It is everyone’s responsibility to keep the noise that they make to an acceptable level. Under the Resource Management Act 1991, the Central Otago District Council has the power to control excessive and unreasonable noise.
The Council provides a 24 hours, seven days a week noise control service. Just phone 03 440 0056 and your complaint will be forwarded to the Council’s noise control officer. It is important to make the complaint whilst the noise is still occurring.
If your call is after normal working hours, it will be diverted to our after hours service who will take the appropriate action. This may include issuing an Excessive Noise Direction or an Abatement Notice or seizure of the noise-offending equipment.
When a complaint is lodged a noise control officer will visit the property. The noise complaint will then be assessed and the appropriate action taken.
If the noise is excessive a notice will be served requiring the noise to be reduced to a reasonable level. If the notice is not complied with, the noise control officer, accompanied with a police officer, can remove or disable the equipment creating the noise.
Noise deemed to be unreasonable might require further monitoring. This will be carried out by the Council’s environmental health officer.
What is 'excessive noise?'
Section 326 of the Resource Management Act (1991) defines 'excessive noise' as follows:
“Excessive noise" means any noise that is under human control and of such a nature as to unreasonably interfere with the peace, comfort and convenience of any person (other than a person in or at the place from which the noise is being emitted)..."
Excessive noise is typically loud stereos, noisy parties and the like. Deciding whether noise is excessive is a matter of judgement for the noise control officer. Noise control officers do not use decibel reading equipment for noise complaints.
The definition of "excessive noise" may vary according to the time of day and other circumstances. For example, the use of a lawnmower at 3pm might be acceptable, but the use of the same lawnmower at 10pm would not. A stereo played at a certain volume may be acceptable at 10pm, but the same volume might not be acceptable at midnight or later.
Noise may be deemed to be excessive for a number of reasons. The Resource Management Act refers to the " peace, comfort and convenience" of individuals.
Possible scenarios involving excessive noise include:
- noise that prevents someone going to sleep, or wakes them up
- noise that is seriously intrusive to work and concentration (usually during daylight hours)
- noise that prevents normal conversation in a neighbouring property
- noise that requires radio or television to be turned up to an excessive level in order to be heard
Before involving the Council, the first and best option is to talk over the issue with the neighbour or person concerned. In many cases, the person making the noise may be unaware of the nuisance that is being created.
If this is not successful, contact the Council’s noise control officer (03 440 0056).
What is an excessive noise direction?
An excessive noise direction is a notice served by a noise control officer who, having investigated and assessed a complaint, is of the opinion that the noise is excessive.
On receipt of an excessive noise direction, the music (or noisy equipment) must immediately be turned down to a reasonable level. The excessive noise direction usually applies for 72 hours. If the Council receives more complaints of excessive noise within 72 hours of the excessive noise direction being issued, and a site visit confirms that the noise is still excessive, the noise control officer and the police will seize the noise-offending equipment (the noise control officer cannot seize noise-offending equipment without the police being present).
Properties with a number of excessive noise direction notices issued will face monitoring by the Council and further action may take place - such as warning letters, confiscation of equipment and an abatement notice being issued.
What is an abatement notice?
An abatement notice is a formal legal document served against the individuals in a house.
For properties where an abatement notice is in force, if there is a further justified noise complaint, then the stereo (or other noisy equipment) in the house may be seized without need for an excessive noise direction to be served.
Infringement notices for noise
Councils may issue infringement notices for repeat offenders.
Relevant offences include:
- not complying with an excessive noise direction notice - which carries a fine of $500
- not complying with an abatement notice for noise - which carries a fine of $750
Return of seized equipment
To reclaim seized equipment the offender needs to:
- discuss the issue with the Manager, Planning and Environment, Central Otago District Council (03 440 0615)
- pay any costs incurred by the Council in seizing the equipment
- show proof of identity
- produce the original copy of the seizure notice
Council has the right to refuse to return equipment where it is believed that it will be used to create further noise problems.