The Eye of the Fish

July 29, 2014

Noisy city living

Its not just residents living near the Establishment that thinks living in the city can be a noisy affair. I’m overjoyed to hear that residents in Seville have also had enough of noisy visitors milling and shouting in the streets below. They’ve just passed a law about it in Seville, according to the Guardian, and hooray for them.

“It’s a balance between the right of residents to get a little rest and the development of economic activities,” city councillor Maximiliano Vílchez told reporters.

“Locals have been urging the city to crack down on noise for years. In a petition last year, more than 4,000 residents asked, “Can you imagine what’s it’s like to have 100 people under your window screaming as they watch a football match? Our children can’t perform well at school. When we leave for work in the morning we’re already exhausted.”

“The rules focus on the city’s hundreds of bars and cafes, where patrons regularly crowd outside. Anyone having an “excessively loud” conversation on the street now faces fines, as do bar owners who set up televisions on their terraces or who serve patrons who are standing up outside. Bartenders will no longer be able to roll beer kegs in the streets or drag chairs along the sidewalk when setting up or taking down their terraces. Fines for those caught engaging in banned behaviour range from €300 to €300,000.

“Drivers were also targeted. Playing loud music while driving, having a car alarm that goes off for more than three minutes or revving car engines unnecessarily is now prohibited.”

Near where I live, we have a number of noise sources. There are regular police and ambulance sirens at all hours of the day, and we can’t begrudge that. There is traffic noise, of course, and with a steady hum, that’s understandable and I can cope with that. But waste-collection trucks? Since the days of deregulation, we now have many different waste companies, and some of the nearby businesses and residents use one company, others use another, some still use the original city collection, etc, and all of them have different collection times. The Waste Management guys prefer a night time trip. Bottles are collected from bars after closing, at what feels like 2.00am. Street sweeping machines go for 3.00am. A recycling paper company always goes for the 4.00am slot. The City Council comes round at 6.00 or 7.00 in the morning. Others, presumably, come and collect through the day, when we are all at work. All this on top of bars that serve alcohol till past midnight, resulting in a steady stream of intoxicated, squealing girlies and incoherently grunting boys, badly coping with an excess of testosterone and alcohol, washing up and down the streets from between 9.00pm and 3.00am. I find that the best time for sleeping is at 7.00am, when ironically noise is at its lowest ebb – just early birds going to work, with a steady hum of regular traffic, no alcohol, no rubbish collection, and the prime reason why i am late to work. But let’s face it: Noise at Chateau Fish is a 24-hour affair. Without a doubt, un-controlled noise is the worst part of living in the city.

New Zealand is fairly new to city living, and we are still finding our way about it, with rules and regulations. Other cities, especially in Europe, have been urban dwellers for centuries, and have already established firm rules for what is acceptable and what is not. I recall visiting a friend in Berlin a few years back, a renown party city, of which much of the city is intensely urban. As we were walking back through the city streets late one evening, talking and laughing, as you do after a few beers, an old haus-Frau opened up her shutters, yelled Germanic abuse at us, slammed her shutters again and the street was silent. We had broken the laws about noise in a public place. My friend explained that neighbors of his had summonsed the Polizei when he had inadvertently played music too loudly on a Sunday morning – they served him notice. It’s a serious offense in parts of Germany to make too much noise at inappropriate times.

(pics thanks to

But in NZ, if you dare to complain, the letters to the paper are instantly telling any potential complainer that – “it’s your fault, you moved to the city, you’ve got no right to complain, if you don’t like it then move back to the suburbs.”

Actually, that’s not a fair comment at all. We can have both urban dwelling, and decent quality of audible life, if some sensible rules are established, and the residents in Spain have started on the right track. We do need to establish some ground rules, in my humble opinion, between audible activities between midnight and six in the morning, at the very least. Preferably, for my part, I would do the following:

– Ban leaf-blowers at all times, for ever. Stupid, pointless, noisy machines. Inventions of Beezlebub, the Devil’s spawn instruments of hell personified. Need I say more?

– Bottle recycling collection – the sound of a thousand smashing bottles being poured into a metal body of a truck makes a noise not unlike a crashing jet-fighter, especially if you live nearby or above. Daytime hours only please.

– Those amazing machines with giant steel prongs that take on large Euro-bins of rubbish or waste paper and lift them over their heads to empty? Satan’s grandchild as well. Incredible amount of noise, from wildly revving diesel engines, hydraulic motors, steel flaps banging and crashing, waste being emptied at a great height into an endless, mouthy maw. Clever machines, skilled drivers, but please ban them from the night.

– Motorised street cleaners – powerful spinning brooms and suction motors clean the street well, but create hellish noise, yet because it is a constant hum, it is bearable. A six am start for them.

– Drunken revellers singing incoherently on their way home? It should be lawful to use them for target practice, with a paint gun or high-powered water-cannon, although I’d prefer something stronger and more permanent. Perhaps a less homicidal way might be to simply muzzle them with a sock in their mouth and tape over their lips till they get home.

