The Queensland government has put forward radical changes to the state’s planning laws in an attempt to stamp out wild, all night parties and disturbances being created by the short term letting of purposely marketed ‘party houses’ in tourist areas that have become a suburban nightmare for residents and police alike.
The crackdown being put forward by the Newman government means that operators of the lucrative rental properties will finally have to apply to councils for development approvals to operate the facilities that have for years thrived on legal loopholes and regulatory ambiguity surrounding the recreational rental market.
Councils and the state government have been under attack from residents and mainstream investors fed up with a lack of powers to deal with brawls, drunken arguments, excessive noise, litter and other illegal and criminal activity caused by large groups renting large houses for weekends of wild excess.
Now authorities are seeking to amend the Sustainable Planning Act so local governments can designate where party house venues can operate and ban back lot party strips that attract not just partygoers but large numbers of gate crashers.
As part of the reforms the state government will allow councils to define ‘party houses’ as residential dwellings that are leased, hired or rented on a regular basis for events such as weddings, bucks nights and other parties.
The new measures will also allow councils to designate a ‘party house restriction area’ in planning schemes so that hot spots on the nose with neighbours can be shut down under the laws.
However it will be up to individual councils as to whether they ‘opt in’ to the new planning laws, a flexibility provision that avoids the imposition of a state-wide mandate that may otherwise have amended all planning schemes.
That concession is intended to reflect the fact that the ‘party house’ problem is really only an issue for a relatively small number of local government areas.
The state government has specified areas such as the Gold Coast, Noosa on the Sunshine Coast, Cairns and North Stradbroke Island as critical hotspots that need to be addressed under the new laws.
However party politics is never far away from the new policing provisions. Queensland’s Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning Jeff Seeney has been quick to blame the previous Labor government for allowing the proliferation of “nuisance” dwellings in tourist areas because of its “lack of planning”.
Mr Seeney said the Newman government had listened to community concerns and has already taken action by giving police greater power to deal with anti-social behaviour at out of control events.
State member for Mermaid Beach, Ray Stevens said the new amendments will be a win for families that have “suffered at the hands of party house operators who deliberately and knowingly flouted the rules”.
“These operators come in where they’re not wanted and compete most unfairly with legitimate holiday accommodation providers who do the right thing,” Mr Stevens said.
Member for Noosa, Glen Elmes, said the new council powers honoured an election promise he made to help target the problem in Noosa of large homes being converted into mass rentals.
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