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Byron Bay News

Feedback sought to guide Council’s new Events Strategy for Byron Shire

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Feedback sought to guide Council’s new Events Strategy for Byron Shire
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Feedback sought to guide Council’s new Events Strategy for Byron Shire

Council is seeking feedback from anyone involved in or with an interest in the events industry in the Byron Shire as it moves towards exhibiting its first Draft Events Strategy in late 2023.

To have your say go to the Events Strategy Your Say page on Council’s website by Sunday 10 September 2023.

“We’ve conducted a comprehensive review of current events and approvals processes and have been in workshops with a large number of stakeholders over the last three months,” Council’s Events and Economy Team Leader, Jess Gilmore said.

Feedback sought to guide Council’s new Events Strategy for Byron Shire

Feedback sought to guide Council’s new Events Strategy for Byron Shire

“Our aim has been to get an in depth understanding of what’s working, where the problems are, and what stakeholders value most about events and what they’d like events in the shire to look like in the future,” Ms Gilmore said.

“We have gathered up all of the knowledge and insights from the events industry and event organisers into a Findings Paper and we’re inviting anyone involved in events and the wider community to provide feedback on the paper to help ensure we get our new Events Strategy right,” she said.

To have your say, go to the Events Strategy Your Say page on Council’s website.

 

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Funding Needed Now for Rough Sleeping Crisis in Byron Shire, Says Mayor

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Funding Needed Now for Rough Sleeping Crisis in Byron Shire, Says Mayor

 

Byron Shire Mayor Michael Lyon is urgently calling on state and federal governments to provide much-needed funding for housing and homelessness services for rough sleeping in Byron Shire. Mayor Lyon expressed his distress upon learning that Byron Shire has topped the 2024 NSW Street Count for rough sleepers for the second consecutive year.

“We now have 17 percent of the entire state count here in Byron Shire, which is beyond devastating,” the Mayor stated. “Funding for homelessness services and vital social housing is relatively high in Sydney, while local funding is shockingly inadequate to meet our needs.”

Although the recent NSW Government investment in a 12-month pilot of a Byron Shire Assertive Outreach program is a positive step, Mayor Lyon emphasized that it falls short of what is needed. “One year is not going to be anywhere near enough to help get our most vulnerable community members into secure housing, especially when it is not accompanied by housing pathways,” he explained.

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Mayor Lyon is advocating for a five-year funding commitment, similar to those announced by the NSW Government for other services, to address the acute regional inequity. “We clearly have the most need, and the regional inequity is beyond comprehension,” he said.

Adequate housing, including social housing, is essential to support individuals transitioning out of homelessness. Social housing provides government-subsidised, long-term rentals for people on very low incomes who cannot afford housing in the general market. “Despite having more rough sleepers than the City of Sydney, we have less than 5 percent of the amount of social housing available – this cannot continue,” Mayor Lyon noted.

“Without these essential pieces of the puzzle, we’re all working with our hands tied behind our backs,” he added. Mayor Lyon highlighted that Sydney’s stabilizing and, at times, reducing rough sleeping levels are a direct result of investments in housing and services. “Our local community members deserve the same right to be housed, with the support they need to live with dignity,” he asserted.

The 2024 Byron Shire Street Count recorded a significant increase in rough sleepers from previous years, with 300 people in 2023, 138 in 2022, and 198 in 2021. The 2022 count did not include Brunswick Heads or Mullumbimby due to extreme weather conditions.

The street count, conducted in collaboration with the NSW Department of Communities and Justice, took place in the early hours of February 29 and March 1, 2024. It covered areas including Byron Bay, Belongil, Suffolk Park, Brunswick Heads, Mullumbimby, and Ocean Shores, excluding holidaymakers and temporary vehicle sleepers.

For more information on Council’s actions to support people experiencing homelessness, visit the Council’s website.

 

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Byron Bay News

Alarming Surge in Homelessness: Byron Shire Leads NSW According to 2024 Street Count

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Alarming Surge in Homelessness: Byron Shire Leads NSW According to 2024 Street Count

 

The recent release of data from the NSW Government’s 2024 Street Count has shed light on a concerning reality for homelessness in Byron Bay, now home to the largest number of rough sleepers in NSW. With 2,037 individuals counted sleeping rough in 2023 compared to 1,623 the previous year, there has been a notable increase, with 348 individuals identified in Byron Bay alone.

This uptick, approximately 16% in Byron Bay, sharply contrasts with a more modest 1% rise in the City of Sydney. These figures underscore the escalating crisis in regional areas, placing the Byron Shire at the forefront of homelessness and rough sleeping challenges.

Fletcher Street Cottage, Byron’s primary homeless support hub, stands as a frontline resource in addressing the mounting homelessness crisis. Established in 2022, the hub has become a vital lifeline, offering essential services and support to those in need. Over the past two years, it has served over 21,000 breakfasts, provided 9,200 showers and laundry services, and facilitated access to health and social services for numerous individuals.

