Planning Minister Rita Saffioti has declined to tamp down concerns about reform to WA’s short-stay sector which could potentially undermine the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River’s long-established planning controls. Responding to inquiries, Ms Saffioti said the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage were still assessing responses to recent consultation before presenting options for the State Government to consider, with no timeframe given. Ironically, the Margaret River region was one of the key locations pushing for reform of the sector amid concerns online-style rentals were key drivers in the region’s housing crisis, as well as negative consequences for management, resourcing, antisocial effects on neighbours, pressure on the natural environment, and the lack of registration enforcement. Key concerns included the proposed exemption from planning approvals for holiday homes used for fewer than 60 days a year, no matter the location, allowing granny flats to operate as hosted accommodation, and a lack of rigour in bushfire protection requirements. The 60-day cap would critically disrupt Shire planning controls over where short stays could be approved. While residents were quick to point out many unregistered Airbnbs were already operating in suburban Margaret River, the reforms – originally designed to combat such concerns – triggered concerns illegal operators would use the 60-day cap as a smokescreen. Ms Saffioti said the 60-day limit didn’t stop local governments regulating how permanent holiday homes operated. “There has been a rapid growth in short-term rental accommodation providers throughout WA in recent years,” she said. “We know that at the moment, it is not a level playing field, and that is why we are focused on implementing initiatives to better manage the sector, to provide greater certainty to the tourism industry, accommodation providers and guests, and make sure property owners know what is expected of them. “As part of this, we also want to ensure consistency across different local governments and help support them to better regulate and govern short-term accommodation providers in the area.” A Shire spokesperson told the Times the local government preference was to retain its existing controls “rather than (be) replaced by a Statewide policy which would be out of step with community expectations”. During the public comment period earlier this year, Shire planners urged concerned residents to get involved. Sustainable development and infrastructure director Nick Logan said the eyed reforms could “undermine and compromise” the Shire’s planning and affect “housing affordability, community safety, and neighbour amenity”. A State register of holiday homes was also previously recommended by the parliamentary inquiry. About 2050 submissions were received during the public comment period. WA’s Australian Hotels Association and providers including Airbnb backed the initial outline provided by the minister. “WA risks losing local travellers to other States with less restrictive rules and a more diverse and affordable range of accommodation,” Airbnb’s Australia-New Zealand country manager Susan Wheeldon said.