Let’s go make some noise… or not!

Pardon my grump. One of our neighbours hosted a party last night, which lasted into the wee hours of the morning, and I’m a bit of a bear today. The techno-funk at midnight was bad enough, guitar hero at 1am was irritating, but the cherry on the pile was when [so far as I could tell] someone plugged in their guitar amp and began writing new age mood music. They may have been torturing small mammals, it was hard to be certain. What it certainly was NOT was appropriate noise to be making  at that time of the morning, and I have to confess, I came over all curmudgeonly and phoned noise control a little after 2 a.m.

When you’re planning your wedding celebrations, you’ll need to take into account that there may be restrictions relating to the amount of noise, and how late you can make it, [in addition to any other specifications of the venue’s  liquor licence]. Restrictions will vary from place to place, and may be effected by local council requirements under the Resource Management Act [RMA] which specifies that people are not allowed to make ‘excessive’ noise, and must ensure that noise from their property does not reach an “unreasonable” level.  [Vague much?]

The factors that might make noise excessive or unreasonable include:

  • Volume: Although vague, the RMA does not  not accept that Justin Bieber, or Rachmaninoff, for that matter, are excessive at just any level. Just because the neighbours can hear it and don’t like it, isn’t grounds for a complaint. It’s worth pointing out that the most common cause for Noise Control complaints is loud music. You may be surprised to know that it’s more likely to be caused by the  ‘plug the iPod into the sound system’ party than a live band or DJ, even with all those massive speakers on the rack. A skilled technician will  maximise the music, minimising the ‘noise’, in a way that compressed mp4s and struggle to achieve anything more than a flat wall of sound. Live musicians/DJs are generally better able to create a party atmosphere without breaking any sound barriers!
  • Time of day: Unless you’re doing something totally extreme, chances are that you won’t have to worry about your wedding ceremony or reception disturbing the neighbours’ peace and quiet until after it gets dark.
  • Background noise: If you’re using a venue that regularly hosts events, they will have a good idea of what the neighborhood can tolerate. Venues may require the bar and band to shut down as early as 10 or 11.30pm or a final all quiet by 1am, if at all. Even so, there are limits to what’s reasonable, –  don’t surprise the venue with your plans for a karaoke marathon, or a live fire cannon salute!
  • Length of time and frequency of occurence: Most people are fine with late night noise and fireworks etc on New Years eve – but less tolerant on the night before the working year begins again.One solution is simply to make sure all the neighbors are invited to the party, so that they’re the ones making the noise, not the ones trying to sleep through it!  As a sweeping generalisation, you can get away with almost anything, as long as it’s not persistent or overly repetitive.

The job of deciding what’s excessive or unreasonable ultimately falls to noise control officers, who are employed by local councils. They work under guidelines for various zones contained in their district plan. Restrictions will vary from city to city and differ between the inner city or industrial zones and in the suburbs, which may explain why different venues may have different restrictions.

Noise control arriving will only ruin the celebration if you choose to become confrontational, [or to sulk and moan about it after they leave]. It’s pretty rare that a spiteful neighbor will be routinely trying to shut down  the party – when a complaint is logged, the complainant is required to give their name and contact details, and a log of complaints would show pretty quickly which side of the fence the problem is coming from.

If noise control turns up on the doorstep, it will be because someone has made a complaint, the officer has done a drive by and already agrees that the noise  is “excessive”.  In most instances, they’re not there to ‘shut the party down’, simply to require that the noise level decreases. There’s no point in arguing with them – just turn down the volume, and carry on celebrating, albeit a little less boisterously, and that should be the end of the issue. Take it simply as a reminder that you’re making more of a disturbance than you realised, and someone has finally reached their limit of endurance. Be kind!


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