Neighbourhood Noise

This section outlines how you can approach the problem of neighbourhood noise.

When noise annoys

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.

Firstly, try to solve the problem 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.

Other formal actions you can take for recurrent noise problems are set out below.

Lodge a complaint with your local 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.

Seek a noise abatement order

Under section 268 of the POEO Act, if you are affected by offensive noise, you can make a complaint to a justice of the peace. The justice may summon the person alleged to be making the noise to appear before the Local Court.

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 a '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 5 minutes (or within 10 minutes if installed before 1 December 1997).

If a car alarm continues to make noise for more than 45 seconds (or more than 90 seconds for a car manufactured before 1 September 1997), the police or a local council officer can issue the owner of the vehicle with a $200 on-the-spot fine.

Breaches of the noise offence provisions of the 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.

Who Can Help?

Noise in the community has a variety of sources. Some of these sources are controlled by the EPA, some by local councils, some by the police, some by the Waterways Authority and some by the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA). See the table below for who can help.

 On-the-spot fines

An on-the-spot fine of $200 can be imposed on anyone who continues to make noise after being directed to stop by an EPA officer, the police, the Waterways Authority or a local council officer, or who makes noise within 28 days of such a Noise Abatement Direction. For other offences under the Noise Control Regulations a $200 on-the-spot fine may be incurred. Generally to be guilty of an offence a person has to have been warned within seven days after making the noise. A repeated episode within 28 days of the warning can incur an on-the-spot fine.

Downloads:  Who Can Help? (PDF 21KB)