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Locked down with construction noise.

Imagine being a teacher, working from home, and just as you start talking a jackhammer starts up next door, loud enough to rattle the fillings in your teeth. Or try sleeping while giant pile drivers a few hundred metres away are bashing into the bedrock at 1 am and 3 am and all night until dawn.

Plenty of Brunswick residents haven’t had to imagine this. They’ve suffered through it.

When working from home began, back in March, I started hearing reports from people feeling trapped at home and frustrated by noisy building projects. The people who spoke to me generally accepted that they would have to tolerate some building noise, but they wanted a bit of consideration from builders, so they could survive at home.

One resident, Sam, told me during a zoom meeting that better communication would help. With his family, he lives between two building sites, and he just needs to know when he can expect a couple of quiet hours in the day, to teach an online class.

He doesn’t see a need for penalties and enforcement. He feels builders need to be aware of the neighbours and talk to them more about what to expect, and to give them some breaks.

I’ve written to the Master Builders Association about this and will meet with them to discuss what can be done. But we can’t expect all builders to cooperate.

Talking to Melbourne City Councillor, Rohan Leppert this week, I learned that the penalty for builders exceeding noise limits outside allowed hours was just $2000, which is a trivial expense for a large scale project. Some developers will just wear this “fee” for an early start. (Greens MP, Samantha Ratnam, tried to increase these penalties in the upper house earlier this year but it wasn’t supported by Labor or the Liberals.)

Earlier this month, one group of Coburg and Brunswick residents got no breaks and no consideration from the builders near their homes. The Level Crossing Removal Project was drilling piles into the deep basalt layer for the elevated railway being built along the Upfield Line, north of Anstey Station.

People living nearby told me that pictures were shaking on the walls and windows were shuddering, even 150 metres away. People 3 km away could hear it. And paradoxically the rock drilling was happening at night. I estimate many hundred if not thousands were seriously sleep deprived after about three weeks of noise and vibration, all while confined to their homes during lockdown. While the rock drilling appears to be over, engine noise continues and the project has another 12 weeks to run.

I wrote letters to Transport Infrastructure Minister, Jacinta Allan, with a total of 260 residents’ names, asking on their behalf for some quiet nights. While the worst of the noise may be over, I still believe the state government could have shifted the timing of the noisiest works, acknowledging that residents were putting up with a lot and needed a few nights off.


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Dr Tim Read
Greens MP for Brunswick
28 August 2020



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