Noise Management

Everyone should expect a certain degree of noise in their neighbourhood from time to time. Noise control is not intended to regulate everyday residential activities such as mowing lawns and vehicles driving on the road. If you are concerned the noise coming from over your neighbour’s place, often a friendly word over the fence is all that is required. Talk to the person or company responsible for the noise and point out the problem. You may find they are unaware that they are disturbing you.

How do I lodge a noise complaint?
When informal action (talking to your neighbour) is not possible or fails, you can resolve the problem by taking formal action. Excessive noise complaints are investigated by South Wairarapa District Council during office hours. A contractor who works for the Council will respond after office hours. Phone (06) 306 9611 during business hours, or (06) 0800 664 732 or 306 6068 outside business hours.

Make sure you report noise issues whilst it is happening, so that action can be taken. Your complaint will then be followed up by a Noise Control Officer.

All complaints are treated confidentially. We do not tell the noisy party who complained. Your details are required by the Council in order for Noise Control Officers to monitor ongoing noise problems.

What is noise?

In layman’s terms, noise is commonly described as “unwanted sound”. In essence, there is no physical distinction between sound and noise. However, this explanation is too ambiguous as “unwanted sound” is subjective depending on a person’s individual perception of noise. Normally, a community member is likely to complain if it causes annoyance or if noise reached a level when it becomes harmful to hearing.

What is excessive noise?

The Resource Management Act 1991 says that excessive noise means any man-made noise which unreasonably interferes with the peace, comfort, and convenience of any person. Examples of excessive noise may include a loud party, stereo music, band practice, audible alarms, or machinery. Whether a noise is “excessive” might also depend on the time of day.

Noise from moving vehicles such as cars, aircrafts, boats, and train are not under Council’s control.

What do noise control officers do?

Officers following up on a complaint will assess whether the noise is too loud based on the time of the day or night, the type of noise, location of neighbours, frequency of the noise, noise level volume, and the zone (i.e. residential, industrial, rural, or other).

Our District Plan sets the maximum limits of noise levels for daytime and night-time. Deciding whether noise is excessive is up to the judgement of the Noise Control Officer.

If the noise is assessed as reasonable, no further action will be taken. If the noise is judged excessive, an Excessive Noise Direction (END) can be served on the occupants of the property requiring them to immediately reduce or cease the noise. The Direction remains in force for 72 hours.

How to you assess a noise complaint?

We do not always use noise monitoring machines to measure noise, for example from parties, etc. We do use a matrix system to measure the nuisance level of noise based on these factors:

  1. Volume
  2. Time of Day
  3. Tone
  4. Frequency

Each factor is given a points weighting of high (3), medium (2), low (1) and then these are added together. If a noise assessment is more than six points, we act against the property owner/occupier. The monitoring matrix ensures that noise levels are not excessive, but this does not mean there will be no noise.

What if the noise is ongoing?

If the noise continues and the direction is ignored, officers may enter the property to seize the noise-emitting equipment or render the equipment inoperable. The owner can also get an instant fine for not complying with a direction notice to reduce noise.

Industrial or commercial sites creating excessive noise may need to be monitored over time to find the problem. Noise in these cases may not cease immediately.

What if my equipment is seized?

All confiscated equipment comes to the Council for safekeeping. The equipment will be returned if the Council is satisfied that it won’t be used to cause noise problems again and the offender pay the noise control fees.

To ensure that the equipment is returned to the correct owner, you will need to bring proof of identity and the original copy of seizure notice. You will need to pay an impound fee to cover the cost of seizure and storage. You should contact Council to ascertain the current cost for the return of equipment.

If the Council receives further complaints after returning your equipment to you, it is unlikely it will be returned if seized a second time.

What about alarms?

Alarms must stop sounding after 15 minutes and have to be manually reset. You can complain about alarms that do not stop after 15 minutes by phoning (06) 306 9611 during business hours, or (06) 306 6068 outside business hours.

An alarm technician, accompanied by Police, will make the alarm inoperable, if possible. The owner of the property will be charged for any costs incurred.

What can I do to avoid compaints?

There is no permit for a noisy party, to play your stereo on full, or to use that skill saw at midnight, but there are a few things you can do:

  • Be considerate of your neighbours
  • Ensure burglar alarms cut off after 15 minutes
  • Install car alarms correctly so they are not over sensitive or faulty
  • Inform neighbours in advance about a party, or better yet invite your neighbours
  • Advise neighbours of planned work on your section that may be noisy
  • Minimise noise travelling from your property by keeping doors or windows closed
  • Turn down the noise at 10pm
  • Don’t start up power tools, machinery or similar early in the mornings or late in the evenings

Wairarapa combined district plan noise limits

The Wairarapa Combined District Plan sets out the noise limits enforced in the South Wairarapa. For exemptions of permitted activities, refer to our Wairarapa Combined District Plan below.

TimeNoise Level
Daytime7:00am-7:00pm55 dBA L10
Nighttime7:00pm-7:00am45 dBA L10
9:00pm-7:00am75dBA Lmax

Fees (as of 1st of July 2022)

Noise Control
Noise control charges (seizure) – per callout to property$ 250.00
Return of seized equipment – administration and return fee per property, PLUS:$ 102.00
Burglar alarm disconnection (if required)
(Actual contractor costs, plus staff time @ $150.00 per hour, plus 10%)
Actual costs,
plus staff
time + 10%

Useful Links

Audible Bird Scarers and Other Bird Scaring Alternatives

Resource Management Act 1991 Legal Text

Wairarapa Combined District Plan

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