Some good changes for our Noosa Plan, but some alarm bells as well

Noosa’s leading conservation group – NPA – has given its verdict on the changes to the Noosa Plan now out for public consultation. And like the proverbial curate’s egg, they say it’s good in parts, bad in others.

While supporting much of the thrust of what’s now out for public consultation, NPA has pointed to three issues that give them most concern.

1. Going up means we begin to break the Noosa mould.

The amendments recommend altering building height limits for residential developments at the Shire Business Centre (aka Noosa Civic) and at Noosa Junction. The proposal is for developers to enjoy an extra storey, going from 3 storeys to 4 storeys, if they incorporate some affordable rental housing. There are other incentives to encourage affordable housing, and the NPA committee believes that Council should not be abrogating a long-standing position on building heights in the shire for the sake of a handful of affordable apartments (20% of yield from the development).

2. It’s time to get serious about policing our STA laws.

NPA supports additional measures in the amendments to restrict further spread of Short Term Accommodation (STA) such as Airbnb in residential and rural areas. However we have concerns about Council’s resourcing of staff to police the measures. This includes the use of secondary dwellings on residential lots.

3. Retain our Noosa Civic transit hub close to our main feeder road where it can work as a funnel for day-trippers. 

NPA does not agree with the proposal to move a planned transit hub at the Shire Business Centre away from its original proximity to Walter Hay Drive, as we believe the hub will be essential for capturing visitors entering the shire by car and transferring them to public transport.

We encourage our readers to have their say in these and other important changes to our Town Plan here.

We explain elsewhere in Noosa Matters why it’s so important to make changes to the Noosa Plan very carefully, forming a consensus about our planning laws that we can then expect our Council to support wholeheartedly.

Below is the full submission by Noosa Parks Association.

At a general level, NPA endorses Noosa Council’s aims to: 

a) increase housing diversity, and

b) contain the spread of Short Term Accommodation (STA).

Whilst acknowledging the role that tourism plays in our local economy, NPA supports all efforts to make Noosa Shire a place where resident amenity takes precedence. 


We understand that Noosa Council has been discussing its approach to the local housing crisis with the state government for some time (at least since February 2023). Furthermore, that these discussions began well before the changes to the South East Queensland Regional Plan (SEQRP) which appeared mid last year.

We understand that the proposed changes to the Noosa Plan along with council’s Housing Supply Statement are able, at least on paper, to meet the SEQRP dwelling targets by utilising infill, secondary dwellings and increased density in existing residential areas, but without enlarging the urban footprint or significantly altering zone alignments.

We further note that the state may yet insist on alignment amendments, but we support Noosa Council’s current position to resist such pressure from the state. For example, we note that council has not buckled to pressure from the state to allow for duplexes in the Low Density Residential Zone. If the state were to insist on changes to zonings and urban footprints, we note that this would require further amendments to the Noosa Plan. 


i) We note that the Amendments retain the existing limits on STAs in Low Density, Medium Density and High Density Residential Zones such that STAs may only operate 4 times per year or 60 days in total per year. We acknowledge that this is aimed at restricting non-hosted, full-time STAs whilst allowing homeowners to let their principle place of residence when they happen to go away on holiday themselves. We support this restriction on the letting of homes for tourists in the residential zones.

ii) However, we also note that Noosa Council, when developing the Noosa Plan 2020, received legal advice that no aspects of the scheme could impact on the existing use rights of properties that were being let on the STA market prior to the scheme’s adoption. Thus, the above restrictions on letting of properties in the residential zones (4 times and 60 nights) do not impact on the thousands of properties that can demonstrate they were being let prior to 2020. 

We support all efforts by council to prevent further STA premises across residential areas, noting that STAs have an impact on resident amenity, sense of community, and also the availability of homes for residents, particularly long-term rental stock for key workers. 

We note that, according to the council’s Short Stay Letting Local Law Snapshot, there are 2,634 approvals for STAs (including those which exercised existing use rights) across the shire. We note there may be many more that have simply not registered and thus not been identified by staff. By way of comparison, there are just 2,500 active STA properties registered in the whole of Sydney City’s local government area, according to NSW Government figures. While again the actual figure for Sydney LGA may be higher due to numbers of unregistered STA properties, it does put Noosa’s problem into perspective. 

