The decision of the Christchurch City Council to buy noise-plagued houses near Ruapuna Raceway highlights a chronic problem. Noise is a major nuisance in cities worldwide and is not easily reduced, writes The Press in an editorial.
In this Christchurch instance, the solution has been direct and effective: the affected residents will have their homes bought by the council and thereby be freed to move without financial loss to quieter quarters.
In many cities, such generous intervention would be unthinkable. It would be too costly and politically unpopular. Even in Christchurch it is unlikely to be frequently repeated, for much the same reasons.
Public reaction to the purchase has so far been muted but is likely to grow. Christchurch ratepayers are sensitive to the council doling out largesse on such a scale, as the subsidising of Dave Henderson showed.
When citizens reflect on the amount being spent on the Ruapuna buyout, $5.3 million, and the amount paid for the Henderson properties, $17 million, their concern will increase. The track transaction is not trivial by comparison.
Also, it is of the same type as the Henderson deal public funds going to relieve the financial plight of private individuals.
The differences are that this latest subsidy was publicly signalled and not rushed. A working party considered the proposal. Ratepayers had a chance to express their opposition.
Many ratepayers will be sympathetic to the Templeton residents, understanding the degradation home life suffers if subjected to intrusive noise. Close to Ruapuna the noise is unbearably intrusive.
The residents also had a justified grievance in that the city council's easing of restrictions on the use of Ruapuna greatly increased the noise pollution emanating from it.
That easing was aimed at giving motorsport more access to the track, which is fair recognition of the popularity of car racing. But the reduction it would cause to the quality of life of close-by residents should have been recognised. Had it been, their years of suffering would have been lessened and this problematic purchase avoided.
That should teach the city council a lesson in recognising the growing antipathy of people to noise, be it in their homes, in workplaces or as they go about the city. Citizens are far less complacent than they were, recognising excessive noise as a significant pollutant that should be contained.
The council needs to respond more actively to this growing intolerance, with firmer restrictions on noise and a more vigorous response to breaches and to citizens' complaints.
A sign that the city council is taking up this challenge is its intention to seek containment of Ruapuna noise, even though the worst-affected residents will be moving out.
A remaining 19 households are recognised as being affected but have not been offered financial help. Their position needs to be attended to by lessening the intrusion of the racetrack.
The challenge for the council and the Canterbury Car Club is to balance the right of the sport to use Ruapuna against the right of residents to live without the prolonged and loud intrusion of revving engines and squealing tyres.