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Bane or blessing? Speak up now about short-term holiday letting in your community


Sharlene King
9 September 2019

Tourist mecca Byron Bay is not alone in dealing with the impacts of short-term holiday letting. With communities along NSW's Mid North and North Coasts grappling with the growth of Airbnb, Stayz and the like, 12 councils and the region’s peak tourism body have partnered with Southern Cross University to give residents a voice in a new survey.

It follows the positive response to the Byron Shire STHL Survey case study in 2018. This latest project expands the scope to encompass a survey for each of the shires between Tweed and Kyogle in the north to Tea Gardens/Hawks Nest in the south.

The project is in partnership with Destination North Coast.

“It’s all about evidence-based decision-making,” said project lead Dr Tania von der Heidt from Southern Cross University’s School of Business and Tourism.

“Airbnb, the largest, fastest-growing short-term holiday letting (STHL) platform, particularly raises polarised opinions across the North Coast communities and is the subject of ongoing debate concerning affordable housing versus tourism development.

“Policymakers need to have comprehensive, reliable, and evidence-based information on their locations. Community members and traditional accommodation providers want to better understand the impacts of STHL in their residential streets, neighbourhood and local government areas. Calls are being made to regulate STHL across the region more effectively.”

More than 800 residents completed the Byron Shire STHL survey, outlining the positive and negative impacts of STHL, specifically Airbnb, on their community.

“There is particular demand for comparable data sets across and between council areas to understand why different regions and even different towns within one shire might need different planning responses, or interventions, on STHL,” Dr von der Heidt said.

According to the latest data from Destination North Coast, the NSW North Coast’s multiple tourist hubs are valued at approximately $12.5 million per day. Even though tourism generates 9.4 per cent of regional jobs and supports 7,000 business, the North Coast faces many tourism pressures, not least from the burgeoning peer-to-peer accommodation platforms.

“The new knowledge from this latest research project will contribute locally to inform civic decision-making,” Dr von der Heidt said.

“To have a consistent supply-side approach to planning and policy for STHL operations across the whole region, rather than only coastal hotspots, will be beneficial for the multitude of stakeholders: destination marketers; general residents; Airbnb hosts; Airbnb guests; and, not least, administering councils. The research will provide benchmarking information to guide future decision-making around location-applicable regulation of STHL.”

This project comes as councils across NSW consider a short-term letting cap of 180 days for non-hosted STHL properties, including Airbnb. Such a policy amendment is now possible under the whole-of-government framework for short-term rental accommodation in NSW.

“To seek leave for policy amendment, councils must demonstrate the community benefit of reducing the non-hosted STHL period. The local context must be analysed and explained, against indicators including social and economic impacts for the community in general, and impacted property owners specifically,” Dr von der Heidt said.

The North Coast NSW STHL Survey project is led by Dr Tania von der Heidt, with School of Business and Tourism colleagues Dr Sabine Muschter, Dr Rod Caldicott and Dr Deborah Che. Through an innovative partnership with Destination North Coast the project assists to bring academia, destination management, and local government together to serve wide community interests.


Survey links

Survey closed October 31.

Select the survey link for the council area you live in:

Ballina Shire

Bellingen Shire

Clarence Valley Shire

Coffs Harbour City

Kempsey Shire

Kyogle Shire

Lismore City

Mid Coast

Nambucca Shire

Port Macquarie-Hastings Shire

Richmond Valley Shire

Tweed Shire