- Noise is defined under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act) to include both sound and vibration.
- See the legal definition of ‘offensive noise’ in the dictionary of the POEO Act
- The Noise Guide for Local Government explains how council officers determine if noise is offensive
Seeking noise abatement orders
Noise abatement orders are issued by local courts to stop offensive noise or prevent it from occurring. Find out how to seek a noise abatement order if you decide to deal with noisy neighbours by acting independently of the local council or other regulator.
Before seeking a noise abatement order, try to resolve the situation in other ways.
Talk amicably to the noisy neighbours – often people do not realise how loud they are being and are happy to turn down or stop the noise.
- Discuss the issue with an independent mediator. Community Justice Centres (CJCs) are government-funded but independent centres that settle differences through mediation. You meet with the people who are making the noise and a CJC representative to try and solve the problem, but for this to work, your neighbours have to agree to participate. This process will not cost you any money and has a high success rate.
- Contact the police or local council. The police may issue noise abatement directions to deal with one-off urgent noise problems such as late night parties whereas the council may issue noise control notices or prevention notices to deal with continuing noise. Find out more.
If none of these solutions work, you can seek a noise abatement order. This option should be considered only when all other avenues have failed.
Under Part 8.6, Division 2 of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997, a resident or businessperson who is affected by offensive noise can seek a noise abatement order.
Your local court can tell you what evidence you need to provide so they can decide whether to issue an order. Evidence must prove that offensive noise has occurred and is likely to recur, such as signed statements from at least two witnesses corroborating that the noise occurred and recurred. The witnesses may or may not have considered that the noise was offensive.
Contact details for your local court are on the Lawlink website.
When you have gathered all the evidence and details that the court requires, lodge an application notice with the application fee of $83 (increased in line with the annual consumer price index). The court will advise how the application notice should be lodged. As an individual you will need the court registrar's approval to register the application notice and begin the legal process. The court may require you to consider, as an initial step, seeking mediation at a Community Justice Centre and would only proceed if mediation failed.
If the court decides to proceed, both you and the noisy neighbours must attend a hearing, and both sides can have legal representation. A strong case that establishes that offensive noise occurred, its duration and the effects on you and other neighbours will help the court decide in your favour, but if you lose the case you may have to pay the legal costs of the other side as well as your own.
You can ask the court registry staff for more details of what happens at the hearing and how to prepare your case.
Once your application notice is registered and served, your case is listed for mention and could be heard in a few weeks or sooner, depending on how busy the local court is.
The court will issue the noise abatement order requiring your neighbour to stop making the offensive noise. They must comply.
You can also ask the magistrate for a costs order, requiring the other party to cover some of or all the costs you incurred, including legal costs.
However, the costs order can be appealed to the Land and Environment Court within 21 days.
Continuing to make offensive noise after a noise abatement order has been issued is a criminal offence.
Contact the police and show them a copy of the order.
You need evidence to support your case that needs to establish 'beyond reasonable doubt' that the order has been breached.
This is likely to be more comprehensive than the initial evidence gathered when you applied for the noise abatement order, such as statutory declarations from witnesses who would need to be prepared to go to court to give their evidence.
Check with your local court on their requirements. You may obtain legal advice from LawAccess, a legal information and assistance service, by telephoning 1300 888 529.
The court will hold a hearing to decide whether there has been a breach of the order. If they rule in your favour, they may impose heavy penalties both for the breach and possibly also for contempt of court. In addition, a costs order that may cover court costs and your professional costs may be made against the defendant.