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Victory for common sense in building use enquiry

There has been a successful outcome from the activity I have been conducting on behalf of Australian Residential Managers Association, Gold Coast Tourism and Sustainable Development Gold Coast Inc as regards the continued use of Class 2 multiunit buildings for the purposes of both short term and long term accommodation.

The issue first arose several years ago when there was agitation by certain groups for the Building Code of Australia (National Construction Code) to be altered in respect of the definitions of Class 2 and Class 3 type buildings so as to particularly exclude persons from occupying strata titled apartments in buildings for short term accommodation unless the building was converted to become a Class 3 classified building.

Recently the Australian Building Codes Board announced that it was rejecting any change to either the wording of the building classification for Class 2 buildings or the guidance notes for the application under the National Construction Code, with information that the board would not revisit the situation for at least two years.

The background to the agitation was that two interest groups opposed to the use of strata titled accommodation by tourists, made strong assertions to various government bodies for change. Those parties were the Home Unit Owners Association and the Australian Hoteliers Association. The Productivity Commission applied to the Australian Building Codes Board to make appropriate changes to exclude tourist use for such buildings. The politics were somewhat complicated in that each state has its own building act that applies the standard National Construction Code and where each state government has a representative on the board.

Several years ago the situation came to a head in South Australia where the Planning Court conducted a case to decide whether or not a local council was correct in refusing permission for short term use of a building that was in Class 2. The court decided quite clearly that there was no limit on the time of occupation of Class 2 buildings within the definition of the National Construction Code. A request was then placed to the board by the Productivity Commission to undertake enquiries and to make changes to stop such use in order to protect the interests of hoteliers who operated under the Class 3 statutory requirements applying to hotels, motels, backpacker accommodation etc.

In Queensland the position was quite absurd in view of our successful record in building multiunit residential strata accommodation allowing for the flexibility of use by tourists as well as permanent occupants. The Gold Coast in particular has an extraordinary number of strata titled serviced apartments that are the life blood of our tourism industry. Any change to this would produce a massive adverse effect on the construction and tourism industries. Yet it took a great deal of struggle over the last three or four years to convince the various ministers in the Queensland government Planning Department from time to time of the need to continue the successful arrangements in regard to these buildings.

One of the reasons highlighted by the board for its decisions was the considerable responses from industry such as those we produced and evidence that codes of conduct applied to holiday rental shareholders were a positive developments.

It should be quite clear to anyone studying the situation that the 3 classifications applying to residential premise’s are separate and distinct, safely serving the needs of the types of occupants. Those three types of buildings are Class 1 – which are single unit residences such as houses, Class 2 – which are multiunit accommodation buildings where there are clusters of apartments around services and facilities such as foyers, lifts and stairwells and Class 3 – where the are buildings housing bedroom/bathroom accommodation connected by corridors on various levels serviced by lifts, stairwells and other facilities. Keeping these classifications separate and distinct for all reasonable use and occupation is now assured for several years to come and hopefully as a fixture for the future.

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