Call for action on court ruling

Apartment residents, the hotel industry and developers of high-rise apartment buildings are under threat unless the State Government acts.

In a decision released in the Supreme Court on July 22, Justice Riordan invalidated an original rule created by the developer of the Watergate building, meaning that owners’ corporations throughout Victoria are unable to prohibit owners from letting out their units to short-term guests.

In his judgement Justice Riordan said: “In my opinion, the prohibition of businesses generally and specifically businesses related to short-term letting exceeded the scope of what was intended by the Parliament in enacting the Owners Corporation Act 2006.”

The State Government needs to act quickly to amend planning laws and to legislate to regulate short-stay accommodation in residential buildings, otherwise:

Inner city apartment buildings will be overrun with party guests, holiday makers, boarding houses, backpackers, etc with fewer owner-occupiers and long-term residents and Melbourne could quickly become a city of ghettoes in the sky;

The tourism and hotel industry will be severely affected: hotel revenue will decline substantially and tourism jobs will be lost; and

Property developers will have difficulty providing guarantees to potential owner occupiers that their homes would  not be turned into quasi hotels.

Owners’ corporations Trojan Horse

To date, the only response from the State Government to the Supreme Court ruling has been to reintroduce into State Parliament, for a second reading  (Tuesday, August 18) its Bill on short-stays, which was first introduced into Parliament on May 23.

This Bill merely addresses the issue of noisy guests and nothing else and arose from the findings of a flawed “Independent” Panel set up by the former Minister for Consumer Affairs, which was compromised by conflicts of interest among some panel members.

On the panel was a short-stay operator but there was no representation from community or relevant resident groups and no consultation with these groups at any time.

During the second reading, held late in the day when very few MPs were in the House, all the government speakers followed the party line in saying how wonderful the Bill was and that it would address current problems in the short-stay industry. The common theme was that the ALP was meeting an election promise and they were feeling pretty good about it.

Clearly the new Minister for Consumer Affairs, like the previous minister, is totally unaware of or doesn’t want to know about the real issues and problems surrounding short-stays in residential buildings.

The one ray of light during the second reading was the contributions by Ellen Sandell, the sitting Member for Melbourne and Russell Northe, the Shadow Minister for Consumer Affairs both of whom had spoken at length to We Live Here and had an excellent grasp of the issues.

What can we do about it?

We Live Here is already in discussions with the City of Melbourne about amendments to local planning laws, which is a good start as it does understand the issues.

We now need to have discussions with the State Government.

Letters have been sent to the Premier, Ministers and all other ALP members requesting them to reconsider the Bill and to meet with us to discuss the regulation of the short- stay industry so there is a level playing field for all.

To date there has been no response and all previous attempts to meet with the Ministers for Planning and Consumer Affairs over the past 18 months have largely been ignored or hand-balled to one another.

We will keep up the fight until the government begins to engage with us. We now ask those of you who are affected by short-stays to also write to the government. The more pressure we bring to bear the better.

A meeting to discuss the issues will be held at Parliament House on Wednesday, August 31 from 6pm until 7.30pm to which all are invited. A flyer will be sent out shortly.

To assist us in maintaining the fight, please donate to our fighting fund which can be accessed via the We Live Here website at www.welivehere.net

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