Thursday, 18 May 2017

Coming to the nuisance

I simply don't understand the mentality that leads people to move next door to music venues then push Council to shut them down. Even more baffling is why we have developed institutional arrangements that give every jerk a veto right.

Just read it and weep.
The Barrytown Hall - a popular venue for New Zealand music for at least 40 years - has been shut down after a noise complaint from a neighbour.

The rural village hall is well known on the New Zealand and international music circuit as an alternative live music venue.

Hall committee chairman Roger Ewer said because of one complaint the committee was now having to jump through hoops to resume staging live performances.

It has already cancelled gigs through until at least August, including the latest Arts on Tour offerings, which incurred a $1000 financial penalty for cancellation.

"It's ridiculous. One person can do this. We've got one person able to complain to stuff things up," Mr Ewer said today.

"It is very frustrating when I've been involved in these types of things since 1972 and there's never been a problem."

When the hall began to host live music the surrounding environment was totally rural.

He said the noise complainant was a relatively recent arrival in Barrytown, living in one of the former railway houses that were shifted from Otira to a site opposite the hall about 18 years ago.
This is what you get when you abandon common law coming to the nuisance principles in favour of a stupid Resource Management Act.

It gets worse.
The hall committee had considered a legal challenge but decided instead to work with the council.

"They seem to be quite responsive about helping us through it. We've gone along with their requests rather than fighting it legally, which we could have done."

They had been working on the basis of "existing use rights".

"It's interesting. It's turned out that they can impose a residential noise limit on us after 9 o'clock at night, which is ridiculously low."

Mr Ewer said the hall had now applied to adjust the decibel level in its consent.

Two affected residents opposite the hall had assented to the hall's application.

Another two households had declined and the hall also had to get sign off from absentee property owners.

"It's really stuffed things up and is losing us a lot of money."
Folks who put houses next to an existing music hall, or who move into them, should not have standing to complain about noisy music.

If we're moving towards increased intensification in urban areas, we likely need to get existing neighbours' use rights written down in the LIMs for the surrounding area - both so that buyers have no way of pretending that they didn't know that they were moving next to a bar or music venue, and to diminish their standing to complain about things that predated their move.

HT: Darian Woods, who notes that he had a great time performing there in 2008. Pity the fool who complains about hearing this from next door.


  1. I think you need to reread Sturges v Bridgman. Doesn't seem to me that coming to the nuisance is a very effective common law defence at all,at least in the UK

  2. Problem of sufficiently defined property rights as a result of the RMA. With minimal transaction costs (only 2 parties to the dispute) an efficient Coase outcome could have been achieved if property rights were better defined. I.e. if there was a sane version of the RMA in effect.