Rowdy Aucklanders have sparked nearly 300,000 noise complaints in just five years, and ratepayers have forked out millions of dollars to keep the peace.
But figures released to the Herald show it’s not just noisy humans making a racket – tens of thousands of complaints were logged about barking dogs.
The council has served more than 37,000 Excessive Noise Direction (END) notices since 2016. They require residents to reduce noise to a reasonable level immediately and keep it there for 72 hours.
Another breach within three days can be punished with a $500 fine or police being called to seize “noise-making equipment”.
Noise officials have made 830 seizures since 2016 – mostly of stereo equipment.
More than 360 infringement notices have been dished out in the past three years alone.
Manurewa residents clocked up more than 21,000 complaints – the highest number of any Auckland suburb.
Other boisterous areas included Auckland Central, Glen Eden, Grey Lynn, Henderson, Māngere, Mt Wellington, Ōtara, Papakura, Papatoetoe, Remuera and Waiheke Island.
The data, released under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act, shows “residential” noise complaints were by far the most common. They included parties, shouting and arguing, loud music and the like.
Other irksome emissions included industrial and commercial activity, construction noise, building and car alarms, licensed premises and special events.
The figures don’t include complaints about approved roadworks, which are handled separately by Auckland Transport.
The council has completed just one prosecution for noise breaches under the Resource Management Act since 2016.
According to an Auckland District Court judgment, an Avondale property notched up 174 complaints in three years and received 40 ENDs.
Resident Bruce Palle was convicted and fined $1500 in March 2017 for “permitting the contravention” of an END notice at the Arran St home.
The court heard that a noise complaint officer employed by council contractor Global Security visited the property on “numerous occasions”.
In September 2016 the officer heard excessive loud music and the noise of people from the house. When spoken to by the officer, Palle said: “Oh come on man, it’s daytime.”
The officer issued an END but returned two days later after another complaint and issued a non-compliance notice.
The prosecutor said the breach was clearly not a one-off incident. The court action should not be seen as the council “using a sledgehammer to crack a nut”.
Noise rules were designed to protect the amenity and quality of neighbourhood environments, the court heard.
The sentence should reflect Palle’s noise-making history and indicate “enough is enough”.
Other problem properties are keeping noise control officials busy.
A state house tenant whose home has had at least 100 noise complaints this year claims she’s no party animal, but the victim of harassment.
Petula Clarke lives in a two-storey brick and tile house on Hutchinson Ave, New Lynn with five of her six kids and one mokopuna.
The site attracted more noise complaints than any other in the Supercity region in 2020.
She admitted it’s the local “hang house” and that her children sometimes “screamed and yelled” playing computer games.
But she denied they are “partiers”.
“Okay, we get a bit loud and all from time to time but we are not even partying. We’re not rowdy drinkers. We don’t smash bottles and try to beat up the neighbours.”
Meanwhile, one Māngere Bridge resident made a dizzying 62 noise complaints between January 1 and September last year.
Council licensing and regulatory compliance general manager James Hassall said the individual complained about nine addresses in two streets, for which officials issued seven ENDs.
“We understand that there are alleged gang connections to some addresses and there is also good visibility from some of the offending properties, resulting in music being reduced before the officer can be on-site to assess it.”
Keeping noisy neighbours in check doesn’t come cheap.
The council said noise control contractors had cost $6.5 million in the past two full financial years alone.
Keep a lid on it
It’s not just suburban residents breaching the peace.
Swanky Cable Bay Vineyards has caused angst on sun-drenched Waiheke Island withmore than 70 noise complaints in recent years.
A band of neighbours, who have spent more than $1m fighting the vineyard in a long-running court battle, say their once tranquil lives have been destroyed by the racket.
The council is prosecuting Cable Bay, which faces five charges of contravening the Resource Management Act through noise breaches in June 2018.
And man’s best friend has proved anything but; barking dogs have triggered more than 36,000 complaints to Auckland Animal Management since 2015.
During that time, 84 infringement notices have been issued under the Dog Control Act.
Two owners were prosecuted last year for failing to comply with nuisance abatement notices relating to “loud and persistent barking”.
Both prosecutions followed “numerous complaints” from neighbours, and multiple infringement notices issued to non-compliant owners.
In one of the prosecutions, Michael Powar was last year convicted and fined $750 for failing to comply with three barking abatement notices for his German shepherd Simba, a Manukau District Court judgment shows.
The court heard that complaints about the dog dated to 2017. Further complaints in 2018 and 2019 resulted in barking abatement notices being issued. Powar was advised to buy his pet an anti-bark collar, which dishes out a mild electric shock to punish bad behaviour.
After another complaint on January 25, 2019, an animal management officer visited Powar’s Flat Bush property and heard the dog “howling and barking” from some distance.
The dog was seized.
The court heard from several neighbours who had complained about Simba, including one who was a crane operator and needed sleep to operate the heavy machinery safely.
Another neighbour worked in aviation security. He said the noise had been a problem for about three years as the dog often barked for up to four hours non-stop.
“Simba barks all hours of the night.”
Powar told the court Simba was a beloved pet and tended to bark when left alone if the family were on holiday.
He did not like to use a bark collar as he felt it was cruel and a form of torture, the judgment noted.
Powar eventually relented and the barking subsided. Simba was also taken to an animal behaviourist and treated for “separation anxiety”.
Another prosecution is currently before the court; the dog owner is due to appear early this year.
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