Crikey editor Misha Ketchell writes:

Are the good citizens of Byron Bay becoming a bunch of intolerable grumps? According to this report in yesterday’s Daily Tele, the town’s residents are turning into miserable wowsers:

Byron Bay – the tourist town with the reputation for a grinch-like approach to fun – is now banning jet skis. The council-backed ban has angered elite big-wave surfers, who say it is just another example of a “greenie” agenda to deter tourists….

“Byron Bay is a strange place. People around here are supposed to be tolerant and they are anything but that,” Lennox Head Tow-in Surfers Association spokesman Warren Cornish said. “Everything is banned. Fun is banned. You feel like you make a mistake if you smile.”

Byron Shire Council has already canned New Year’s Eve fireworks and it has threatened some residents with a $1.1 million fine if they continued to holiday-let investment properties.

We sent the Tele yarn to Byron Shire resident, Crikey regular and political commentator Mungo MacCallum. He wrote:

Hoon jetskier is a tautology. Of course the b*stards should be banned. It’s not about damage to the marine environment but to peace. Admittedly the average Byronites’s idea of fun – tofu, massage, meditation and a couple of spliffs – may be fairly boring to a normal ocker, but at least it doesn’t ruin the day for non-participants. Especially in a national park – what do the hoons want? Do-it-yourself harpooning during the whales migration? Perhaps a catch-your-own Japanese restaurant with 24-hour karaoke. There are plenty of other places for them to have their fun, not that it worries me: I live a safe half hour’s drive from Byron. As long as they don’t come here.

If that sounds like an audition for a guest spot on an Australian rip-off of Grumpy Old Men, there’s more:

It’s true there has been a growing exasperation with tourists/terrorists among sections of the locals, mainly those who don’t own pubs, flats, nightclubs, boutiques, surfshops and crapatoriums around the gridlocked CBD. There have been problems with absentee landlords who let premises to busloads of ravers, drunk, stoned, apparently deaf and definitely defecating on a 24-hour shift.

Understandably the neighbours aren’t happy. Attempts to end such holiday letting in residential districts have been opposed by said landlords and more generally by the business community which lives off tourists and is not too concerned about what they do once their money is securely in the till.

Byron also suffers from what might be called festival fatigue – there seems to be some kind of festival on almost every weekend, ranging from the annual blues and roots festival (which now contains more of the latter than the former) to celebrations of colonic irrigation – well, it’s included in various alternative medicine gatherings.

Those residents lucky enough to own their own houses (long-time tenants have largely been pushed out by astronomical land values trickling through into sky-rocketing rents) wouldn’t mind a quiet holiday break themselves occasionally. The council, which is 50% green, is trying a Canute-like exercise to stem the tide, but the commercial sector, which is well over 50% greed, is mounting a formidable opposition. Since most serious decisions have now been usurped by Macquarie Street anyway, Mammon will probably prevail. Fun rules; if only it wasn’t quite so noisy and could just occasionally be persuaded to pick up after itself – the broken glass at least, if not the turds.

Peter Fray

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