Pollution - Noise

Offensive noise
Noise can affect different people in different ways. What is acceptable to one person may be offensive to another. 

There is no specific offensive noise level specified in legislation.Whether a particular noise is offensive is a subjective assessment by an authorised officer of Council based on the following factors:

  • Its level, nature, character or quality, or the time at which it is made, or any other circumstances
  • Whether it is harmful to (or is likely to be harmful to) a person who is outside the premises from which it is emitted
  • Whether it interferes unreasonably with (or is likely to interfere unreasonably with) the comfort or repose of a person who is outside the premises from which it is emitted.

The Department of Environment and Climate Change's Noise Guide for Local Government recognises that any noise from a noise source that exceeds 5 decibels [dB(A)] above the background level may be offensive. The background will vary depending on the time of day and night and the location of the property. Some water front properties can get noise levels in the evening below the minimum background used in noise assessment of 30 dB(A).

When noise annoys
If noise from a particular source is a problem for you, there are several things you can do.

  • First try to solve the problem amicably by talking to whoever is causing the noise. Often people do not realise they are being noisy and are happy to work with you to solve the problem. It will also help in maintaining good relations with your neighbour rather than involving council.
  • If the noise continues, you can contact a Community Justice Centre to try and arrange mediation with your neighbour. These are government funded but independent centres that specialise in settling differences between neighbours without entering into complicated legal processes. 
  • For Information on your nearest Community Justice Centre, visit http://www.cjc.nsw.gov.au/.
  • If your neighbour will not attend mediation, or the noise continues, you can contact Council on 9716 1800 to provide the details of your problem. Council's Environmental Health Officers will investigate any noise related issues and assess the noise against the existing background noise level. If the noise is considered offensive, the officer will take appropriate action to have the noise reduced to an acceptable level. (Note: Barking dogs are investigated by council's Community Enforcement Officers.)
  • Not withstanding any council action, you can seek a noise abatement order through the chamber magistrate in your local court. If the court is satisfied that the neighbour is causing an offensive noise or that the noise is likely to recur, it may order them to stop the noise or prevent a recurrence.

Restricted hours of operation
In residential areas there are restrictions on the use of certain articles that apply where noise from these articles is audible within a habitable room of another residence during the restricted times, with or without windows or doors open. The restricted times are:

  • Power tools and swimming/spa pool pumps:
    • Before 8am or after 8pm on any Sunday or public holiday, or
    • Before 7am or after 8pm on any other day.
  • Musical instruments and electrically-amplified sound equipment:
    • Before 8am and after midnight on any Friday, Saturday or day immediately before a public holiday, or
    • Before 8am and after 10pmon any other day.
  • Air conditioners and heat pump water heaters:
    • Before 8am or after 10pm on any Saturday, Sunday or public holiday, or
    • Before 7am or after 10pm on any other day. 

Installing an air conditioner or heat pump water heater
Before purchasing an air conditioner or a heat pump water heater, protect your investment and buy one that will not cause a nuisance to your neighbours. Just because you have been told that it complies with the Protection of the Environment Operations Act requirements does not mean that it will suit every location all the time.

Locating the unit close to a common boundary adjacent to your neighbours dwelling is likely to cause a noise problem to your neighbour that may result in council becoming involved, and you having to either sound attenuate or relocate the unit, both of which can be expensive.

Council approval
Council approval is required to install an air conditioning unit unless it meets the Exempt and/or Complying Development criteria specified in council's Local Environmental Plan.