Operators scope out stays
A group of tourism operators have run their own investigation into alleged unapproved Airbnb operators following frustration at a lack of action from Shire officers.
A spokesman for the anonymous holiday home operators, who are members of the Margaret River-Busselton Tourism Association, said members ran a test investigation after they were disgruntled by a recent workshop with Shire of Augusta-Margaret River planners.
The group found eight shortterm rentals in Brookfield and Rapids Landing in one hour.
Operators said they rejected any claims it was too hard for Shire officers to identify non-compliant holiday homes based on their online profiles.
“They are identified by their street address, name on Airbnb and a photograph,” operators said.
“Their operation as short-term accommodation, illegally or in breach of policy requirements, is proven by their listing on Airbnb, which displays availability.
“We ask the Shire to deal with these properties and undertake an enforcement process to identify and close other illegally operating short-stay properties.”
Another tourism operator who asked not to be identified said the investigation showed a crackdown was possible.
Shire sustainable development director Dale Putland said officers would act on the information, but warned about jumping to conclusions about approvals.
“It is important to note that identifying the location of a house that is advertised on Airbnb does not constitute ‘catching out’ unapproved operators,” he said.
“The Shire takes a methodical approach to ensure that sufficient evidence is available to confirm an offence has been committed, and that this evidence will support a conviction in a court of law prior to taking compliance action.”
Shire president Pam Townshend said councillors were awaiting further briefings on Airbnb after discussions earlier this year about possible formation of a consultation group and development of an overarching policy.
“Councillors are getting quite a few emails from people expressing different opinions,” she said.
A forum of private owners rent- ing spare bedrooms on Airbnb told the Times they were aghast at the apparent “vigilante action”.
“We don’t see the need for Shire staff to police Airbnb apart from following up legitimate neighbours’ concerns about party-houses,” a spokeswoman said.
Rogue operators were seeking an amnesty for small-scale Airbnbs, arguing they were part of a diversified economy supporting local businesses and part of the “disruption” created in many sectors by online technology.
Last month’s Shire workshop was designed to discuss revisions to the region’s short-stay accommodation policy, but tourism operators focused almost exclusively on rogue Airbnb and Stayz operators.
MRBTA marketing director Sharna Kearney said unregistered operators were her association’s primary concern and commended Shire commitments to act on rowdy operators.