When we look back in a few years and try to pinpoint a single moment when the ‘hollowing out’ of our residential beachside village could have been slowed but wasn’t, it will be this week.
This week 5 of our 7 councillors have decided to vote against the Noosa Plan, and against a Noosa Council Staff recommendation that basically says “We have too much Short Term Accommodation. We are losing our battle to be, primarily, a place where people live.”
We are all aware that there is a housing crisis in Noosa, as in much of the country. Just ask the local businesses that can’t get staff because they can’t find anywhere to rent.
We are all aware that this crisis is exacerbated by having too many Short Term Accommodation businesses in our streets, and not enough homes for permanent occupation.
Recently though, Noosa Council Planning staff noticed something alarming.
50 per cent of homes in the part of Peregian Beach zoned ‘medium’ density residential had been turned over to STA businesses.
This was a watershed moment, and clearly in conflict with the Planning Scheme that stipulates the medium density zone be “predominantly” residential.
This was no longer the case, and every extra STA business added would tip the balance further.
THE COUNCIL VOTE.
Two new STA applications came before Council this week, at 30 Kingfisher Drive and 4 Teal street, north of the village.
The staff recommendation was to refuse both applications because, having reached this tipping point, they no longer conformed with the Planning Scheme.
But in the General Committee (where contentious issues are thrashed out) only Deputy Mayor Frank Wilkie and Councillor Tom Wegener supported the staff and the Noosa Plan.
The same 5:2 vote in favour of more Short Term Accommodation is expected at the final Ordinary Committee meeting on Thursday.
The recent staff analysis and the fact we had reached that 50 per cent tipping point were not considered enough for the majority of Councillors. Rather than close the floodgates, they decided to give the latest applications the green light and wait for additional reports due in October.
AN ATTACK ON COMMUNITY ADVOCACY.
Also of concern to us was the Mayor’s off-handed dismissal of local objections and of the PBCA’s long-established role in helping local residents through the complexity of lodging submissions.
Alarm bells are ringing amongst community groups around Noosa if they are to come under attack by elected Councillors for helping their own members and residents to lodge objections on “impact assessable’ issues.
This is what the Mayor said: “The majority of the objections are from one particular community organisation who lobbied hard with a template letter. And the last STA in Peregian we debated, they did the same thing. They’ve done it again. I would challenge whether this is truly representative of the whole of Peregian, of ALL of the area and the thoughts and wishes of the whole community, or just a small group.”
We are proud of our role over several decades in advocating for and protecting our community.
What we want from our elected Councillors now is leadership, and some balance restored in favour of those who view our shire primarily as a place to live.
We contend that a lack of due process this week and a failure to take heed of the latest information supplied by Council officers leaves these decisions open to question and appeal.