strangers in our own town.

RELATED: Byron council may consider taxes amid Airbnb tourist surges

We are a microcosm of the world, with every shape and flavour of person living or visiting here and it's all turbo-charged by phenomenal property prices and the flow of tourist dollars.

Tourists come here to dream their dreams, developers eye off the town and scheme their schemes and the rest of us, it seems, want to rent our houses out permanently on airbnb and make a motzah"motza.

We queue up to crawl into town from both the north and the south, do battle with the crowds and shell out big time on rent, utilities and food.

My favourite joke about Byron is: "The service may be slow but thank god it's expensive".

I think many of us feel despair when we see our town getting trashed.

I'm not just talking about drunken yobbos yobbo-ing up the place, and the depletion of our infrastructure, including, and especially, the roads.

I'm talking also about those who trash Byron with cheap shots in the media because we steadfastly refuse to conform to big-city ideas about what Byron Bay is supposed to be.

We persist in doing it our own weird way, which is why people want to come here in the first place.

This week I caught up with former Byron Shire News editors Gary Chigwidden and Digby Hildreth (see picture at right). Gary started here in 1995, then Digby in 2011 and I began here in 2013.

Over that past 22 years, all of us have written about the idea of a bed tax for Byron Bay at some stage.

All of us have seen the idea squashed by successive State governments, but this is an idea whose time must surely have come.

The council is looking at a report on it this week and the issue continues to simmer across all our local media.

We need a bed tax because there are literally no more golden eggs to squeeze out of this goose.

We have brought in paid parking (with exemptions) and ratepayers are going to be stumping up an extra 7.5% in rates to try to maintain our infrastructure.

We pay tourist prices for all our staples and it's not like petrol, phones, power or insurance cost less round here, even though many work in casualised and poorly paid tourism and hospitality focussed jobs.

So ratepayers are seriously pissed off. We are pissed off at council, we are pissed off at the tourists, we are pissed off at airbnb and we are pissed off at each other - often arguing long and hard about who is or isn't a local and who has the right to determine the future of our town.

The people we should be pissed off at is the State government - and I include all political shades in this.

We need the ability to levy a bed or visitor tax so we can take back control of our town and our destiny.

Either that or we airbnb the whole place and start over somewhere else.

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