Noise

Noise can be annoying, interfere with speech, disturb sleep or interfere with work. Prolonged exposure to loud noise can also result in increased heart rate, anxiety, hearing loss and other health effects. The impacts of noise depend both on the noise level and its characteristics and how it is perceived by the person affected.

In NSW, noise pollution is regulated through the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act). The POEO (Noise Control) Regulation 2008 also sets certain limits on noise emissions from motor vehicles, vessels and domestic use of certain equipment.

Ballina Shire Council shares responsibility for enforcing noise control legislation with the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA), NSW Police, NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) and the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing (OLGR) (see Reporting noise pollution).

It is important for anyone involved in resolving disputes over noise pollution to realise that what is acceptable to one person might be offensive noise to another. In responding to noise complaints, an authorised officer will take the approach of what a 'reasonable person' would consider offensive.

Offensive Noise

The POEO Act sets out the definition and the main legal framework for the regulation of unacceptable noise.

When investigating and responding to any noise complaint Council’s officers will need to conduct an offensive noise test to assess whether the noise can be considered as offensive under the POEO Act.  The offensive noise test is a subjective test undertaken by an authorised officer of the Council and does not necessarily involve the use of any equipment to measure noise, as offensive noise is not based on a measured level.

The factors considered under the POEO Act include how often the noise occurs, the duration and frequency of the noise, its volume and characteristics and whether the noise is typical of activities conducted for the area and importantly how it is affecting a person within their home.

The complainant may initially be requested to complete a noise log providing specific information on the noise subject to the complaint. The noise log is then used to assess whether the Council is able to act on a person’s behalf to assist in managing and controlling noise that is causing concern.

For further information on what constitutes offensive noise please see:

Try to Resolve a Problem through Mediation

Prior to lodging you enquiry with the Council, you may like to consider contacting your neighbour to discuss the problem and negotiate an appropriate informal resolution.

If this approach is not successful and where noise is a recurring problem, you may, depending on the circumstances, consider contacting a Community Justice Centre on 1800 990 777. This is a government funded organisation that specialises in settling differences between neighbours without getting into complicated legal processes. Community Justice Centres have achieved high success rates.

Noise Abatement Orders

In certain circumstances Council may not be able to practically regulate the noise subject to a complaint or it may not be able to gather appropriate evidence to take action on a person’s behalf or the complainant may be unhappy with the outcome of Council’s investigation. In these circumstances a person will be advised that they may wish to consider taking private action independently of the Council by seeking a Noise Abatement Order through the local court under section 268 of the POEO Act.

For further information on Noise Abatement Orders please see the booklet entitled Seeking Noise Abatement Orders published by the NSW EPA.

Referring a Complaint to Council

If mediation is unsuccessful in resolving the matter, a complaint can be made to the Council by telephone on 6686 1210 during normal business hours or by email at council@ballina.nsw.gov.au. After hours complaints can be made on 6626 6954 but will not be logged until the next normal business day. Some out of hours noise complaints, such as noisy parties, can be reported to the local police station.

It is important when lodging a complaint with Council to relay all details of your complaint, including action already taken and the premises where the source of the noise has been identified.  Unfortunately the Council is unable to investigate a noise unless the source property is identified by the complainant.

To support an ongoing noise complaint you are be required to provide a noise log completed for at least 14 days, including a declaration that you are prepared to be a witness in Court for Council if required and a signed statutory declaration stating the impact the noise has on you (this is particularly important if Council officers are unable to witness and assess the noise).

Anonymous Complaints

Customers are encouraged to always provide their contact details and confidentiality can be provided if the customer lodging the request is able to provide adequate reasons for the protection of their identity. Anonymous complaints are only accepted if the request has a high public health/safety risk or a high risk of harm to the environment.

Time Restrictions – Domestic Equipment

The POEO (Noise Control) Regulation 2008 sets out the hours within which certain equipment, such as domestic air conditioners, when used on residential premises should not be audible inside habitable rooms of any other residential premises; these are detailed in the table below.

A Penalty Infringement Notice (PIN) to the value of $300 may be imposed on individuals who continue to make noise up to 28 days after being warned to stop by an authorised officer of Council or the NSW Police.

