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Airbnb proposes national regulatory toolkit to help grow tourism sustainably in New Zealand

As part of our commitment to working collaboratively with government, Airbnb has today released a proposed toolkit to help guide a national approach to regulating short-term rental accommodation in New Zealand.

Derek Nolan, Airbnb’s Head of Public Policy for New Zealand, said: “Airbnb plays a huge role in New Zealand society. As a platform, we represent thousands of everyday kiwis who share their homes or their properties to tourists and guests from around the world.

“ Baches or cribs are an iconic part of New Zealand’s tourism economy and, as travel preferences change, will play an ever increasing role in its future. Home sharing plays a pivotal role in ensuring the world’s ever-growing desire to visit New Zealand is converted into tourism jobs and more dollars into small businesses and communities.

“Research by Deloitte Access Economics shows that in 2017 alone, Airbnb guests spent more than $780 million in New Zealand, supporting over 6,000 jobs.

“In 2019, Kiwis accounted for more than an estimated 1.2 million Airbnb guests within New Zealand. It is a huge positive that home sharing provides more affordable travel options for Kiwi families looking to holiday in New Zealand.

“We acknowledge, however, that while the revolution in short-term rentals has occurred over a 10-year period, in regulatory terms that is akin to ‘overnight’.

“We do recognise the need for modern regulatory frameworks that address the needs of hosts, guests and the broader community, while also allowing tourism to grow and generate jobs. Following consultation with a range of stakeholders, we believe our proposed regulatory toolkit would achieve this and help secure the future of a critical part of New Zealand’s tourism economy.

“The truth is that the overwhelming majority of hosts and guests on Airbnb experience safe and enjoyable stays and are respectful of neighbours. But we do recognise that - while extremely rare - incidences of bad behaviour can severely impact community amenity. While Airbnb enforces strict policies and removes wrongdoers, there needs to be a further, tougher national approach.

“Our proposed national regulatory toolkit will not only help deal with the very rare and isolated incidents that do occur across all providers, but will also ensure those who do the right thing and are making a positive contribution to New Zealand’s economy are not unnecessarily penalised because of the actions of a tiny minority.

“The majority of hosts on Airbnb in New Zealand are everyday people using their home to generate extra income to combat rising costs of living and pay down mortgages.

“We are committed to working collaboratively with government to implement fair and sensible rules that get the balance right and ensure tourism continues growing sustainably into the future for the benefit of all Kiwis.”

Airbnb’s “Growing Tourism Sustainably” regulatory toolkit is comprised of five key regulatory principles, which include:

1. Tough but fair code of conduct

We believe an industry-wide “three strikes” Code of Conduct that applies to all operators will give communities peace of mind. The Code would:

  • Provide a framework with tangible consequences to protect neighbourhood and community amenity by addressing the rare and isolated incidences of anti-social behaviour that do occur across platforms; and
  • Allow the banning of all hosts and guests who egregiously violate the Code.

2. A national sliding scale of regulation Airbnb is proposing a system that appropriately reflects the diverse nature of STRA activity and includes:

A national “home-sharing exemption” for a host’s primary residence, which establishes STRA as an ancillary use of a dwelling with no restrictions and which requires no additional planning permission, such as development approval, registration, or a permit;

For non-primary homes, such as a holiday home, Airbnb calls for:

  • A national standard approach for defining STRA activity in a non-primary home as ancillary use with streamlined safety benchmarks;
  • A toolkit for local councils, based on achieving objective policy goals, to set thresholds if required to manage STRA activity in non-primary homes within the national standard approach; and
  • A simple, online, and cost-effective nationwide compliance certificate system for non-primary homes.

3. National data sharing framework

To ensure policy makers are equipped with the best possible understanding of home sharing and can measure the success of any policies implemented, a national data sharing framework that applies across the entire STRA industry is recommended.

Such a framework would:

  • Integrate with a national STRA planning framework and provide policy makers with the best possible information to increase understanding of home sharing and measure the success of policies implemented;
  • Drive compliance with new home sharing rules; and
  • Apply across the whole STRA industry - with adequate safeguards to protect privacy.

4. A national, sustainable visitor levy framework

Visitor levies are a fair, proven and sustainable way to raise more revenue for local communities. We have publicly supported the Queenstown Lakes District Council’s establishment of a visitor levy and - dependent on the outcomes of the QLDC initiative - Airbnb is committed to working with the Central Government to expand this program on an opt-in basis for other councils.

5. Making tax compliance easier

To make tax easier for both hosts and Inland Revenue, Airbnb supports:

  • A new light-touch, mandatory data sharing framework to provide the Government with the information it needs whilst also protecting privacy; and
  • Changes to streamline the tax process to make it easier and cheaper for New Zealanders to pay their taxes across all sharing economy platforms.

Additionally, to help drive the implementation of a national framework, Airbnb is also calling for the creation of an STRA working group that includes representatives from the Central Government, local governments, and the STRA industry.