Noise is classified as unwanted sound, which among other things can be disruptive, causing loss of sleep, interference to activities and emotional stress. The City's Environmental Health Officers manage neighbourhood noise in the city, investigate and monitor noise complaints, and take steps as appropriate to prevent and reduce offensive noise. Sound is measured in decibels (dB) by using an instrument called a sound level meter, which records sounds as perceived by the human ear.
There is no single government authority in Australia with overall responsibility for controlling or reducing noise pollution. The Federal Government takes responsibility in areas such as aircraft noise and emission standards for new motor vehicles, while each state's environmental protection agency regulates its environmental noise.
Noise in Western Australia is governed by the Environmental Protection (Noise) Regulations 1997 (Noise Regulations). Its aim is to protect people from unnecessary disturbance from noise, defined under the Act to include any vibration of any frequency, whether transmitted through air or any other physical medium.
The regulations address:
- Noise passing from one premises to another.
- Noise from public places as it affects adjacent premises.
- Acceptable noise levels in relation to land use.
The regulations don’t deal with:
- Noise within one premises.
- Noise from traffic on roads or trains (except model trains).
- Noise from aircrafts (except model planes).
- Noise from safety warning devices.
Inner city living and noise
One of the many attractions of living in a city is the diversity of activity. However, this can also result in noise levels that are higher than those experienced in a suburban environment.
If you want to live in the inner city, it is recommended you first acquaint yourself with the neighbourhood in which you wish to live. Consider spending 24 hours in a hotel/apartment close to where you intend to live. This will give you the opportunity to experience and listen to the activities that make Perth such a vibrant place. If possible, choose a location offering windows that open or a balcony, so you can experience the sounds of the city during the day and at night.
Explore the neighbourhood and familiarise yourself with potential noise sources. This can include potential construction sites, which produce a considerable amount of daytime noise and can last for a number of years, or types of commercial activities that operate 24 hours per day. Locate clubs, hotels and bars to investigate their hours of operations and noise levels.
Be mindful that all roads have the potential to carry traffic and that it may take only one vehicle to disturb sleep. Consider how busy traffic is in the area at various times of the day, whether it will increase in future and whether these levels of traffic noise are likely to impact you.
Talk to other residents in the area where you are thinking of moving to about their experience of noise.
The degree of sound proofing in residences throughout the city varies significantly. Consider engaging an acoustic consultant to conduct a noise assessment of your potential city abode. They will be able to report on existing noise levels and recommend noise control options such as acoustic seals around windows, upgraded glazing or other soundproofing measures.
Check the location of car parks in relation to the area you are interested in. Carpark operations can cause sleep disturbance, particularly if the car park opens onto a small street or laneway adjacent to your property.
Audible security alarmsAudible alarms can be annoying if they sound intermittently. Police have the power to gain entry and deactivate house or car alarms if they have been emitting unreasonable noise for more than 30 minutes. All requests of this type must be directed to the police on 131 444.
The city is a mixed-use environment with a vast array of commercial businesses. Potential noise issues can differ from those in a suburban neighbourhood.
- Non-standard operating hours apply in the city. Some businesses are permitted to operate at variable hours and may require regular delivery of goods or regular rubbish removal.
- Service delivery vehicles, forklifts and loading dock operations all have the potential to cause offensive noise.
- Mechanical system noise from commercial buildings can disturb residents. This can be from equipment such as commercial air conditioning units, ventilation and refrigeration systems.
Community eventsUnder the Environmental Protection Act, noises from some community activities are exempt from usual acceptable levels. Exempt noise can include children in school playgrounds, noise from fairs and fetes, crowds at sporting events, and church services and community concerts. The City may take action over an exempt noise if it considers the noise impacts are excessive.
Construction noise is common within any city. In recent years, our city has experienced an increase in the amount of residential and mixed-use development. The noise levels generated by construction works can be very high and continuous, which can affect sleep, concentration and mental and physical health amongst residents and city workers.
Noise from construction sites is exempt from the Environmental Protection Act between 7am and 7pm Monday to Saturday (excluding public holidays) if the works are being carried out in accordance with Australian standards.
Construction work may be carried out outside the permitted hours under a strict set of conditions if the applicant has obtained an out-of-hours construction approval from the City of Perth’s Compliance Services Unit.
Special circumstances include:
- Where there is possibility that the community may be negatively impacted upon by the noise the application is based on, for example, the delivery of an oversized plant or structure, emergency works, maintenance, repair or works of public infrastructure, or public infrastructure works.
- Where the applicant can demonstrate that no one within the community will be adversely impacted upon by the construction work. It is recommended you contact the site manager/supervisor as a first step towards the resolution of a construction noise issue. These details are always provided on the builder’s signage at the entry to the construction site. If this does not resolve the matter, or you remain unsatisfied with the outcome, please contact the City.
