Monday , October 15 2018
Aerial view of Queenstown in South Island, New Zealand

Airbnb pulls out big guns in Queenstown, but what about Wellington?

Airbnb is throwing its support behind an all-encompassing bed tax for Queenstown as it fights restrictions only targeting short-term accommodation in the Otago city.

The homeshare heavyweight flew in its Australiasian head of policy Brett Thomas and public affairs manager Julian Crowley last week to make the case for an industry-wide levy which covers everything from hotels to short-term holiday lets under a blanket legislation.

The pair appeared at a hearing to discuss Queenstown Lakes District Council’s proposed district plan, which would reduce from 90 to 28 the number of nights homes can be rented to short-term visitors and the number of people who can stay. It dictates no more than three separate lettings would be permitted for any one operator and would require frequent hosts to have resource consent.

But an Auckland-style blanket bed tax, targeting domestic and international tourists staying in commercial accommodation including Airbnb, is the home-share giant’s preferred solution. In 2017, Airbnb accounted for 148,000 guest nights in the Queenstown Lakes District.

Brent Thomas said the company already collected a bed tax in about 500 jurisdictions around the world.

He told the panel: ”I think as long as it applies equally to all hospitality providers, then it would work really well.

”That would be extra money going from guests, wherever they stay, that could go to Queenstown Lakes District Council and pay for infrastructure and worker accommodation and really solve some of these local problems.”

The panel raised concerns about the impact of increased short-term rentals on the long-term rental market, the impact of Airbnb accommodation on residential amenity and a lack of regulation over short-term rentals if its proposed restrictions were not adopted.

Its worries mirror those of Wellington City Council, with councillor Nicola Young directing staff in the windy city to compile data on Airbnb to discover the impact of the short lets industry on its affordable housing stock.

While Wellington already has a visitor accommodation policy which ensures commercial rates are charged for properties where the principal purpose is the provision of short-stay accommodation, numerous operators are allegedly failing to comply with the rules.

The number of Airbnb listings in the Wellington region has swelled from 5918 in 2016 to 31,214 this year.

But finding them is a problem – as Auckland has discovered, with only a small proportion of short-let hosts currently registering with the council as commercial enterprises.

The issue is an international one, and Airbnb is currently locked in a legal battle with the City of New York over a requirement that the short-let giant reveal the identities and addresses of all its hosts in the Big Apple.

Wellington City Council has started buying monthly data about the market size of Airbnb from AirDNA, at an estimated cost about $5000 a year, with councillors keeping a keen eye on what happens in Queenstown.

Following the panel hearing last week, Queenstown planners recommended the proposed night limit be increased to 42 days per year for short-let operators, and the three individual lets per year rule be removed. The resource consent proposal for short-term rentals exceeding the limit would remain.

About Kate Jackson

Kate Jackson
Kate Jackson is the editor of Accomnews and Accom Management Guide. You can reach her at any time with questions or submissions: editorial@accomnews.co.nz

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