POPULAR: Byron Bay attracts 1.7 million visitors per year.
POPULAR: Byron Bay attracts 1.7 million visitors per year. Patrick Gorbunovs

Bed tax idea just won't lay down

A BED tax for Byron is the idea that just won't lay down and go to sleep.

With council looking at imposing a special rate rise on local ratepayers to contribute in part to local infrastructure maintenance and upgrades, the idea of imposing a bed tax on tourists and visitors is being discussed again.

Labour Councillor Paul Spooner is on the record as saying council should, "submit a proposal to the state government to enable the implementation of a Tourism Levy or Bed Tax in the Byron Shire”.

Byron Mayor Simon Richardson said that with both the state Coalition and Labour against the idea (of a bed tax) he was speaking with a cohort of Greens MPs to put a proposition to state Labor to back a plan for a bed tax.

"With the new state cabinet announced I will be seeking a meeting as soon as practical with Ben Franklin, the secretary for Renewable Energy and for Northern NSW, to discuss the idea of a bed tax or levy,” said Cr Richardson.

Byron resident Peter Gough has carried out extensive research into the local tourism industry and said, "latest figures from Destination NSW tell us there are 1.7 million visitor bed nights a year in Byron.

"If we had a levy of 3% (I estimate) this would produce an extra $3.4 million income for the shire. Of course the day trippers already contribute through the parking fees.

"A levy of 3% would be modest compared to most overseas tourist cities.

"It compares to say 5- 6% in places like New York, Germany, Portugal and Taiwan; 12% in Los Angeles and Sweden all the way up to 25% in Denmark.

"The top 20 visitor destination cities in the world have a ratio of visitors to residents of around 2 to 3. That is 2 to 3 visitors supported by each resident.

Mr Gough also provided figures that showed with annual visitor numbers of 1.7 million and resident numbers of 32, 723 Byron shire had a 52 to 1 visitor ratio annually.

Cr Richardson said the proliferation of properties let through Air BnB and other sharing platforms was also exacerbating the problem of a lack of local affordable housing available in the shire.

"We need to get clarity from the state government on the holiday letting strategy we have formulated for Byron Shire,” he said.

"We need to see all accommodation providers (including Air BnB properties) registered and licenced in a way that we can levy some kind of charge to contribute to local infrastructure and manage and monitor what is going on.

"The state government has little appetite for this but they do it all around the world.

"It seems like a no-brainer to introduce this kind of tax or levy.”

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