There will always be noise in any neighbourhood. This is usually only a problem if people or businesses are being very loud or if they’re trying to be annoying.
What happens if you’re making too much noise at home?
You have the right to do normal things in your home, including have parties.
If a neighbour thinks you’re making too much noise, they can complain to the Environmental Health section of their local council. An enforcement officer will usually come and investigate.
In practice, whether an enforcement officer thinks the noise is “excessive” (too much) might depend on the time of day. You can usually have normal party noise in the evening but after 10pm or 11pm (depending on your local council’s policy) you should turn the music right down.
Some practical advice: get to know your neighbours, and be friendly. People are much less likely to complain if they know and like you. Also, if you know your neighbours have young children, or someone who’s ill, or other particular needs for peace and quiet, you might be able to think of ways to avoid being too noisy or find a compromise that works for everyone.
Note: Excessive noise is “noise under human control and of such a nature as to unreasonably interfere with the peace, comfort, and convenience of any person (other than a person in, or at, the place from which the noise is being emitted)”. But it doesn’t include noise from aircrafts, vehicles on the road, or trains.
Excessive noise directions from the local council for short-term problems
If an enforcement officer from the local council thinks you’re making too much noise (for example, loud music at a party), they can issue you an Excessive Noise Direction (END), ordering you to reduce the noise to a reasonable level.
The direction takes effect straightaway and lasts for three days (72 hours).
If you don’t obey that direction, the enforcement officer can come back with the police and take away the source of the noise, like your stereo or other sound equipment.
Abatement notices from the local council for ongoing problems
Unlike excessive noise directions, councils usually issue abatement notices in response to ongoing noise problems that can’t be reduced immediately – for example, noise from a factory. Usually a council will have measured noise levels over a period of time.
An enforcement officer can issue an abatement notice where there is unreasonable noise that’s having an adverse effect on the environment.
What is “unreasonable” noise will depend on local council standards set out in rules, plans and resource consents.
The abatement notice requires the person responsible to stop the unreasonable noise or reduce it to a reasonable level within a specified period. An abatement notice can order that an occupier of land adopt the best practicable option of ensuring that noise does not exceed a reasonable level.
The notice lasts indefinitely, unless the local council cancels it or the notice is successfully appealed in the Environment Court.
Enforcement orders from the courts
Anyone can apply to the Environment Court for an enforcement order to stop an activity that causes, or may cause, excessive or unreasonable noise. Generally the person applying will need expert advice (for example, from an acoustic consultant) about the levels of noise.
What if I hear family violence in my neighbourhood?
If you or someone else is in immediate danger, you can call the police by dialling 111. If you’re worried that somebody in your neighbourhood is experiencing ongoing family violence, you can call your local police station. There are also different helplines you can call for advice, including:
- Shine helpline: 0508 744 633
- It’s Not Ok information line: 0800 456 450
- Women’s refuge crisis line: 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843.
See the chapter, “Family violence and elder abuse” for more information.