By Lanie Tindale
A vacant Roads and Maritime Services-owned house in St Peters is receiving extensive noise abatement treatment, classified as Type 2, while residents on the same street struggle to get proper noise treatment.
St Peters residents say noise amelioration is desperately needed. A video from last Friday night posted to a private St Peters residents’ Facebook page features the “excessive” and “relentless” jack-hammering noise of a concrete cutter.
The warning for this WestConnex nightworks construction – which went from 7pm to 6am – at the major Unwins Bridge Road/Bedwin Road intersection came via email at 5.31pm that day. The same email notified residents that construction work at the nearby intersection of Brown and Hutchinson Street, due to finish at 6pm, would be extended until 8pm.
An RMS document called the Construction Noise and Vibration Management Plan (CNVMP), which was published in October 2016, outlines which residences are entitled to noise amelioration works.
“Type 1 is just sealing up the windows with something they call air packs,” explains WestConnex Action Spokesperson and commercial lawyer Rhea Liebmann. “Type 2 is your full soundproofing with air conditioning.”
Number 6 Brown Street St Peters, which is owned by RMS and has been unoccupied for the last three years, is receiving noise amelioration work on all four facades. RMS has owned the two-bedroom terrace since August 2015, paying $1.142 million for it.
Brown Street resident Lynne (not her real name) says that “the empty houses belonging to RMS being treated before residents who are suffering” is part of an “unfair process.”
Ms Liebmann says “they are doing that because that’s closer to the road [Campbell Street] and according to their noise model, that gets full treatment. So it’s all about box ticking and bureaucracy rather than looking what’s actually happening on the ground to people.”
However, according to the 2016 Noise and Vibration Management Plan the house and its adjoining terrace is not entitled to noise amelioration.
An RMS spokesperson said: “All eligible property owners have now been contacted by the New M5 contractor – and following agreement with the property owner, work is undertaken as per requirements outlined in the ONVR [Operational Noise Management Plan].
“The house at 6 Brown Street is eligible for work as per the approved ONVR.”
Lynne was offered downgraded treatment from Type 2 to Type 1. After negotiations, construction firm CPB Contractors agreed to give Type 2 treatment on some of the house.
“There were a couple of facades with windows that they won’t agree to do anything to … So there are walls in [that] house that won’t get any noise amelioration works at all,” says Ms. Leibmann.
According to Ms. Leibmann, the downgrading of works is a consequence of CPB having “developed another noise model which they say is more detailed and more correct.”
However, this cannot be verified as RMS and CPB “won’t ever disclose current measurements [to residents].”
Ms Liebmann says when residents complain, “we’re constantly told, well, it’s within the allowed parameters. Whether it is or isn’t, who knows, but the fact that people are complaining and that they can’t get sleep suggests to me that even if it is within the approved levels, those levels should never have been approved by planning because it’s not reasonable to subject people to three nights of no sleep.”
A couple of blocks closer to the St Peters interchange, residents in Church Street have experienced similar problems.
Some Church Street residents were told they were entitled to Type 2 treatment in 2016. However, a sound analysis report from a consultant hired by CPB in August 2017 contained significant errors. City Hub has seen the acoustic survey, which misidentifies the three-storey terrace as single storey and recommends an air conditioning unit be illegally installed into a shared wall.
The residents are “still waiting” for treatment, but six weeks ago were told they were entitled to Type 2 treatment on all facades. The residents hope that the works will be finished mid-August this year.
Construction work began eighteen months ago and there have been many nights of extremely loud noise during this period, as City Hub has witnessed in several videos.
The CNVMP 2016 states that “where reasonable & feasible, operational noise mitigation measures or equivalent temporary measures will be installed at the start of construction.”
On July 4 2018, an Operational Noise Management Plan was released. This report, which deals with the years after construction, has a “refined” version of the CNVMP 2016, and identifies different facades in each residence. It changed approvals for noise amelioration by specifying which sides of each house were entitled to soundproofing.
“So that’s been approved by planning, but obviously that over time they just keep cutting back and cutting back and cutting back what people are entitled to, based on what they say is a more sophisticated noise model,” says Ms Liebmann.
“But it smacks to me of saving money to be honest with you.”
“That small part of St Peters has been hammered for more than 18 months with night work, construction, dust. There’s lots of complaints about respiratory issues, kids with asthma having issues. I complained [about] lots of conjunctivitis because of the dust. So it’s not just the noise, they’re really living through hell.”
In May this year, it was reported that CPB is claiming an extra $700 million to complete this stage of the WestConnex. When City Hub contacted the communications team for CPB Contractors they declined to comment.
Ms. Liebmann will be taking her concerns to the WestConnex inquiry.
Lanie Tindale is a community affairs reporter and social media editor at City Hub.
She can be contacted at @LanieT96.
This article was written with the support of Wendy Bacon.