14 March 2013
(Private Members Statement, Legislative Assembly, Private Members Statement)
I join the member for Kiama in making noise about noise. Residents in my electorate of Sydney suffer noise impacts beyond what most people would consider reasonable. Noise can affect quality of life and health, particularly from sleep disturbance and lack of time to unwind and relax.
In the inner city noise impacts come from many sources. Roads in my electorate are frequently clogged with large volumes of motor vehicles, homes built to the footpath are directly adjacent to roads that are busy day and night, and hard surfaces on tall buildings cause noise canyons. Open-grade road surfaces can significantly reduce traffic noise and major roads such as Cleveland Street, William Street, Wattle Street, Broadway, Harris Street and Ocean Street should be upgraded and the Government should investigate quieter materials for heavily trafficked residential roads.
Car enthusiasts with modified vehicles and sound systems that pump bass lines long distances cause intrusive noise impacts in many areas but affect large numbers of inner city residents every weekend late at night. While it is an offence to emit offensive noise from a car, it is difficult to get action. Residents must get out of bed, get dressed and go outside to record the number plate of the vehicle, which may have already moved on. Some time after the reported vehicle may be tested but the resident will hear nothing back from the Office of Environment and Heritage. Police officers issue infringement notices and Kings Cross police organise monthly "Elvis" joint operations. In just one operation none of the 27 vehicle tested complied, resulting in fines of $11,000. However, noisy vehicles are the responsibility of the Office of Environment and Heritage, which should take the lead and regularly station inspectors at hot spots to catch and fine perpetrators when the problems occur without waiting for local police to coordinate joint operations.
The Government should ban the sale of car sound systems that emit noise significantly above regulations. I welcome recent upgrades to the public bus fleet, but many inner-city services continue to use aged buses that pollute with noise and fumes. The State Government should ensure noisy aged buses are replaced urgently. Late night hot spots such as Kings Cross, Oxford Street, Darlinghurst, and George Street attract event-size crowds, with many people intoxicated, and hold a street party every Friday and Saturday night. Bureau of Crime Statistics data shows a strong link between areas clustered with liquor venues and alcohol-related violence and antisocial behaviour. I share residents' concern about areas being saturated with liquor outlets and look forward to the outcome of the Government's cumulative impact study on licensed premises and evaluation of the environment and venue assessment tool being trialled on George Street.
Extension of the liquor freeze in Kings Cross until December 2015 and on Oxford Street until December this year will continue to give residents in adjacent densely populated residential areas reprieve from expanding liquor trading, but we need long term solutions. Numerous inner city major development construction sites create noise impacts over long construction periods, including Barangaroo, Carlton United Brewery, AusGrid's cable upgrade projects and the St Vincent's Hospital campus redevelopment. Residents adjacent to the Barangaroo development site report frequent breaches of permissible hours of construction and tell me that the complaints line provides excuses for delays instead of solutions to protect residential amenity. Consent conditions designed to prevent noise impacts should be strictly enforced to ensure residents can peacefully enjoy their homes. Apartment and terrace residents live in close proximity to each other and are affected by neighbourhood noise. Older apartments built before improvements to the Building Code of Australia have limited acoustic separation and residents of some new apartments say their buildings do not comply with standards.
The State Government must implement measures to encourage good development and reduce building defects, including removing conflicts of interest in private certification and ensuring owners can pursue structural defect claims. Low-frequency bass from subwoofer speakers can be extremely intrusive, with neighbours reporting physical impacts like pounding in their chest. The Protection of the Environment Operations Act limits council and police response to low frequency noise and needs to be updated to cover current technologies. Residents also regularly complain about noisy parties, particularly loud talking, laughing and singing outdoors on balconies and patios late at night. However, there are no enforceable restrictions for neighbourhood noise that is not amplified music. We must balance peace and neighbourhood amenity with allowing people to live as they choose. Legislation should address ongoing and persistent noise problems and the Government should run education campaigns to promote respect among neighbours. The Government should update controls and coordinate complaints management with one point of contact to report to and get action. I call on the Government to establish a one-stop shop noise reports line which quickly addresses complaints.