Some level of noise is normal and everyone should expect a degree of noise from time to time. People have the right to make noise at a reasonable level. Noise control is not intended to regulate normal residential activities such as mowing the lawn and driving vehicles on the road. However, you do have the right to have excessive noise reduced or stopped.
The Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) outlines the legal framework for noise control. The noise control provisions of the Act are designed to:
- Protect people from unreasonable and excessive noise
- Protect the rights of people and industry to make a reasonable level of noise
- Provide for effective noise control in the community
Permitted noise levels from activities carried out on properties are set out in the District Plan. It is important to understand that these noise levels do not apply to many situations where complaints are received. They are designed to control ongoing activities at the property and not the typical complaint. Unreasonable noise from these types of activity may require investigation over a period of time. The excessive noise provisions under the RMA are used for most complaints concerning noise.
Noise complaints should be made to Council's 24 hour telephone numbers:
- Dannevirke area - 06 374 4080
- Pahiatua area - 06 376 0110
Details of the complaint will be forwarded to Council's call centre who will despatch a noise control officer to assess the noise and take appropriate action. If the noise starts again after the officer has visited, call again and a noise control officer will revisit the address. Outside normal business hours and during public holidays, a contractor performs this service.
If the call is between 12am – 6am, the contractor will be called to investigate immediately. Calls between 6am – 12 midnight require an initial call to report this noise, then a second call after the 30-minute wait period to ensure the noise is continuous before an officer will be sent to investigate. It is important to note that names of complainants will not be given out to alleged noise violators. For more information noise control in the Tararua District, please contact your nearest Council Service Centre.
What is Excessive Noise?
Excessive noise is noise that is under human control and is of such a nature to unreasonably interfere with the peace, comfort, and convenience of any person other than a person who is in or at the place from which the noise is being emitted. Typical complaints include loud music at parties and house and building alarms. There are some exceptions from the definition of excessive noise including:
- Noise from aircraft operating during or immediately before or after flight
- Vehicles being driven on a road
- Moving trains
- A key point in the definition of excessive noise is the term 'unreasonably interferes'. This implies that noise can cause 'reasonable' interference.
Assessment of Excessive Noise
Excessive noise complaints are investigated by a contractor to Council. The main issue for noise control officers to assess is whether or not the noise is causing unreasonable interference. Factors taken into account when making the assessment regarding the noise include:
- The activity producing the noise
- The location of the noise source
- Time of day or night
- Duration of the noise
- Noise history - have there been repeat situations
- Noise level
- Potential to stop the noise
- Special audible characteristics
The assessment is subjective and no noise measurements have to be taken. If the Noise Control Officer considers that the noise is excessive, the officer or a member of the Police can direct the person responsible for causing the noise to immediately reduce it to a reasonable level. This direction can be given verbally but is typically given in written form. The direction lasts for 72 hours from the time it is issued. If, at any time during the 72 hour period the direction is in force, the person responsible for the noise does not comply with the direction, a Noise Control Officer accompanied by a member of the Police may enter the premises and:
- Seize and remove equipment responsible for contributing to the noise
- Render the equipment inoperable
- Lock or seal the equipment to make it unusable
In these circumstances it is important to understand that there may be delays before the equipment can be seized as the Noise Control Officer must wait for the Police to attend and is therefore dependent on the availability of Police resources.
Ongoing Noise Problems
Further action can be taken in the form of issuing a formal abatement notice for ongoing noise problems. Abatement notices usually stay in force for a period of 12 months. Non compliance with this notice carries heavy penalties such as immediate seizure, permanent confiscation of any equipment and/or prosecution. Immediate infringement fines are also available for non compliance with an excessive noise direction or an abatement notice.
Equipment seized by Noise Control Officers can be reclaimed by applying at any Council Office. The equipment will only be returned if we are satisfied that its return will not lead to a resumption of the noise. To claim the equipment you will need to:
- Provide proof of ownership of the equipment, such as warranty, sale or hire purchase documents showing if possible serial numbers of the equipment
- Provide proof of ID - e.g. drivers licence
- Complete a form saying that the excessive noise won't continue if the equipment is returned to you
- Pay a fee to cover the costs incurred of removing and storing the equipment
You may also be issued an infringement for breaching an ‘End Noise Direction Notice’ ($500) or breaching a ‘Noise Abatement Notice’ $750
If the equipment is unclaimed or we have refused to return it, we will store the equipment for at least six months after which time we will dispose of it.
Certain types of industrial, commercial, and business related noise cannot be reduced or stopped immediately. In these situations noise measurements are normally required over a period of time.
Noise from building and construction activities are also controlled by Council. Noise from these activities is required to comply with the NZ Standard on Construction Noise which allows construction-related noise Monday to Saturday within set hours. The Resource Management Act also requires all noise makers to adopt the best practicable option to avoid the emission of unreasonable noise. This duty is in addition to the duty to comply with specified noise limits.
What happens in cases of unreasonable noise?
Complaints are investigated by the Environmental Health Officer and measurements may be taken to determine if the noise is breaching noise rules contained in the District Plan or in a resource consent. Anyone making unreasonable noise may be served an Abatement Notice. This notice requires action to be taken to reduce the noise to a reasonable level within a defined period of time.
Being a Good Neighbour
You cannot get a permit to make noise for a party, or play your stereo on full or to use any other noisy equipment but, there are some things that you can keep in mind:
- Be considerate of your neighbours
- Ensure burglar alarms cut off after 15 minutes
- Ensure car alarms are installed correctly and are not overly sensitive or faulty
- Inform neighbours in advance about a party or invite your neighbours
- Advise neighbours of planned work on your section that may be noisy
- Minimise noise travelling from your property by keeping doors or windows closed
- Turn down the noise at a reasonable hour at night (10pm)
- Don't start up noisy equipment such as chainsaws early in the mornings or late in the evenings