News In Brief

What have we learned? 20 years since Childers backpacker hostel fire

This week marks 20 years since the Childers backpacker hostel fire that killed 15 people.

Sergeant Geoff Fay was one of the first on the scene and said it was still difficult to talk about the tragedy.=

As reported by the ABC, this event prompted a state-wide overhaul of fire safety regulations regarding budget accommodation. 

The Coroner’s report also criticised the former Isis Shire Council for failing to adequately regulate the safety of the hostel and allowing it to operate without a proper regulatory framework governing fire safety issues. Coroner Michael Barnes’ conclusion – along with those of other State Coroners – have been quoted by us in multiple submissions on Airbnb-type rentals to Ministers and Departments of the NSW Parliament:

“It is apparent that since the fire there has been a very high level of commitment and activity across numerous State Government departments and local authorities that has seen a metamorphosis in building fire safety. However, there is always a risk that as the horror of the Palace Backpackers Hostel fire fades from the public consciousness, and new priorities demand the commitment of extra financial and human resources, these reforms will be allowed to degrade. I know the professional and volunteer fire fighters of this State who risk their lives when fires occur would prefer sufficient resources continue to be devoted to prevention. It is incumbent on their superiors and the State Government to continue to provide the leadership and the resources to enable that to happen.”

On 20 April 2020 Kevin Anderson MP, NSW Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation wrote (COR-01065-2020) that in terms of Airbnb and other short-term rentals:  “The NSW Government is committed to establishing a short-term rental accommodation regulatory framework that balances the rights of homeowners to reasonably use their properties as they wish…” 

Minister Anderson was asked to clearly identify what legal ‘right’ he was referring to in terms of short-term rental operators as opposed to the concrete proprietary rights of the owners of NSW single-family dwellings and residential flat dwellings.  The Minister’s attention was also drawn to Federal Legislation, NSW Supreme Court and Land & Environment Court case law, Coroners’ reports and recommendations, a criminology report, a submission from NSW Fire & Rescue, plus the rights of accredited accommodation providers. 

In a letter received today, Minister Anderson makes no reference to property or other law.  Instead the Hon Member suggests the possibility of a by-law for those in strata that, if passed, could legally prohibit the use of a lot for Airbnb-type rentals, “but only where the lot is not the principal place of residence of the host”. 

Minister Anderson must consult with his former State MPs: they have to date successfully defeated any and every call by fellow owners to introduce such a by-law which would see the former MPs and others’ “Illegal Use of Premises” – as judged by the NSW Land and Environment Court/City of Sydney Council – possibly somewhat curtailed.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is calling on tourism operators and other businesses to shun customers from Melbourne’s coronavirus hotspots (SMH). Zero chance of heeding the Premier’s message for those living in apartment buildings and residential streets. 

NSW residents object in the strongest possible terms to our buildings and neighbourhoods being turned into ‘transit zones’, with residential title deed holders and tenants now forced to live amongst a constant stream of unidentified transient clients.

The State Government is committed to establishing a short-term rental accommodation regulatory framework that preferences Airbnb, Stayz et al over the rights and health of NSW residents. The NSW Government’s obvious contempt for our proprietary rights is severely exacerbated by the current COVID-19 pandemic. Frankly, this is totally unacceptable.

Image Credits: ©rcfotostock – stock.adobe.com

Via
The Neighbours Not Strangers Campaign

Trish Burt

Trish is convener of the 'Neighbours Not Strangers' campaign against short-term letting in residential NSW housing. Accom News shares a diverse range of opinions across the accommodation sector but does not endorse any particular view.

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