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Planning Minister Stokes' Actions Described by One as What Peter Stuyvesant Was to Smokers - Cancer

In a corridor of Parliament House in Macquarie Street, during a break in an Inquiry into what was meant to be the adequacy of the regulation of short-term holiday letting, a Strategic Planning Manager from a South Coast Local Council offered his business card and an invitation to meet separately with representatives from Expedia/Stayz and the Australian Short-Term Rental Association (ASTRA), referred to at the time as HRIA. What had just been raised and discussed before the Inquiry Committee was what the Council Representative referred to as the ‘Gosford case’ – short for NSW Land and Environment Court (LEC) case law judgment Dobrohotoff v Bennic [2013] NSWLEC 61. MPs were told that in the Council Representative’s Local Government Area there were an estimated 4,000+ holiday homes. Away from the ears of MPs, the Council representative now suggested to the Expedia/Stayz and ASTRA reps that Parliament should be pushed to alter the State Environmental Planning Policy [SEPP] – to make short-term rentals ‘complying development’ in all residential dwellings state wide. The Council he represented, along with Bega Valley, Blue Mountains, Gosford, Lake Macquarie, Palerang, Pittwater (in Planning Minister Rob Stokes’ electorate), Port Stephens and Wyong Councils, had all subsequently amended their Local Environment Plans to circumvent the LEC’s Dobrohotoff v Bennic judgement. (Eurobodalla, Kiama, Queanbeyan and Wingecarribee had acted similarly, prior to the LEC case. Indeed, during a subsequent Inquiry in the Victoria Parliament, a representative from Expedia in the US, who flew to Australia to speak on behalf of Stayz at that Inquiry, confirmed that she had recently met with Planning representatives at the referred to NSW South Coast Council.

On 09 April 2021, Planning Minister Rob Stokes, under a Ministerial Order, altered NSW Planning Legislation – the State Environmental Planning Policy [SEPP]. The South Coast Strategic Planning Manager had indeed held the key: short-term tourist/visitor rentals are now ‘legal’ under state legislation, and more and more residents are finding themselves priced out of rental housing.

The NSW Government is offering ‘support training’: “The ePlanning Training Team facilitates information sessions for Councils and State Agencies who require assistance using the ePlanning Digital Services. We have twice applied online and received confirmation to join the Department of Planning’s sessions however, no joining instructions or ‘tickets’ for the online sessions are sent.

The Echo Daily has published a letter from a Byron Bay resident:

“I don’t always agree with Fast Buck$ but agree with the general premise of his argument concerning the problems holiday lets owners have in obtaining landlord insurance and the current illegality of holiday letting (Echo Letters Nov 18).

Several precedent court cases have shown this illegality in NSW residential areas. The most recent was Dobrohotoff vs Bennic in the Land and Environment Court (May 2013). This prompted a number of coastal councils to develop policies and change their LEP to allow holiday letting.

Gosford, Wyong, Kiama and Eurobodalla have already had their policies gazetted in the NSW Parliament. Byron’s policy is on public exhibition until December 4. Compared with other councils the policy is comprehensive, but still does not satisfactorily protect residential amenity and requires amendment.

Provision of public liability insurance to protect tenants of holiday lets is more important than landlords insurance. If a holiday let tenant is injured in the property, it is possible that the owner could be sued if there was no public liability insurance. Any responsible holiday let owner would already have this insurance. If they pay tax then it is a deduction.

It will become mandatory for all holiday let owners to follow the Holiday Rental Code of Conduct. On page 14 in this Code the following regulation 2.3 states “Insurance: Owners and managers should hold appropriate insurance including comprehensive landlords’ and public liability insurance (as appropriate).’ Therefore, it will become mandatory for holiday let owners to hold this insurance. Many would be willing to take a risk and Council would not be aware that owners are not fulfilling their obligation.

Council should require all holiday let owners, before finalisation of registration, to produce evidence that they have purchased public liability insurance. Evidence to show annual renewal of insurance should also be produced to renew registration. Council should withdraw registration if this is not undertaken. Such a positive move would enhance consumer confidence in responsible tourism management in Byron Shire.”

A link to State MP for Sydney Alex Greenwich’s amendment covering registration, and the debate on this issue, can be found in Hansard, and here. It is felt by many that the Department of Planning’s STRA ‘team’ did not understand nor check the wording of the amendment when drafting the registration scheme. Nor do many believe that MPs and public servants comprehend the massive impacts of that which they have, this past fortnight, legislated as a legal use of residential dwellings.

Many of those engaged in short-term rentals have, by definition, been engaged in the “illegal use of premises” over many years. One wonders how many will now pay a $65 registration fee to State Government. Government will not be checking any of the details lodged during the registration process or following up on mandated requirements. Local Councils will not be receiving commercial rates on the commercial use of housing, and will not be funded to cross check restrictions on development consents that may apply in line with the Section 149 Certificate linked to thousands and thousands of dwellings. No funding is derived from the State Government for Councils to undertake detailed annual checks on Fire & Safety infrastructure, Disability Access requirements, legislation under the Food Safety and Liquor Acts, or the Hospitality Industry Award. And what of Capital Gains, Corporate Taxes plus other Federal/State/Local taxes?

Currently there are daily reports on homelessness across all age groups and sectors. Multiple coronial reports have been ignored. Reports of rape, money laundering, prostitution, human and drug trafficking, the deaths of children, and the killing of adults in Australian short-term rentals – all are ignored. NSW Planning volunteers a Factsheet: Information for hosts and Factsheet guide for hosts, but nothing for those living in neighbouring homes or those in desperate need of housing.

In 2016 the NSW Planning Minister wrote that we had lost 218,000 homes to short-term holiday letting. What is the current number of homes lost to this industry? Stokes has pulled the trigger on a human rights issue. What have you done, Rob Stokes? What have you done!

#Right2Housing Homes not Hotels Communities not Transit Zones People before Profits Neighbours not Strangers


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