Media Release – COORDINATED RAIDS IDENTIFY 15 ILLEGAL HOSTELS IN REGION

Bundaberg Regional Council officers have identified 15 alleged illegal hostels and boarding houses within the region during a joint inspection program held in conjunction with the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service (QFRS) and Queensland Police Service (QPS).

Economic Development portfolio spokesperson Cr Greg Barnes said the enforcement program saw 36 properties inspected over two nights.

“Council has long held concerns about overcrowding at unapproved backpacker accommodation facilities across the region and these coordinated programs have uncovered some of the worst cases that we’ve seen,” Cr Barnes said.

“An inspection of one property alone allegedly found 14 backpackers sleeping in a single non-compliant house, which is incredibly dangerous and quite frankly inhumane. The last thing we want is another incident like the horrific fire and loss of lives that occurred in Childers in June 2000”, he said.

Cr Barnes said that in most cases, the travelling backpackers were paying around $80 per bed / week to stay in the substandard accommodation.

“It’s not hard to do the sums and realise just how lucrative this trade in human exploitation has become”.

“Nobody ‘accidentally’ rents accommodation on these terms. It’s deliberate. It’s immoral. It’s illegal and it’s got to stop”.

Council is resolved to take action on any landowner or tenancy manager responsible and is committed to continue working with authorities to ensure that any of the alleged ‘cowboys’ infiltrating the industry are driven out.

At the same time, Council officers are ready and available to help any operators legitimise their businesses and obtain any necessary approvals.

Through the “Bundaberg Open for Development” incentives scheme, Council is offering reduced application fees, fast tracked assessment and substantial infrastructure charge incentives for proposed backpacker accommodation developments.

“The legitimate hostel owners within the region also have a right to expect that Council will facilitate a level playing field for the industry by enforcing its planning legislation and prosecuting serious offenders through the Magistrate’s Court as deemed appropriate,” he said.

Cr Barnes said Council had adopted a zero-tolerance stance and will consider additional funding in the 2014-15 budget to meet anticipated legal expenses associated with enforcement/prosecution actions associated with the illegal activities.

“This is a very important issue for those directly affected including the wider community and the reputation of our region as a desirable destination. “Council is determined to keep working with respective agencies to eradicate non-compliant opportunists across the Bundaberg Region.”

ENDS

 

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