Rowdy street preachers hell bent on saving the souls of Queen St shoppers are causing a godawful din – sparking a record number of noise complaints to Auckland Council.
The pushy soapbox saviours have become a regular fixture on the corner of Queen and Victoria streets in the CBD over the last year, trying to convert anyone who crosses their path.
Armed with a microphone and loudspeaker, the group has rallied against abortion, and regularly preaches messages such as “hell is real” and “Jesus saves”.
But local retailers and apartment dwellers have had a gutsful, lodging 326 complaints to noise control last year – making 210 Queen St the most complained about Auckland address during 2021.
They have also complained to police and Heart of the City in a desperate bid to find peace.
Several retailers told the Herald the preachers were rude and aggressive, repeatedly ignoring requests to lower the volume and scaring away customers.
“I have complained so many times to stop them,” one worker from beauty store Mecca said.
“They just keep preaching and yelling and they do it all times of the day. It’s frustrating.”
The woman said she tried to “tune them out” but the regular noise was a constant nuisance to customers and staff.
“They are about three to five young people. They each take turns to spout their nonsense.”
Though noise control and police often turned up, after reducing the volume temporarily, the preachers would soon resume yelling their noisy messages, she said.
“They say really loudly, ‘They’re trying to silence us’. And I’m like, ‘Please be silent’.”
Another nearby worker said the preachers were “pretty loud” and a regular fixture during the week.
“It scares away people. No one likes to be preached at and shouted at.”
While the man respected other people’s beliefs, “it’s the way it’s delivered that’s the problem”.
A third retailer said she had made countless calls to noise control and believed the apartment dwellers upstairs were also at their wits’ end.
“I’ve been outside to tell them to quiet down and they’re just rude and aggressive. There’s definitely an issue because they talk about things people don’t want to listen to.”
Auckland Council confirmed the Queen St address was the most complained about location for noise complaints over 2021.
“The predominant reason for this noise is itinerant street preachers, groups of which frequent the area intermittently after-hours.”
Of the 326 complaints received, 25 resulted in excessive noise direction notices being issued, 13 were found not excessive, four were referred to police and the balance were recorded as “no noise found” or otherwise stood down.
Police said they were aware of reported breaches of the peace at the Queen St location over the past year, and about the same group in other parts of the central city.
“In many instances police have attended these complaints and spoken to those present, offering advice and in some cases moving people on.
“Police also monitor the content of speeches and can investigate instances where it becomes offensive.”
Heart of the City boss Viv Beck said her organisation had escalated concerns from businesses to Auckland Council.
“It’s our expectation that people and businesses can have an enjoyable experience in the city centre. If anyone is undertaking activity that impacts those around them in a negative way, and in particular if they are breaching rules – for example excessive noise – then it should be dealt with appropriately.”
Neighbours from hell
An Auckland councillor is calling for a law change to give local government officials more teeth when dealing with troublesome noise complaints.
Fed-up Aucklanders have made more than 330,000 noise complaints since 2016 – the vast majority of them about rowdy neighbours.
Figures obtained by the Herald under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act show “residential” noise is the single biggest category of complaints.
But many others relate to industrial and commercial activity, construction noise, building and car alarms, licensed premises and special events.
Manurewa was the city’s noisiest suburb, clocking up nearly 25,000 noise complaints in the last six years.
Papatoetoe was next (11,107), followed by Auckland Central (9704), Papakura (9390) and Henderson (9389).
Otara was also high on the list. An O’Connor St resident has made more than 50 complaints this year alone about five separate properties across three nearby streets.
Manurewa-Papakura councillor Daniel Newman told the Herald his ward was the home of complaints about noise, animals and dog attacks.
“I put it down to certain group of people in our community who have absolutely no consideration for the quiet enjoyment of others. People with a tremendous sense of self-entitlement. These people are a bunch of s***heads.”
Under the Resource Management Act, noise control officers can issue excessive noise directions (ENDs), which require the recipient to ensure noise is at a reasonable level immediately and keep it there for 72 hours.
Another breach within three days can be punished with a $500 fine or police being called to seize “noise-making equipment”.
However Newman said 72 hours wasn’t long enough to give officials sufficient “teeth” when enforcing the rules.
He said the act should be amended so ENDs applied for 14 days, “which would put a far greater onus on the occupant to cease or reduce noise, or face enforcement powers”.
Newman added that “posh-type politicians” often weren’t troubled by noisy neighbours so didn’t care about the problem. But noise was adversely affecting the lives of thousands of people in Newman’s ward and many other low socioeconomic communities.
Officials needed the ability to target people who blasted bass-heavy music because “they are not being held to account”.
A spokesman for Environment Minister David Parker said: “No decisions on amending parts of the RMA that govern noise have been made. However, the Government is looking to strengthen the compliance monitoring and enforcement provisions which may help councils in investigating and acting on noise complaints.”
Auckland Council has completed only a handful of noise prosecutions since 2016.
Avondale resident Bruce Palle was convicted and fined $1500 in March 2017 for repeatedly blasting loud music from his Arran St home.
During one visit by a noise control officer, Palle said: “Oh come on man, it’s daytime.”
And a landmark noise prosecution against Waiheke Island’s Cable Bay Vineyards was thrown out in July after the accidental deletion of crucial evidence by Auckland Council torpedoed the case.
The council claimed the swanky vineyard – which has a long history of noise and consenting problems – had breached noise limits on a summer’s night in 2018.
The vineyard’s lawyer, however, blamed ambient noise from rowdy crickets and passing aircraft for the din.
The council has spent millions of dollars policing the city’s noisiest residents – much of it on private security firms contracted to respond when noise complaints are logged.
But it’s not just people causing a racket. More than 6000 complaints were received about barking dogs in the financial year ending on June 30.
Dog owners with noisy mutts were handed nearly 50 infringement notices over the same period.
The council has served more than 44,000 END notices since 2016. Noise control officials have made 1027 seizures since 2016 – mostly of stereo equipment – and dished out 459 infringement notices since 2018.
In October, the Herald reported on the plight of an Avondale couple who said incessant noise from their neighbour was destroying their lives, leaving them at breaking point with chronic insomnia and stress.
The offending property, in Eastdale Rd, had amassed a staggering 72 noise complaints to Auckland Council since the female tenant moved in in March.
Neighbours – some of whom have slept in their car to escape the racket – were pleading with authorities to act before the situation boiled over.
They claim the property’s female tenant blasts bass-heavy music for up six hours at a time, sometimes late into the night.
She had been slapped with seven ENDs and, in a rare move, served with an abatement notice. But officials admitted they were powerless to seize her stereo during Auckland’s Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.
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