Short-stay blitz voted down

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Brookfield Estate, Margaret River.
Camera IconBrookfield Estate, Margaret River.

Four councillors have rejected moves to tighten up approvals for short-stay apartments within Margaret River town centre.

The proposal was floated as a Shire of Augusta-Margaret River action to address the region’s housing crisis, but the restriction was fiercely contested by developers and local investors.

About 75 submissions were received against the concept jjwhich was then voted out by four councillors at a meeting in Augusta last Wednesday night.

Crs Julia Meldrum and Paula Cristoffanini moved the item, with Naomi Godden abstaining from debate due to living in the town centre.

But Shire deputy president Pauline McLeod said feedback showed the proposed action was a too-late measure by the Shire responding to councillor concerns raised during the peak of lockdowns.

Councillors instead felt the housing crisis was easing and there were too many unknowns in the policy change.

If adopted, the restriction would excise apartments and grouped dwellings for consideration as holiday homes.

“They didn’t feel the change to our short-term stay (policy) would have any benefit to releasing housing into the market,” Cr McLeod said.

Landlords instead wanted the Shire to refocus on compliance.

“That (75 submissions) is a lot of people who have written in against this policy,” Cr McLeod said.

“That’s a strong message from our community that we have to rethink this.”

Developers who spoke to the Times said unregistered Airbnb-style accommodation in Brookfield and Rapids Landing were a greater threat to housing availability.

Cr McLeod said short-term rentals in the town centre provided customers to main street restaurants and bars.

“We have to look at the benefit to the community as a whole,” she said.

Cr Brian Daniel noted no submissions in favour of the move.

“I don’t think we’ve really thought this through properly,” he said.

Cr Kylie Kennaugh also said the housing crisis had “moved on”.

The Shire instead needed to look “long term” and develop a policy to address future grouped dwelling proposals.

“Are we going to build motels or rental apartments,” she asked.

Cr Meldrum said reinvestment in compliance efforts was “a fantastic idea”.

A builder who spoke to the Times on condition of anonymity said the Shire needed to get out of the way of people investing in the region.

Short-term rentals within the Margaret River CBD were costly to establish and the Shire should not dictate to investors.

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