ACT State of the Environment 2007

Indicator: Noise

Summary

Noise complaints increased significantly during the reporting period. Some of the increase was attributable to complaints about amplified music systems and external air conditioner fans. Entertainment venues in commercial and mixed-use residential areas where appropriate noise attenuation had not been achieved also contributed to the increase in complaints.

What the results tell us about the ACT

Noise complaints increase rapidly

Total noise complaints the Environment Protection Authority received increased during the reporting period, in comparison with the previous reporting period when complaints decreased (see Table 1). According to the Environment Protection Authority, the increased number of complaints in the last two years is mainly attributable to a greater use of external reverse-cycle air conditioner fans, a proliferation of amplified music systems in residential premises and a rise in building and construction activity.

The Environment Protection Authority's noise complaint database was modified towards the end of the reporting period and a more meaningful breakdown of complaints will be available for the next state of the environment report.

Table 1: Environmental noise complaints, 2000–01 to 2006–07
Environmental noise 2000–01 2001–02 2002–03 2003–04 2004–05 2005–06 2006–07
Noise complaints 484 343 351 425 391 744 1190
Noise warning letters issued 36 63 53 32 17 39 34
Total 520 406 404 457 408 783 1224

Source: ACT Environment Protection Authority

When the Environment Protection Authority receives a complaint it sends a letter to the alleged noise producer. Most complaints are resolved in this manner. The Authority issues noise warning letters following a repeat of the original complaint and after the Authority has taken a validated reading that records an exceedence of the noise standard. While noise complaints have increased significantly (see Figure 1), the letter to the alleged noise producer resolves most.

Figure 1 : Noise complaints to the Environment Protection Authority, 2000–07

Graph showing the increase in the number of noise complaints to the Environment Protection Authority from 2000 to 2007

Source: ACT Environment Protection Authority (TAMS)

Complaints about animal noise increased in 2006–07 following a review of the process for lodging complaints with Domestic Animal Services (see Figure 2). The number of animal nuisance notices issued increased by approximately 10% of complaints in 2003–04 to 44% of complaints received in 2006–07. This was partly a result of Domestic Animal Services reviewing its methodology in dealing with animal nuisance complaints. The overwhelming majority of these complaints were about barking dogs.

Figure 2 : Animal nuisance complaints, 2003–04 to 2006–07

Graph showing the increasin animal nuisance complaints from 2003 to 2007

Source: Domestic Animal Services (TAMS)

Entertainment venues

During the reporting period, the number of noise complaints associated with entertainment venues in commercial–residential mixed-use areas increased. The complaints were predominately about entertainment venues being established in existing commercial buildings not constructed to provide the appropriate noise attenuation. The Environment Protection Authority is hoping to address this issue by seeking amendments to Regulations being introduced for new planning legislation. It hopes to ensure plans for internal fit out for such venues are forwarded to the Authority for comment.

Noise Management Plans are required for all new venues that may play amplified music thus ensuring adequate controls are designed into new facilities to protect nearby residents from excessive noise.

Summernats reviewed in 2005

In 2005 a working group reviewed the Summernats event; it gathered information through public consultation and data provided by Summernats organisers. One topic of discussion was excessive noise for residents in nearby suburbs. The report from the working group noted that 46% of submissions included noise concerns about the event.

The working group made a number of recommendations to aid noise abatement during the event, including altering timeframes for noisy events to limit the effect on residents in surrounding suburbs. The report concluded that there was an increase in overall noise of approximately 5 A-weighted decibels during the event, but taking into account the overall economic, social and environmental impacts of Summernats the event should continue at its current site in Mitchell (ACT Government 2005).

Other noise issues

Aircraft noise continued to be the most publicised and debated noise topic during the reporting period. The debate between the Canberra International Airport Group, a land developer and the Queanbeyan City Council about development of the Tralee housing estate remained active at the end of the reporting period. This is despite the Federal Transport Minister ruling out changing flight paths around Canberra after the New South Wales Government granted approval for the housing estate to proceed (ABC 2007).

A draft Dragway Motor Sport Noise Environment Policy was released in March 2006 relating to a proposed dragway in the Majura Valley. A number of groups opposed the dragway on the grounds of, among other things, noise. In December 2006 the ACT Government announced that the dragway proposal in the Majura Valley would not proceed due to environmental and financial concerns.

Data sources and references

The Department of Territory and Municipal Services supplied information on noise complaints.

ABC 2007, 'No Change to Flight Paths', ABC Internet News 3 May 2007, available at <http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/05/03/1912928.htm> accessed 27 September 2007

ACT Government 2005, Summernats Review and Cost Benefit Analysis, March, available at <http://www.cmd.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0015/1833/summernats05.pdf>, accessed 11 February 2008

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