Airbnb claims hosts are treated as 'second-class citizens'
AIRBNB has criticised Byron Shire Council's push for a special exemption in the short-term holiday letting reforms, stating their hosts should not be treated like "second-class citizens".
Following the council's June meeting, councillors voted to write to the NSW Government to seek a deferral from the new state-wide planning policy.
Mayor Simon Richardson said he'd hope this would allow further discussions with ministers in an attempt to get "a bit more of a nuance policy".
"Byron is neither a standard nor do we want to operate in a template," he said.
"Our tourism industry and our tourism reality in Byron is different to others, even our direct neighbours.
"The fact that all the planning is on a state level, in fact our planning provisions are called a standard template, which puts the shudders and the horrors down your spine when you are trying to think about innovation and flexibility."
But Airbnb's head of public policy, Brent Thomas, said after nearly a three-year battle the community was "yearning" for clarity.
"The push by Byron Shire Council to get a special exemption would only create ongoing confusions and uncertainty," Mr Thomas said.
"There shouldn't be a Tale of Two Cities or a Tale of Two Towns.
"The idea that there would be one set of rules for Byron Bay and another for the rest of NSW is misplaced.
"Our host community in Byron Bay should not be treated as second-class citizens, they want the same as everyone else in NSW."
Cr Richardson suggested some of the alterations he would like to see in the State Government policy would be to give more power back to the local governments.
"Allowing local communities or even regional communities to have a say and potentially tweak some planning that makes sense for their region... we are operating under the same holiday legislation as Moree, I mean what nonsense that would be."
"We would like to be managing the licence system for Airbnb, to then charge an appropriate fee that we can then use the funds from to put towards increased compliance teams."
Cr Richardson also called for more clarity surrounding the 180-day cap.
"(In the policy) councils could elect to have 180 days if they wish but no less, but when we looked into the fine print that is actually contestable and appealable by Airbnb and short-term holiday let operators," he said.
"If everyone can take us to court over 180 days then we don't have the power to say 180 days, so that's either wilful misinformation or incompetence.
"We would like to be able to set the days, we'd also love to elect potentially what zones that could or may not be permissible."
However, Mr Thomas said the suggested reforms had the local flexibility to address many of the concerns raised by Byron locals, including stamping out any bad behaviour.
"We would call on council to stop lobbying for special treatment and instead work with our community on using the new framework to tailor the proposed reforms to meet the needs of Byron Bay," Mr Thomas said.