Newcastle 500 Supercars noise plan criticised in city's East End

Frustrated: Beck Lawrence and her kids Marley, 9, and Dylan, 5, near their home on Nobbys Road Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Frustrated: Beck Lawrence and her kids Marley, 9, and Dylan, 5, near their home on Nobbys Road Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

The Newcastle 500 Noise Management Plan is “rubbery” and shows the event will cause residents harm, a doctor who represents more than 70 East End medicos says.

But Supercars CEO James Warburton believes his organisation has “gone above and beyond” its requirements because it wants to work with residents.

Race organisers released an independently-audited Noise Management Plan on Monday, which found that 31 homes could experience sound one-to-four decibels louder than guideline levels.

The guideline was set at 84 decibels, the volume of a diesel truck travelling at 64km/h, over 10 hours.

The report, now publicly available on the Newcastle 500 website, points out this figure represents about two per cent of the 1500 homes surveyed.

Dr Kate Napthali said event organisers were trying to play down the impact of noise. 

She said the management plan’s finding that mitigation measures would be required showed that sound from the race would pose a risk. 

“I think essentially the language of minimisation is [like] putting lipstick on a pig,” Dr Napthali said.

“We have said all along that this will cause damage.”

Mitigation measures suggested in the plan, that the Herald revealed on Monday, range from two metre high curtains to reduce sound, hearing protection for residents and encouraging people to either move to the back of their homes or leave during some of the peak noise period.

Dr Napthali said the full data set behind the management plan should be released, so it could be analysed by another acoustic engineer.

“Those risks need to be mitigated against and what they have proposed is a theoretical model,” she said.

“We’ve never seen any real life examples of where this sort of curtaining works, particularly in this sort of situation.

"All of this looks very rubbery and in the best case scenario will probably continue to cause harm.

“No homes should be exposed to this sound.”

Mr Warburton said the management plan was the first his organisation had conducted for any race in Australia.

It was the product of months of technical modelling and cost more than $50,000 to compile.

“It’s taken a degree of time, obviously working with government agencies, then modelling noise and doing it professionally,” Mr Warburton said.

“It will probably surprise some people – we’ve gone above and beyond what we’re required to do.

“We take those obligations seriously. We want to work with residents. We’ve got a good track record of working with residents on the Gold Coast and Adelaide and we understand the race has to co-exist in the community.”

Acoustic engineer Julian Ellis, who has been working pro-bono for East End residents but doesn’t live there, said the Noise Management Plan was “an excellent start”.

But he questioned whether the sound curtains would be as effective as the plan claimed.

Mr Ellis believed they were more likely to reduce sound by a maximum of four decibels – not 15 decibels.

“What residents have been asking for all along is transparency in the process,” he said.

“Clearly there is an overarching report that discussed the levels of sound exposure and clearly it would be important to continue the transparency and release the report for public scrutiny and peer review.”

The report was compiled by engineering firm Jacobs and audited by Waves Consulting and has been submitted to Destination NSW for further scrutiny.

Newcastle Inner City Residents Alliance spokesman Brian Ladd said any number of residents affected by excessive noise was too many.

“We’d be very wary of any report that’s been commissioned by the Supercars race organisers, simply because we’d prefer to see a completely independent report whose methodologies are transparent, verifiable and clearly reproduce-able,” he said.

“Then you can be sure you can respect the intimation in it. If this report’s been commissioned by the Supercars people then some people may assume there’s a bias – even in the selection of the people who are asked to carry it out.”

Newcastle East End Residents Group spokeswoman Karen Read said it was impossible to know how effective the management plan would be because the noise assessment – on which the plan was based – had not been released.

“Without the report, the management plan has no credibility,” she said.

“The purpose of the plan actually says it is to assess the effectiveness of proposed noise mitigation measures. Surely this should not be the role of the Noise Management Plan.”

Mr Warburton said Supercars conducted the modelling because the Newcastle community had called for it.

“To our knowledge – whether it’s Formula 1, any other motor sport – we don’t know of any street circuit globally that’s actually modeled noise,” he said.

“Obviously the consenting authorities wanted to tick all the boxes. We knew we had nothing to hide – we’ve not shied away from the fact that motor sports, by their nature, are noisy.”

Nobbys Road resident Beck Lawrence said she planned to take her two kids – aged nine and five – out of town for the duration of the race.

She said noise concerns were a big factor and it had already become an issue with road work outside her home at 7am some days.

“I’m going to get out of here [during race weekend] and get as far away as possible and hope for the best when I come back,” Ms Lawrence said.

“I can’t stand it [the noise]. For eight hours a day, it’s not good.”

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