Noise spoils happy neighbourhood
Excessive noise is a common dispute between Kiwi neighbours, writes
A few months ago, my family moved into a new neighbourhood. As we settled down for our first night in a new bedroom, ominoussounding doof-doof sounds began to emanate from the house next door. My husband and I groaned. We’d coincided our move with both a big All Blacks game and our new neighbour’s birthday (a fact we discovered when the party attendees sang their well wishes at 12.04am).
A happy and healthy neighbourhood is frequently characterised by the sound of birds tweeting, children laughing, lawnmowers humming and spades thumping. But when the lines between ‘‘just doing life’’ and ‘‘annoying their neighbours’’ are blurred, that happy and healthy neighbourhood can quickly become the opposite.
The relationship between noise and neighbours ultimately comes down to understanding that other people might think differently to you. You might prefer easy listening music on volume level 4, while your neighbour might prefer death metal at level 14. The boy racer from down the road’s souped-up Subaru might have a much gruntier engine than your subtle Mazda Demio. And your spritely neighbour who regularly mows his lawns at 8.45pm might just not have any other time in his day to do them.
What’s your first option , then, if your ears suffer at the hands of a noisy neighbour? Before you do anything else, try talking to the neighbour concerned. If the time they mow their lawns or the volume of their music bothers you, you may be able to come to an agreement that suits both parties. If you’d rather not have a face-to-face conversation, drop a note in their letterbox or send them a private message via Neighbourly instead.
If trying to solve the problem yourself doesn’t work, your next option is your local council. They will send a noise control officer to the address to decide if the noise is ‘‘excessive’’ or ‘‘unreasonable’’. If it is, they can take further actions like issuing an Excessive Noise Direction (which orders the person responsible for the noise to reduce it to a reasonable level for up to 72 hours), or even confiscating the source of the noise like a stereo. (It’s worth noting here that if you make a noise complaint to the council, they will not tell your neighbour it was you.)
For complaints about ongoing noise or noise that can’t be reduced immediately, the council can issue an Abatement Notice which gives the noise-maker a deadline for stopping or reducing the noise. If your neighbour ignores what the council orders, you can apply for an Enforcement Order through the Environment Court, although this can be an expensive option.
Ultimately, it’s up to residents to do unto neighbours as they’d have them do unto them. If we all become the kind of neighbour we’d like to live next to, our neighbourhoods would always be happy and healthy.
Lawns being regularly mowed at an inopportune time can leave neighbours feeling disgruntled.