Noise Source

Time Restrictions

Power tools and equipment, such as compressors, swimming pool pumps, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, chain saws and the like

Between 8 pm until 7am weekdays & Saturday, and 8pm until 8am Sundays and public holidays

Musical instruments and sound equipment such as radios, sound systems and public address systems

10pm until 8am every day except 12 midnight until 8am on any Friday, Saturday or day preceding a public holiday

Domestic air-conditioners and pump water heaters

10pm until 7am weekdays and 10 pm until 8am weekends and public holidays

Motor vehicles (except when entering or leaving premises)

8pm until 7am on weekdays and 8pm until 8am weekends and public holidays

Refrigeration units fitted to motor vehicles

8pm until 7am on weekdays and 8am until 8pm on weekends and public holidays

Note: Outside these hours the Police and Council can still place further restrictions on the use of these articles if they are causing “offensive noise” as defined by the POEO Act.

Sources of Neighbourhood Noise and Appropriate Regulatory Authorities

The POEO Act 1997 and the POEO (General) Regulation 2009 makes certain agencies the appropriate regulatory authority (ARA) responsible for various premises and activities.

The table below provides contact details for relevant organisations to lodge your enquiry for various noise issues.

NOISE SOURCE

CONTACT

Industrial/Commercial noise

Large industrial premises (scheduled premises refer to POEO Public Register)

EPA Environment Line: 131 555

Transport noise

Commercial airports and aircraft in flight

National Noise Inquiry Line: 1300 302 240

Noisy motor vehicles (including trail bikes) in a public place (such as roads, verges and car parks, or off-road including parks and reserves)

EPA Environment Line: 131 555 
Police Assistance Line:131 444
Ballina Shire Council: 6686 1210

Noisy motor vehicles (including trail bikes) on private property

Ballina Shire Council: 6686 1210
Police Assistance line: 131 444

Road traffic noise on freeways, toll ways and main roads

NSW Roads and Maritime: 132 213

Recreational boating, jet skis

NSW Roads and Maritime: 131 256

Construction Noise

Major public infrastructure such as Pacific Highway upgrade

EPA Environment Line: 131 555

NSW Roads and Maritime: 131 256

Public Sporting and Community Events

Concerts, fairs, sporting events and community events

Ballina Shire Council: 6686 1210

Fireworks

Fireworks on private or public land

NSW WorkCover 13 10 50

Liquor Licenced Premises

Premises licenced to serve alcohol

Office Liquor Gaming and Racing (OLGR) 02 9995 0837

Animals

Neglected, mistreated or abused animals

NSW RSPCA 1300 278 358 or 02 9770 7555

NOTE: for a more detailed list see the leaflet Dealing with Neighbourhood Noise published by the Department of Environment and Climate Change (now known as the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH).

Noise from Construction Sites

The construction industry can be noisy but developers and builders must use ‘feasible' and ‘reasonable’ work practices to minimise noise from construction sites. The NSW EPA Interim Construction Noise Guidelines advises on best practice approaches to minimise noise impacts from construction activities.

All potentially noisy work must be carried out between 7am and 6pm Monday to Fridays and 8am and 1pm on Saturdays with no noisy work permitted on Sundays or public holidays. In certain instances, these hours may be modified where the builder or developer has been given permission by the Council due to the existence of exceptional circumstances.

Strata Scheme Disputes

The Strata Schemes Management Act 1996 sets out a process for resolving disputes including complaints concerning noise. This includes mediation and formal orders by the Strata Schemes Adjudicator and/or the Residential Tribunal. Under the Strata Management Act each Strata must have a set of by-laws. The model by-law provision concerning noise provides that;

An owner or occupier must not make noise at any time within their lot or on common property that is likely to disturb peaceful enjoyment of another resident or anyone using common property.

What to do if there is a Noise issue and you live in a Strata Property?

The best approach is to try to resolve the problem yourself, so talk to the person first. If that does not work or, if you feel intimidated, you should consider carrying out the following steps:

  • Firstly, you can ask the owners corporation to issue them with a notice to comply with a by-law then seek a fine through the Residential Tribunal if they do not comply with the terms of the notice
  • You can seek advice from the Consumer Trader and Tenancy Tribunal, contact them at ctttenquire@cttt.nsw.gov.au or on 1300 135 399, or
  • You can apply for mediation through the NSW Department of Fair Trading to have a mediator assist you to discuss the issue with them. They may be contacted at http://www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/About_us/Contact_us.html or on 13 32 20.
  • Council does not get involved in noise complaints within strata properties.

Noise from Council and Commercial Garbage Contractor Collections

The collection of waste including recycling materials must be undertaken at a time when it is safe for pedestrians, motorists and the local community. Scheduling waste collections can often be a compromise between managing these issues and not causing a noise nuisance to the community.

