Hospitality New Zealand has thrown its support behind Queenstown Lakes District Council’s move to tighten rules around visitor accommodation.
The industry body said the proposal to restrict the number of days some houses can be used for short-term peer-to-peer lending through sites such as Airbnb “will go a long way to improving rental affordability and shortages for workers in the region”.
General manager, Rachael Shadbolt, said: “We have for some time been concerned with the unregulated rise of peer-to-peer lending in areas where there are strong tourism numbers, demand for employment and worker accommodation, so these changes are welcomed.”
The changes will introduce a cap of 28 days per year for rental of visitor accommodation in outer residential areas, and 90 days in central areas, before a resource consent would be required.
Queenstown, along with other tourism hot spots, has been losing long-term rental stock essential to house locals and seasonal tourism industry employees as property owners opt for the short-term holiday let market.
“The greatest concern we get from our members in the Queenstown region is the shortage of staff available to meet growing visitor demand. The unemployment rate as of June 2017 in Queenstown was 1.8%,” said Shadbolt.
“So, with a growing demand for tourism-related activities there is a need for more people to move into the region to service visitor’s needs. Businesses find that staff are willing to move to the region, but finding accommodation is becoming near impossible.” Shadbolt said.
“If these restrictions go some way to freeing up houses for the long-term rental market it will take serious pressures off businesses in the region.”
Shadbolt added: “While much of the industry accepts that peer to peer accommodation is an important part of the tourism offering in New Zealand. We also believe there needs to be better regulation of the peer to peer accommodation sector, to bring it more in line with the regulations commercial accommodation provides must adhere to.”
There is also an issue over the equity of rates collection, and regulation, of commercial premises and property owners who are providing accommodation via the sharing economy.
Shadbolt said: “Commercial accommodation businesses in New Zealand have strict regulations around fire safety, building compliance, and health and safety to name just a few compliance requirements. Unfortunately, it is unlikely the majority of peer to peer accommodation providers would comply with these. If peer-to-peer operators are operating in a commercial capacity they should be abiding by the same rules.”
“The issues facing infrastructure and demand on amenities in Queenstown is more focused than many regions of New Zealand, but we also see similar issues of peer to peer accommodation expanding out into other regions as well. We congratulate QLDC on taking action before the issue becomes more acute.”
The proposed rules approved by councillors at Wednesday’s special meeting will be notified for public consultation on November 23.
In the meantime, property owners can continue to operate and receive consents under the existing rules; any new rules will not come into effect until the council makes final decisions after hearing public submissions.