Last updated 16 August 2016
Local governments are responsible for investigating and dealing with complaints relating to residential premises. Again, the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection may have the power to deal with complaints relating to mining or manufacturing activities.
Fire, smoke and ash
Depending on the source of the fire, smoke or ash, complaints can be made to the local council or the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection. Complaints about excessive smoke from residential wood fire heaters and ash from burning off can be made to the local council.
A permit is required for any fire (rural or urban) other than an indoor fire in an appropriate fireplace or stove. Additionally, most local councils provide an exemption from the permit requirement for outdoor fires used to cook food such as BBQs and small, contained open fires. An occupier who has obtained a permit for a fire may be responsible for damage caused by the fire. Most local councils have passed ordinances and local laws regulating fires, and these should be checked carefully if a landowner obtains (or wants) a permit to light a fire.
People who light fires with intent to injure a person or damage property may commit a criminal offence and, where this is suspected, a complaint should be made to police.
Air and light pollution
In relation to air and light pollution, it is necessary to check with the relevant local council to ascertain whether any local law applies to dirt and dust from construction or cleaning, fumes, smell from rubbish or compost, or light. Alternatively, depending on the source of the nuisance, the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection may need to be contacted.
Excessive noise from barking dogs, parties, televisions, radios, cars, musical instruments, air-conditioning units, pool filters and other sources may constitute a nuisance.
As with most neighbourhood problems, it is best to try to deal with noise by talking with or writing to the person creating the noise. Sometimes neighbours do not realise that their noise is disturbing other people. Making a formal complaint when the matter could be resolved by discussion or mediation can damage relationships.
If the matter cannot be resolved by talking, complaints can be made to the local council, the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection or to police, and action may be taken against the person creating or controlling the nuisance. In some cases, affected people may also (or alternatively) be able to bring common law actions in nuisance.
The available options for making a complaint or taking common law action in relation to nuisance will vary depending upon the nature of the noise (what is making it) and the location of the noise (where is it coming from).
Residential equipment and powered devices
It is necessary to contact the specific local council to ascertain whether specific residential noise problems are regulated, for example building noise, lawn mowers, swimming pool pumps, noisy air conditioners, power tools, leaf blowers, refrigeration equipment, generators, air compressors, power boats, jet skis and many other noisy devices are only to be used between specified hours and at certain volumes.
Complaints in relation to any of these activities should be made to the local council, which may have the authority to investigate, issue warning notices and on-the-spot fines if the nuisance continues.
Residential party and music noises and off-road vehicles
Queensland Police has the power to deal with complaints about excessive noise from:
- musical instruments
- stereos and amplifiers
- vehicles not presently on the road (e.g. a car in a neighbour’s backyard)
- private meetings, gatherings and parties (but not noise from open air concerts, licensed premises, such as nightclubs, or authorised public meetings)
- stereo, CD, amplified and other noises emitted from private vehicles on the road or in public places.
These powers are directed to one-off or infrequent events (e.g. a party). They are not designed for ongoing noise (e.g. band practice or playing of loud music on a daily basis).
Ordinarily, complaints about ordinary noise nuisances are not emergencies. A complaint should be made to police for non-urgent matters. Upon receiving a complaint, police go to the home of the complainant to determine whether the noise levels are acceptable. If police consider the noise excessive, they can enter the premises of the noisemaker and direct that the noise be stopped and that no more noise be made for a specified period. If the noise continues, the source of the noise may be locked or removed by police. In rare cases further penalties may apply.
Residential alarm systems
A complaint may be made to police where there is excessive noise from a residential alarm system. Complaints about alarm systems should be directed to the nearest police station.
Motor vehicle and traffic noises
If the noise is coming from a car that is driving on public roads, the problem can be reported to the Department of Transport and Main Roads. The department will generally require identifying details about the car (particularly registration numbers) before it can investigate. The department can also consider requests for noise barriers on main roads, and councils may respond to concerns about compression breaking or other heavy vehicle concerns. Police also have a wide range of powers to deal with cars making excessive noise under hooning laws, although these will generally be exercised following police detection.
Noises from licensed premises including nightclubs
The Office of Liquor and Gaming is the relevant body that licenses premises and can conduct investigations into appropriate noise levels at those premises.
Persons residing in nightclub districts may have to accept a certain level of noise intrusion from licensed premises, which is greater than residents would expect in a suburban area.
Noise from commercial premises
Some commercial and industrial properties may have development approval conditions from local councils, which must be complied with, and council can issue Enforcement Notices and prosecute any breaches. Otherwise complaints about noise from commercial premises can be made to the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, which may investigate the complaint and issue a warning letter, infringement notice or commence legal proceedings, depending on the severity of the breach.