EPA's "lack of understanding" over heavy vehicle noise pollution

Making a noise: Georges River Council's suggestions to control noise pollution from heavy vehicles parking in residential streets have been described as not "appropriate" by the Environment Protection Authority. Picture: Chris Lane
Making a noise: Georges River Council's suggestions to control noise pollution from heavy vehicles parking in residential streets have been described as not "appropriate" by the Environment Protection Authority. Picture: Chris Lane

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has been criticised by Georges River Council for a "lack of understanding" at noise pollution problems caused by heavy vehicle parking in residential streets.

In July last year, the council wrote to then- Roads Minister Melinda Pavey requesting an urgent review of fines for heavy vehicles (over 4.5 tonnes) and long vehicles (7.5 metres or longer) that park in built-up areas beyond the one-hour limit permitted by NSW Road Rules.

This followed an increase in the number of complaints concerning heavy vehicles parked in residential areas and the noise pollution they cause.

While regulations set out restrictions on vehicle noise, as does the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change, these regulations can be difficult to enforce.

The council considers the current fine amount of $112 inadequate for heavy vehicles

Georges River Council has issued more than 252 penalty notices to heavy vehicles who have overstayed the permitted one-hour time limit set in the 2014 Road Rules.

Many of these penalty notices were issued to the same vehicles showing that the current fines were not a sufficient deterrent, a council report found.

The council suggested to the State Government that the fines be increased and drivers be subject to a loss of demerit points.

The council also suggested the introduction of a tiered penalty system, a review of the definition of "built up area" and a review of the parking time limit for heavy vehicles.

The council also wrote to then-Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton and Parliamentary Secretary for Transport, Oatley MP Mark Coure requesting the Protection of the Environment Operations (Noise Control) Regulation be amended to include vehicles over 4.5 tonnes and that idle for a certain length of time.

The EPA's director regulatory reform, David Fowler responded in March this year to the council's concerns, writing on behalf of the Minister for the Environment.

The EPA said the regulations were adequate and the suggestions put forward by the council were not appropriate.

Instead, the council could consider controlling the problem through parking restrictions on council roads, he said.

"Under many circumstances, including those that you have described, a 'one size fits all' approach is not appropriate, particularly where the noise level, nature, character or quality, or the time at which it is made must be considered in determining if it is harmful or interferes with the comfort or repose of people in adjoining properties," Mr Fowler wrote.

While noise control regulations could be applied in certain circumstances, the council may be limited in implementing these where a heavy vehicle is being used lawfully, parking in permitted areas.

NSW Road Rules restrict heavy and long vehicles from stopping in built-up areas for longer than one hour.

"Council may wish to consider its options for managing noise from heavy vehicles in residential areas through parking restrictions on council roads," he concluded.

Councillor Colleen Symington had asked for an update on the NSW Government's response.

In reply to her question, the council report said, "The correspondence from the EPA indicates a lack of understanding of the issues faced by local councils when implementing the relevant road rules and indicates no interest in pursuing any further reforms.

"The position of the EPA is that the current legislative framework provides a sufficient basis for councils to deal with parking and noise issues associated with heavy vehicles in residential areas and suggests that council should consider applying restrictions on local roads as a method to manage these issues."

Following the receipt of the report, councillors at the June 24 council meeting unanimously voted that the council write to the Minister for Transport and Roads, Andrew Constance MP and the Parliamentary Secretary for Transport and Roads,Miranda MP Eleni Petinos, requesting the urgent review of fines for heavy vehicles or long vehicles which park in built up areas beyond the one hour limit permitted by Road Rules 2014, with a view to introducing a tiered penalty system.

The council's request to the Minister will strongly emphasise that the current fine amount is a totally inadequate deterrent, which severely limits the effectiveness of Council to protect local residents from the impact of heavy vehicles illegally parking in residential areas.

The council will also write to the Minister for Energy and the Environment, Matt Kean requesting that the Protection of the Environment Operations (Noise Control) Regulation 2017 be amended to include vehicles over 4.5 tonnes and that idle for a certain length of time.

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