Noise pollution laws in Australia

Noise pollution laws in Australia  
Noise complaints and regulations are generally the responsibility of your local council.

What are domestic noise limitations?

There are laws in place to regulate how much neighbourhood noise is acceptable at certain times of the day. If you’ve ever had to get up at an early hour but haven't been able to sleep due to noisy neighbours, then you’ll appreciate why these laws are in place.

Essentially, they're there to protect your right to the quiet enjoyment of your living space, regardless of what’s happening outside. They also exist to help define what's considered a reasonable amount of noise at a reasonable hour.


Who controls noise pollution laws?

The Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO) allows for local councils to set decibel ranges for residential, commercial and industrial zones. Local councils have the power to issue notices to people and businesses requiring them to control offensive noise, and to educate them on what noise levels are acceptable. Fines for single incidents or repeated infractions can follow, though the receiver of the notice can make an appeal against the decision if they feel they've been wronged.



What is considered 'noise pollution'?

Noise pollution can come in many different forms; a loud party or stereo, animal noise such as dogs barking, alarm systems or loud motors, whether these be in a vehicle or a mechanical installation such as an air conditioner. Whether a sound is considered to be in violation of noise pollution laws is normally determined by how loud it is in habitable spaces in neighbouring homes.


How is noise pollution defined?

The definition of offensive noise in the POEO Act is noise:
(a) that, by reason of its level, nature, character or quality, or the time at which it is made, or any other circumstances: (i) is harmful to (or is likely to be harmful to) a person who is outside the premises from which it is emitted, or (ii) interferes unreasonably with (or is likely to interfere unreasonably with) the comfort or repose of a person who is outside the premises from which it is emitted, or
(b) that is of a level, nature, character or quality prescribed by the regulations or that is made at a time, or in other circumstances, prescribed by the regulations.


What can I do if there's too much noise?

If you are on the receiving end of a noise complaint, you'll need to find a way to prevent the offensive noise. This may be through restricting the operation of a particular device to certain hours, or installing or increasing soundproofing. If you feel the complaint is unwarranted, you have the right to make an appeal on any decision handed down by the local council.

If you're the one making the noise complaint, there are a number of ways you can bring a dispute to the table before reverting to the council to intervene. Simply talking can often solve most problems and if this doesn't work, a mediator can be called in to try and resolve the dispute. Once the council is involved, they will measure the decibel level of the offending noise and approach the offender to have this rectified.