Editorial: Tone it down a bit

Last updated 05:00 24/12/2012

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OPINION: Peace and quiet is the oxygen of creativity.

Nice line. It surfaced in an article contributed to the Nelson Mail earlier this year after a report about a rising number of noise complaints. The same thing has happened in Invercargill, hardly to anyone's surprise.

The Nelson correspondent argued that the issue was about more than noise pollution, or even manners. It was about aesthetics. He praised the particular quality of the silence he enjoyed in Nelson as something that provided a space for the spark of creativity to enter and light up the imagination.

Even if that sounds like hippy talk to you, if there's a kernel of truth in there, then we may be at risk of creating a less-imaginative environment for ourselves.

Some would say that the rise in calls for stricter noise control represent less a sign of greater community sensitivity to noise than of greater community insensitivity to one another.

There's perhaps an element of both. It's easier to make a racket than it used to be. Sound systems, for instance, are more potent, particularly in the bass. A passing car, suitably empowered with an immodest sound system, can send household objects just about vibrating off the shelves.

And when the noise is coming from a more stationary source, such as the Invercargill night-shifter tormented by his neighbour's daytime drumming, it is easy to see how zen-like serenity might seem out of reach.

The solution, in the first instance, should be simple neighbourly consideration. Clearly, then, a plan B is needed. This is where officialdom tends to enter the scene through local authority noise control measures.

People do tend to be a tad grumpy about noise control officers' effectiveness, though we should perhaps bear in mind that things have usually entered the realms of grumpidom by the time these guys get called upon.

The Invercargill City Council has beefed up, at least a bit, its own powers, and environmental health manger John Youngson speaks of "zero tolerance" for repeat offenders. He's talking, potentially, confiscation of stereos and fines to a maximum of $750.

Considering that this is the season for recreation, with finer weather and people liable to stay longer outdoors and party into the night, some of this might constitute fair warning.

It's not just recreational rowdiness causing ructions, of course. A letter writer up Hamilton way was last month moved to scold city folk moving to rural areas to desist from complaining to their council about noises that country folk have learned that they have to expect, including chainsaws and tractors at any time, day or night.

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Wind farms have been generating many complaints nationwide and who would deny a sympathetic shudder on behalf of folk around the Johnsonville line this year as the new Matangi trains have given rise to anguished complaints about metal-on-metal screeching since March.

There simply has to be a solution to such problems and, if everyone would just shush for long enough, we're sure it will come to us . . .

- © Fairfax NZ News

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