As a guide, Council and Council’s waste contractors generally work between the hours of 5.00am to 5.00pm. However, there may be exceptions to this depending on individual circumstances.

Commercial waste collectors don’t have binding times for waste collection but they need to have consideration for all the factors raised above.

Certain commercial businesses may have set waste collection hours specified within the development consent which can be enforced by the Council should collections be occurring outside these hours.

Council considers their garbage collection to be an essential service. If you have any enquiries about Council’s garbage collection please call 6686 1287.

What can you do when you are experiencing ‘offensive’ noise from rubbish collection by a Commercial Garbage Contractor (not Council)?

Contact Council on 6686 1210 and lodge your enquiry. Please provide the following information;

  • Address of the subject property from where rubbish is being collected, and the collection point if multiple,
  • Name of the waste management company,
  • The vehicle registration number (if possible), and
  • Dates and times of the noise causing offence.

What Council can do in response to my complaint about a Commercial Rubbish Contractor (not Council)?

Council will investigate whether the premise has binding waste collection times nominated in any development consent that they must comply with. If so, Council will approach the operator/owner of the premise to require compliance with their consent.

If there is no nominated waste collection times for the subject premises Council officers will speak or write to the waste collection company concerned to discuss appropriate collection times for that location.

If Council’s action does not resolve the matter evidence will need to be collected. This may mean that you will need to complete a noise log with information on the collections being made and submit a statement detailing the impact the noise is having on you. Council will consider the available evidence to determine if ‘offensive noise’ is being generated and/or non-compliance with a development approval is occurring. This will form the basis to determine if more formal action may be necessary to resolve the issue.

Noise from Vehicles

Noise from cars, motorcycles and trucks can come from different sources, such as horns, brakes, a refrigerator left running on a parked truck, engine or muffler noise from modified motorcycles or cars, deliberately revving engines or the use of amplified sound systems.

The NSW EPA, Police officers and in some instances Council officers have the power to enforce the Protection of the Environment Operations (Noise Control) Regulation 2008 in relation to managing vehicle noise.

The Police and the NSW EPA handle most noise complaints concerning cars and motorcycles. The Council can respond to complaints about alarms, vehicle refrigerator units and vehicles used on private property.

For further information, please see the Managing Vehicle Noise brochure published by the Department of Environment and Climate Change (now known as the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH).

Building Alarms

It is an offence for an intruder alarm to be heard in any neighbouring residence when it sounds for more than:

  • 5 minutes if installed on or after 1 December 1997
  • 10 minutes if installed before 1 December 1997.

For more information, please refer to the Managing Noise from Intruder Alarms brochure published by the Department of Environment and Climate Change (now known as the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH).

Noise from Barking Dogs

The Council receives numerous noise complaints in relation to barking dogs. The Council Rangers investigate noise complaints associated with barking dogs.

Prior to lodging a complaint with the Council you must follow our barking dog procedure.

If you suspect that any animal is being mistreated or abused, report the matter to the NSW RSPCA on 1300 278 358 or 02 9770 7555.

Keeping of other Animals

Council does not have a policy for keeping animals that are not companion animals such as birds and rabbits etc and would only investigate complaints where:

  • the animal is creating an offensive noise problem
  • there is a danger to safety of the community, or
  • keeping of the animals is causing offensive odours or unhealthy land.

See Council’s Keeping of Poultry factsheet and Keeping Animals factsheet.

Residents should also be aware that some sub­division covenants prohibit the keeping of various animals including poultry and farm animals etc. Residents should check that covenants made at the time of subdivi­sion are not breached by the keeping of animals.

Noise from Macadamia Nut Processing

At times complaints are received by Council about noise from the drying or de-husking of Macadamia nuts. This can be a particular concern when these activities take place for long periods at a time or during the evening or night time when people are resting or sleeping and expect a higher level of amenity.

If you are experiencing such concerns in the first instance Council encourages you to contact your neighbour to discuss the problem and negotiate an appropriate informal resolution. As mentioned above, if this approach is not successful and where noise is a recurring problem, you may, depending on the circumstances, consider contacting a Community Justice Centre on 1800 990 777. This is a government funded organisation that specialise in settling differences between neighbours without getting into complicated legal processes, free of charge.

If these approaches are unsuccessful, you may wish to notify Council of your concerns by telephone on 6686 1210 during normal business hours or by email at council@ballina.nsw.gov.au. Council’s Environmental Health Officers will then investigation your concerns to determine if offensive noise is occurring.

Please refer to the below documents for further information about managing noise from Macadamia nut processing facilities.

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