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Byron Bay saga could result in real estate crackdown

Concerns have arisen around the “loophole” that allows Sydneysiders to leave the city to inspect properties, after a COVID-19 positive man travelled to Byron Bay.

Police have charged a 52-year-old man from Rose Bay for allegedly breaching the Public Health Orders after leaving Sydney and visiting Byron Bay and surrounding areas.

Officers from Richmond and Tweed/Byron Police Districts commenced an investigation after receiving reports a man and family members had travelled to Northern NSW in late July.

The man and his two children travelling with him have now tested positive with COVID-19 and are being treated in Lismore Base Hospital.

It has been reported that he was infectious in the community for a number of days before being diagnosed.

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The positive cases led the local council to introduce a seven-day snap lockdown in Byron Bay, Richmond Valley, Lismore and Ballina, with residents subject to stay-at-home orders until at least 17 August 2021.

According to Byron Shire Mayor Michael Lyon, the man “came up from Sydney in late July, ostensibly to look at real estate”.

Indeed, leaving home to “view or inspect property to lease or purchase it” is currently a “reasonable excuse” to leave home, according to the NSW government’s website.

However, it is mandatory to check in at all workplaces and retail businesses, which the man is charged with failing to do.

“We’ve been told that he hasn’t been checking in anywhere,” the Mayor said.

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“He’s apparently been quite evasive with questions. Nothing in his phone in terms of QR codes, didn’t believe in COVID. So sick that he had to go to hospital and that’s when it’s twigged, he’s got COVID.”

NSW Police have alleged that the man failed to check in to several venues using either a QR-code through Service NSW or through a written register at premises in Byron Bay and Bangalow.

The man has been issued with a Future Court Attendance Notice in Lismore Base Hospital for seven offences, including:

  • Three counts of not complying with noticed direction re s 7/8/9 - COVID-19 
  • Four counts of failing to comply with electronic registration directive

The man was granted strict conditional bail to appear at Lismore Local Court on 13 September 2021.

When asked about the fact that NSW rules do permit travellers to leave Sydney for the purpose of inspecting real estate, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said on Tuesday (10 August), that he had asked the NSW government’s legal department “to look at what we can do to tighten it up as far as it is possible”.

He conceded it as a difficult exercise, “because there are situations where doctors need to travel to regional areas for work, or families might break down and need to move”.

“Clearly, the rules now are that you shouldn’t just travel from one house to another for the sake of moving to the other house. Choose the property you are living in and stay there,” he said.

[Related: Sydney holds almost 700 auctions in lockdown]

Byron Bay saga could result in real estate crackdown
Byron Bay saga could result in real estate crackdown
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