State Government Airbnb registry creates headaches in the Capes region: Busselton Mayor Phill Cronin

Warren HatelyBusselton Dunsborough Times
Phill Cronin
Camera IconPhill Cronin Credit: Eva Cronin/RegionalHUB

The long-awaited introduction of a Statewide registry for Airbnb-type operators has been described by Busselton Mayor Phill Cronin as being as much of a help as hindrance.

The new registry recently confirmed by Commerce Minister Sue Ellery, followed recommendations from a Parliamentary inquiry into the sector, sparked by rampant growth in illegal listings seen as a big contributor to the Capes region’s housing crisis.

Under the new scheme, operators listing online would pay ongoing fees which will then be used by State and local governments to monitor the industry and its impact on long-term rentals.

Ms Ellery said there would be a $250 fee to register a short-stay property, followed by an annual $100 fee to keep the property registered in the scheme which starts in July.

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Operators could sign up early to avoid the initial fee, with their registration number being required in all advertising.

Mr Cronin said he welcomed the new scheme compelling online platforms to ensure clients were compliant.

But for the Busselton City Council to comply with the changes themselves, its planning scheme and major policies would have to be overhauled, while the city would lose about $400,000 per year in income from registration fees, starting in January.

“This income currently covers the cost of managing compliance of issues, which the city will still be responsible for,” Mr Cronin said.

The Mayor noted the new guidelines did not include a set timeframe for complaints to be managed, or for contact details to be made available to affected community members when there were issues with rowdy guests.

There was also a lack of clarity around the role of various agencies involved in compliance, as well as who received infringement fee income.

“Our previous framework was built over many years and is based on community feedback,” Mr Cronin said.

He described Busselton’s existing registration system as “in some regards . . . more stringent than the proposed State-based registration system”.

Operators echoed Mr Cronin’s scepticism about any real benefits to housing supply, but especially focused on the challenge of combined agencies and local governments meeting monitoring and compliance demands.

Former Shire of Augusta-Margaret River council candidate Reg Gillard said as an Airbnb operator himself, the changes were “even handed” but the costs around enforcement “will be difficult, if not impossible, without significant fees being raised on Airbnb-licensed operators”.

“That of course won’t be popular,” he said.

But Augusta-Margaret River shire president Julia Meldrum believes a State-led registry is the right move.

“This provides an important check mechanism on whether an advertised property has the relevant approvals it needs,” she said.

“Regulating short stay use of dwellings and limiting these to certain areas is a critical part of our shire policy in managing the issue and serves to protect the majority of residential areas for permanent residents, address housing supply issues, and create a level playing field in the tourism industry that our shire relies on.”

Augusta-Margaret River planning and regulatory services manager Matt Cuthbert said fees would not be affected by the changes that also meant the shire had no role in monitoring or enforcing the State registry.

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