Licensed premises and entertainment venues
The city has a rich and vibrant night life. Noise associated with its many clubs, bars and nightclubs can sometimes reach levels that could be considered offensive or a nuisance. This could be from music, patrons, deliveries, or other related activities.
All liquor licensed premises are obliged to respond quickly and positively to resolve complaints received from neighbours. The City’s Environmental Health Services Unit monitors noise from licensed premises and will investigate noise complaints associated with entertainment venues. The Liquor Control Act 1988 also contains provisions that allow action to be taken for unreasonable noise.
Outdoor events and concerts
Concerts and large sporting, cultural and entertainment events add vibrancy to the city and provide commercial opportunities for local traders.
Many of these events may result in excessive noise emissions. However, if the event is approved by the City and deemed to be justified, a noise exemption may be granted. In cases where exemptions are given, noise levels considered reasonable for the event will be stipulated and conveyed by the City to the event organiser. These are required to be met without exception and the City monitors the event to ensure organisers comply with this approval.
Residents likely to be affected by an event are informed of the event details so they are aware of potential noise impacts, giving them an opportunity to make alternative arrangements during that time. Residents are also advised of a complaints telephone line to call, should the need arise.
Traffic noise from roads is exempt from the Environmental Protection Act. Problems with individual noisy vehicles on public roads can be directed to the police.
Vehicles on private property are subject to the Environmental Protection Act, where a vehicle is creating a noise nuisance from misuse (such as regular over revving). If you have concerns over the noise nuisance from a vehicle on private property within the City of Perth, please contact the City for advice and/or further assessment.
Where cumulative traffic noise along major roads is an issue, contact Main Roads Western Australia on 138 135.
The City is responsible for ensuring refuse is regularly collected throughout the city and that streets and footpaths are regularly cleaned. To avoid traffic congestion, cleaning and waste collection are often undertaken outside normal business hours. Unfortunately, noise associated with waste collection and cleaning can cause disturbance.
The City of Perth is developing an Essential Services Management Plan for its operations. This will align with proposed amendments to the Environmental Protection Act, allowing operations to take place outside normal hours under the condition there is a noise management plan addressing best practice of noise management.
If you are regularly disturbed by refuse collection, please contact the City.
Air conditioning and ventilation equipmentNoise emanating from air conditioning units must comply with assigned levels stated in the noise regulations. Home owners and installers have a responsibility to ensure compliance with these levels. Where the city receives an investigation request, noise measurements may be taken from the requesting residence to determine compliance.
Appliances and audio equipmentWhen purchasing new products for your home or workplace, consider those that have been engineered to reduce noise emissions.
Noise inside a building can be reduced if the internal and external walls have high sound reduction measures in place. Heavy, dense materials such as brick walls are better for sound reduction, but there are lightweight solutions. For example, interior walls that have layers of plasterboard with sound-control material in the cavity can be very effective in reducing noise. Windows and doors are often the weakest link in sound insulation. Double glazing is particularly effective for windows, especially if the airspace between the two panes is as wide as possible. Solid core doors are best, particularly for those that open on to external areas. All gaps and openings around both doors and windows should be well sealed – even the smallest openings can leak significant amounts of noise.
It is recommended you engage the services of an acoustics engineer if you would like further information and assistance with installing noise reducing measures in your home.
Making a noise complaint
When the City will investigate noise complaints
The trigger for the City to investigate noise complaints, is strictly complaint based. The reason for this is that ‘noise’ is highly subjective (noise being defined as 'unwanted sound'). In addition, the assigned levels are set very low for a vibrant inner city environment. If there is sound present, but no one is bothered by it, no action is taken. However, if sound is present and ‘unwanted’, the Noise Regulations provide means of the City investigating the noise source using ‘objective’ criteria detailed in regulation 7 (‘assigned levels’).
For the City’s Environmental Health Officer to commence a noise investigation, the following needs to occur:
a) The person affected by the noise needs to demonstrate that they have attempted addressed the matter with the emitter in the first instance.
b) The noise needs to occur regularly.
c) The noise complaint needs to be in writing and and a log of noise events showing the issue is a regular concern needs to be provided.
In the absence of a noise complaint transitioning to investigation, the City’s Environmental Health Officers will:
- Discuss the noise issue with the customer.
- Assist by advising the customer of best options available to address the particular noise issue (e.g. speak with neighbour; email the building site supervisor and copy in the City etc).
- Discuss technical strengths or weaknesses of the case and potential gaps and deficiencies with the Regulations.
- Outline the City’s graduated approach to enforcement (in the event that the case proceeds to this point).
- Advise of alternate options separate to the Noise Regulations to deal with the matter (e.g. s.79(3) of the Environmental Protection Act 1986 or as a civil matter).