When you search the Noosa Council website for statistics on the scourge of Short Term Accommodation (STA) in our shire, you get this message: “Information coming soon”.
This test of community patience has been unchanged since the implementation of the Short Stay Local Law. It’s another sign of the frustrating lag in implementing the policy that’s supposed to protect our right to sleep quietly in our homes – surrounded by unlicensed ‘mini-hotels’.
From the start of community consultation on the response to the Air B’n B/Stayz tsunami, Noosa Residents Against Unregulated Short Term Rental Accommodation (NRAUSTR) has lobbied for full information transparency. It’s not that much to ask.
They want the numbers and locations of properties offered for Short Term Accommodation (STA) to be available to everyone. With the Tax Office now taking a closer look at the sharing economy, including properties offered for STA, the group has encouraged Council to explore what further information might be available through the ATO.
As well as total numbers, NRAUSTR wants residents to know:
- when applications are made for further approvals and registration;
- when complaints are made about Short Term Renters behaving badly, and at what properties;
- how and when complaints are resolved by property owners;
- what steps Council is taking to speedily conclude implementation of the SSL Local Law;
- what is being done to ensure enforcement and compliance with the Local Law; and
- that loopholes such as the Principal Place of Residence concession and ‘granny flat’ restrictions (eased by the State to address the low-cost housing shortage) are not exploited.
Neighbourhoods that were previously family friendly have been transformed by investors into congested tourist zones. As long-term rental property numbers diminish and rates soar, residents whose amenity has been compromised, are also becoming concerned at the potential impacts on essential services such as police, health, education, finance and administration.
This is an issue for everyone living in Noosa. Staffing in the hospitality sector was the first affected. Noosa Council staff recruitment has also been impacted. Workers simply can’t afford to either buy or rent in the tiny rental pool left by the STA takeover in our streets.
More than 85 percent of the investors imposing this life-style conversion on Noosa residents are from Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne. Few live in Noosa.
Policies to stem the STA phenomenon were developed by the Wellington Council but not adopted before the 2020 election. Recent analysis of subsequent Council voting records shows Cr. Tom Wegener has consistently opposed STA expansion (rejecting nine out of 10 applications since the Local Law was adopted), followed by Frank Wilkie (opposing more than 7 out of 10 applications).
At the other end of the voting curve, Mayor Clare Stewart, and Councillors Karen Finzel and Amelia Lorentson have supported STA growth, waving through between 3 in 5 applications (Lorentson) and 4 in 5 (Stewart and Finzel). Most did not get majority council support.
What’s that ruckus next door? It’s just an “imaginary problem”.
Cr. Lorentson enthusiastically supported STA at the 2020 election and, in an early speech to council, described community concern for STA as an “imaginary problem”.
She said: “The solution reached did not involve, in my opinion, proper and effective consultation”. A senior council officer asked about the community process, told the meeting: “(The State Government) has acknowledged that the scheme met all its requirements and actually went over and above the minimum standard for consultation.” With conflicts of interest caused by family ownership of STA properties, Lorentson has not taken part in recent council debates.
Perversely, as Council adopted the Local Law designed to protect residents, the balance of available information tipped in favour of investors. These commercial ventures can be approved in residential zones without neighbours knowing until the Local Law registration sign appears on the footpath. This could not happen with any other commercial venture.
While loopholes and legal rights (under State planning law) have meant STA expansion has continued, other commercial ventures are banned in residential zones. Neighbours have no STA appeal rights. But if an application is rejected the owner has full rights of appeal. Residents wanting information on development proposals or Material Changes of Use rely on services such as Planning Alerts.
Contrast this with the Sunshine Coast Council where there is internet access to comprehensive property development information through its Development.i website. It’s this sweep of information particularly on STA and implementation of the SSL Local Law that Noosa residents want,
NRAUSTRA has quizzed all councillor candidates on their ownership of Noosa property and their attitudes to STA. They have asked candidates;
- if they or their families have a financial consideration in an STA property;
- if they support reducing the number of STA properties available in Noosa;
- if they would support Noosa council taking stronger action to ensure compliance with the Short Stay Let Local law;
- and they’ve asked if they support full transparency of comprehensive information on the Short Stay Let Local Law.
Responses will be published in Noosa Matters after councillor nominations close on February 16. Among other specific changes, NRAUSTRA wants a comprehensive review of the Short Stay Let Local Law by the new council. Put simply, it’s not doing what it promised.