WILL Yamba be the next Byron Bay?
Looking north to the once sleepy coastal village, now struggling to maintain public infrastructure under the burden of a tsunami of tourists, Clarence Valley Council deputy general manager Des Schroder says he doesn't think so, but does admit it's difficult to predict the future.
"I don't think any council is equipped to handle the influx Byron has," Mr Schroder said.
He said Byron has become a party capital and as a result it experiences social issues that go with the reputation.
"If Yamba got the same reputation, we could be in the same situation," he said.
Debate on how to best manage the enormous tourist burden on Byron Bay was highlighted in a Facebook post made by Byron resident Mandy Nolan:
"You know what I don't get is that there is a trillion people in Byron Bay - shopping, drinking, eating, staying - massive dollars coming in and still this area suffers major infrastructure deficit. I wouldn't mind the inconvenience and exposure to alcoholism and violence and beach trashing if at least the community got a few public parks, decent toilets, homeless shelters, things called public amenity. Tourism at this level is no different to living near an open-cut mine. Can't people put back? I am going to write something about it...what do you think?"
Ms Nolan's comment struck a chord, provoking hundreds of responses and was picked up by ABC North Coast radio.
Former mayor and Greens MLC Jan Barham called for a state inquiry into the costs of tourism on local government, suggesting a tourism levy may be one option.
Meanwhile Local Government Minister Don Page said that while a tourism tax was possible, he had concerns about how it would be imposed.
"In order to do it, you have to be able to show that the people you're taxing are receiving a direct benefit as a result of that tax, that levy," he told ABC north coast.
"I think one of the problems is the infrastructure just hasn't been planned for in the past and there are reasons for that.
"Some people didn't want to put infrastructure in place because they thought it was a way of dealing with the increasing numbers, that people would eventually turn themselves away. The reality is we've gone way past that stage.
"It'll be the council and State Government solving the problems, but I think we need an independent group of people coming up with recommendations not based on political perspective."
Motel owner and Yamba Chamber of Commerce executive member Graham Lees said while he supported the idea of a levy, he was not in favour of a tourism tax on accommodation providers.
"I would argue that every business in town benefits from tourism - it seems unfair to single out the accommodation industry," Mr Lees said.
"It should spread across all businesses."
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