Which Procedure? Pros and Cons

The difference between the powers and procedures available under the RMA for managing noise should be understood in terms of the outcomes sought, rather than the type or nature of the noise.


Nature of noise

Outcome sought


Noise from an on-going activity

Having operators consider methods that will best ensure reasonable levels are achieved over the long term.

Section 16 - Best practicable option
This requires the person responsible to consider alternatives, but also allows the local authority to educate the offender and negotiate the best possible outcomes in the longer term.

Short-term noise

Immediate cessation or reduction of the noise to a reasonable level.

Section 327 - Excessive noise direction.

This direction will last 72 hours.
If the noise does not stop, the enforcement officer, accompanied by a constable, can physically intervene to stop the noise.


When section 16 is applied the interaction between the operator and the local authority may result in an unopposed abatement notice or enforcement order. This will provide a level of assurance for the public that action is being taken, and a practical and effective solution for the operator.

An abatement notice issued under s322(1)(c) of the RMA is usually the most effective and efficient enforcement procedure for contravention of s16. In practice, however, a local authority should be aware that enforcing the s16 duty (and associated directives) may be quite time-consuming.

Identifying and implementing the 'best practicable option' may take months to implement because of the requirements of design, sourcing new equipment and skills, testing the solution, and building it. Alternatively, relocating the activity to an environment where the noise will have less impact may also take considerable time.

If the operator is slow to cooperate, the local authority may feel compelled to seek an enforcement order. However, this process can also be slow since a hearing may take several months to convene, unless the matter is urgent and justifies an interim application.

Section 327 of the RMA is, at best, a stop-gap measure in situations of on-going activity producing unreasonable noise, but it is ideally suited to temporary noise issues. It has been used effectively to secure immediate relief for people seriously affected by noise, such as hotel residents disturbed by rock-breakers used in demolition on an adjoining site. Alternative methodologies for reducing unreasonable noise for the duration of the works can then be discussed and agreed.

Penalties can also be imposed in relation to noise, by way of an environmental infringement notice or summary proceedings (prosecution). For more guidance on use of penalties for noise, see below.