As we gradually start to look towards returning to some sort of post-lockdown normality, everyone is grappling with the uncertainty around just what the new normal will actually look like. It is likely that many aspects of life in NZ will be impacted, with the tourism sector facing some particularly significant adjustments. This includes those who own and operate holiday house type visitor accommodation.
Do You Need a Resource Consent?
So, the question remains, do you need a resource consent to operate visitor accommodation in your holiday home?
The short answer is most likely, yes you do. If your District Council Plan has rules relating to visitor accommodation, then you will either need to comply or apply for a resource consent to authorise your activity.
But Why Worry about Complying or Applying for a Resource Consent?
Up to this point, Councils have generally taken a reasonably relaxed approach towards small scale visitor accommodation activities that breach District Plan rules and therefore require consents for such activities. In fact, some Councils have not devoted any enforcement resources towards managing visitor accommodation, particularly in areas where tourism is not a significant activity. That is all possibly going to change in this new post-lockdown world.
For those who continue to offer holiday house type accommodation on platforms like Airbnb and Bookabach etc., there is a possibility that the new commercial environment will see them at increased risk of enforcement action from Councils if they don’t have the correct consents in place. With the borders closed for the foreseeable future, tourism operators are going to be more reliant on domestic tourism than they ever really have been before. Domestic travel is itself likely to be quite limited, at least in the short term, all of which means that tourism operators and accommodation providers will fighting over a much-reduced number of visitors.
We’ve already seen in the pre-COVID economy that some of the larger scale commercial accommodation operators (i.e. hotels, motels and holiday parks etc.) are less than pleased at the number of smaller scale accommodation providers flouting the same district plan rules and processes that they have all had to negotiate and comply with. With the fight for customers only likely to become more intense post-lockdown, those operators will likely double-down on those frustrations and Councils are likely to find themselves coming under increased pressure to enforce their District Plan rules relating to visitor accommodation activities.
As a consequence, those that already have the correct consents in place will be ahead of the game and should be well placed to take advantage of any upturn in tourist activity. Those that don’t will be at the mercy of the Council and potentially could find themselves not being able to take any bookings until they get their consents in place, which could be a period of a couple of months or more.
So What Do You Need to Do?
While the Country adjusts to the shock to the economy and works through some of the uncertainty around what the new normal is, it is probable that Councils will continue a softly-softly approach to enforcement until things settle down a bit more. This provides a great opportunity to get those consents in place now so that you’re protected against any potential complaints that will undoubtedly start becoming more frequent once the effects of increased competition really start to bite.
Here at WM Environmental we have a wealth of experience in small scale visitor accommodation consenting, particularly in the Southland and Queenstown Lakes regions. We can advise you on your consenting obligations under the district plan wherever you are, and can help you obtain the necessary consents in a timely, hassle free and inexpensive manner. Get in touch with us today to make sure you’re at the head of the curve and in the best shape possible to be able to capitalise on the changing environment we’re all now operating in.
Posted: 24 April 2020