Port residents complain about noise nuisance

Founded in 2012, the group claims to be a voice for port and community members concerned about development, overcrowding, pollution and water safety. It is currently chaired by retired developer John Molyneux and its AGM is on Tuesday.

David Morris, a Friends of Sydney Harbor committee member who lives in Cremorne Point, said it was a minority of boat operators who got it wrong. “We are not against them doing what they are doing in the port, we are against the inconvenience and nuisance they cause,” he said.

We’ve got plenty of room in the harbor to keep moving… I don’t want to sound like a wowser, but I think that would be the most reasonable answer – that they keep moving.

Cremorne Point resident Amanda Stabback

Morris said some dockers were frustrated to tears when boats continually parked near their properties and played loud music. Newer boats had better sound systems, exacerbating the problem.

“The world has gone mad with Spotify and advanced technology,” said Morris. “How can you let this happen on the most beautiful waterway in the world? It is really getting out of hand.”

The group secured a meeting with the government on Friday to discuss the new code of conduct. Critics say Friends of Sydney Harbor and similar resident groups speak loudly but have few members.

“They’ve got about two people in them if you dig in,” said Daniel Da Silva, president of the Commercial Vessels Association and owner of charter airline Any Boat.

“People need to remember that the residents complaining do not own Sydney Harbour. Sydney Harbor is for everyone.”

Lackey, the boat captain of Experience Sydney Harbour, also felt the number of complainants was small. “It’s just a few of these people on land who think they own the world that are causing the problems,” he said. “They’ll probably complain that their neighbors are having a loud party too.”

At events in the port, several party boats sometimes anchor together.

Morris admitted that Friends of Sydney Harbor was a boutique, but said “It doesn’t matter how many of us there are, and it doesn’t matter how many of them there are, they have to abide by the law.”

He said the group had formed a “loose association” with other resident groups, mayors and MPs – and even Taronga Zoo, which runs an overnight luxury glamping programme. The zoo told the Herald it routinely called the water police if the animals were bothered by noise, but this was sufficient, and it did not attempt to further raise concerns.

It’s just a few of these people on land who think they own the world that cause the problems. They will probably complain that their neighbors are having a loud party too.

Tim Lackey, boat captain at Experience Sydney Harbour

Morris also said the group met Dennis Wilson, the lawyer husband of NSW Governor Margaret Beazley. The couple live in Government House in the Royal Botanic Gardens and were recently featured on the front page of The Daily Telegraph for noise complaints reportedly made by their representatives about events in the gardens and on the harbour.

Wilson told the Herald he met the group after boat noise impacted an awards ceremony at Government House in 2019. However, he “came to the opinion that continuing discussion with them was totally inappropriate”. He said he had gotten used to the sound and found it to be “mostly bearable” now.

The group also approached Manly MP and Environment Minister James Griffin, securing a meeting with the Environment Protection Authority. Morris said the group had been invited to participate in a review of the noise regulations next year.

The group also met Sydney MP Alex Greenwich. Earlier this month, Greenwich submitted several written questions to Police Secretary Paul Toole seeking information on the number of boat noise complaints and whether the government needed stricter regulation.

Party boats in the harbor are a time-honored Sydney tradition.  This photo shows a boat passing under the bridge in November 2014.

Party boats in the harbor are a time-honored Sydney tradition. This photo shows a boat passing under the bridge in November 2014.Credit:Christopher Pearce

Greenwich told the Herald party boats in the harbor were part of Sydney life and were usually fine. “Only some people go too far.” He has not yet received any answers from Toole.

Transport for NSW has been working for over a year on the new code of conduct for amplified music charter vessels. A spokesperson said the review was complete and the government was now “in the final stages of industry engagement” before the new rules were published.

Lackey and Da Silva said advance bookings for the summer were healthy after a string of years hit by wildfires, COVID-19 and La Nina rain, and New Year’s Eve bookings predicted a peak season.

“Sydney is finally getting around to reopening, and I wouldn’t like to see more rules and restrictions,” Lackey said. “Let people do their own thing and enjoy life.”

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