Indicator: Noise

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Summary of results

Noise pollution attracted public attention in at least three areas during the reporting period – airport and aircraft noise, noise in Civic, and motor sport noise. The total number of complaints Environment ACT received about noise was 11% higher than for the previous three-year reporting period.

What the results tell us about the ACT

Total noise complaints increased

Total noise complaints Environment ACT received for the reporting period numbered 1178 (see Table 1). This number is 11% higher than for the previous reporting period from 1 July 1997 to 30 June 2000 when 1059 complaints were received.

These complaints are not differentiated into types of noise, and figures do not include complaints about barking dogs.

There were three major discussions of noise during the reporting period.


Table 1: Noise complaints and written warnings
Year Total noise complaints Total written warnings issued
2000–01 484 36
2001–02 343 63
2002–03 351 53

Aircraft noise a concern

The most publicised source of possible noise pollution was aircraft noise. A public debate between the Canberra International Airport, the Queanbeyan City Council and a developer erupted during the reporting period, and has not yet been resolved. The developer intends to build a 2000- home housing estate at Tralee, just over the New South Wales border, adjacent to the suburbs of Hume in the ACT and Jerrabomberra in New South Wales.

The Canberra Airport Group maintains the proposed housing estate is under the flight path to the airport and continuing with the project is not acceptable. The Council and developer have maintained that the new estate would be built outside the boundaries of the current flight paths, and that imposing restrictions on the development of Queanbeyan was not a solution they were prepared to accept.

The Canberra Airport Group is promoting the airport as an alternative to a second Sydney airport and has predicted an increase of nearly 100% in air traffic over the next 50 years. The Group is using the fact that Canberra Airport has no flight curfew as one of its ‘selling points’. The possibility of more flights has dismayed residents already affected by aircraft noise, and raised the prospect of ‘noise-sharing’ for those living in the inner north of Canberra. AirServices Australia has as one of its stated principles that ‘noise exposure should be fairly shared whenever possible’ (AirServices Australia 2002).

In April 2001 the Canberra Airport Group released a consultation paper. Its purpose was to discuss minimisation of aircraft noise in residential areas of Canberra and Queanbeyan. As a result, a letter was sent to AirServices Australia, asking for a number of noise mitigation strategies to be acted upon or improved. These strategies have been partly implemented, AirServices Australia has been monitoring aircraft noise around Canberra Airport since July 2002, and reporting quarterly on its web site. The Noise and Flight Path Monitoring System operates from mobile sites around the ACT and parts of New South Wales. The reports to date indicate that acceptable noise levels are being exceeded at certain locations.

A proposal to offset the approach from the south to the main runway at Canberra Airport is soon to be tested, with the agreement of most airlines operating out of Canberra Airport. This would further reduce noise pollution for Jerrabomberra residents, but move the flight path further towards Tralee. The Draft Canberra Spatial Plan, released after the end of the reporting period, discusses adopting a High Noise Corridor, along which no further residential development will be allowed in the ACT.

In 2001, the Office of the Commissioner for the Environment received a complaint about aircraft noise in residential areas of Canberra and Queanbeyan. As the airport is on national land, the Commissioner had no jurisdiction to investigate the complaint. He referred the matter to the relevant Commonwealth ministers.

Noise in Civic increase

s Increasing noise in Civic was also discussed during the reporting period. As the character of the city centre has changed over the past decade, noise levels have increased, as have complaints. Environment ACT released a discussion paper for public consultation in 2001 to ‘canvass views on proposals for reducing the problem of noise generated by construction and demolition work, outdoor loudspeakers, buskers, waste collection and entertainment venues while retaining Civic’s character and attractiveness to current users’ (Environment ACT, 2001) .The results of the discussion paper have not yet been released.

Noise surveys were undertaken in Civic during the reporting period but, due to some technical difficulties, the results were not published.

The challenge for Civic is the mixed-use facilities available. As more residential properties are built in the inner city area and serviced apartments use the same buildings as taverns, conflict occasionally arises. As noise is usually from diffuse rather than point sources, the idea of ‘polluter pays’ does not, on the whole, work for noise pollution. Soundproofing offices, residential properties and serviced apartments costs the owner/developer rather than the polluter.

Options for change in the discussion paper include establishing higher-noise areas for nightclubs and entertainment venues, improving building standards to provide appropriate sound insulation, restricting garbage collection times, and creating a mix of residential and commercial facilities which limits noise pollution for all users.

Motor sports noise

There have, for a number of years, been concerns regarding the noise generated by organised motor sport, especially at the Fairbairn Park cluster. During the reporting period the Motor Sport Noise Environment Protection Policy was revised, and includes notification of a review to assess the efforts of organisations using Fairbairn Park to limit the total noise load. This review will be undertaken by the Environment Protection Agency by 31 October 2005. Investigations into motor sport noise from Fairbairn Park were conducted by the Commissioner’s Office in August 1995 and November 2000.

Two noise orders issued

Two noise related Environment Protection Orders were issued during the reporting period—one on 22 May 2001 relating to noise from a nightclub in Manuka affecting nearby residents, the other on 22 October 2001 relating to noise from a tavern in Civic affecting a serviced apartment business in the same building.

Data sources and references

Information on noise complaints was supplied by Environment ACT, with no differentiation between the types of complaint.

ACIL Tasman 2003, Canberra International Airport and Queanbeyan/Yarrowlumla – A Report to Capital Airport Group , ACIL Tasman Pty Ltd, Melbourne.

AirServices Australia 2002, N oise and Flight Path Monitoring System, Canberra Quarterly Reports – accessed via web site at <www.airservicesaustralia.com/mediainfo/aircraftn oise/nfpms/nfpmscanberra.htm> on 18 November 2003.

Canberra International Airport 2001, Minimising the Impact of Aircraft Noise – A Proposal by Canberra International Airport to Quarantine Excessive Aircraft Noise for Canberra and Queanbeyan Residential Areas , Canberra International Airport, Canberra.

Canberra International Airport 2001, Progress Report 1 , Canberra International Airport, Canberra.

Environment ACT 2001, Discussion Paper for Public Consultation , Environment ACT, Canberra.

The Canberra Times : 20 March 2001, 27 February 2002, 1 March 2002, 10, 24, 25, 26 and 29 July 2002, 8 and 9 August 2002.

The Chronicle : 5 June 2001.

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