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Noise Pollution in the ACT

Noise pollution in the ACT is regulated by the Environment Protection Act 1997 and the Environment Protection Regulation 2005. These are enforced by the Environment Protection Authority (‘EPA’).

The Act and regulations are supplemented by the Environment Protection Policies (‘EPPs’) which provide guidance to the EPA in making decisions (section 61(c) of the Environment Protection Act 1997). There are three EPPS which deal with noise;

When is noise environmental harm?

Noise is considered to cause ‘environmental harm’ if it exceeds certain limits set out in the regulations (section 5(a) of the Environment Protection Act 1997 and also section 25(1) of the Environment Protection Regulation 2005). The limit depends on what time the noise is being made and where it is. Certain specified activities (‘Class A’ activities) require environmental authorisation (section 42 of the Environment Protection Act 1997, schedule 1) which allows noise within the terms of the authorisation (section 28 of the Environment Protection Regulation 2005). It is also an offence to cause noise disturbances that cause an unreasonable interference with someone’s enjoyment of a place or area (Section 141 of the Environment Protection Act 1997).

What noises are not covered by the Environment Protection Act?
  • Cars on the road: Complaints about noisy motor vehicles should be made to Access Canberra. For information about Summernats, please refer to the following factsheet.
  • Animals: Noise distirbances from dogs, such as excessive barking, are regulated under the Domestic Animals Act 2000.
  • Aeroplanes: Aircraft noise must meet the noise standards specified in the Air Navigation (Aircraft Noise) Regulations 2018 (Cth). Concernes about aircraft noise are lodged with Air Services Australia.
  • Noise from people where it is only the persons body. For example shouting or singing. Complaints about noise made by people can be made to the police.
What are the Restrictions on Noise?
Zones Daytime (7am-10pm Mondays to Saturdays or 8am-10pm on Sundays and public holidays) Night-time (10pm-7am Mondays to Saturdays or 10pm-8am Sundays and public holidays)
Industrial areas (Zone A) 65dB(A) 55dB(A)
City and town centres (Zone B) 60dB(A) 50dB(A)
Group centres, office areas and the Parliamentary triangle (Zone C) 55dB(A) 45dB(A)
Commercial areas (Zone D) 50dB(A) 35dB(A)
Broadacre and recreation areas (Zone E) 50dB(A) 40dB(A)
Residential and all other areas (Zone G) 45dB(A) 35dB(A)
If the noise is being emitted from a unit (such as a flat or a townhouse) located in a multi-unit complex, the noise standard is 5dBA lower. Noise is generally measured from the boundary of the land from where the noise is coming from (section 32 of the Environment Protection Regulation 2005). The Environment Protection (Noise Measurement Manual) 2009, sets out procedures and instruments for measuring noise (section 29A of the Environment Protection Regulation 2005).

Can these noise levels be exceeded?

There are a number of activities which are allowed to exceed these noise levels, if the given requirements are met. These include activities such as garden maintenance, repair work, New Year’s Eve Parties, warming up motor vehicle engines, and building work in residential, industrial, city and town areas. The details for these activities can be seen here. Where noise complies with the conditions set out for the particular activity there is no limit to the noise level (section 29 of the Environment Protection Regulation 2005).

What happens if noise restrictions are exceeded?

You can try to resolve the problem by talking with the person making the noise or through mediation via the Conflict resolution Service (6162 4050). Otherwise, you can lodge a complaint with the EPA (13 22 81, environment.protection@act.gov.au). A person commits an offence if they make noise louder than the noise standard and can be fined for doing so (section 39 of the Environment Protection Regulation 2005). A person may also take a common law action for nuisance (section 9 of the Environment Protection Act 1997).

For more information please refer to the detailed fact sheet provided by the Environmental Deffenders Office which can be acesse here.

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