Whitsunday Area Council to review Airbnb policy after owners threatened legal action

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A North Queensland holiday home will not legally accept guests for the foreseeable future after a council objected to official advice and its own planning regulations and rejected a request for approval for the registration on Airbnb.

The owners have threatened legal action and the Whitsunday Regional Council will review how it handles approvals for online accommodation booking platforms like Airbnb after denying the request.

The owners of the Woodwark Crescent House in Cannonvale in the Whitsundays, have submitted a Material Change of Use request so that the property can be listed on the online short-term accommodation booking platform.

The property was listed on Airbnb without these approvals.

But this week, council voted five to two to reject the development request over concerns voiced by neighbors.

Mayor Andrew Willcox said the decision meant council would have to revise its policy on Airbnb “as quickly as possible” because there were more nominations.

“There were all kinds of underground operations [two years ago]”Cr Willcox said of unapproved vacation accommodation.

“We put in place a moratorium to say ‘please register so we can see how many we have’ because people were operating without a license.

“We brought in a license to try to have some control over how it works.”

The luxury house at the center of the council meeting can accommodate eight people and costs $ 875 a night to rent on Airbnb. (Provided: Airbnb)

Cr Willcox said that a change in policy would most likely require a change in the planning scheme of the region.

He said part of that process would be determining the appropriate locations for these properties.

Council awaits legal challenge

At the council meeting this week, Director of Development Services Neil McGaffin told councilors he expected the owners of the Woodwark Crescent home to challenge the decision in court as the demand was in line with the board’s planning plan.

Cr Jan Clifford brought the motion to dismiss the application because of objections “from the immediate neighbors to the way this property has operated in the past and to their right to peaceful enjoyment of their properties”.

the facade of a house and a carport, with the ocean seen behind
The board expects a legal challenge after denying the owners’ Airbnb claim. (Provided: Airbnb)

In a letter to council, owners Graham and Fiona Turner said they take their responsibility as neighbors “very seriously”.

“We are committed to ensuring that our home can be enjoyed by visitors to the Whitsundays and that our neighbors can live in a normal residential environment,” they wrote.

“When we bought the property, we bought it as a long-term investment, a place to move permanently over the next 5-10 years.

“In the short term, we plan to use the property as a family vacation destination and hoped to manage it as a short term vacation rental through a local managing agent.”

No timeline has been set for a review of the board’s Airbnb policy, but councilor John Collins told the meeting it should happen as soon as possible.

Cr Collins said he didn’t want taxpayers paying legal bills for the board to respond to legal challenges.[twantratepayersfootinglegalbillsforcounciltorespondtolegalchallenges[twantratepayersfootinglegalbillsforcounciltorespondtolegalchallenges


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