MORE than a decade ago, neighbourhood disruption caused by school leavers and others, renting houses on Phillip Island and elsewhere in Bass Coast, prompted an outcry from the community.

Loud music, fireworks, fights, burnouts… it was all part of the problem in usually quiet residential streets.

When trouble started, some of it serious, the authorities had no idea who to contact with the result that it happened time and time again.

So, in response, the Bass Coast Shire Council introduced a controversial ‘Holiday House’ category into its Registration of Prescribed Accommodation policy, usually reserved for hotels, motels, farm stays, holiday camps and boutique hotels.

Initially it was feared the shire would force the owners of every holiday house in the shire to register their property and pay a fee, ultimately though, they decided that only the bigger houses, those offering accommodation for 6-15 ($321) or 16-25 ($389 had to register and pay.

The good news is those fees have been waived, and in some cases, returned to the owners this year while the policy is reviewed, and a new ‘Short Stay Accommodation Local Law’ is developed.

If you want to know more about that you should register your interest at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/3RR3S5Z

The bad news is some of the key property management real estate agents in the area have been left in the dark about the change and are still telling their owners to contact the shire about registration.

And it’s highly likely registration and fees will return in some shape or form in the future.

“We didn’t know anything about it. All we heard was that the shire wasn’t that worried about the fees this year,” said a prominent Cowes property manager this week.

“We’re still telling them to make contact with the shire.

“A lot of them aren’t that worried about paying the fee but they do think it’s just another money grab for which they don’t get anything.”

Cowes councillor Ronnie Bauer isn’t against the idea that holiday houses, used for commercial purposes, should be registered with the shire if community safety is at issue, but he wants to see a festering sore at holiday time fixed – rubbish!

“The reality is that fortnightly red bin collections don’t work in holiday areas, especially where you have new people changing over each week, and I want to see a change included in any new local law affecting holiday houses.”

The shire’s administration is reluctant.

“Regarding short stay accommodation and waste management, weekly collections are already available on a user pays basis. There are a number of local companies who offer this service. Further, all property owners can request a larger bin from Council for a fee of $60 per annum,” said a shire spokesperson.

If you want to get your red bin collected each alternate week, you’re still going to have to organise it yourself!

This year, and until the new local law is developed, we’ll be back to square one if there are any disturbances at holiday rental houses.

In fact, last week, as police prepared for the arrival of up to 5000 school leavers for a bumper ‘Schoolies Week’, Acting Senior Sergeant Scott Morrison said police were going around making their own list of houses being used by school leavers.

“We’ll be including them in our patrols but would welcome reports from the community about other houses they think we should be aware of,” Acting S/S Morrison said.

What is the review all about

The Bass Coast Council provided a summary on where they were at reviewing the registration of holiday homes and the development of their new ‘Short Stay Accommodation Local Law.

“Previously, Council registered Holiday Homes under The Public Health and Wellbeing Act (2008). Council ceased this process from July 1, 2021 and is refunding properties who had paid registration from this date up to December 31, 2021.

“Council will be moving to a new process, where Short Stay Accommodation (previously referred to as Holiday Homes) will be registered under the Local Law 2022 from July 1, 2022.

“All previously registered properties will be sent an invitation to become registered through this new process in 2022. During the transition period, property owners will not be penalised for having an unregistered property.

“Nuisance complaints relating to these properties will continue to be responded to under the current Local Law 2012 and The Public Health and Wellbeing Act (2008).

“If you would like to provide feedback on the proposed new Short Stay Accommodation Local Law, please register your interest (go to council website).

“When holiday home registration was introduced (in 2012) it was in response to changes to the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 and based on legal advice received at the time.

“Since then, we have seen the effective use of the Local Law provisions in other municipalities (e.g. Mornington Peninsula) to manage holiday home registrations.

“Our Local Law is currently under review and Council is considering whether this is the best mechanism for holiday home registrations going forward.

“The Local Law review provides the opportunity to explore options with the intent to achieve more effective management of holiday homes and the associated issues.

“Placing a temporary hold on fee collection and reviewing the program within the local law, will allow council to look at how the entire registration process can work better for the local community.”

The council would not say how many holiday homes/short stay accommodation places were registered, how much it collected in fees or how much money the shire would be returning to house owners.

Answers to our questions

* Owners of both existing and previously registered properties have been advised of the review.

* We continue to monitor short stay accommodation websites and update accordingly as new properties come on board.

* The ‘holiday home’ registration policy has been in place since 2012.

* Council is only returning the funds this year whilst the review is in place. The fees collected are provided to Destination Gippsland (DGL) and Destination Phillip Island (DPI), to support tourism industry development and events. DGL and DPI have not been adversely impacted as Council has funded what would have normally been collected from registrations.

* Council is only refunding previously collected fees back to July 1 of this year.

* Feedback can be provided at any time on the Short Stay Local Law, however community input will be actively sought as part of the Local Law review early in the new year.

* The future levied amount proposed will be determined after the community consultation and also the number of properties on short stay platforms. This will fluctuate. For example, during Covid there were less properties as people moved to the region. People may now choose Bass Coast as their primary place of residence.

* Council is reviewing the Local Law because we are required by legislation to update our Local Law every four years. This review gives us the opportunity to address a number of community concerns raised with us, such as short stay accommodation issues.

* Neighbours are encouraged to ring the police if their amenity is being impacted because of unruly behaviour that is obtrusive. This needs to be ‘in the moment’ so the police can address the behaviours of the people renting the property. Where there have been repeated complaints to Council, Council officers have written to the property owners alerting them to the problems. In some cases, they have been taken on board and the issues have stopped. In some cases, they have not.

* Council has no control over the number of short stay providers across the shire. To date we have not received a request from the police for the names and addresses of people who have properties listed on short stay accommodation platforms.

* The Local Law is designed to enhance public safety, to improve the liveability of our neighbourhoods and to protect Council’s public assets. Local Laws have a 10-year life span. Council’s Current Local Law No. 1 Neighbourhood Amenity 2012 (Local Law 2012) was developed following months of consultation and community input and was adopted by Council in July 2012. It will expire in July 2022.

* This year, Council will begin reviewing the current Local Law 2012 and engage with the community to develop the new Local Law 2022. This will involve consultation with key stakeholders and the community.

To register to have your say, and be kept up to date on this project, please register your interest go to: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/3RR3S5Z