NPA notes that Brisbane City Council is currently making changes such that property owners in medium or high density areas not only have to register all STAs, but can only function as an STA if they have planning approval, body corp support plus a 24-7 property manager. It would seem that Brisbane Council may be able to impose these restrictions on STAs that would appear to have existing use rights. We urge Noosa Council to determine which, if any, regulations relating to STAs in the Brisbane LGA are being imposed on property owners that have existing use rights. We further urge Noosa Council to investigate and work with Brisbane Council to see if such regulations may be applicable to Noosa, and also whether the Noosa Council’s now 6-year-old advice about existing use rights is still valid in light of Brisbane Council’s actions. Indeed, we urge Noosa Council to liaise with various other local government areas across the nation (Busselton, Mornington Peninsular, Byron Bay etc) to compare notes and work towards best-practice solutions regarding control of STAs. 

It is NPA’s understanding that Noosa Council may be restricted in its ability to prevent a residential property from operating as an STA if it has either current approval under the Noosa Plan 2020 or else existing use rights prior to the Noosa Plan 2020. We appreciate that planning approval exists and transfers with the land and not with the owner. Thus, owners who can demonstrate a right to operate an STA may sell the property to a new owner who can continue to use the property as an STA. However, in the case of houses (as opposed to apartments), if that use has not been exercised in recent years, and the property has instead been used as a principle place of residence, the prior existing use rights to operate as an STA appear to be extinguished. If the house enjoys existing use rights as a result of being used for STA prior to the Noosa Plan 2020, and has continued with such use, then that right, under state legislation, appears to transfer to the new owner. We also understand that this situation is less clear for apartments and units in multiple dwelling complexes, where use rights between STA and principle place of residence may be interchangeable under state legislation, regardless of whether or not the property has been consistently used for STA. In other words, an apartment that has been short-term let prior to 2006, but since then has been occupied full-time by its owners, may become, by right, an STA under new ownership. In short, houses appear to require demonstration of continued and current use as STA to be able to continue to operate as STA, whereas multiple dwelling residences do not. We respectfully request that Council further investigate this very grey area in the legislation to provide clarity and to determine whether the old legal advice from prior to 2020 still stands. 

iii) NPA supports the registration system and suite of local laws concerning STAs in Noosa. However, we also note that council has been egregiously slow in policing and implementing those local laws. We understand that this may be related to problems in finding appropriate staff. While this is not a strategic planning matter, we urge Noosa Council to better resource its local law department so that the monitoring and controlling of STAs meets resident expectations. 

We support council’s efforts to register all STAs and Bed & Breakfast home businesses (which are effectively the same as a home-hosted Airbnb) that operate across the shire, even those that are only letting 4 times a year, or which are home-hosted. We support council’s use of data scraping services to identify unregistered properties which are being short-term let.

iv) Again, outside of the planning area, NPA supports higher rates being levied on STA properties, including Home-based Business Bed & Breakfast residences, as they are all operating as commercial businesses. (We note that Brisbane City Council has linked STA rates to commercial rates, and that Victoria has a 7.5% tax on STAs.) At the very least, such imposts should cover the costs of monitoring and policing STAs from both a planning and local law perspective. However, revenue should also help to pay for the additional impact of visitors on public infrastructure, including roads, parks, public toilets etc.

v) We note that in Rural Zones, under the proposed amendments, STAs can only occur where owners are in residence, i.e. home hosted. This is a change from the Noosa Plan 2020 situation where STAs are acceptable outcomes in rural zones. This is an excellent change of emphasis. Noosa houses should be for residents first and foremost, including in rural areas, with the only exception being the Tourist Accommodation Zone. 

We note, however, that rural properties can have up to 24 guests accommodated in guestrooms, cabins, cottages or permanent tents. These are proposed as an acceptable land use if there is a permanent resident on site. NPA would like assurance that such developments will remain impact assessable. (We are not referring to the category of ‘nature-based tourism’, which we recognise as requiring numerous qualifying conditions and thus a lower level of assessment – though there may be few or no approvals in place for nature-based tourism at this stage.) Our concern is with large numbers of people occupying rural lots, particularly where this may lead to impacts on neighbours, detriment to the environment and impacts on public infrastructure such as roads. Whilst appreciating that council wishes to foster rural enterprises that encourage tourists away from the coast and into the hinterland, we would like council to consider how it may assess such developments. Again, although it’s not a planning matter, the rating of such properties must also be resolved. 

vi) NPA notes that, some time back, the state removed restrictions on secondary dwellings such that they no longer have to be occupied by family members. We also note that secondary dwellings (granny flats etc) are now being encouraged by Noosa Council as a means of dealing with the area’s housing crisis. No doubt they also help to meet the SEQ RP population targets. To prevent such secondary dwellings becoming STAs, it is essential that council staff are adequately resourced to act on information such as neighbour complaints and the results from data scraping. Without such active monitoring, it will become too easy for secondary dwellings to be converted to STA use. We support wording in the Planning Scheme that reinforces the stipulation that secondary dwellings are not to be short-term let. We also note that secondary dwellings have an additional impact on council services and public infrastructure and should be rated accordingly.


