One complainant makes a big noise

The Greerton Community Hall – it has become a fossil, a place for passive play.

One serial noise complainant has single-handedly compromised the future of the Greerton Hall as a community events centre.

The hall in Cameron Road is the pulse of Greerton – a community venue for weddings, funerals, cultural events, fitness classes, concerts, shows, festivals and workshops.

But all that is threatened after the Tauranga City Council issued several user groups with excessive noise notices – be quiet or get out notices – after 82 complaints from just one neighbour in a residential cul-de-sac behind the hall. Several users have already been forced from the hall – a couple of Zumba classes, a church group and others.

“It’s sad, the community hall is an icon and an important building in Greerton,” says Gary Dawson, CEO of Bay Venues which runs the Greerton Hall. “Now we have to turn our minds to thinking about the building’s future. And I don’t know the answer to that.”

What do you do with a valuable community facility that can’t be used by the community for community activities? “Good question,” says Gary. “Perhaps we just use it for passive activity, and that means utilisation will go down.” And if that happens, decisions will have to be made whether it’s a viable facility.

User groups suggest anything louder than people chatting won’t be permitted at Greerton Hall. Gary Dawson says that’s an exaggeration.

‘Teejay’ Hemara of Tauranga Zumba has gone from the hall and gone from the suburb. “This is not a hobby, this is my fulltime job, it’s my bread and butter, it pays my mortgage, it’s a worry.”

Tauranga Zumba has been using Greerton Hall for ten years. About 50 loyal locals attended classes every Tuesday night. “It’s more than a fitness class,” says Teejay. “There’s a family feel and it’s very unfortunate for them.”

The problem is noise and dates back to September 8, 2017, when a neighbour, apparently new in the street and right behind the Greerton Hall first complained about excessive noise levels. There have since been 82 complaints, all of them filed by the same complainant.

 “Surely if you move in beside a community hall hosting community activities, you can expect a level of noise,” says Teejay. “That’s what’s frustrating, we have all been arguing those points.” And it seems it doesn’t matter whether there is one complainant or 100, the complainant can still demand protection of the law. 

“The Tauranga City Council has a responsibility to enforce the City Plan and Resource Management Act defined noise limits,” says the TCC’s Gareth Wallis. “If a member of the public feels those limits have been exceeded and complains, we are obligated to investigate it.”

And in some cases those limits have been exceeded because user groups have been issued with excessive noise notices. “And in order for us to comply with the city rules and RMA, we can no longer have groups in there that use loud, amplified music, because we are breaking the rules,” says Bay Venues’ Gary Dawson.

“We have tried to get groups to keep the noise down. That’s why notices were issued.”

Another Zumba operator using Greerton Hall preferred not to be named, fearing the impact on her business. She was yellow carded, then red carded for two noise control complaints. They kicked her out.

Effective immediately.

“I had been told to turn the bass and volume down and turn the speakers towards the road. It means my Zumba classes feel flat and blah! We need loud music for energy.”

And after deciding to look for a new venue, she thought: “stuff it, I’m turning the music up”. She did and noise control was there with a written warning. Next day there was an email saying she couldn’t use the hall again.

Gary Dawson says he’s stuck between a rock and a hard place. “While we would like to encourage as many as possible community groups to use the hall, we have to comply with the rules.” The resident was within their rights to complain and some of those complaints were upheld.

The Weekend Sun dropped by Hayes Avenue, directly behind the Greerton Hall. No-one could, or would, point to the disgruntled noise complainant. But one long time elderly resident said while some hall noise could be a nuisance “it was certainly nothing to complain about.” And, in fact, he quite enjoyed the church music.

Teejay Hamara says one person’s noise problem may not be a problem for others.

“It’s a bit of a grey area and we are working on that. We sat outside the hall a few times listening to the music. And the traffic on Cameron Road and a lawn mower were louder than anything.” Bay Venues has offered TeeJay Merivale Action Centre for his Zumba classes until the New Year.

“My class is very loyal and will have hated to lose the class altogether. So I trust they will follow us down the road to Merivale.”

Gary Dawson says the hall is loved by a lot of people. “But because of the noise restrictions, we are limited as to who we can have in there. Those are the rules we have to work by.”

They could ask the Tauranga City Council to spend $700,000 to mitigate the noise leaking from the Greerton Community Hall. “But there are no guarantees. Whichever way we go, it’s difficult,” says Gary.

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