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Tourism or terrorism? The short-term holiday let debacle

For lease signs
For lease signs MICK TSIKAS

DO short-term holiday rentals open up regional areas to become a hot bed of terrorist plots?

According to Yamba Action Group's Geoffrey Beresford, it's a possibility.

In a passionate deputation to Clarence Valley Council's Environment and Planning committee, Mr Beresford declared short-term holiday rentals in regional areas made it easy for terrorist cells to plan large-scale attacks away from prying eyes, and were not better economic options than long-term rentals.

He said the Yamba Action Group was against the NSW Government's proposed regulations for short-term holiday rentals, including Airbnb and Stayz.

He said the proposed recommendation made by the government will impose greater responsibility and demands on councils.

"If the cost in terms of finances and human resources exceeds the council's ability to enforce the proposed changes, then those changes and enforced regulation are doomed to fail," he said.

Mr Beresford added there had been no discussion with NSW Police about the impact on crime or "terror-related incidents".

"Online platforms such as Airbnb have no mechanism whatsoever to check or prevent lettings being used for criminal purposes because there is no face-to-face contact with booking agencies," he said.

"You think this might not be a serious issue for the Clarence Valley, however those carrying out serious crime or planning terror incidents often use very quiet regional areas to make their plans and indeed instigate incidents that occur elsewhere."

The action group has stated short-term accommodation should not be allowed in low density residential areas (R2 zoning).

Ultimately, Mr Beresford said the Yamba Action Group would prefer regulations remain the same and the council help educate people on what the zoning regulations in their area are.

Short-term holiday letting is not currently legal under the low density residential zoning.

However, according to Mr Beresford, not enough people were aware of this.

Sarah Auer represented a number of real estate agents in Yamba and Iluka and deputised that short-term holiday rentals were beneficial to the town.

"Homes units (on the hill) have been holiday let for decades," she said.

"The same zoning exists in the urban area of Yamba as they do on Yamba hill, one cannot impact one area without impacting the other.

"It would certainly be seen as discrimination if it were the case."

Ms Auer said all holiday rentals booked through an agent were obliged to abide by conditions enforced by managing agents.

"We don't expect anyone to live by party houses or noisy holiday guests," she said.

There are 319 holiday lettings advertised on Stayz.com in the Yamba area, which is used by owners and agents to advertise.

"According to the document provided by this committee, a hundred properties are going to be affected if enforcement of the R2 zoning is put into place.

"That will be a significant impact to our local economy," Ms Auer said.

With more than a million visitors to the Clarence Valley, according to council, Ms Auer said if 25 to 30% of these people could not be accommodated, there would be a substantial decline in the area.

"It will not only impact property owners, but would also impact employment and businesses in our area," she said.

Ms Auer said complaints were monitored within the real estate agents system and in the past 12 months had only received two complaints at her office.


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