Byron Shire given 'special exemption' to Airbnb restrictions as Nationals fight to win Ballina
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Byron Shire given 'special exemption' to Airbnb restrictions as Nationals fight to win Ballina

The Byron Shire in the must-win state seat of Ballina will get a special exemption from the Berejiklian government's new Airbnb-style letting rules, as the National Party fights to regain control of the seat at next month's state election.

Planning Minister Anthony Roberts promised the Byron Shire community he would grant a 90-day annual limit on the short-term letting of empty properties in the area, despite last year saying the cap would not go below 180 days in any part of NSW.

Byron Shire covers the popular beachside holiday destination of Byron Bay.

Byron Shire covers the popular beachside holiday destination of Byron Bay.Credit:AAP

Mr Roberts said he was satisfied Byron Shire - which covers the popular beachside holiday destinations of Byron Bay and Brunswick Heads - qualified for "exceptional circumstances" and said he would issue a ministerial direction to allow the council to nominate which towns should have a 90-day cap.

"I've listened to regional councils who are concerned there are more tourists than permanent residents in some streets," Mr Roberts said, after he announced the special deal to Byron Shire Council in Mullumbimby on Monday.

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He was flanked by current upper house MP Ben Franklin, who is hoping to switch to the lower house by reclaiming the marginal north-coast seat for the government.

The National Party lost the seat at the 2015 election to the Greens, who hold it by a slim three per cent margin.

In a video posted to his facebook page, Mr Franklin claimed the outcome was "because of the advocacy I've been able to do with state government".

The announcement has received a mixed response from the major players in the short-term letting space.

Holiday rental company Stayz slammed the move as "policy on the run".

“Stayz does not support further newly announced restrictive night caps for the holiday rental
sector in Byron Shire, or in any part of the state," Stayz corporate affairs director Eacham Curry said.

"Night caps make it hard for mum and dad investors to let out their own holiday homes to the detriment of the tourism economy."

Airbnb public affairs manager Julian Crowley said the company believed the NSW government’s new rules "already appropriately address the concerns raised by locals".

But he added: "While we continue to support the clear and simple statewide framework, we understand the unique challenges facing Byron Bay."

NSW became the first Australian state to regulate Airbnb-style letting last year, when it passed a suite of planning laws mandating a cap of 180 days for investment properties in greater Sydney.

Under the laws, which are due to come into effect later this year, councils outside the Sydney area are not subject to the cap, but have the power to decrease the 365-day threshold to no lower than 180 days per year.

Lisa Visentin is a state political reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald.

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