New South Wales regional tourism operators are urging the government to stop wasting time on the regulation of Airbnb and Stayz, saying policy uncertainty is hurting operators in the bush.
The state government on Wednesday offered qualified support for measures that would allow regulated short-term holiday letting in NSW.
But it stopped short of making any final decision on the majority of recommendations from last year’s parliamentary inquiry, saying it needed more time to consult on the “complex issue”.
The further delay has frustrated the National Regional Tourism Network, which said the sector just wanted clarity.
Only 12 NSW councils allow homeowners to let their properties for short stays. Other councils have actively punished those using the services.
The network’s chair, David Sheldon, operates a farmstay in Tumut using Airbnb and Stayz. Sheldon said he is being charged commercial rates for the property, while other small accommodation providers in the area are not.
He said short-term letting in regional NSW was important, because there were simply not enough beds elsewhere to cope during peak tourist periods.
The government held a parliamentary inquiry last year, and had six months to consider its recommendations and formulate the response it released on Wednesday.
“It’s wasted time, make a decision and the market will come with it,” Sheldon said. “I think everyone would like some clarity,” he said.
Critics say allowing Airbnb and similar providers to flourish will drive up rental prices, disrupt neighbours, and put traditional accommodation operators at a disadvantage.
Australia’s peak accommodation body, Tourism Accommodation Australia, said the government’s announcement showed the degree of complexity involved in the issue.
The body has no objection to genuine home-sharing, but fears that properties are being used as “quasi-hotels”, that do not comply with requirements on fire safety, disability access, employment, insurance, and tax requirements.
Its chief executive officer, Carol Giuseppi, welcomed the chance for more consultation.
“It is essential that adequate regulations be imposed on non-resident commercial property investors who rent out full properties for short-term stays,” Giuseppi said.
“We have also recommended a specific time limit to be placed on short-term letting of properties, which would allow owners to rent out their property while on holidays – but not as a commercial business.”
“This needs to be supported by a register of properties to improve transparency and compliance and better inform government and industry planning.”
Airbnb characterised the government’s announcement as a “strong, positive step ensuring fair and progressive rules and regulation for residents and visitors to NSW who make the most of home sharing”.
Airbnb’s country manager, Sam McDonagh, also welcomed the government’s support of measures to allow strata corporations to crack down on bad behaviour from short-term letting properties.
“The NSW government is absolutely right in making moves to crack down on bad behaviour,” McDonagh said. “We will happily stand beside them to support regulations that ensure people’s rights to respectfully and responsibly share their homes are protected.”
He said Airbnb guests injected $750m to local businesses in the state and supported thousands of local jobs.
McDonagh said Airbnb understood the need for further consultation.
“We appreciate that these things take time and that it’s important to get the balance right,” he said.
“We’re confident that Premier Berejiklian and the NSW government will join the state governments in Tasmania and South Australia, in embracing home-sharing, and introduce fair regulations that allow more people in NSW to share their extra space.”
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