City of Busselton says State Government’s new short-term housing policy renders local efforts redundant

Breanna RedheadBusselton Dunsborough Times
The City of Busselton has some concerns with the State Government’s new short-term housing policy.
Camera IconThe City of Busselton has some concerns with the State Government’s new short-term housing policy. Credit: AirBnB/AirBnB

The State Government’s new Airbnb policy will undermine local efforts to curb disruptions caused by the short stay holidayers, according to the City of Busselton.

The draft policy, released on Monday, outlines the State’s proposed changes for how short-term rental accommodations will be managed in WA after a 2019 parliamentary enquiry into the matter.

One of the key changes outlined in the plan was the possibility for unhosted accommodation to be exempt from requiring development approval in certain circumstances.

However, this exemption is in stark contrast to the City’s efforts to sustain the needs of residents by introducing “exclusion areas” where holiday homes would not be allowed to operate.

City of Busselton director of planning and development services Paul Needham said the new policy would effectively compromise this goal.

“State (Government’s) proposal to allow ‘unhosted accommodation’ to operate without development approval for up to 60 nights per year would significantly undermine current controls that apply in the City of Busselton,” he said.

“It would also render mostly redundant proposals to establish “exclusion areas”, which formed part of the City’s policy proposals that were subject of community consultation earlier this year

“It is very difficult to see how a regulation to allow ‘unhosted accommodation’ to operate without development approval for up to 60 nights per year could be effectively policed.

“Allowing ‘unhosted accommodation’ to operate without development approval for up to 60 nights per year would also mean that there would be no process to consider potential impacts on neighbours or issues such as bushfire safety.”

“This idea was not supported by either the parliamentary inquiry or the subsequent Government Policy Response — and it is unclear why it is now being proposed,” he said.

Despite these concerns, Mr Needham praised the State’s proposed registration legislation.

”The City eagerly awaits some genuine action on the much more important reform, namely legislation to establish a State registration system,” he said.

“That would provide for regulation of online booking platforms by the State, and is absolutely vital to ensure consistent regulation of short stay letting in WA.”

Going forward, he said he would keep the communities interest at the forefront of his mind.

“The City will consider the proposals in more detail, and will be making a submission, as the issue is an important one for the City and its community,” he said.

Airbnb also held similar concerns to the City, saying the new policy was one of the most restrictive across the country.

AirBNB’s head of public policy for Australia and New Zealand Derek Nolan said it’s about finding a balance that pleases the State’s residential and tourism needs.

“What is most important now is that all stakeholders’ voices — including local West Australian Hosts are heard during this consultation process. This approach will ensure that Western Australia will remain competitive as tourism continues to recover,” he said.

“Regulating short-term accommodation shouldn’t be about one type of accommodation versus another, but rather focusing on growing the tourism pie for the benefit of all locals and the state and local economy.

The State Government’s draft policy will be open to the public for comment until March 7 2022.

Planning Minister Rita Saffioti said she was eager to hear the communities response.

“Our Government is implementing initiatives to better manage the sector... I’d encourage everyone to go online and have your say,” she said.

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