Air pollution can impact your neighbours and interfere with their daily activities. If severe enough, it can affect health and the environment. Council investigates complaints about air pollutants such as smoke, dust and dirt, light, odour and spray drift. Find out about air pollutants, regulation and how to make a complaint.
Dust and Dirt
Construction, excavation, landscaping and driving on unsealed roads can all cause dust and dirt. Sometimes dust and dirt can affect neighbours and interfere with their normal activities. If severe enough, it can damage property and impact on people’s health.
How to reduce dust and dirt
You can reduce dust and dirt emissions by:
- checking weather conditions when planning work
- watering down roadways or dusty areas
- retaining as many plants and grass as possible
- using on-site waste as a dust barrier (e.g. green waste could be mulched and spread on the ground)
- erecting a dust fence or tree rows
- using hydro mulch for large areas
- using property access points away from neighbours
- limiting vehicle speeds and consider reducing the time vehicles use unsealed roads
- minimising the size of open and unsealed areas.
Light emissions can come from many sources including security lights, spot lights and flood lights, advertising signs and entertainment events. Sometimes light can affect neighbours and interfere with their normal activities. If severe enough, it can impact on people's health.
How to reduce light emissions
You can reduce light emissions by:
- turning off lights when not in use or not needed. Consider using sensor switches
- locating lights as far as possible from neighbours and away from sensitive areas, like bedroom windows
- avoiding placing the light near a reflective surface and use existing features to hide the light source from view
- directing light downwards to illuminate the target area. If there is no alternative to up-lighting, try shields and baffles to help keep spill light to a minimum
- using equipment that can minimise light spread near, or above, the horizontal
- fitting only the number of light bulbs you need for an area; over lighting can cause light pollution and waste energy
- keeping glare to a minimum; ensure the main light beam is kept below 70 degrees from horizontal.
Odour can come from many sources including spear pumps, septic tanks, compost heaps, rotting vegetation, fertilisers and rubbish. Sometimes odour can affect neighbours and interfere with their normal activities. If severe enough, it can impact on people's health.
How to reduce odour
You can reduce odour by:
- keeping your yard tidy – rubbish and vegetation can create an odour
- considering weather conditions before applying fertilisers – try to avoid windy days and wet days
- covering or enclosing your compost and turning regularly.
Septic tank odour
You can reduce septic tank odour by:
- perform regular maintenance on your septic tank system and pump it out when needed
- not putting paints, hazardous chemicals, cigarette butts, pet bath water and sanitary napkins down the drain
- not washing grease, fats and oils down your kitchen sink - use environmentally friendly products with low sodium
- making sure the septic trenches and effluent irrigation system is working correctly and not leaking or ponding effluent over the ground
- ensuring there are no cracks in the septic tank lid and grease traps.
Spear pump odour
You can reduce spear pump odour by:
- making sure the pump is sealed and free of cracks
- regularly removing the slime or chemical sludge from the spear pump screens
- avoiding using a sprinkler - use a hand-held hose with a large droplet setting or a soaker hose facing downwards into the soil.
This information is also available as a:
Smoke from wood fired heaters, fire pits and open air fires can affect neighbours and interfere with their normal activities. If severe enough, it can impact people's health.
How to reduce smoke emissions
You can reduce smoke by:
- composting, recycling or reusing waste where possible
- taking garden waste to a council transfer station
- not burning paints, hazardous chemicals, wet paper or cloth and sanitary napkins, as they release hazardous chemicals - check with council to see if domestic burning is permitted
- not burning wet or green vegetation which smoulders and causes excessive smoke
- giving fires maximum air-flow so that they release less smoke
- checking weather conditions - avoid burning any materials in windy conditions or where the wind is blowing towards your neighbour.
How to reduce smoke from wood fire heaters
Before you install a wood fire heater consider the impact on your neighbours, the size needed to heat your home and consider heating alternatives (e.g. a gas heater). All wood fire heaters need to comply with Australian Standard AS4012 and AS4013.
You can reduce smoke and particles from wood heaters.
- Not burning chipboard or painted or treated timber.
- Choosing dry firewood – it should be air dried for at least eight months. Wet or green wood causes more smoke.
- Storing firewood under cover, stacked in a crisscross pattern to allow air to circulate.
- Burning the fire brightly - start with dry kindling and gradually add larger wood pieces. An efficient fire should have red glowing embers and bright swirling flames.
- Keeping air controls open at night - avoid shutting down the air controls (damper) overnight.
- Check your chimney to see if it is smoking too much.
- Cleaning and maintaining your chimney and wood heater regularly, e.g. check the glass door for cracks, seals for deterioration, firebox for rust and lubricate the air-slide control with high temperature grease.
This information is also available as a:
Chemical and paint spray drift
Spray drift from chemicals and paint can affect neighbours and interfere with their normal activities. If severe enough, it can damage property and impact people's health.
How to reduce spray drift
You can reduce chemical and paint spray drift by:
- working indoors, where possible
- checking weather conditions - don’t spray on days with strong and gusty winds or where wind is blowing towards your neighbour
- following the manufacturer’s guidelines
- using a brush on small jobs
- using accurate equipment that reduces overspray
- considering using a commercial spray booth.
This information is also available as a chemical and paint spray drift fact sheet (DOCX, 112.42 KB).
If you are affected by air emissions, talk to the person responsible and try to achieve a solution. Give them time to do something about it.
If you can’t reach a solution, you can lodge a complaint with Council. Alternatively, you can contact the Dispute Resolution Centre.
How to lodge a complaint with Council
To lodge a complaint, you will need to provide:
- your name, address and phone number – this is kept confidential
- details of the emissions
- source address
- date and time it started
- the duration each time it happens.
To help you keep track of the details of the emissions, it is a good idea to fill out a daily log that you can submit with your complaint. You can download the example air pollution log (DOC, 53 KB).
How Council handles complaints
Council investigates most air emissions using the Environmental Protection Act 1994. Some sites have a development approval with conditions. Council investigates complaints about these sites using the Planning Act 2016.
When investigating air pollution complaints, Council will consider:
- whether the site has a development approval with a condition specific to emissions
- the amount being emitted
- the duration and rate of emission and the characteristics and qualities
- the sensitivity of the environment and the impacts
- the views of any other neighbours or complainants
- any measures that have been taken or could reasonably have been taken by the person causing the emission.
If an air emission is unlawful, Council may:
- issue an on-the-spot fine of 15 penalty units (individual) or 75 penalty units (corporation)
- issue a notice. This will detail the offence and the timeframe the responsible person has to rectify the problem. If the person does not comply with the notice, an on-the-spot fine of 15 penalty units (individual) or 75 penalty units (corporation) may also be issued
If there is a development approval for the site, with a condition specific to emissions, Council may issue a notice to ensure compliance with the condition. If the person does not comply, a fine of 20 penalty units (individual) or 100 penalty units (corporation) may be issued.
Find out the current value of a penalty unit.
Complaints not investigated by Council
Council shares responsibility for air emission complaints with other authorities. Council does not investigate the following:
- Light emissions from freeways and highways, including on and off ramps. This is the responsibility of the Department of Transport and Main Roads.
- An environmentally relevant activity regulated by the Department of Environment and Science (e.g. chemical manufacturing).
- An environmentally relevant activity regulated by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (e.g. poultry farming).
- A state or local government premises or activity. This is the responsibility of the Department of Environment and Science.