Fire station ordered to silence siren

JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 12:00 19/06/2014

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Ashhurst's fire siren could soon be silenced after resource management commissioners found it could be regularly breaching noise control rules, and refused to grant an exemption.

Its loss would be a real culture change for the country village, said resident Harvey Jones.

"For most people, it's an accepted part of being in a rural village," he said.

It not only alerted volunteers, but prompted everyone to move out of their way as they hurried to the fire station.

He thought it unreasonable to expect volunteers to be constantly attached to cellphones or pagers, after years of being attuned to respond to the siren.

Jones was surprised that a compromise, of using the siren during day-time only, had not been offered.

The legality of the siren noise arose during the hearing of proposed changes to the institutional zone of Palmerston North City Council's District Plan in March.

Neighbour Bryan Walpert objected to the Fire Service request for an exemption from the noise rules. He said the siren disturbed and upset his young family at night, and that pagers and cellphones were a reliable alternative.

The panel of commissioners, chaired by Chris Mitchell, agreed.

Their decision, released at the end of May, said there was a general duty on all land users to avoid unreasonable noise.

They said given the availability of other technology, the use of a siren to marshall volunteer firefighters, particularly at night, was not necessary.

The Fire Service was advised to consult the community to gauge support for continued use of the siren, and meantime, to take steps to comply with existing controls, or seek a resource consent.

The commissioners acknowledged the Fire Service delivered a critically important service to the community. "However . . . we think it reasonable for it to consider the use of best available technology before seeking specific District Plan approval to be exempted from noise controls."

Fire Service Manawatu area manager Mitchell Brown said he had not seen the decision, and was not able to comment.

Any appeal to the Environment Courtmust be lodged before July 4.

City council head of planning services Russell O'Leary said no complaints had been received about noise at the Ashhurst fire siren.

If there was a complaint, the council would be obliged to investigate.

"There is ability to issue an abatement notice, potentially. However, we would also seek landowner co-operation as part of compliance and resolution work."

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- Manawatu Standard

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