Excessive noise is noise under human control and of such a nature as to unreasonably interfere with the peace, comfort and convenience of any person. The person making the complaint must not be in or at the same place where the noise is being emitted.
The noise could be emitted from such sources as musical instruments, electrical appliances, machines and also from a person or group of persons. Loud party and stereo noise are by far the most common complaints, followed by building alarms, and noise from licensed premises.
Exceptions from the definition of excessive noise include aircraft involved in flight, or in ground flight operations (taxiing, take-off, etc.), vehicles being driven on a road, and moving trains.
Assessment of excessive noise
Excessive noise complaints are investigated by a security company under contract to Council. The key wording in the definition of excessive noise is 'unreasonably interferes'.
This implies that noise can cause 'reasonable' interference. So the main issue for the noise control officer is to determine whether the noise is unreasonable or not when investigating noise complaints.
Factors that are taken into account when making this determination include:
- The noise source (the kind of activity producing the noise, and its purpose - it may be that the noise is from an activity that is providing benefit to the people being affected, e.g. roads works
- Location of the noise source relative to sensitive uses (schools, libraries etc.)
- Time of day/night (this impacts on the background noise level from sources other than the one being complained about).
- Duration of the noise.
- Noise history (repeat or on-going situations).
- Noise level (this is affected by the time of day/night and the point of assessment relative to the noise source).
- Potential to avoid or abate the noise.
- Special audible characteristics, such as:
- Tonal (e.g. hum, whine)
- Impulsive (e.g. bangs, clicks)
- Frequency/pitch (e.g. high speed cutting, grinding, heavy beat)
- Other characteristics that may cause annoyance at lower noise levels.
On investigation of a complaint, if the noise is deemed excessive, a noise control officer or a Police officer may direct the occupier or person responsible for causing the noise to immediately reduce it to a reasonable level.
The assessment required is subjective and no noise measurements have to be taken. Once a direction to reduce noise to a reasonable level has been given, nobody on the premises may generate excessive noise for 72 hours.
There are certain noisy activities in our community that noise control cannot reduce or abate immediately such as continuous industrial or commercial noise and on-going business-related noise.
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 are required to comply with the NZ Standard on Construction Noise which allows construction-related noise Monday to Saturday within set hours.
Unreasonable noise complaints are investigated by a member of the Environmental Technical Team and measurements may be taken to determine if the noise is breaching the Noise Rules contained in the Hamilton District Plan.
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.