Byron Bay and the surrounding towns within the Byron Shire are growing. More people are moving here, working here and visiting here. With the influx of people we are also seeing more housing development, larger scale visitor accommodation and new businesses to meet the demand. Since 1770 the area has predominantly been comprised of farmers, surfers, alternative minded people and increasingly visitors from both Australia and the international community. We are now seeing a shift as more and more people from cities, looking for a sea change, move to this beautiful part of the world and it’s not hard to see why with the Northern Rivers boasting the 3rd most bio-diverse region in Australia.
While the Byron Shire is clearly a unique and special region we are not however unique in the way that we are growing. Most destinations that offer world class beaches, stunning hinterland and rich culture see growth of the same nature. Bali is an excellent example, with massive growth in their visitor economy and expat community. Noosa is another example, with many similarities to Byron Bay, experiencing huge growth in their visitor economy.
Inevitably with this growth the challenges that we face as a community increase. Less parking, increased traffic, less affordable housing availability, increased house and land prices, to name a few. These are issues that locals are well aware of. I see a lot of conversations on social media surrounding these issues. Often emotional and heated discussion.
I’m not denying these issues. They exist. They are complex and they need to be dealt with but I would suggest that as a community we need to look at the narrative that we are perpetuating amongst ourselves and to the wider community. Is it a narrative that reinforces the values that we embody as a community or is it a negative narrative that increasingly focuses on the problems? I’ve been part of the latter. It’s easy to bond over shared negative experiences surrounding the changes occurring within the Byron Shire. Parking is my favourite. It has occurred to me however that in doing so I’m doing myself and my community a disservice. I’m ignoring the incredible beauty of this region, the amazing people that reside within it and the privilege that we have in living here. How many times have you heard a visitor marvel at this region and that people are lucky enough to live here? It’s also important to put these problems in perspective. Our traffic lines and parking issues are really not that big of an issue compared to some places. Waiting in line or looking for a park for a few extra minutes is a small price to pay to enjoy a walk around the lighthouse and swim at The Pass or Wategoes beach. We must remember that we do not own this region, it’s for everyone to enjoy.
As Byron Bay and the surrounding towns change, as more people visit and move here, as the kind of people that form our community change, we have an opportunity. The opportunity to form solutions with positivity and understanding, with compassion and with optimism. It might be something simple like letting an interstate car in front of you with a smile and a friendly wave or it might be something more involved like offering well thought out input to council on local issues. Importantly I feel that it involves changing the tone of our conversations. To shaping our narrative through positive and constructive conversation.
Written by Zac Lovett