Holiday home laws push

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Registered Accommodation Providers Margaret River Region spokeswoman Debbie Noonan, pictured with husband Peter, owns Margaret River Guest House.
Camera IconRegistered Accommodation Providers Margaret River Region spokeswoman Debbie Noonan, pictured with husband Peter, owns Margaret River Guest House. Credit: The West Australian, Nic Ellis

Shire of Augusta-Margaret River planners want the State Government to use its authority and make advertising unregistered holiday homes against the law and subject to prosecution.

Forcing compliance through a State law is the best option to make online platforms engage with local governments and help more easily identify rogue operators, Shire planners say.

The Shire’s submission to the State Government’s Economics and Industry Standing Committee inquiry into the short-stay sector outlines the Shire’s latest thinking on unlawful holiday homes, which dominated local news last year as licensed operators cried foul.

The Shire submission echoes many of the claims reported by operators and the Registered Accommodation Providers Margaret River Region informal industry group.

The submission rejects the New South Wales model putting a 180-day annual limit on holiday rentals, saying broad limits will not discourage private owners seeking profits through online booking platforms like Airbnb.

“The 180-day limit also fails to address externalities arising from the use, such as inadequate infrastructure (parking etc) or the management of guests,” the submission said.

A local law in each affected region was inappropriate, and State Government clout was needed, it said.

“Any regulation needs to be enforceable to be meaningful”, the submission said, “particularly in this case where there is a financial incentive to avoid compliance with the regulatory framework”. It also said State leadership was needed to enforce building and access standards across WA.

Although the Shire was directed last year to engage a planning officer to lead direct compliance with the local short-stay housing policy, the Parliamentary submission noted enforcement was “difficult and resource-intensive”.

Online platforms “ceasing or preventing the practice of advertising illegal land use” would greatly reduce enforcement requirements, planners said, and making a clearer distinction at State level between “hosted” and “unhosted” sites would also help.

RAPMRR spokeswoman Debbie Noonan said the Shire was on the right track with its “proactive” submission.

“The employment of a compliance officer will go some way to slow the growth and prosecute those who run illegal properties in our shire, and we appreciate very much the Shire’s openness to work with our association in tackling this issue,” she said.

RAPMRR considered it appropriate that the State Government take leadership across multiple local government areas, saying Capes local governments “must be supported by clear polices and guideline from State Government to ensure the viability of the region’s tourism industry and safety due to increased fire risk.” Bushy Lake Chalets and RAPMRR spokesman Robert McDonald said the group was happy “the Shire is now acknowledging and addressing some of the issues and looks forward to co-operating ... to further address ongoing issues to try and attempt to ease the crisis situation that has developed for accommodation operators in our region”.

Ms Noonan said meetings were planned with Minister for Planning Rita Saffioti and WA’s Director General of Planning.

The Shire submission noted tourism, rental affordability, and residential neighbours were all affected by the rise in unregistered operators.

The Shire’s compliance officer started work this week.

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