Kryter (1996), noise is an enhanced form of sound signals that post a negative effect in the physiological and psychological aspect of an individual (Kryter, 1996 cited in ASHA, 2008). For the most part, noise is something that could be identified as an unwanted sound which is a pollutant and a hazard to the health of human beings (ASHA, 2008). Noise can be derived from a variety of contributors, and such noises have their own levels that are detrimental to the hearing of an individual. Noise levels are measured in decibels. Sounds that are louder than 80 decibels are considered to be hazardous.
One of the leading sources of potentially hazardous noise is the airport. Noises from airports could come from constructions and operating machines. However, the major contributor for airport noise is caused by the aircrafts. There are two ways on how aircraft noises are generated. First, airframe noise appears whenever air passes through the fuselage or body and wings of the plane. The activity causes friction and turbulence which often result in the production of unwanted sound. Gliders which are planes without engines produce noise during its flights.
Second, engine noise is derived from the action of the moving parts of the aircrafts engine. Such noise is also produced whenever the sound of air passes through the engines during high speed. Engine noise mainly comes from the planes exhaust or the jet situated behind the engine whenever the air sound from the engine combines with the air surrounding it (Wellington Airport, 2008). Based from the study carried out by Daniel Nunez (1998), airplane noise poses disturbance in the human sleep more than any other forms of noises.
It was also indicated that more than 50% of the people residing near airports are awakened by airplane noise (Holland-Wegman, 1967 cited in Nunez, 1998). The onset of aircraft noise as a major problem began during the time when there is an upsurge in the need of air transportation after World War Two. By the end of 1950s, the introduction of jet planes became widely known which later on catapulted the aviation revolution where commercial air passengers were also introduced (Nunez, 1998).
The augmentation in the aircraft use also resulted in the increase in the noise level produced by air transportations. Because of the outstanding length of service and success of aircraft operations, airports gradually become larger and noisier. The attractive activities of airports also began to grab the attention of people, wherein surrounding communities started to spread all throughout the nearby areas. The more airports become bigger and nosier, the more residential structures, churches, and schools come closer to the area. Eventually, conflicting issues arise.
Aside from the land expansion of airports which often cause nearby residents to act defensively, noise is also regarded as an issue that is very much integrated with airport operations (Bachman, 2003). As such, the painful sound from aircraft take offs and landings were viewed as the primary reasons of annoyance by the residents living near the area. From then on, airport noise has become a complex psychophysiological and economic issue (Nunez, 1998). The issues regarding aircraft noise are said to be complicated because of the aviation industrys significance in the economy of developing countries.
Without the presence of the aviation industry various economic industries would be gravely affected, some of which include the tourism business and mail transportation (Nunez, 1998). Many airports have spent large amounts of money in order to provide sound insulation for residential buildings and community owned structures to reduce aircraft noise (Bachman, 2003). One of the airports that have reached an agreement regarding their noise issue with the people in the surrounding community is the Wellington International Airport Limited (WIAL) situated in New Zealand. WIAL was constituted as a legal corporation on October 16, 1990.
The aviation company is partly owned by the Wellington City Council which shares 34% of the total stocks, while the other 66% are owned by Infratil Limited. Wellington International Airport is known as the third largest airport in New Zealand and is classified as a regional hub that extends its international flight service not only in New Zealand but also to the Eastern part of Australia and the neighboring island countries in the south-west Pacific. Almost 90% of the passengers of WIAL travel domestically and majority of whom are business people (Ministry of Economic Development [MED], 2005).
As it was said, no other cities in the world have an airport location that could be compared to Wellington International Airport. WIAL is situated on a narrow strip of land in the center of the residential areas. The airport is just minutes away towards the capitals centre. It is also accessible through a short coastal scenic drive or passing through the tunnel at Mount Victoria. Although the location of the airport is said to be unique, the airport is faced with substantial challenges in terms of its environmental impact, specifically the aircraft noise.
The location of Wellington International Airport which is close to the residential area became a ground for the residents to organize the Residents Airport Noise Action Group, the noise abatement requirement, as well as different actions from the internal operations of the airport in order to decrease the noise pollution (Wellington Airport, 2008). Residents Airport Noise Action Group In 1963, Maxine Harris first moved into her home at Strathmore which is near Wellington International Airport. Five years after, Harris reported that the jet noise began.
