Questions surround “existing use” rights for so called party houses

Seven months ago Noosa Council won a Planning and Environment Court appeal against its refusal to approve a short stay letting (SSL) approval in Sunshine Beach. The Mayor declared this to be a ‘litmus test’ for its approvals policy for short stay accommodation. 

But there was no celebration – the decision was not all good news for Council. It seems that the judgement highlights issues that could affect the validity of some existing SSL local law approvals. 

Some residents affected by ‘party house’ behaviour have raised this issue with Council. They are frustrated as there is still no response from Council on what action if any is underway. 

The Justice Cash judgement calls into question at least one of the criteria – ‘lawful (or existing) use rights’ derived from the Noosa Plan 2006 – which Noosa Council has relied on to approve continued operation of some properties offered for SSL. 

Existing use rights are a right to continue using a property for a lawfully established use – regardless of changes to planning schemes.

The judgement includes findings that suggest some short stay accommodation approvals could be invalid if existing uses were not lawful.

Although Home Hosted visitor accommodation within a detached house was defined in the 2006 Noosa Plan, it appears Short Term Accommodation use was not. As an ‘undefined use’, planning legislation requires a planning application and impact assessment to obtain approval. 

Without an approval, short term accommodation would not be a lawfully established use. It has been put to Council that approvals have been given for SSL to applicants where there were no valid existing use rights. 

There has been sufficient time for Council to at least get a proper investigation under way. Residents affected by SSL have a right to know what Council is doing about the many examples of approvals where existing use rights have been recognised when any such uses may not have been lawful.

The lack of any comment from the Mayor or Council on what action is being taken is fuelling the increasing suspicion of a cover up. 

Meanwhile, for many the local law is proving a dud

There are also glitches in the stumbling implementation of the Short Stay Let Local Law that complements the Noosa Plan.

Adopted with great fanfare in October 2020, implementation of the Local Law has been snail-paced. As a result, for the coming Xmas/New Year holidays about 1500 of around 4000 Noosa properties offered for Short Stay Letting will not be approved and registered. 

That means they will be outside any protection offered by the ‘hot line’ complaints arrangements for the Xmas/New Year holiday. In 2022/23 complaints about bad behaviour by renters during this holiday period reached an average three/day.

Sunshine Beach Surf Club president Warick Redwood says the Council’s Short Stay Let approvals’ process and decisions have left hundreds of homeowners with adjoining properties bitter and disillusioned. 

Warick Redwood

Warick was also convenor of Residents Against Unregistered Short Term Rent Accommodation (RAUSTRA) which has reconvened to ensure the Council and 2024 Mayoral and Councillor-candidates know this continues to be a ‘hot button’ issue along with traffic congestion and over-development. 

“Neighbours are not consulted or even informed when SSL applications are lodged,” he said. “They have to rely on commercial sites such as Planning Alerts for advice about property developments in their neighbourhoods.

“They are not informed about applications, cannot access information on them, and they have no appeal rights when SSL approval is granted – unlike property owners who have appeal rights if approval is declined.” 

Warick Redwood

When the RAUSTRA group was convened in 2020 It cautiously welcomed the policy. But now Warick Redwood says there is widespread disappointment with implementation, and that many now see the initiative as tokenistic.

“Although some positives came out of the introduction of the local law, the community and residents surrounded by so many SSL properties are frustrated and exhausted from dealing with agents and guests who act and feel entitled to destroy residential amenity and to a larger extent the whole premise of a community,” he said.

Members of RAUSTRA are concerned that numbers of SSL properties are increasing; loopholes around granny flat approvals are being exploited; owners are not renewing SSL registrations to avoid dealing with ‘hot line’ complaints; and profits from these commercial investments continue to pour out of Noosa.  

Many residents fear that Noosa’s eastern beaches and river suburbs are gradually morphing into tourist zones, not the quiet residential communities envisaged by earlier councils and approved under their planning schemes. 

Perhaps this Christmas themed post on social media sums it up pretty well.


This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Dear Noosa Matters, thanks for the article.
    Purpose built holiday resorts are also concerned at the implementation of the SSL Law which impacts all resorts except those given special exemption, such as Hastings Steet (also creating unfair competition and equity issues across Noosa). For years now, holiday resorts have had security, bylaws, licences, and 24-hour on-site managers to deal with the issues that the SSL Law was supposed to fix vs Noosa Council issuing best practice guidelines in 2020 when it introduced the local law. Critically, while Council gets sidetracked by the prospect of earning revenue by including resorts, there is distraction with less resource and focus on managing residential areas and so the Law fails to protect residents and their amenity.
    Resorts are where tourists and visitors should be staying (after all that’s why they were built) and our residents have a right to be safe with quiet and peace in their homes. The dual combination of the discriminatory general rates within a holiday resort (charging holiday let units 100% more than an owner resident) with the SSL Law registration red tape and fees are encouraging residents to move into holiday resorts and forcing tourist into residential areas.
    Our feedback to some Councillors, the Council CEO and Directors to focus the SSL Law back into the community and achieve the intended purpose has been ignored or given the usual patronising reminder to send in your comments (we have for 2 years now in case they have missed them …).
    Resort managers in Noosa support our Residents and we stand with you. We thank Warick and Julia for their ongoing commitment to exposing the anomalies in the SSL Law itself and its implementation. (Cathy Parry-Moule and Rod McLennan, retired Managers, The Islander Noosa Resort and Owners holiday unit).

  2. Avatar

    Great article.
    Hope you existing Councilors and Election Hopefuls are reading this with new eyes.
    I fear the current Captain will be leaving your ship and leaving you to paddle .
    The Residents are here to support you.

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