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Lindy Swain, Manager of Fletcher Street Cottage, emphasises the urgency of the situation: “The 2024 Street Count only provides a snapshot of rough sleepers in Byron Bay and does not capture the many hidden homeless – those sleeping in cars, tents, and couch surfing. We urgently require social housing in our region. Fletcher Street Cottage remains dedicated to extending a helping hand to those impacted by this crisis. The support we offer is more crucial now than ever, and we are in dire need of funding to sustain our efforts.”

Various factors such as rising interest rates, cost of living pressures, a local rental crisis, and inadequate social housing contribute to the surge in homelessness in Byron Bay. While these challenges are not new, their impacts are becoming increasingly severe, especially evident in the growing number of women seeking support at Fletcher Street Cottage, reflecting broader societal pressures.

The Byron Community Centre, supporting local rough sleepers since the early 2000s, highlights the importance of sustained community collaboration and generosity in addressing this crisis. Fletcher Street Cottage collaborates with multiple service providers to offer comprehensive support to those in need.

Louise O’Connell, General Manager of Byron Community Centre, expresses gratitude for the community’s support: “As Fletcher Street Cottage celebrates its two-year anniversary, community support is more crucial than ever in these challenging times. We extend our deepest gratitude to our dedicated staff, volunteers, donors, and partners, whose support is instrumental in addressing this escalating crisis. Our team works tirelessly to secure the necessary funding to sustain Fletcher Street Cottage and continue providing essential services to locals in need.”

For more information about Fletcher Street Cottage and to contribute, visit here. The 2024 street count, conducted between February 1 and March 1, 2024, is published annually. Visit here for further details.

 

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Northern Rivers Koala Hospital needs funding: Urgent appeal for support

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A koala being treated at the Northern Rivers Koala Hospital in Lismore
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Northern Rivers Koala Hospital needs funding: Urgent appeal for support

 

By Sarah Waters

Koalas are becoming an increasingly rare sight in NSW and the one organisation that is dedicated solely to their care in the Northern Rivers is desperately trying to keep operating as normal.

The Northern Rivers Koala Hospital, operated by Friends of the Koala, has made an urgent plea for financial support.

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A decline in donations and available funding has threatened the hospital’s ability to operate effectively.

The hospital is specifically designed for the medical treatment of koalas and is the only wildlife hospital in NSW licensed to vaccinate all treated koalas against Chlamydia – the number one cause of death for koalas in the Northern Rivers.

General manager of Friends of the Koala Silva Everaers said more than 350 Koalas are treated at the hospital each year.

“From July last year we’ve seen a 20 per cent increase in koalas coming in, versus the year before,” Ms Everaers said.

“It will continue to increase as the threats to koalas are increasing with climate change, natural disasters, habitat being destroyed causing more koalas on the road, which leads to car hits, dog attacks and more diseases due to stress.

“So that’s obviously concerning, and it has been really, really busy for our volunteers rescuing and caring for them,” she said.

The Northern Rivers Koala Hospital was formed in 2019 and is part of the wider Friends of the Koala (FOK) organisation.

The FOK organisation receives government grants for certain projects including a recent grant to vaccinate 300 koalas against chlamydia.

But no government money is received for the operational cost of the koala hospital.

General Manager of Friends of the Koala and Northern Rivers Koala Hospital Silva Everaers

General Manager of Friends of the Koala Silva Everaers

Half a million dollars needs to be raised by Friends of the Koala each year to cover the hospital’s annual operating expenses.

It is set up with diagnostic and treatment tools including ultrasounds, x-rays, a blood bank, as well as surgical and pathology equipment to provide specialised 24/7 veterinary care to koalas.

Until more funds become available the hospital may not be able to continue in its current capacity.

Ms Everaers said the priority was to keep the hospital funded and veterinary staff paid.

“That really is where the research and the magic happens,” she said.

“We work with over 300 volunteers, who do an absolutely incredible job rescuing and rehabilitating the koalas treated in our hospital, and because of that we are able to keep operational costs really, really low.

“But we can’t do it without financial support, in the end, there’s medicine, veterinary staff, the equipment we need, research facilities – it’s not free.”

Friends of the Koala have set up a special donation drive, appealing to the public’s generosity to help keep the hospital in operation and maintain their high standards of care.

Anyone with a heart for wildlife, including business owners and philanthropists, can become a ‘Friend of the Northern Rivers Koala Hospital’ at: friendsofthekoala.org or support by donating to the organisation.

Friends of the Koala are a grassroots organisation with more than 35 years of experience working on critical, on-the-ground activities to conserve habitat and protect koalas individually and as a species.

It originated as a charity focused on planting trees but has evolved into a multifaceted organisation that also provides 24/7 koala rescue, medical treatment, research, advocacy and community education.

Friends of the Koala has successfully rehabilitated and released over 2000 koalas back into the wild since its inception.

The Northern Rivers is home to one of the last significant, genetically diverse koala populations.

 

For more local news, click here.

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