Sothesby’s Comes to Town
International prestige real estate brand, Sotheby’s will be opening up in Byron Bay and Tweed. Queensland Sotheby’s International Realty agent Dominique Vasers Williams intends to build the new agency from scratch. Sotheby’s only other regional shopfront is in Port Douglas.
Let’s hope it does not follow in the footsteps of the last two prestige brands in Byron. Nicolette Van Wijnngarten is currently a resident of Her Majesty’s ‘Big House’ after being found guilty of using the Unique Estates trust fund for a personal piggy bank. In 2013, Sarah Dougan formed a Belle Property agency and left the country with debts of over $30 mil, and a trail of tears.
As I have said many times in this newsletter, the vast majority of agents I deal with, in my daily activities while helping my clients, are nothing but honest and astute. I am sure the stats are about the same as most other industries but REAs continually have a bad reputation with the public and that is unfortunate.
Video Killed the Real Estate Agent
As well as working from home, video inspections are now the norm in a post COVID world. Look out for the new 3D online video clips coming to an agency near you. Some of the bigger agencies in the cities now employ a full-time videographer. This trend will soon stretch to the rental market as well. More info in this article. Also of interest in this area is online auctions. One has been ongoing for a property in McAuley’s Lane Myocum and is discussed in the Hot Property section which you can read here.
This has been a time for all the community to pull together and support each other. There are lots of worthy causes around that are worthy of support, here are just a few for your consideration. Please help if you can:
Byron Community Pantry
The Byron Community Pantry has been in operation to help care for people doing it tough during COVID. Not only are there people living rough here but there are many international travelers who have been stuck here due to travel restrictions. The Byron Community Pantry has been providing up to 60 households each week with a week’s worth of groceries. In early May, the Byron Community Centre gave out a record of 1000 meals in just one week! This is a combined effort of Liberation Larder, Byron Community Pantry, and the Homeless Breakfast Hub.
Anyone who has been passing by the Uncle Tom’s Corner (Gulgan and Mullumbimby Road) on the way to Mullumbimby will see the work being done on the Mullum Gateway site. The old rotunda and the totem sculptures are being moved, renovated, or replaced. Have a look at the video on the website and see what is happening. The Gateway has always been an iconic, unique spot in the shire. You can make a tax-deductible donation and help finish this work as they are just a bit short in completing it. mullumbimbygateway.com
Northern Rivers Community Foundation
If you are new to the area, or been here a while, and need a way to get more involved, meet interesting people and help the community, you could do no better than getting involved in the NRCF. This community organisation has been productive and active for many years and does excellent work assisting many of the necessary community groups and Not For Profits. In 2020, the program has been changed to the Recovery and Resilience Grants Program. Grant applications close on August 17 and you can find out more here.
What’s new news with our beloved Byron Shire Council:
Amnesty for illegal dwellings
Council is to pass a proposal that will allow illegal dwellings a new approval process. There is to be a moratorium for 15 months starting from June 15. The Unauthorised Residential Accommodation Policy will aim to resolve the large number of people living in unapproved structures. Council is in a difficult bind trying to uphold the law and provide enough safe, hygienic homes for people – especially at this time with a housing affordability crisis. It would not be a good look if the council starts throwing people out of their homes. If you have an illegal structure and want to get it approved have a look at the details here.
Bed Tax is Just Sleeping
The Voluntary Visitor Tax (VVT) had another setback last month in council. The VVT is better known as the Bed Tax and has been an idea waiting to happen as long as I can remember. The concept is that since we have almost two million visitors a year and there is no way for them to contribute directly to help fund the myriad of ways they are a cost to the coffers – toilet cleaning, road maintenance, public safety, park upkeep. Introducing a bed tax or levy on accommodation is a good way for visitors to keep Byron Beautiful. Unfortunately, it cannot be mandated through the state legislature so it must be voluntary. It is a difficult thing to introduce and the matter was deferred at a council meeting but let’s hope the councilors persevere and this idea is one day implemented.
Have your Say
One of my pet peeves is that many locals get upset with the council only when construction or rezoning happens. Community Consultation is part of BSC’s process and residents are able to participate in the process and make comments at the planning stage. Go to the Have Your Say section of the BSC website and make your feelings and preferences known at the appropriate time. The big ones worth looking at right now are the Residential Strategy (what land will be rezoned for more housing – always controversial), the North Byron Flood mapping, and the Mullumbimby and Bangalow Master Plans. Get on board and have your say now at the appropriate time, instead of just when the machinery starts.
Tyagarah Beach and the Birthday Suit
Let’s hope the ongoing dilemma at Tyagarah Beach is resolved. The tea tree lakes and beach at the end of Grays Lane, Tyagarah has been clothes-optional for close to 20 years. Most of those years have been placid and controversy-free. Then it seemed to get some online notoriety as a gay beat and venue for sex pests.
