Rowdy parties move to suburbs
Complaints about noisy parties have almost tripled in the past year as Cantabrians, starved of central-city nightspots, gather in the suburbs.
The Christchurch City Council received more than 15,000 noise complaints in the year to June.
That was a slight overall increase - about 800 - on the previous 12 months, but the number of complaints for parties has skyrocketed, with almost all coming from residential areas.
The council's manager of inspections and enforcement, Gary Lennan, said more than 90 per cent of excessive-noise complaints were about music and behaviour-related matters, including stereos, parties and bands.
Excessive-noise complaints are calculated for each financial year, which ends in June.
Lennan said the number of complaints initially fell after the February 2011 earthquake destroyed much of the central city but had risen sharply since.
"Party and band noise seem to be leading these increases and it is thought that the quakes have influenced this by reducing the number of official venues and bars, causing more celebrations to occur at private homes," he said.
"The current economic climate could also be an influence."
Acting southern area commander Inspector Alan Weston said police had not noticed an increase in callouts to suburban parties.
"But what has changed is that incidents are now occurring over a much wider area," he said.
"Where previously much of the alcohol-related disorder was concentrated in the central city, that's now been displaced and we're seeing incidents across the wider city and suburbs, both at licensed premises and at private addresses."
Residents of one New Brighton St were so sick of a particularly noisy flat, where tenants let fireworks off at 2am on weekdays, they posted fliers asking people to call the police when they heard excessive noise.
Fireworks and thumping bass music do not make for a peaceful night's sleep. Ask the residents of quake-damaged Palmers Rd in New Brighton.
In summer, the tenants cranked the bass up at noon and by early morning were usually letting off fireworks.
Another resident, who did not wish to be named for fear of retribution, said her family were regularly woken during the night, and their dog was traumatised.
The noise subsided in winter, but she was concerned that it would resume in summer.
A police spokesman said noise complaints had been received for the property and the tenants had been spoken to.
CITY NOISE LIMITS TOO HIGH, SAY ACOUSTIC EXPERTS
Noise limits in residential areas of the proposed new central city are too high, acoustic experts say.
The recently released central-city plan includes changes to acceptable noise levels at central residential boundaries - category 3 areas including schools, hospitals, hotels and retirement homes.
But John Pearse and Brian Donohue, of the Canterbury University Acoustics Research Group, say the maximum level allowed is still high enough to disrupt sleep.
World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines recommended an average level of 40 decibels (dB) during the night, they said.
Category 3 central- city areas have a night-time average limit of 45dB.
WHO publication Night Noise Guidelines for Europe showed people wake up to noise above 42dB and "adverse health effects are observed at the level above 40dB".
Effects include sleep disturbance, insomnia and the increased use of drugs and sedatives.
Christchurch City Council environmental compliance team leader Tony Dowson said consolidating bars into proposed entertainment precincts away from "noise-sensitive" areas should ease noise pollution.
"New living areas and dwellings rebuilt in the CBD area will now have more stringent acoustics standards to meet, reinforcing protection for residents," he said.
"The level of protection is considerable and in some cases equal to a noise level reduction of 30 dB or more."
The noise levels have been divided into three categories, with noise measured at the boundary.
A bar inside the category 1 zone could exceed the decibel limit as long as the noise did not flow over the boundary, he said.
Dowson said businesses that produced excessive noise, such as nightclubs, would be required to construct and maintain premises to control noise.
"They are also likely to have noise-management plans and a range of acoustic or noise-control treatments or devices installed," he said.
'BALANCING ACT' BETWEEN NOISY REBUILD AND SLEEP
Contractors are being encouraged to inform nearby Christchurch residents before noisy rebuilding work begins as the city council attempts to balance the essential rebuild with the need for sleep.
The central-city plan sets limits for construction noise around "residential activity" sites, including schools, hospitals, hotels and rest homes.
Although the rebuild may be noisy, construction noise limits are in keeping with standard acoustic guidelines.
However, the noise standard does not cover vibration caused by building work.
Dowson said the city council was encouraging contractors to communicate with building-site neighbours, especially before particularly noisy or disruptive work began.
Dowson said it was a balancing act between the need for rebuilding and residents' need for sleep.
Some activities, such as pouring concrete, might have to take place early in the morning to allow enough time for it to set, he said.
"We need to balance the need for that construction against the need for peace and quiet for some of the residents affected by it," he said.
"We are encouraging construction companies and residents to talk to each other."
The highest noise limits for construction are for between 7.30am and 6pm Monday to Saturday, when short-term noise over 90 decibels is permitted.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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