According to documents, Harris and her neighbors were not at all bothered by the jet noise. However by 1980s, Harris and her neighbors started hearing the night-time acceleration of the airplane engines of National Airways. Harris even noted that they heard the revving of the airplane engines that sounded like a high-pitched whining that would wake her up in the middle of the night and would not allow her to get back to sleep. Harris complained about the noise issue, but an airport official told her that no other individual complained about the noise.
Harris talked to her other neighbor about the issue and her neighbor told her that he had also complained, yet the airport official also told him that no other person called the airport to complain. Both Harris and her neighbor responded to the issue by putting leaflets in the mailboxes of their neighbors. The leaflet called for the other residents to phone the airport whenever they were disturbed by the aircraft noise (Samson, 1997a). Because of this, the neighbors responded well, and in 1986, the Residents Airport Noise Action Group was established.
The group was focused on performing two tasks: to halt the engine testing at night and to lessen the noise produced by the 737s. It was in 1986 when the group had their first meeting with the city council. During that time, they have voiced their complaints regarding the noise issue. Their first attempt became successful after the city passed the first by-law which is focused on the engine-testing. The by-law limits the testing times of the National Airways Friendship fleet. However, subsequent efforts of the group were not as successful as their first attempt. The noise problem of the Boeing 737s still remains (Samson, 1997a).
In 1987, the Ansett Airlines became a part of the internal air service market. In return, Air New Zealand has to expand their operations. It was stated that the residents regarded 1987 as the year of big explosion because of the noise produced by the aircrafts. In response to the growing issue of the airport noise, the residents put forward a proposal, stating that all the 737s should be phased out in 1997. Three months after the proposal was passed, Ansett acknowledged the residents plea by replacing the fleets with whisper jets that are much quieter compared to the 737s.
On the other hand, the city council framed a proposed by-law that would have ordered the Air New Zealand to reduce its fleet on a stage by stage process. However, the propose by-law did not take in effect (Samson, 1997a). By 1992, Air New Zealand promised that by the following year seven of their Boeing 737-200s would have devices that would reduce noise known as hush kits and other fleets would be phased out and will be replaced by 737-300s. However, the residents did not agree with this.
Arguments were once again raised that have even reached the select committees of the parliament, yet the resolutions were unidentifiable (Samson, 1997, p. 19a). As a response to the noise issue that has been gaining public interest, the city council put forth a proposed district plan, but the residents opposed to it. However, in order to resolve the issue, environment court judge Shonagh Kenderdine ruled out in August of 1997 that the airport and the airlines should adhere to the strict rules as proposed by the district plan regarding the air noise boundary wherein a specific maximum noise level will be set.
Furthermore, the noise boundary would later on be dissolved if there is an improvement with the airport and airlines noise management. Other regulations that were included in the ruling involve the night curfew, engine-testing, ground noise control, and land-use. The first three issues being disputed were already progressive after the issues were ruled out. The last dispute which was focused on the land use was not settled until November of 1997 (Samson, 1997a).
As a follow up to the court ruling done on August of 1997, in order to end the ten-year fight regarding the acceptable noise level in Wellington area, and to finally conclude the last remaining area of dispute which was focused on the land use, Judge Shonagh Kenderdine ended the noise issue on November 20, 1997. The major players during the court case involved the Residents airport noise action group, the board of airline representatives, the Wellington city council, and the Wellington international airport.
It was stipulated in the ruling that: All new housing developments within the airports air-noise boundary would be deemed unrestricted discretionary activity (Samson, 1997b, p. 3). Under the said ruling, any individuals who are interested to build residential structures within the surrounding airport area and all the application permits have to be approved by the Wellington City Council. Therefore, the council has the right to refuse or consent the details of the application depending on the criteria that are still to be set by the district plan (Samson, 1997b).
Despite the criteria being on the process of completion, the interested party should be governed by the assessments set in the ruling wherein new homes that will be built within the airports air-noise boundary should use construction materials that could pass the standards of noise reductions. Such materials include: thicker gib boarding, double or thicker window glazing, and the installation of noise insulations. The ruling also required the city council to implement stricter rules regarding the development of new housings compared to the original proposition of the district plan (Samson, 1997b).