Council threat nets laggards

Visitor hotspot: Central Queenstown

Threats of a hefty fine and jail time are flushing out Queenstown’s unregistered holiday let owners.

In January, City Hall wrote to almost 800 property owners, warning them if convicted they could face a $300,000 fine or two years in jail for flouting visitor accommodation rules.

Since the crackdown started, the council’s received 238 visitor accommodation registrations.

Twenty accommodation-related consent applications have also been lodged this year.

Council mouthpiece Michele Poole says more than 100 of the initial 800 owners haven’t responded.

It’s considering issuing $300 infringements if property owners don’t get in touch by the end of the month.

Mountain Scene’s spied two retrospective consent applications sparked by the council letter.

Dalefield home owner Jan Warwick signed up with global accommodation giant Airbnb in March 2015.

But she only applied for consent to establish a residential flat in February this year.

She also wants approval to let out both the flat and the main house for visitor accommodation – listed for $150-a-night and $2800-a-week, respectively.

Warwick didn’t want to comment when contacted by Mountain Scene, saying her consent was still being processed.

The application says the flat was originally a garage. Warwick and hubby Tim applied for consent in 1994 to turn it into a flat, but council rules stipulated it should “not be used as a separate residential flat”.

The order was ignored.

February’s consent application says: “Essentially, the plans submitted to the council were modified to say that the kitchen was to be deleted. At some point afterwards the kitchen has been established and the building is now a one-bedroom residential flat.”

A further application, for a Frankton Road property, admits another homeowner is breaking the rules.

“As identified in a letter from QLDC to the owner, unit B has been used as short-stay accommodation and exceeds the 90 days per year.”

Owners can register with the council to rent out rooms or houses for up to 90 days and will pay approximately 25 per cent more in rates.

Anything over 90 days requires a resource consent. Resource consents can be for up to 180 days or with no limit. Anything over 180 days will result in a further rates increase.

Wellington couple Basil Varouhas and Nicola Poole already let their Avalon Crescent house to visitors via a Queenstown property agency.

But they expect to go over the 90 days because of increased demand and “favourable reviews” online.

Varouhas, who tells Mountain Scene his property has “pretty solid bookings”, has no qualms about paying more.

“I don’t think it would be fair for some people to be complying and others not to. The council faces a big job in improving the infrastructure for the region.”

Airbnb NZ boss Sam McDonagh says it has 2000 houses listed in the Queenstown Lakes.

“In every city that we operate, we encourage our hosts to comply with local legislation and welcome the opportunity to work with Queenstown’s council to find a solution that benefits both residents and visitors.”

Holiday let ban

The tide might be turning against Queenstown’s short-term holiday lets.

Developer Shotover Country Ltd wants to ban visitor accommodation at its proposed special housing area, near the Shotover River.

It has volunteered to bring in the ban, noted on consent notices, over all 101 titles.

Council documents show residential units in the fast-tracked development are “not to be used for visitor accommodation”, meaning owners can’t rent out land or buildings for less than three months.

Shotover Country development boss Kristan Stalker says other parts of the subdivision have a similar ban.

He adds: “The primary purpose of Shotover Country is to create homes for families”.

Airbnb NZ boss Sam McDonagh says Queenstown hosts list their homes to help save some extra money. – DAVID WILLIAMS