There seems to be enough effort put in by people who wanted to keep the beach family friendly. The beach had a surf life-saving patrol over Xmas and most of the school holidays. That was a good idea (thanks Cr Sarah Ndaiye) and seemed to do some good. Anyone who wants to maintain the beach as a CO venue and keep away the idiots – should put their bare ass (or clothed) on the sand whenever possible and keep it for the community instead of surrendering it to visiting deviants.
Colours of the Year 2020
Attention all decorators and home renovators. Taubman’s Paints have selected their colour of the year to be “Night Watch: “Encompassing the tones of a dense tropical forest, Night Watch is a natural shade that is chic, effortlessly timeless, and destined to be a favourite in both the home and workplace given our urge to reconnect with nature in today’s tumultuous society.”
Not to be outdone is Pantone. Their colour of the year for 2019 is “Living Coral”. Pantone suggests the colour balances the onslaught of digital technology and social media increasingly embedding into our daily life: ‘Living Coral welcomes and encourages light-hearted activity, symbolising our innate need for optimism and joyful pursuits, and embodying a desire for playful expression’. So there you go!
Unique Estates Principal Fronts Court
Nicolette Van Wijngaarden appeared in the Downing Centre Local Court in Sydney last Thursday. The former principal of luxury real estate agency, Unique Estates, is facing 10 charges of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception, and five charges of being an accessory to offences committed by a corporation.
Ms. Wijngaarden has surrendered both her Australian and Dutch passports. This trial hearing was to determine whether the case will go to trial. The business is owing $3.5M in debt and Ms. Wijngaarden is facing up to 10 years jail. She is currently living in Elwood, Melbourne and has to report once a week to St Kilda Police station.
Let’s Get Together
Local lawyer, comedian, author, and man about town, Mark Swivel, is having a run at federal parliament. He will be running for the Senate in the election later this year – probably May. He has started a political party called “The Together Party”. Mark’s book is called “Let’s Make Australia Slightly Better Than Average Again” is quite a good read – smart and funny with a good synopsis of what’s wrong with politics and some ideas on how to fix it.
The Together Party is putting on a conference in Mullumbimby the weekend of February 15 and 16. Please come along if you want to get involved, or just attend some of the interesting discussions being held.
NSW Biennial Land Valuations 2020
The NSW Valuer-General just released the latest official land values. The office of State Revenue follows the property price trends. Every two years, this government department releases the land valuations on what landowners (who own more than their own owner-occupied properties) have to pay land tax.
Residential land values increased by 4.4% over the year, nationally. This compared with a 14.1 percent rise in the previous year. Land values are for the value of the land only, as of 1 July 2018. Rural NSW land values increased overall by 14.3% due to continued demand. One of the biggest increases was in Ku-Ring-Gai local government area where residential land values increased by 22.5%, as well as mixed-use premises along the Pacific Highway (45.8%). The Sydney Eastern Suburbs region saw its strongest increases in the local government areas of North Sydney and Mosman, which showed 14.4% and 11.2% increases respectively.
Zero Emissions Byron Fundraiser
Zero Emissions Byron is a local organisation on a mission to reduce Byron Shires carbon emissions to zero by 2025. They are holding a fundraiser event on Saturday night February 9th. It is sponsored by Australian Ethical, Brookfarm, and Spell and the Gypsy Collective. The award-winning documentary “Mountain” will be screened, and a raffle with some major prizes will be drawn. Have a look at the “Mountain” trailer which looks spectacular.
Opposite Uncle Tom’s Pies on Gulgan Road is the Mullumbimby Gateway. This installation greets our visitors as a special place to commemorate the biggest little town in Australia. Richard Mordaunt was part of the original crew who put it together in 1988. He and his partner Diana used to run the art gallery in Mullum above the news agency.
Mordaunt says the aim of the project is to “bring the whole site back to life, repair the totems and the town sign, re-stand the standing stones with new plantings across the site. There will be interpretive boards with local history, linking it with the town. It is public safe space for youth and locals waiting for pickups and rideshares and there will be a new pathway from the bus drop off to the gazebo.” Local state MLA Ben Franklin is behind the project and is looking for funding. Other contributors can go the website for tax-deductible donations – https://mullumbimbygateway.com.
Byron Tops Domain’s List
Domain just released the nine best holiday homes to stay in for a long weekend. Byron Shire, of course, won the two top spots:
#1 was The Chalet in Kingsley Street, Byron
It is billed as Palm Springs meets Byron and was recently featured in Vogue Living. Classic white interiors open on to a large backyard complete with a pool and cactus garden and an outdoor shower. It rents for $995 per night.
#2 was the Magical Rainforest Retreat in Main Arm
Domain’s blurb for the property reads: “If heading off the beaten path is more your cup of tea, then why not book a long weekend at this secluded rainforest retreat. Whether you planning a romantic getaway or in need of some much needed “me” time, you’ll need to cross a fairy light-adorned bridge in order to enter this magical cabin, located within an enchanting 9.7-hectare property. For extra relaxing points, there’s a swinging basket chair hanging over the creek to enjoy.”