NPA has concerns, given the continued intensification in residential areas, particularly with added secondary dwellings, that the provision for just 2 or 3 vehicle spaces on individual properties may be insufficient. We already have urban, residential streets which are choked with parked cars from residents. The allocation of on-site car spaces in the proposed amendments seems to be less than adequate. We respectfully request that council reviews the requirements for car spaces to better reflect current car usage.  

And while we’re on the subject of parking spaces, whilst we applaud council’s thinking in trying to encourage car sharing, we do not believe that this approach is applicable to the Noosa milieu. Car sharing makes sense in high-density, inner-city areas. We believe it to be pie-in-the-sky in a place like Noosa where car-sharing is extremely unlikely to occur as a transport solution.


i) NPA does not support the proposal to move the transit hub in the Shire Business Centre (Noosa Civic locality) such that it is further removed from Walter Hay Drive. We believe that it is important for the transit hub to be visible and proximate to the main feeder road into Noosa. 

Although the area allocated for the transit hub is unfortunately rather small, we believe it still has potential to be an important park-and-ride hub for people visiting Noosa, particularly if it incorporates a future 3 level multi-storey carpark.

It is NPA’s belief that the best solution for Noosa’s traffic congestion is to capture incoming traffic, particularly day-trippers, and have those visitors transferred to an improved local public transport network. We acknowledge this will require considerable negotiations with the state government who are currently in control of public transport. 

However, as residents have already stated in response to the Destination Management Plan, they wish to see significant and systemic solutions to destination management, and that includes transport solutions. NPA believes that traffic entering Noosa on the Cooroy-Noosa Rd, the Eumundi Noosa Rd, the Motorway/Walter Hay Drive and David Low Way should be able to transfer to public transport at designated park-and-ride hubs. Plainly this may require some land swap deals with the state, particularly around Beckmans Rd. 

NPA does not believe that either paid parking nor a congestion tax will significantly reduce traffic congestion nor visitor numbers. There is ample evidence from around the world that such solutions, particularly paid parking, do not reduce traffic. But they do have the capacity to raise revenue that can then be used on improved transport solutions including park-and-ride facilities. 

ii) NPA supports greater clarity regarding high density residential zones within the Noosa Business Centre. Like council, we would certainly like to see some affordable housing in these 5E precincts (more on this in the next section). 


i) NPA understands that council wishes to provide incentives for property developers to include affordable housing in their developments. However, we do not support the abrogation of long-standing building height restrictions to achieve this.

NPA acknowledges that the definition for affordable housing is determined by state legislation. NPA believes that the current definition is far from functional, and this adds to our concerns about efforts within the planning amendments to foster affordable housing in Noosa. As noted in Schedule 1, “affordable housing means housing that is appropriate to the needs of households with low to moderate incomes, if the members of the households will spend no more than 30% of gross income on housing costs.” Of course, if the gross income of a household is well above the average wage, then their domicile becomes ‘affordable’ simply because loan repayments or rent is less than 30%. A family on $1 million income might have its home deemed affordable if they are spending less than $300,000 on it. Plainly this is absurd. 

NPA notes that council intends to include a new definition for “affordable rental premises” meaning dwellings that meet the definition (above) for affordable housing, but are also: entirely small dwellings; owned or leased by a registered provider within the meaning of the Housing Act 2003; and are managed by a registered community housing provider as long term rental housing for a minimum of 30 years.

ii) We note that the incentive for affordable rental housing in the Residential Zones at the Shire Business Centre is an allowance to build to four stories in the allocated precincts. (We are disappointed that this is not made clear in council’s fact Sheet 6 – Noosa Business Centre.)  Without an affordable rental housing component, we understand that these precincts are limited to three storeys. We note that developers only need to allocate 20% of the gross floor area to affordable rental premises to gain this additional storey.

