When does noise become offensive and objectionable? When does it become untenable?
Frustrated neighbours of a kennel and cattery on Welcome Bay Rd say the threshold should be when dogs are barking and howling constantly day and night, when locals become sleep-deprived, when quality of life is compromised and when they become unable to function properly.
And that, they say, has been their life since last September. “It’s not funny,” says Christine King. “I got woken by the dogs barking at 4am. Yes, on a work day.”
“Lately, the noise has been horrendous – all day every day,” says Dawn McNaughton. And she lives half a kilometre from the kennels at the Te Puke Highway end of Welcome Bay Rd.
The heat and aggravation is rising on both sides of Welcome Bay Rd. “All I can say is we have been put under enormous pressure – both personal and professional,” says operator of the kennels Craig McCulloch. His business is apparently licensed to accommodate 100 dogs and 200 cats.
Disgruntled neighbours claim to have filed more than 100 noise complaints so far this year, ringing the Tauranga City Council noise control officer every time they “have an issue with the kennels”.
The Tauranga City Council tally doesn’t quite square with that. One complaint before September last year they say, more on a regular basis from one person since then; and complaints from seven others since January.
The problem began several years ago. “But I finally lost my rag in September when they literally started howling at the moon,” says Dawn. “But we’re constantly being told there is no problem.”
Dawn says council officers took three different decibel readings. The noise monitoring “revealed compliance” according to a letter from Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby.
Christine believes the readings were over the threshold but because it’s a rural setting they had to take into account the cicadas, birdsong and other rural ambient sound.
The criteria shouldn’t be volume, says Dawn. “It should be the fact that this noise is a constant and unbearable nuisance.”
Then Monday morning Christine was woken by dogs at 4am. “My emotional wellbeing has been shot to buggery. All I can think about is how to stop this noise.”
It remains a quality of life issue for neighbours.
“I left Ocean Beach Rd for the quiet of the country. But it was actually more peaceful on Ocean beach Rd,” says Cathy Connelly. “And they [the dogs] were going all bloody day Saturday.”
And it boiled over last weekend. One frustrated local fired off four shotgun blasts and yelled at the dogs to shut them up.
“He had obviously reached the end of his tether,” says Dawn. But it only made the dogs worse. “It made them howl. It was bedlam,” says Cathy.
Dawn cites the Operative Tauranga District Plan governing rural noise and disturbance. It says” “Activities in the Rural Zone should not create effects that are offensive and/or objectionable beyond the property boundary”.
“However, despite more than 100 complaints, letters to the Mayor, the noise officer and the RMA, we are told there is no problem.”
Before September last year all was good. “The dogs would bark first thing and last thing when they were being fed. But something changed then and now they bark all the time,” says Dawn.
Then she started wondering. Was she getting paranoid, was she overdramatising? “Friends and neighbours told me ‘No!’ They too were having trouble sleeping and their kids were getting grumpy. I got the whole 10 yards.”
“It’s bedlam,” says Dawn. “We’ve had enough.” And when Dawn called the kennels this week after yet another day of “constant and excessive barking” she was told it was just dogs doing what dogs like to do. “The woman told me the dogs were in a communal area, were excited to see each other and were enjoying themselves.”
No enjoyment across the road at Dawn’s though. And it’s reported that after-hours on the actual kennel property, nerves are getting frayed too.
“A couple of nights ago I heard a woman at the kennels swearing her gob off. It was 7.30pm and they had been barking all day. She shouted: ‘Shut the f*** up, go to bed yuh bastards’.”
A conciliatory Craig, owner of the kennels, didn’t want to enflame things. “I would prefer not to comment at this stage. The council hasn’t closed the matter off. We are still working with them.”
But this week the council told The Weekend Sun that monitoring was done around the kennels in September, October and February. And the September reading actually did breach the city plan decibel limit. It confirms it’s still working with the kennels to resolve the problem.
“Further down the track I would like the opportunity to put our side of the story,” says Craig. “But until then we will leave it with the council process.”
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