The facts about noisephoto of an air conditioning unit on the side of a house

Noise may be generally defined as an unwanted or offensive sound, which can cause annoyance and affect sleep patterns and can therefore have an impact on our health. The Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 defines offensive noise as:

'Noise, by reason of its level, nature, character or quality, or the time at which it is made, or any other circumstances is harmful to a person or interferes unreasonably with the comfort of a person, who is outside the premises.'

The gradual increase in background noise caused by the cumulative effect of an increasing number of noise sources and/or increasing density of development can also be a concern.

The most common environmental issue that Council and the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) are contacted about is noise. Residential noise is also the main noise pollution issue that we deal with.

Who to contact

Our environmental health officers and ranger service officers investigate complaints received by Council relating to residential noise pollution.  

The EPA investigates complaints regarding noise pollution from scheduled premises, which are licensed by the EPA under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997.  

The Police also have jurisdiction over noise pollution and can address complaints relating to residential noise sources such as car sound systems, car and house alarms and noisy neighbours.

If you are uncertain who to call the EPA provides a handy who-to-contact page.

Residential noise

Within residential areas, restrictions on some domestic noise sources exist, such as power tools, swimming pool pumps, musical instruments, amplified sound equipment and domestic air conditioners.  These noise sources have restricted hours of operation and even outside the restricted hours, additional restrictions can be placed on their use if they cause offensive noise. There are also restrictions on car and house alarms. Information on these restrictions can be found on the EPA website as well as an in this informative brochure, 'Dealing with Neighbourhood Noise'.

Under the Companion Animals Act 1998 when the noise is the result of a dog a Nuisance Dog Order can be issued requiring the owner to prevent the behaviour causing the noise problem.

Often people are unaware that their activities may be causing a problem and are usually happy to work with you to solve the problem. Try to solve the problem amicably by talking to whoever is causing the noise.

If the problem persists, discuss the issue with an independent mediator. Community Justice Centres (CJCs) offer this professional service. This can only work where your neighbour volunteers to participate. The mediation process is free and has a high success rate. For contact information on your nearest CJC, visit the CJC website or phone 1800 990 777.