Woman clashes with neighbours over generator

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 05:00 03/04/2014

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A woman determined to stay off the national electricity grid continues to spark debate.

Kim Webby, a Housing NZ tenant in Waimea St, New Plymouth, has been using her own petrol-powered generator to run her home for nearly five months.

But her move to remain independent has resulted in her clashing with some of her neighbours who want it gone.

The feud has now spilled over into the realms of the regulatory bodies, Housing NZ and the New Plymouth District Council.

A month ago, Housing NZ threatened her with eviction and the council has slapped her with two $500 infringement notices.

Both organisations' representatives spoke yesterday of their wish to work things out with her. Both agree that the use of a generator is legal - but only as long as it is safe and not upsetting neighbours.

Webby says the situation to date is "pretty much status quo".

"I'm waiting for the Housing Corp and district council to deliver their verdicts," she says.

She believes the electrician sent in to check the generator went away happy that it complied.

But Housing NZ bosses do not agree. In a statement to the paper yesterday, regional manager Darren Toy said while the corporation did not object to a tenant having a generator, it was concerned about safety and noise.

"In this case we've been told by an independent contractor that the generator is a fire and health and safety risk," Toy said.

"We're still working with Ms Webby to find a solution. We and the local council have also received complaints about the noise. We have an obligation to the community to ensure tenants don't disturb the peace and quiet of their neighbours," Toy said.

Council customer and regulatory services manager Mary-Anne Priest said Webby had now been issued with three notices for excessive noise, totalling $1000.

To date the council had received 30 complaints from two separate neighbours. "What we have been doing is working with her and her neighbours ... to come to an amicable solution".

In the daytime, the generator complied with decibel levels but did not comply at night. The bylaws allow daytime levels of 50 while the limit at night is 40.

"We are endeavouring to work with her to reduce the noise. And it's not just about meeting the noise levels, it's about the annoyance factor [and] it's about the quality of life. People do have different perceptions."

Generators emitted quite a loud hum, Priest said. She admired what Webby was doing in taking the initiative in not wanting to be on the national grid but others' quality of life must also be taken into consideration.

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If the situation continued, the next step would be an abatement notice to require her to stop using it, Priest said.

"We do have the power to confiscate it. But Kim is co-operating. She understands it is in everyone's best interest to get it sorted."

It was not the first complaint about noisy generators the council had dealt with but others were being used within businesses and received fines for excessive noise, Priest said.

Webby said about six weeks ago, a neighbour told her to stop using it. "He tried to bully me because he didn't like it." She tried to work things out with him but there was "no way in hell" he would back down. "His insistence is bordering on harassment.

"At the end of the day he did not like the generator. And I'd been using it a couple of months before anyone said boo," Webby said. Her ultimate plan was to have a battery bank so the generator would only be used a couple of hours a day. She would be appealing against the infringement notices.

- Taranaki Daily News

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