Neighbourhood noise pollution is a frequent cause of complaints to local councils, the police, and the EPA website lists types of noise and who to contact.
As a community we have reached some understanding about what levels of noise are acceptable and what levels are not.
Yet how we respond to particular noises may depend on how we feel. What is acceptable to the ear one day can drive us to distraction the next. Recognising how our moods can influence our response helps us to know when others really are behaving unfairly. However, if neighbourhood noise is a genuine problem for you, there are a number of options you can take.
Who can Help?
The EPA maintains a list of the types of noise that neighbourhoods may experience and the authority to contact regarding that noise
What to Do?
Solve the Problem Amicably
In the first instance, you should try to solve a noise dispute amicably by talking it over with whoever is causing the noise. Often people don't realise they are causing a problem; they may be only too happy to do what they can to help.
If this approach is not successful and where noise is a recurrent problem, you may, depending on the circumstances, consider contacting a Community Justice Centre (CJC). These are government-funded but independent centres that specialise in settling differences between neighbours without getting into complicated legal processes.
Level 8, Goodsell Building, 8-12 Chifley Square, Sydney 2000
Tel: (02) 9228 7455
Fax: (02) 9228 7456
CJC - Sydney Region Office
Level 13, 227 Elizabeth Street, Sydney 2000
Tel: (02) 9262 7844 or 1800 671 964
Fax: (02) 9262 7526
Lodge a Complaint with Council
Councils have powers to issue a notice for many of the offensive noise problems in the community. Under section 264 of the Protection of the Environment Operations (POEO) Act 1997, they can serve a notice on the occupier of premises requiring measures to be taken to control noise from a wide range of domestic sources, including air-conditioners, swimming pool pumps, radios, sound reproduction equipment, musical instruments, power tools, lawnmowers, burglar alarms and animals.
The notice can require the noise-making activities to be restricted to certain times of the day or certain days. Failure to comply with the notice could lead to prosecution.
Council's rangers can also act on complaints about noise. Council Rangers are on duty seven days a week from 5.30am to midnight and can be contacted on 9936 8100.
Seek a Noise Abatement Order
Under section 268 of the Protection of the Environment Operations (POEO) Act, if you are affected by offensive noise, you can seek a noise abatement order. To apply for an order, contact your local court (listed under "Local courts" in the White Pages). You may also consider asking your legal advisor for help. You can contact the registry staff at your local court who will explain the process to you. There are fees for applying for a noise abatement order.
If the court is satisfied that there is offensive noise or that it is likely to recur, it may order the person to stop the noise or prevent a recurrence. Failure to comply with the order could lead to prosecution.
If you decide on this course of action, speak to your legal adviser or make an appointment to see the chamber magistrate at the Local Court in the district where the noisy premises are located.
If the noise is on 'one-off' problem, you could consider contacting the police or your local council.
For instance, if you are excessively disturbed by a particular noise incident (like a noisy party), you may contact the police who can use section 276 of the POEO Act to direct a person making the offensive noise to stop. A Noise Abatement Direction of this kind may be issued at any time of the day or night and can remain in force for up to 28 days from the time it is issued. Any person who fails to comply with such a direction can be fined up to $3300 or issued with a $200 on-the-spot fine (or $400 for a corporation).
It is an offence for a building intruder alarm to be used unless it will automatically stop sounding within five minutes (or within 10 minutes if installed before 1 December 1997).
Keep a Noise Diary
Council will often request complainants to keep a noise diary detailing:
- Nature or type of noise
- Location of noise source
- Other identifying features (eg: registration of a noisy delivery van etc)
The diary should be kept for a length of time (around two to three weeks) and then forwarded to Council. The information is used to determine the frequency, offensiveness and whether the complaint is reasonable.
Breaches of the noise offence provisions of the Protection of the Environment Operations (POEO) Act can attract fines of up to $30, 000 in the case of an individual and $60,000 in the case of a corporation, with additional fines for continuing offences.
Contact the Police
If the noise is a 'one-off' problem, you could consider contacting the police who can direct a person making an offensive noise to stop.
A Noise Abatement Direction of this kind may be issued at any time of the day or night and can remain in force for up to 28 days from the time it is issued.
Any person who fails to comply with such a direction can be fined up to $3300 or issued with a $200 on-the-spot fine (or $400 for a corporation).