BUNDABERG Regional Council has announced approval for three new hostels in the region, but at least one of the properties has already housed backpackers for several years.
Two of the properties are located in Bundaberg South on Arthur and Targo Sts, the third is on Adams St in Bundaberg West.
Planning and development spokesman Ross Sommerfeld yesterday confirmed to the NewsMail the Adams St units had been operating illegally.
"There had been a complaint and it had been subject to one of our compliance investigations," Cr Sommerfeld said.
The Adams St property is owned by SSS Strawberries and used as farm worker accommodation.
SSS Strawberries co-owner Gina Dang yesterday admitted the property had housed farm workers since they purchased it.
"We've had units for a few years," Ms Dang said.
A neighbour to the Adams St units said she was "surprised" when she saw the application for worker accommodation.
"They're all backpackers there already, ever since they brought it," she said.
"When the proposal (sign) went up I said to my husband isn't it already that now?"
Apai Padel, a tenant living in one of the Adams St units in question, confirmed she was one of just two units that had permanent tenants.
"Sometimes there's too many people here and there's too much noise," she said.
Ms Dang claimed her family did not know the units were operating illegally until it was bought to her attention by the council.
She said had thought they could buy a seven bedroom house and accommodate two people in each room. "But They said if it's not a family (living there), it needs to have an approval," she said.
The Targo St property is an existing hostel owned by Mss Dang's relatives Nho Dang and Adrian Wong and was this week approved to increase its capacity from 24 to 57 guests.
Ms Dang said she owned "a few" more worker accommodation properties that were now pending council approval.
"It does cost a lot to go through this process and it's been hard," she said.
"The buildings already cost us enough."
The Arthur St property is owned by Craig and Manuela Dewar.
Cr Sommerfeld said it had not been subject to an investigation.
The applications for approval follow a crackdown on 15 illegally operating hostels after a raid in December last year.
Cr Sommerfeld said he "expected" to see more applications as illegal backpacker operations looked to gain compliance.
"I've had a lot of phone calls from people, they're ringing us to see what they can do to be corrected," he said.
"Some of these people have not been investigated, they've got wind of what's happening and they don't want to face an audit or a search."