STA approval ‘precedent’ could run rampant in hinterland

A COUNCIL decision to approve a whole-of-property short-term accommodation (STA) operation in a rural residential zone has potentially opened the door to STA proliferation across Noosa’s hinterland, a councillor has claimed.

The 1.9-hectare property on Sunrise Rd, Tinbeerwah, is also apparently listed for sale, according to Cr Tom Wegener.

The decision has shed light on a yawning gap in the 2020 Noosa Planning Scheme, where hinterland tourist accommodation is “encouraged”, but has to date been limited to small-scale “home-hosted accommodation”, and where such activities are “subordinate to the use of the property as a residence”.

But council planning staff had no other recourse than to recommend approval of the application as it met all the requirements under the current scheme, based on “performance-based outcomes”, state government legislation meaning approval can be awarded on “demonstrated compliance”.

Cr Wegener mounted a strong challenge against an approval at council meetings this week, saying rural home-hosted tourism accommodation was never envisaged to include STAs, and opening the hinterland up to a business model that had already massively impacted Noosa’s coastal suburbs was “opening a can of worms”.

He said such an approval only exacerbated the problems already recognised in council’s own housing strategy and the acute shortage of rental properties in the shire.

“We have to refuse this. A precedent is being set,” he told councillors on Monday.

At Thursday’s Ordinary meeting, councillors voted 4-3 in favour of the application – Crs Stockwell, Jurisevic, Wilkie and Finzel in favour; Wegener, Stewart and Lorentson against – however Cr Stockwell amended the recommendation to include that council should amend the planning scheme to exclude further applications of this nature; a lengthy process that will include community consultation.

Cr Stockwell said a refusal now could trigger an appeal in the courts, and council’s grounds were “paper-thin”.

He said the application met performance outcomes, and “you can’t make things up” in a bid to create a different outcome.

Cr Stockwell also said taking into account that the applicant had the property up for sale as part of an application decision would be breaking the law.

He agreed that the scheme should be amended to exclude such applications on smaller (less than 4-hectares) rural lots, but to go about it the right way.

Cr Wegener said: “It seems to me we are transplanting the problems with STAs from the coast to the hinterland.

“It’s making it easier for investors to buy properties [for STAs],” he said.

“This is turning homes into hotels.

“To do a home-based business, the Rural Residential Code makes you apply for a permit and prove you will not affect [resident] amenity.

“But short-term accommodation? A flick of the pen and the approval is made forever – and it is Council’s job to regulate it.”


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