Any candidate taking on these notions gets my vote this coming election. Vote for Peace and Quiet in the inner city!

Seamonkey Madness
29 - 07 - 14

Thank Neptune you don’t live in Lappkärrsberget (Lappis), Sweden then Max.


And also you forgot water balloons for target practice ammo.

60 MPa
29 - 07 - 14

Double Glazing help?

29 - 07 - 14

60 – nope. Already have that – noise comes straight through.

29 - 07 - 14

Seamonkey – sounds eerily like Te Aro – and i always thought Swedes were sophisticated…

Josh Petyt
29 - 07 - 14

“Ban leaf-blowers at all times, for ever. Stupid, pointless, noisy machines”
Ever since the first time I saw one I still cannot understand how anyone could think they were a good idea.
Chainsaws, scooters, weedeaters, children – all noisy, but (arguably) necessary evils. Not so for leaf-blowers.

29 - 07 - 14

Josh – completely agree. Save money – buy a broom.

29 - 07 - 14

Seamonkey – i refer you to this, Sir…

Actually, i suppose that there is some logic in the young Swede males making moose-like incoherent mating calls out in the night air of the far north – they’re probably trapped in a nordic no-sun northern winter, able to see distant lights in a nearby dormitory, and to almost smell the opposite sex and their pizza dinners, yet needing to physically challenge then for dominance rights over the rutting and swotting season.

Not sure why we have that in NZ when all they have to do is walk home from Courtenay Place….

30 - 07 - 14

Ban reversing beepers on trucks at 6am. When any self-respecting blind person is in bed or wandering about carefully listening out for non-beeping reversing vehicles. How about this – when their headlights are on, the beepers are off – it’s night time and they have reversing lights and drivers’ mirrors – easy.

30 - 07 - 14

Hey Max. You can complain about trucks picking up glass at night, it is excessive noise and the Council can whack them as it is “noise that is under human control and of such a nature as to unreasonably interfere with the peace, comfort, and convenience of any person…” and doesn’t result from a “vehicle being driven on a road” but from a prat who thinks dumping glass into his truck at 2am is somehow going to be lawful. It’s in the RMA but, as we all know, complying with the RMA is for other people. And Councils are pussies.

30 - 07 - 14

but Chico, mon amigo, it’s not always that easy to see who is making the noise at night. Let’s say it’s 2.00am, and I’ve just got to sleep as the last of the midnight crawl have drunkenly made their way home, singing and carousing as they passed. A truck pulls up somewhere in a nearby loading dock, orange light flashing, headlights glaring, across the road, down a lane, somewhere. It begins to load the refuse / recycling / detritus of the day, hauling out the wheely-bins to the side of the truck one by one, and then revs up the engine, getting the hydraulics into overdrive, metal roof-flaps opening in readiness, clanging loudly. It is by about this time that I am now fully awake, but also fully naked in a nice warm bed.

Do I :
a) leave warm bed, run naked into the street in search of abhorent truck, to find out where it is, who it is, what logo it has, etc?

b) put on clothes in the dark, risking underpants chafing from backwards mounting, run into the street, hopefully with keys in pocket so i can get back in later, only to find that truck has now loaded the errant bins and is off snorting fire at other members of the public,


c) wake up, peer bleary-eyed out the window at bright lights on truck in the hope that a “How’s My Driving? Phone Us Now!” number will appear as if by magic, swear loudly, kick the cat, roll over and go back to sleep – only to be woken again in an hour for the next truck in the next building?

Sadly, all too often it is c).

PS – City Council Noise Control is useless. If you catch someone making a noise, and ring the Council, you can report it, but they will not act unless they get another phone call from you in another 20 minutes time. In theory, that works for roudy parties. In practice, it certainly does not work for trucks collecting refuse.

Andy Foster – feel free to step in here any time and offer to sort this shit out…

30 - 07 - 14

chico, regarding your beeping trucks – reminds me i once had a car that beeped if it went faster than 100kmh. Supposedly a helpful warning system – i just found the warning system so jolly annoying that it put me in a most foul mood and my driving quality went downhill. We’re much better off without the nanny state inside our cars.

30 - 07 - 14

Pedants’ corner – in “a renown party city”, I think you mean renowned.

My question: why are motorbikes allowed to be so loud?

30 - 07 - 14

Mike – i love a good pedant. And I think you’re right. I was using it as a noun, when of course the context of what i was saying indicates an adjective…

re·nowned [ri-nound] adjective
celebrated; famous.
Origin: 1325–75; Middle English; see renown, -ed2

re·nown [ri-noun] noun
1. widespread and high repute; fame.
2. Obsolete . report or rumor.
Origin: 1300–50; Middle English renoun < Anglo-French; Old French renom, derivative of renomer to make famous < Latin re- re- + nōmināre to name

1. celebrity, glory, distinction, note, eminence. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.

PS – I don't mind the rattle and rumble of a Harley, but i hate the high-pitched noise of a scooter. Does that make me scooterist?