If social media was any guide, the hot topic item on Noosa Council’s recent round of meetings was to be the 12-month review of its local law on short-term accommodation (STA).
But there were no fireworks, no dramas – simply a unanimous acceptance that things are generally going well.
The main recommendation arising was that staff numbers in the local law section should be increased by two, primarily due to a higher-than-expected number of existing STA providers – 2720 – registered their operation with council, as required. That staffing need has also been exacerbated by the departure of a staff member in the last two weeks.
In the first 12 months of the local law’s operation, 1968 approvals were issued for Short Stay Letting or Home Hosted Accommodation. There were 55 refusals and 697 were yet to be assessed.
The complaints hotline received 612 calls, with 78 properties given compliance letters to apply, with another 38 being told to erect signs identifying them as Short Stay Lets with contact phone numbers.
A renewal fee for STA properties has also been introduced, effective June 30 this year, with a detached house at $400; detached house operating at only four times/60 days total at $100; units at $200 (or $100 four times/60 days); and $100 for home-hosted accommodation.
Cr Joe Jurisevic queried why there was not a ‘late fee’ applying to those STAs which had not yet applied.
“There are 1300 properties operating without approval; given we are putting extra staff, why is there no fee [for these] from July?” he said.
Staff said the fees had been set on cost-recovery “but if council wants to consider it, it would need to do so through the [2023-24] budget”.
Councillors unanimously approved the report, excepting Cr Lorentson who had left the meeting for the item due to a conflict of interest, as her family operates an STA property in Noosa Parade.
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE DOWNRIGHT UGLY
Alan Lander – commentary
It is to the credit of Noosa council that it has created a workable local law to govern the burgeoning STA industry in Noosa Shire, one of the hardest-hit coastal tourist towns in Australia by the phenomenon.
And it is the first in Queensland to do so, following what seems to be total abrogation of any responsibility to act from the state government.
There is no doubt the idea of STA is globally popular, though it remains to be seen if that popularity will be sustained, given the bad press it is receiving around the world, let alone locally.
That said, and as Cr Jurisevic pointed out, there are still 1300 properties that have not registered under the local law.
It riles many local residents that, while they spent in many cases large amounts of money to live in a non-tourist location that promised a certain lifestyle, that this industry should have such a destabilizing impact on that lifestyle.
It further riles many, including long-standing motel and resort business operators that the STA industry can waltz into the region and operate with minimal set-up costs and pay mere lip-service to the many health and safety and building requirements demanded of other tourism businesses here.
And, given the local laws were largely devised to regulate STAs that have the potential to create noise, policing, parking issues and warrant extra council services such as waste disposal, that long-standing home-hosted STAs who have owner/management onsite, should be asked to contribute to that cost.
That same sense of unfairness applies to the resorts and motels who, by design, have management and rules onsite to effectively quell unruly behaviour.
But the truly ugly part of the STA issue so far must be the reported instances where STA ‘clients’ take issue with neighbours simply asking that they get a decent night’s sleep weekend after weekend, and asking for noise and behaviour moderation, to be verbally and even physically threatened in their own homes by drunken yobbos who, one suspects, have no interest in what Noosa has to offer other than an opportunity to behave atrociously, and who leave their considerable mess for others to clean up, often at no economic benefit to the shire.