Noise concerns backed by council

19:25, Mar 17 2014

Stoke residents upset by noise pollution from Whakatu Drive are getting backing from the Nelson City Council.

Nelson Grey Power transport spokesman Bob Hancock told the council works and infrastructure committee on about the distress and anger the noise coming from the highway was causing residents in the area.

He said an unsuitable type of seal was used to reseal the highway in 2012 and was causing headaches between the Quarantine Rd intersection and the "old freezing works", a distance of about 2-3km.

The highway is the responsibility of the New Zealand Transport Authority. Yesterday the committee agreed to write to the transport authority in support of residents' concerns.

Mr Hancock said he was speaking on behalf of people and was not affected by the issue personally. He had talked to a retired senior official who once worked on roading in New Zealand who said the type of seal being used should not be used in residential areas.

He said "people were so angry" and he had received a letter from a resident who was in an "absolute nightmare" unable to sell their property in the area. They had bought their house knowing the bypass would built next to it, but had been assured by the commissioner at the time that noise problems would be dealt with.


Mayor Rachel Reese said she would "be interested to know whether NZTA have complied with all that they are required to" in reducing noise pollution.

"It certainly needs to be considered. I think Mr Hancock may be right that there are changes to the seal being used and they are related to costs and durability and lifespan of the seal, but it does have noise consequences," she said.

The transport authority's acting highways manager Nelson, Mark Owen, said they were aware of noise pollution from different types of chips used to seal roads.

"The noise effects of chip seal can vary slightly, but we always work to ensure that noise levels be reasonable, and within consented decibel limits where those limits exist," he said.

"The last time this highway was sealed was in 2012, and a slightly larger size of chip was used to make the surface more long-lasting to reduce the frequency of disruptive and costly roadworks. While the larger chip size may produce a slightly different sound, expert evidence suggests that it does not significantly elevate traffic noise."

Mr Owen said they heard from some residents about the type of seal being used and it resulting in increased noise levels, but the authority had extended noise control measures.

Mr Hancock said this had helped in some cases, but more needed to be done.

He said the residents he represented felt as though they were being "fobbed off" by the transport authority and although decibels had been measured they were averaged out, rather than taken at the highest point.

Mr Owen said he had heard of no problems with the "the methodology for how noise levels at this location are calculated", but he would be happy to hear from residents who were concerned.

"We do appreciate that living near a state highway does mean living with traffic noise, and we aim to keep those noise levels at a reasonable level. If the community feels it is experiencing unacceptable noise levels, we are always willing to work closely with them to help address these concerns," he said.

Mr Hancock said poorer grade asphalt was being used to save money, which was then poured into the bigger centres' highways like Christchurch and Auckland, but Mr Owen said this was not so.

"There is no connection between ‘big projects in Auckland and Christchurch' and the choice of seal, and we note the road has always been chip sealed since it was built early in the 2000s. Maintenance and project budgets are actually ringfenced from each other. This means that any money saved on a maintenance activity is re-invested into other maintenance activities," he said.

The Nelson Mail