Build a wall: Resident boards up window against $630 million expressway noise
Residents living alongside the $630 million Kapiti expressway are calling for a wall to be built along its 18-kilometre length as they complain of noise pollution.
One Raumati resident has gone so far as to board up his bedroom window in an effort to get a night's sleep.
The New Zealand Transport Agency says its measurements have shown noise levels are within the consented conditions – but it has agreed to start monitoring as a result of the residents' concerns.
Nick Fisher, whose home in Rata Rd, Raumati, is about 100 metres from the expressway, said a permanent solution was needed so his family could get some sleep.
"We want a wall built right along the road so everyone, either side, gets some relief.
"They've spent $630 million, so they can spend more to help the people live next to it."
Fisher and a growing group of noise-affected residents have formed an action group demanding NZTA begin remedial work on the matter.
At a meeting with Expressway Alliance representatives last week, about 50 people who described themselves as "tired and angry" turned up to demand a solution, Fisher said.
Fisher, and other residents, said the problem was worst at night, from trucks using the expressway, and they were angry their complaints were not being taken seriously.
Under the consents issued for the expressway, properties need to return a noise reading over 57 decibels (dB) to be deemed affected by road noise.
Fisher said levels from his home fell within the acceptable range if averaged out over 24 hours. But an acoustic report commissioned by NZTA in May, and taken outside his house, showed an average night-time noise level of 67dB, and a high of 73dB.
The sound of a vacuum cleaner is measured at 70dB, and a garbage disposal unit, heard from 15 metres away, at 80dB.
Sleep/Wake Research Centre research officer Karyn O'Keeffe said short-term effects of sleep disruption from road noise included lowered mood and decreased reaction times.
Studies on long-term effects of road noise had suggested there might be an increased risk of high blood pressure and heart disease, but these were observed after 10-15 years of constant exposure to road noise, she said.
Karen Falloon, of the University of Auckland, said noise levels over 55dB were considered unacceptable by the World Health Organisation.
Residents could be experiencing disturbed sleep from the actual noise, or from the chronic stress of having building going on for a long time over their fence, she said.
"The bottom line is chronic insomnia is an important issue, and it has a very real and often profound impact on people's lives."
NZTA regional highways manager Neil Walker said new noise bunds and walls would be considered only if measured noise levels exceeded consented conditions.
It had not intended to monitor road noise until the expressway had been open for two years, in line with standard practice.
However, he said: "We're listening to the concerns of residents ... [and the] noise measurement work has been brought forward in order to address the concerns of local residents and others in the community."
The agency had also brought forward resurfacing work at the road's northern end, and would work with the Road Transport Forum to see what might be done to reduce truck noise, he said.
Kapiti Coast mayor K Gurunathan said he was happy with the way NZTA continued to engage with residents experiencing problems with the expressway.
"In general, the expressway has been well designed, but we always knew there would be problems with the people living next to it."
Residents should approach "neighbourhood impact forums" set up through the consulting process as their first port of call, he said.