Managing Noise Through Enforcement

This note has been updated for 2017 and 2020 amendments but not updated for best practice.

This guidance note is the fifth of seven guidance notes that form the RMA Enforcement Manual. 


The primary duty relating to noise under the RMA is contained in s16. Section 16 of the RMA requires that noise is kept to a reasonable level by adopting the best practicable option. The duty applies to every person who occupies or carries out an activity within New Zealand’s territorial boundaries, including its coastal waters and the airspace above the land and water.

District plans (refer s31(1)(d) of the RMA) and regional plans (including regional coastal plans) (refer s30(1)(d)(vi) of the RMA) may set out rules controlling noise, whether at source or receptor. An example of noise controlled at source is noise being emitted from a factory as measured at the site boundary. An example of noise controlled at receptor is emission controls that require acoustic design of living apartments in commercial centres, to reduce the level of noise to specific levels as received by occupants.

Noise emission controls relating to aircraft are limited to those prescribed by either a national environmental standard or set by a local authority in relation to the use of airports, not to overflying aircraft (see s9(5) of the RMA).

Temporary noise issues can be dealt with efficiently under s326 and s327 of the RMA, which provide for intervention in the case of excessive noise.

This guidance note describes the different mechanisms of controlling noise, helps you understand their differences and describes when one mechanism may be more appropriate than another.