Short-term letting remains in limbo

Geoff Helisma

Submissions to the NSW Government’s Short-term Holiday Letting in NSW Options closed on October 31; meanwhile, at the October Clarence Valley Council (CVC) meeting, councillors decided (apart from councillors Debrah Novak and Greg Clancy) to wait and see what the state government does.

Debate and questions on the issue resulted in a rejection of staff’s recommendation to take compliance action against properties found to be in breach of regulations in the valley’s 2011 local environment plan (LEP).

The council issued letters regarding non-compliance to an undisclosed number of Yamba house owners in September, which stated, in part: “If you are undertaking any unauthorised use f the dwelling, you are requested to cease the use or contact Council to discuss your situation.”

The letter cited fines of up to $3,000 for individuals and $6,000 for corporations could be levied if further compliance action is taken.

However, the LEP is less than clear when it comes to what is permitted in R2 low density and R3 medium density residential zones, “as there is no clear-cut definition of short term holiday letting” in the LEP, CVC’s strategic and economic manager David Morrison told the Independent.

Staff wrote in the report to council, when providing context for its recommendations, that the “government’s indecision … has weakened council’s ability to respond through legislative and compliance actions”.

Staff recommended that “in the short term pending the state government adopting a policy position … council only take legal action against demonstrable non-compliance with the [LEP] where serious community impacts can be substantiated”.

The report noted that “legal advice suggests” that pursuing the legal action would come at a cost of “in the order of $20,000 or higher depending on the complexity of the case and any defence”.

“Cost recovery would depend on a number of factors including the success of the case and the court’s discretion. However, there are significant indirect costs such as staff time as well,” the report stated.

Staff’s recommendation also outlined several parameters that were “generally [in] support [of] the NSW Legislative Assembly Committee’s recommendations”; however, these were not adopted.

Councillors ultimately decided to “request that the State Minister for Planning and Local Member for Clarence, in his role as Parliamentary Secretary for regional planning, expedite a coordinated planning system response to Short Term Holiday Letting in order to provide certainty and to reduce community conflict caused by the Government’s delay in implementing the NSW Legislative Assembly Committee’s recommendations”.

The options paper can be viewed on the department of planning’s website: planning.nsw.gov.au.