The Sydney Opera House made headlines last week after copping a $15,000 fine for exceeding noise limits. The penalty was issued for a forecourt concert headlined by Florence and the Machine, held in November 2015 and attended by a 6,000-strong crowd.
Several residents of the nearby Bennelong Apartments (colloquially known as the “Toaster” building) have been campaigning against noise emissions since 2013, accusing the Opera House of breaching its development approval (DA).
“In any concert, levels are adjusted throughout in an attempt to comply with sound limits while delivering the best possible audience experience,” a spokesperson for the Opera House told The Australian. “In this instance, the right balance was not achieved. The sound conditions set in 2004 under the original forecourt DA were very difficult to monitor and manage.”
Fortunately, the fine is unlikely to prevent the hosting of forecourt courts in the future. In 2016, the DA was amended, to allow a five decibel increase in sound levels. In addition, the Opera House has improved its ability to control noise.
“Previously, levels were measured from various points around Circular Quay and across the Harbour. Levels will now be monitored from front-of-house locations to ensure the most accurate and effective monitoring and management,” a spokesperson told triple j.
The Opera House is just of many venues in New South Wales to have been plagued by noise complaints and DA complications. For example, in January, the Harold Park Hotel, Forest Lodge, hit the press when its Sunday acoustic sessions, held in the courtyard, were temporarily banned. The ban followed a neighbour’s noise complaint, which led to the revelation that the hotel’s DA did not permit the hosting of music outdoors. However, with the help of the City of Sydney, the hotel was able to restore the sessions by mid-February.
Labor’s John Graham, who sits in the Upper House and co-founded Labor Loves Live Music, is calling for the hosting of live music to be exempt from DAs. “We need to save Sydney’s music scene before it’s too late,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald. “Venues should be able to have someone play an acoustic guitar without requiring a permission note from the council.”
This change would see Sydney follow in the footsteps of South Australia, where venues have already won an exemption, in addition to a series of supportive legislative amendments and initiatives. Read about them in detail in our story here. And the read the latest positive developments in Sydney which we cover here.