Living after midnight

Natanael Rother
Insights Newsletter
23 August, 2019

Imagine you wanted to establish a bar. Before you could worry about vintage, décor or music, local activists might scare you away. Like the 500+ people protesting against a proposed bottle shop in Wellington’s Khandallah suburb this month.

If you managed to tap your first beer eventually, constant hassling from neighbours might still drive you out of business.

Quite disheartening for anyone who wants to run a bar – and for all those who want have a drink in that bar.

But imagine you were not the bar owner or patron but a resident in the same building. What would you think about a new tavern, assuming you will not be visiting it every night?

Music travels quickly through New Zealand walls and windows. The bar would ruin your sleep at night and make you grumpy during the day.

Anyone who wants to follow the medical advice of 8 hours of shut-eye every night will then surely lose their peace of mind, not to mention overall wellbeing.

New Zealand’s cities need to end this deadlock. To find solutions, we looked abroad in our latest report, Living after Midnight.

And we found some no further than in Melbourne.

As part of its 24/7 strategy (yes, all night and all week), Melbourne implemented the ‘agent of change principle’. The party bringing new use or developments to an existing environment is now responsible for noise attenuation.

This means developers of a residential area close to an existing music performance venue need to plan appropriate noise-minimisation measures for future residents. Developers can choose whether it is more practical to insulate their own building, or soundproof the existing venue. The scheme applies to any housing within 50 metres of live music venues and requires a 45dB maximum noise level, about as loud as a bird song.

Similarly, party planners opening a new venue close to residential areas are responsible for dealing with any noise effects caused by their business.

Establishing a rule about who must adapt thus breaks the deadlock.

Nimbys who like to live close to urban adventures but want others to bear the burden that comes with it can no longer appeal for pre-existing noise levels. Bar owners can open a bar if they soundproof it to legal requirements.

Our report discusses more solutions like the one being implemented in Melbourne. Nightlife comes with its challenges. Tackling them head-on is smarter than limiting everyone’s fun.

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