Noise is part of life in any community, and Whanganui is no different. There will be some degree of noise from time to time in every neighbourhood.
The level of acceptable noise can vary depending on the location of your neighbours, the time of day, the zone you live or work in, the presence of sound barriers and the type of noise.
Some noise, such as the sound of a lawn mower, can be considered acceptable, provided it’s during reasonable hours. It's best to be a considerate neighbour and avoid creating unreasonable noise that will affect people beyond your property boundaries.
What is excessive or unreasonable noise?
Under The Resource Management Act 1991 (the Act) people are not allowed to make 'excessive' noise and must ensure that noise from their property does not reach an 'unreasonable' level.
Excessive noise (Section 326) is any noise that is under human control and could unreasonably interfere with the peace, comfort and convenience of any person. Examples of excessive noise are loud parties, continuously sounding burglar alarms or loud machinery.
Unreasonable noise (Section 16) involves commercial or occupational noises that can be of a constant nature and may continue over time.
The Act defines the framework for Whanganui District Council to function in – throughout New Zealand the job of deciding what is excessive or unreasonable noise falls to noise control officers employed by local councils. The Council will step in when noise is deemed excessive, considered unreasonable or is reported to be causing a disturbance to others.
The same noise levels during the day may not be acceptable at night and the Council’s noise control officers work under guidelines for different zones in our community where there may be exceptions for some types of noise. You can read about these in Chapter 17 of the Whanganui District Plan.
For excessive noise, the Council’s noise control officers will use their professional judgement to gauge the level of noise.
In Whanganui’s commercial or industrial zones noise control officers will, when possible, use noise meters to measure the sound emitted.
Noise from moving vehicles such as aircraft, boats and trains is not controlled by the Excessive Noise Provisions.
Being mindful of others
The Council asks that you to be mindful of your neighbours and refrain from making excessive noise that exceeds your property boundaries.
The Council wants to generate vibrancy in Whanganui through entertainment and events but also encourages artists to be conscious of other people using our city's shared spaces. This should minimise calls to noise control.
Here are some things you can do to reduce the effect of noise:
- Inform your neighbours in advance about a party.
- Minimise noise travelling from your property by keeping doors and windows closed.
- Be aware of the direction your stereo speakers are facing.
- Ensure your burglar alarm will cut off after 15 minutes or a contact number is visible on the property.
- Lower the noise at a reasonable hour at night.
- Ensure your car alarms are installed correctly and are not over-sensitive or faulty.
- Avoid using noisy equipment, such as chainsaws, in the early morning or late in the evenings, or advise your neighbours if you are considering doing this work.
- Consider sound-proofing music practice rooms and let your neighbours know when your band is getting together.
When can I complain?
You can report a noise nuisance to the Council at any time by calling 06 349 0001. This is a 24/7 service and our noise control officers will attend as soon as possible.
Generally the noise control officers will not contact you back, so if the noise continues after more than 30 minutes you may need to call them again to advise that the noise is still causing a disturbance.
What if noise control officers are called out?
The Council has a statutory responsibility to enforce noise legislation in an effort to minimise public nuisance. The challenge is balancing the right of people to use their property as they wish against the rights of the people in their neighbourhood so they are not adversely affected.
As with any statutory nuisance, excessive noise is subjective by nature and requires the noise control officers to exercise professional judgement.
When noise control officers investigate they may either use equipment or their own professional judgement to assess whether the noise level is reasonable and within permissible levels. For commercial premises they may use a meter but in residential it will be based on their professional judgement.
If the noise is deemed to be excessive the noise control officer may serve a written 'excessive noise direction' which requires people to reduce the noise immediately. This notice stays in effect for 72 hours. Failure to comply with the requirements of this notice can result in the seizure of the equipment making the noise.
If two excessive noise directions are issued within a three-month period then an abatement notice can be issued. There may be a fine of $750.00 and/or seizure of the equipment making the noise for breaching an abatement notice.
What happens if my equipment is seized?
Equipment that is seized will be stored at the Council and will only be returned when the Council is satisfied there will be no continuation of the breaches. If the noise source is seized for a second time, it may not be returned.
The cost to recover equipment is $200.00 and an appointment is needed to uplift it from the Council. Call the Council on 06 349 0001 to arrange retrieval of equipment.