Group calls for clearer Airbnb rules

Augusta Margaret River Times - - News - War­ren Hately

A newly formed res­i­dents group says the Shire of Au­gusta-Mar­garet River must in­tro­duce clearer guide­lines on hol­i­day homes and en­force them, or risk fur­ther ero­sion of the re­gion’s sense of com­mu­nity.

The alarm comes with Shire con­sul­ta­tion on its re­vised pol­icy clos­ing next week, while reg­is­tered hos­pi­tal­ity op­er­a­tors call on the Mar­garet River-Bus­sel­ton Tourism As­so­ci­a­tion to weigh in on the vexed is­sue.

Former Shire pres­i­dent Jamie McCall and Karri Loop res­i­dent Ed Green are among a grow­ing mem­ber­ship of the Res­i­dents’ In­ter­ests Pro­tec­tion As­so­ci­a­tion spurred into ac­tion by the growth of Airbnb and un­reg­is­tered hol­i­day homes across the re­gion.

The group cites un­fair com­pe­ti­tion to op­er­a­tors, bush­fire risks, lack of en­force­ment, and loss of amenity as key con­cerns, but cen­tral to its com­plaints is the un­der­min­ing of neigh­bour­hoods caused by an uptick in hol­i­day homes out­side of ex­ist­ing pol­icy maps.

“Our ex­pec­ta­tion is you make the pol­icy clear and con­cise so peo­ple know what they can do,” Mr McCall said.

“When it be­comes a hol­i­day home, there’s no com­mu­nity and there’s no su­per­vi­sion.”

Mr Green said there was too much “confusion” in the ap­provals process and not enough en­force­ment. “What we’d like is a scheme that is well thought out, clearly and suc­cinctly ex­plained, and de­lin­eat- ed on a map,” he told the Times.

RIPA said there was dis­par­ity with a map show­ing ap­proved hol­i­day homes across the re­gion, while a lo­cal fam­ily re­cently fronted the coun­cil ask­ing why per­mis­sion for their bed and break­fast was re­buffed for fall­ing 200m out­side Mar­garet River’s town cen­tre.

Mr McCall said a change to the scheme in 2016 now al­lowed hol­i­day homes as a dis­cre­tionary use in the ru­ral zone, fu­elling the spread of un­reg­is­tered op­er­a­tors he said were un­likely to re­spond to com­plaints.

Shire plan­ners have pre­vi­ously said the ex­ist­ing pol­icy with­stood State Ad­min­is­tra­tive Tri­bunal challenges, re­in­forc­ing its util­ity, but RIPA said too many un­law­ful op­er­a­tors were go­ing un­pun­ished.

Shire sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment di­rec­tor Dale Put­land said plan­ners were up­front with RIPA and other groups about a le­gal re­quire­ment to al­low dis­cre­tionary ap­provals in its pol­icy frame­work.

“They must have a de­gree of flex­i­bil­ity to al­low all pro­pos­als to be as­sessed on their in­di­vid­ual mer­its,” Dr Put­land said.

“With the as­sis­tance of the com­mu­nity, the Shire hope(s) to ar­rive at a fi­nal pol­icy po­si­tion which pro­vides a bal­ance be­tween main­tain­ing the amenity of homes and pro­vid­ing a wide range of tourism ac­com­mo­da­tion for visi­tors.”

The Shire called on un­reg­is­tered op­er­a­tors to “show re­spect” for neigh­bours and ob­tain proper ap­provals.

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