Young Googong family could face $4000 fine for using their heater after noise complaints

Tamara Davis and Jason Skeen with their daughter Piper, 2. Photo: Jamila Toderas
Tamara Davis and Jason Skeen with their daughter Piper, 2. Photo: Jamila Toderas

Noise complaints have left a young Googong family without the use of their heater at night, after the council threatened to fine them $4000. 

A heavily pregnant woman, her partner and their two-year-old daughter were informed last winter that their reverse cycle air conditioner exceeded council noise restrictions.

The Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council made contact with Tamara Davis and Jason Skeen in August, and soon after a prevention notice with a $500 fine attached was issued. The family wrote the council about the fine, which was left uncollected.

The couple undertook a series of maintenance works to try and quieten the unit.

These included a new compressor for the unit, the installation of a noise barrier system, using insulation to quieten the noise and restricting the unit's fan to not move above the low setting. 

The unit is a reverse cycle air conditioning and heating system that was recommended by their builder.

After a year of protracted discussions, the family received a letter from the council on July 4 to inform them that they were in breach of their prevention notice which could attract a $4000 fine.

The prevention notice related to the acceptable hours of operation of the heating unit. Since October last year, Ms Davis and her family have not been able to run their heater between 10pm and 7am on weekdays, and between 10pm and 8am on weekends and public holidays.

Ms Davis is expecting her second child in four weeks time. 

"I was totally thrown for six when we got the recent letter," she said.

"I understand they need to follow their processes, I just think the way it's been initially handled this year has been excessive and quite threatening."

A council spokesman said they was obliged to investigate complaints.

"Council is not asking families to stop heating their houses, however residents should be aware of the noise their unit makes and the possible impact that has on neighbouring properties," the spokesman said.

According to the council, an employee attended the property several times over a number of months to complete noise-assessments, which found that the unit did exceed council restrictions.

The spokesman confirmed that the placement of the unit was allowed in the development approval process as long as it was operated within the relevant times.

Since 2004 the Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council has issued 12 prevention notices in relation to noise. Five of these notices regarded air conditioning units.

Ms Davis said she felt the work they had instigated was a sign of good faith to her neighbours and the community.

She said it had been a stressful issue for almost a year now, and she hoped it could be resolved soon.

"My ultimate aim is to get some sort of resolution for everybody before I have this baby in August," she said.

"I need to know what we can and can't do with regards to heating our home overnight.

"We don't want to have to leave Googong just to use a heater."