Noise and nuisance 


What can I do about my noisy neighbours?

There will always be a certain level of noise in any neighbourhood e.g. from motor mowers or power tools, barking dogs, rowdy children or loud party music. If the amount of noise coming from your neighbours’ place is bothering you, it’s best to start by talking to them about it. You may be able to come to an agreement about, for example, the timing of the construction work on their house or turning down the volume on their stereo.  

If you can't resolve things by talking to your neighbours then you can complain to your local council, which has the power to control unreasonable or excessive noise (under the Resource Management Act, people have a duty to avoid making "unreasonable" noise). See the next question about what the council can do.

If your neighbour is a tenant see our information about how this affects your options.

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What will the council do if I complain about my noisy neighbours?

If you contact your council with a noise complaint they will usually try to verify that the noise is happening and/or that it is on-going, by sending a noise officer to the address to assess the level of noise. Depending on factors such as the time of day when the noise occurs, the duration, frequency and loudness of the noise, and the reason for the noise, the noise control officer will assess whether it  is ‘excessive’ or ‘unreasonable’. 

If the noise complaint is about a dog barking, you’ll be referred to an animal control officer rather than a noise control officer.

It’s worth noting that if you complain to the council about noise, they will not tell your neighbour who made the complaint.

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What will the noise control officer do if the noise is excessive

The law defines “excessive noise” as noise under human control that unreasonably interferes with the “peace, comfort and convenience” of other people. If the noise control officer decides that the noise is excessive, they will issue an Excessive Noise Direction, which orders the person responsible for the noise to reduce the noise to a reasonable level for up to 72 hours. If that person does not comply with the Excessive Noise Direction, the noise control officer may seize the equipment making the noise (they need to have the Police with them to do this).

You can complain again if the noise becomes excessive again.

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How can the council respond to on-going noise problems?

For complaints about unreasonable noise which is on-going and can’t be reduced immediately (for example, from a factory), the council can issue an Abatement Notice. What is demed to be “unreasonable” noise will depend on local council standards as set out in rules, plans and resource consents. An Abatement Notice gives the noise-maker a deadline for stopping or reducing the noise to a reasonable level.

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What can I do if my neighbour doesn’t do what the council says?

If the noise issue is not resolved through your council, you can apply to the Environment Court for an Enforcement Order. The order seeks to stop any activity that causes, or may cause, excessive or unreasonable noise. There is a fee for applying to the Environment Court and you may also need to hire a lawyer and an expert adviser (such as an acoustic consultant) – which makes this an expensive option.

For more information and advice, check with your local council or contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau

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If my stereo is seized by a noise control officer can I get it back?

You can apply to your local council to have your stereo or other seized property returned to you.

You will get your property back if the council is satisfied that returning it will not result in more noise problems and you pay all the costs related to your property being seized. You might also need to show proof of ID and the seizure notice. The Council is entitled to refuse to return your seized equipment if they believe you will use it to make more noise problems. 

If you don’t claim your seized property within six months the council can dispose of it. If the council refuses to give your property back you can appeal to the Environment Court.

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My noisy neighbours are renting their property. Who else can I complain to?

If your neighbours are renting their home, you can also complain to their landlord about it. One of a tenant’s responsibilities is to not disturb their neighbours. The landlord can serve a notice to the tenants giving them 14 days to remedy behaviours such as excessive noise.

If your neighbours are renting in a Housing New Zealand (HNZ) home, you'll find the appropriate contact details for HNZ on our Living in a state house page.

If you and your neighbour have tenancies with the same landlord, then your complaint should be directed to the landlord as this situation is covered by the Residential Tenancies Act.

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The neighbours have old cars on their section and it’s a real eyesore. What can I do about it?

If they don't present a threat to your health (e.g. they don't smell bad and aren't leaking onto public land or other people's property), then your neighbour is probably not breaking any council bylaws, regulations or laws. You could try talking to your neighbour. You could also ask your local council whether they are able to take any action.

If your neighbour is accumulating rubbish on their property, or items which could be a danger to other people or their property, this might be considered a nuisance under the Health Act or the Resource Management Act. You can complain to your local council, who will assess the situation and can issue an Abatement Notice to the neighbour. 

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What can I do if the neighbours' rubbish keeps ending up on my property?

Your neighbours’ rubbish could be ending up on your property because it is not properly secured. It’s best to start by talking to your neighbours about it as they may not be aware of the problem. If they refuse to do anything to keep their rubbish secured (or are intentionally dumping rubbish onto your property), you can report it to your local council.

Local councils are responsible for enforcing the Litter Act which makes it an offence for anyone to leave litter in any public place or on private land without the consent of its occupier. If you have evidence that the neighbour is responsible for the rubbish being on your property the council can issue a notice to them, and a fine if the neighbour does not comply with the notice.

You can find more information by contacting your local council or checking their website.