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Clarification sought on inner-city noise levels



29 August 2006

Council seeks clarification on inner-city noise levels

Auckland City is going to the Environment Court to resolve noise issues at an inner-city tavern.

The council has been working closely with the Empire Tavern and residents in nearby apartments to address concerns about late-night noise levels at the Victoria Street bar.

The council will now ask the Environment Court to rule on whether the Empire Tavern has existing use rights given that it has operated as a live music venue for many years.

It will also ask the court to issue an enforcement order, which means the Empire Tavern could be prosecuted and fined if it exceeds the noise levels agreed by the court.

The council’s manager for Environmental Health and Licensing, Chris Dee, says the legal action is necessary to provide certainty for both parties.

“We need guidance on this matter in order to find a solution for both the tavern and nearby residents and that’s why we’re asking the court to make a ruling.

“We’ve worked closely with both parties to try and resolve this issue, but clear enforceable ground rules must be established before we can proceed any further.”

He says under the Resource Management Act, the council is able to determine what a ‘reasonable’ level of noise should be and in this case it has set a level of an average 45dBA for noise measured in bedrooms in apartments near the Empire Tavern.

Mr Dee says the council will ask the Environment Court to determine whether this level is reasonable for the purposes of enforcement.

He says the council will also use the opportunity to get some clarification on whether the tavern has existing use rights and, if so, what impact these may have on the noise levels that should be enforced.

The Empire Tavern maintains its noise levels are appropriate because it believes it has existing use rights given that it has operated on the same site for more than 100 years.

Mr Dee says the council is pleased that the tavern has tried to manage its noise levels by installing noise monitoring equipment so that staff can police noise levels themselves.

“We have had moderate success with this approach, but both the tavern and the local residents need certainty about what the upper noise level limit should be.”

Mr Dee says the council is working in other ways to ensure that city’s nightlife remains vibrant whilst minimising the impact on inner-city residents.

The council has proposed a change to its district plan, which would mean that new residential units in the CBD would have to be designed and constructed to provide a maximum indoor noise level of 35dBA in every bedroom, whilst taking into account the existing noise levels for that particular location.

Mr Dee says, “The council recognises that noise can sometimes be an issue for residents living in the CBD and is committed to finding a workable solution for all involved.

“We need to do this in a way that takes into account the needs and desires of residents, but also recognises activities that have been established in the CBD for a long time.”

The Environment Court is expected to consider the request for an enforcement order and a declaration on existing use rights before the end of the year.


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