Council wins fight over fans

18:19, Feb 07 2013

The Environment Court, in an interim decision, has upheld a council decision to implement stricter controls on frost fan noise levels in Marlborough.

New Zealand Winegrowers had appealed changes to the 2010 Marlborough District Council resource management plan for Wairau and Awatere which imposed a penalty on fans which produced Special Audible Characteristics (SAC).

The SACs are slapping and humming sounds which cause discomfort for the listener and can prevent people from sleeping.

The plan change also restricted sound levels from frost fans to 55 decibels at a distance of 300 metres from the device.

Under the plan if SACs were deemed to be present, the allowable decibel level should be adjusted down by 5 or 6db.

The decision by Judge Jon Jackson was released on January 30.


Council environmental health officer Gina Ferguson said a frost fan that had a 51db reading and produced SACs would effectively have a 56db rating, taking it over the 55db limit.

"In reality [the changes] only make a 2 to 3db difference, because of a change to the way noise levels are measured and assessed."

The council decision to include penalties for SACs was in line with the New Zealand standard.

"The outcome is the New Zealand standard will now be applied in its entirety."

The council would be seeking clarification from the Environment Court about where the noise standards could be applied in Marlborough, she said.

The decision said the 1000 frost fans which were being operated before the plan change had existing use rights and able to operate fans to a noise level of 60db.

The new rules relate only to new fans and to new houses within 300 metres of existing frost fans. New houses built near existing fans have specified insulation requirements.

New Zealand Winegrowers general manager of advocacy and trade John Barker said he was unwilling to comment on an interim decision .

"We are still going through it with our lawyers," he said.

Fairhall resident Malcolm Maclean made a submission at the hearing in Blenheim in December last year and said it was a good outcome for people who want to have a good night's sleep in Marlborough.

"I am happy to see it behind us after so long," he said.