HOME ACCOMMODATION SECTOR IMPACTED BY ‘DRACONIAN’ COUNCIL FOOD ACT REGULATIONS
The home accommodation sector on our islands has been impacted by a crackdown on the Air BnB sector by Redland City Council. Unknown to many in the industry, food businesses (including bed and breakfast establishments) must meet the requirements of the Food Act 2006 and the Food Safety Standards. According to Redland City Council, if you serve pre-packaged food (i.e. with no food handling), you may not need a food business licence. However, if you serve unpackaged food, you will need a food business licence and structural kitchen approval, and must submit a food business application to Council. The Food Act 2006 also says applicants may need a separate kitchen to prepare the food, depending on the types of meals, number of meals per day, and layout and condition of the existing kitchen. Whilst the regulations may have been in force for some time, they have never been enforced in the manner the industry is now likely to face. Much of this came to light at well-attended public meetings held on both Russell and Macleay Islands recently. The information and timing could not be worse. With the islands currently experiencing a stunning boom in real estate sales and building, the Air BnB industry is a sector that offers growth to a fledgling Southern Bay Islands tourism industry. The importance of this type of accommodation is vital at this time, given that there is only one small motel that can accommodate visitors for short stays. So what happens when a wave of trades and tradies, along with possible home buyers invade our islands? According to our friend and correspondent Bob Turner on Russell Island who understands the industry well, these ‘new arrivals’ are often forced to sleep in cars because there is not enough short-term accommodation. (see Bob’s story elsewhere} The situation is compounded with problems associated with public toilets and garbage collection. The crackdown on the Air BnB sector, referred to by council as Air B and B, because BnB is a business name, is poor timing indeed. The Food Act 2006 basically says that sitting down to a home-cooked breakfast at a bed and breakfast establishment, is now a thing of the past. If you want to provide that sort of a meal with an overnight stay or longer, you are required to comply with the conditions listed above, which make the prospects of food and breakfast establishments, almost impossible. Different, however, if you want to slap a pre-packaged food down in front of your guests; but hardly the recipe for a friendly and enjoyable stay. Because it is often ‘the breakfast’ that Bed and Breakfast is all about. It appears little can be done about the situation other than comply, but clearly there is a ‘hidden’ accommodation crisis on our islands.