NPA does not support four storey residential structures in the Shire Business Centre. At the council’s General Committee Meeting of June 17, 2024, the elected body assessed an application by Stockwells for a childcare facility on the edge of Eenie Creek Rd. The applicant wanted to reduce the vegetation buffer between the facility and the road. Staff recommended a refusal. Cr Stockwell eloquently argued that the 10-metre vegetation buffer was necessary not only to screen the childcare centre from the road, but also to screen the residential buildings that would be developed immediately behind the centre. He also pointed to Noosa Council’s long-standing aim to ensure that the natural landscape dominated the visual aesthetic. This is particularly critical along our major feeder artery into Noosa, to ensure arrivals receive the correct impression of Noosa’s ‘difference by nature’. Given that parts of 5E are immediately adjacent to this feeder road, NPA does not believe that a four storey building can be adequately screened by a vegetation buffer. We thus oppose efforts to allow four storey buildings in this area.

iii) We note that the amendments allow for an increase in building heights at the old Noosa Junction bowls club site in Noosa Junction, plus the main street of Noosa Junction, where a four-storey structure is proposed to be acceptable if a 20% proportion of the yield is affordable rental housing.

NPA supports high density housing in Noosa Junction, as it is a major transport hub and business hub. However, we do not support the potential of four storey buildings in Noosa Junction, which we believe would have a detrimental impact on the village feel of the area. We believe building heights here should be limited to three storeys, as they are on sections of Gympie Terrace.

iv) An allowance for four storeys establishes a problematic precedent for future developments across the shire. NPA is of the view that, apart from existing historical developments in Hastings St, Munna Point and Serenity Close, buildings across the shire should be restricted to three storeys not four storeys. 

It has long been said that the death of Noosa’s unique differences may come by small cuts, and NPA views increasing building heights to four storeys as a perfect example of this truism. The dictates for allowing four storeys are that each development has to allocate 20% to affordable rental housing. We do not believe that Noosa should sacrifice a long-held principle for what will ultimately be a proportionally small handful of affordable apartments. We note that the planning scheme changes offer alternative incentives for affordable rental premises via additional plot ratios, additional site cover and a reduction in landscape open space required for the site. NPA believes this should be sufficient incentive, although other incentives may be considered, such as application fee adjustments. 


i) NPA notes that, as part of council’s Housing Strategy, it aims to work with providers such as church organisations to improve the availability of community housing in the shire. NPA supports the use of church-owned land for disability, emergency or crisis housing, subject to obvious impact assessments. We note that council is rezoning some such land, e.g. in Pomona, from residential to community facilities to support this outcome. We would like assurance that, while no development approval may be required over such developments, there will still be significant oversight of the developments by council. 

ii) NPA notes the case of Redland City Council, in which a ‘community residence’ won an appeal against a refusal by the council. We have concerns that the state may override local planning controls to facilitate community residences, even where such developments contravene the state’s own definitions. We note that Redland Council is pushing for revisions to the State Planning Regulation to prevent oversized, inappropriate, out-of-character and incorrectly designed community residences to be built. 

iii) It is our understanding that the State’s Housing Availability and Affordability Act has created a range of avenues for the state to override local planning schemes in respect of affordable housing, and thus make its own assessments and approvals, regardless of local planning instruments. While NPA opposes such overreach by the state, we have sympathy with Noosa Council and other LGAs in this regard. It is thus critical that Queensland councils make efforts to incorporate affordable housing and do so on their own terms rather than have those terms dictated by the state. However, we believe Noosa Council needs to find better incentives for affordable housing than additional building heights. 


NPA supports the allowance of STAs in the Tourist Accommodation Zone. We also support the minor tweaks that will bring existing resorts into this zone. We further support efforts to move some existing land zones currently identified as Tourism Accommodation (e.g. behind Gympie Terrace) into the Residential Zone. 

We note also that both Noosa Lakes Resort and Park Ridge are proposed to be transferred from Tourism Accommodation to Residential Zones. 

NPA appreciates that the proposed planning amendments will see more land leaving the Tourism Accommodation Zone than being newly incorporated into that zone. NPA supports this move to consolidate housing for residents and better define areas where tourist activities including STAs are acceptable. 


i) NPA supports the efforts to control lighting spill on beaches in the Coastal Protection Scenic Amenity Overlay, in favour of nesting turtles.

ii) NPA also supports the proposed allowance for rural property owners with Voluntary Conservation Agreements to choose to have their land rezoned to Environmental Management Conservation in a split zone arrangement to ensure ongoing environmental protection.

iii) NPA supports the addition of Innovation Hubs to 3.2.6

iv) NPA supports the new inclusion of battery storage device as a land use.

v) NPA supports the addition of accessible housing as a land use, being “dwellings designed to Liveable Housing Australia – Liveable Housing Design Guidelines Platinum level or National Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Specialist Disability Accommodation Design Standard of fully accessible or high physical support.”

Yours sincerely,

Tony Wellington. Noosa Parks Association.


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