IS COVID-19 DOING WHAT NSW LEGISLATORS REFUSE TO DO?
Our Tourism Industry has been totally blindsided by drought, bushfires and now the coronavirus COVID-19. With the winding back today of some restrictions, the State Government’s DestinationNSW is set to tell us: “It’s time to love NSW.” We are all being encouraged to visit ‘close to home’ when travel restrictions are lifted. NSW was Australia’s premier tourist destination before COVID-19, and Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres told the Media yesterday: “The moment we feel comfortable about letting people back out into regional NSW, beyond what is already permitted, we’ll be doing that.”
Tourism Australia is live streaming enticing holiday hotspots in a big recovery push for the tourism sector. ‘Live From Aus’ also kicks off today, with a special one-hour broadcast at 7:30pm on Network Ten’s The Project. Over the weekend ‘special guest hosts’ will present live experiences – schedule details are set out on Tourism Australia’s website. The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has also set up a Tourism Restart Taskforce in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Given that travel, tourism, business events and hospitality have traditionally been huge job generators, “a successful restart will be an integral part of the nation’s economic recovery”.
In 2015-16 a NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into the Adequacy of the Regulation of Short-Term Holiday Letting in NSW was held; some applicants had their requests to address Members of Parliament refused, plus many more saw their submissions, critical of short-term rentals, marked ‘confidential’. Committee Manager David Hale confirmed that no legal advice was sought during the Inquiry or in relation to the Committee’s recommendations. July-October 2017 an Options Paper called for submissions; Senior NSW Department of Planning Officials wrote that no legal advice was sought in relation to the recommendations made. Those who lodged submissions received no feedback on or acknowledgement of the contents of their submissions. In June 2018 the NSW Government announced a new regulatory framework for short-term rentals in NSW including proposed changes to a state-wide planning framework, changes to strata legislation plus a mandatory Code of Conduct. Touting a “win-win” for Airbnb/Stayz/ASTRA/Expedia etc, again there was no acknowledgement of the contents of submissions made or criticism of NSW Fair Trading’s so-called ‘Code of Conduct’ for Airbnb-type rentals.
It is now a little over eight months since submissions closed (11/09/19) on the NSW Department of Planning’s invitation to “have your say” on short-term rentals. Submissions have not been published. And as they grind ahead with granting illegal short-term rental operators open access to housing, it appears that the Department of Planning plus Ministers of the NSW Government continue to ignore Federal Legislation, NSW Supreme Court plus Land and Environment Court case law, multiple Coroners’ reports and recommendations, a criminology report, a submission from NSW Fire & Rescue, the rights of our accredited accommodation providers plus the proprietary rights of NSW residential Title Deed holders.
Renters win as owners face short-stay apocalypse: “The accommodation apocalypse that hit short-stay Airbnb apartment owners and operators in Sydney and Melbourne is leading to an oversupply of long-term rentals, sharply driving down rents.” Airbnb has always claimed that their operations have little-to-no-effect on the rental and housing market. Current circumstances demonstrate this to be a blatant falsehood. Airbnb landlords are receiving offers: prospective tenants offering the advertised nightly Airbnb rate for a lawful weekly tenancy!
Short-term rental landlords in Sydney and across our State are vowing to return stronger than ever, once COVID-19 travel restrictions are eased. Deputy Premier John Barilaro’s Dungowan Estate is again taking bookings for weekend stays and wedding receptions. State Labor Leader Jodi McKay’s Airbnb has an open calendar from July onwards. Federal Liberal MP John Alexander’s Iona Park at $1,500/night has an open calendar and is taking reservations. Federal Labor Senator Deborah O’Neill made headlines when guests stayed at her Central Coast Airbnb last month. The calendar for this property might indicate that Ms O’Neill will indeed be using the property as her primary place of residence, as she had reportedly indicated in her disclosure to Federal Parliament. Bookings though are available at Ms O’Neill’s Canberra Airbnb from 01 June and her Tasmanian Airbnb from 01 September.
Minister Stuart Ayres: ”...beyond what is already permitted...” In terms of the ‘illegal use of residential premises’, currently COVID-19 is doing what our legislators refuse to do – suppress unlawful activity. Given the dire situation faced by those in the Hospitality and Tourism Industries, what will it be: State Government and DestinationNSW supporting accredited accommodation providers, tenants and residents, or a ‘green light’ for and collusion with Airbnb, Stayz and those – including senior MPs - who are commercialising thousands upon thousands of residential dwellings?
Homes not Hotels Communities not Transit Zones People before Profits
Neighbours not Strangers