THE boom in domestic tourism demand under the pandemic border restrictions has likely shone an even brighter spotlight on conflict between short-term rental accommodation and those who live near it in the longer term.
It's not a new problem, by any means. There are few who would argue that the unregulated way the market operated in as it emerged was a long-term way to strike the precarious balance required. This newspaper has reported on concerns from Merewether to Wangi Wangi in recent years, often by neighbours for whom the issues are anything but short term.
"It's normally three to five days. When they go another lot come in the afternoon. It's regular," one neighbour told the Newcastle Herald in 2019. "Not just weekends but during the week."
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The industry has argued that Newcastle's request for a cap on visitors to properties where hosts are not present would stunt growth. Indeed, that is likely the prospect faced if Newcastle and parts of Muswellbrook face more prohibitive rules than other areas. It is a similar argument to that of opponents of Newcastle's lockout laws, who once argued that the restrictions cost businesses trade by dissuading visitors from choosing the city over other venues without such sanctions.
So, providers argue, would it go with short-term rentals in Newcastle if the area faces the same restrictions in place in Sydney while other regional areas do not.
Stayz corporate affairs director Eacham Curry argues that it will fail to address "the four most consistently raised questions about our industry, namely; housing affordability, housing availability, the impact on government resources and service provision, and ... neighbourhood amenity".
"According to ACIL Allen Economics, a 180-day cap on the availability of short-term rental accommodation in the Hunter region will put $21.2 million of economic activity and 117 jobs at risk," Mr Curry said on Monday. "Stayz believes that short-term rentals will have a key role to play in the Hunter's economic recovery and the extension of the 180-day cap to Newcastle will act as a blow to the region's tourist economy."
Of course, industry must be expected to lobby in its own interest. But given the proposed changes also fail to satisfy City of Newcastle's hopes for what the reform could deliver, the question becomes who is served by the severity of the changes. Last weekend, when festivities including the World Surf League's championship tour drew eyes to Newcastle, is an example of what council CEO Jeremy Bath says could be at risk.
That adds to trade sanctions from China on Hunter wines, as well as the loss of international visitors and ongoing shortages in trained hospitality staff, as factors likely offering more challenges than many in Hunter tourism would wish to face. It seems the new rules in their present form have worn out their welcome before they arrive.
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