Council faces further grilling on ATET, but nightclub not in breach of rules
City of Melbourne councillors have faced further questions from disgruntled locals regarding noise impacts from floating nightclub ATET, however it was revealed the venue was “achieving compliance”.
The council confirmed that ATET was not in breach of the state government’s guidelines for noise, and investigations into whether it had contravened its planning permit were now closed unless new information arose.
The North Wharf nightclub, which went up in flames on the morning of January 31 from a suspected arson attack, was back in action in less than a fortnight and open again for trading on February 10.
Three days prior, at a Future Melbourne Committee meeting, councillors faced a number of in-person and written complaints from frustrated Docklanders.
These included an insistence that ATET continued to exceed permitted levels, concerns about the wider impact on sleep and mental health, and general frustration that their complaints weren’t being heard.
One local said they were “prisoners of excessive noise” and compared current weekend situations to “torture”.
However any hope that the venue’s operation could be curtailed or even closed were quickly snuffed out by the council, which said ATET was not in breach of local planning laws.
“All complaints that we’re receiving have and will continue to be investigated and, at the moment, from a planning permit perspective, compliance is being achieved. It’s been demonstrated that there is no ongoing breach against the state government’s guidelines for noise,” the council’s general manager of planning Evan Counsel said.
After ATET breached its planning permit and was ordered to temporarily cease trading following its initial opening in late October — a period that saw the council inundated with complaints — Mr Counsel said that since that time complaints had reduced by more than 75 per cent, a statement that drew irritation from the gallery at the meeting.
“At the moment we’ve closed off that investigation and compliance has been confirmed unless any new information arises. So that’s the extent to which council has powers through the planning mechanisms at this point in time,” Mr Counsel said.
Planning chair and Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece sympathised with residents but said while most questions on the night were “reasonable”, a submission that suggested councillors were not listening had “cut at me a bit”.
“I can absolutely promise you that we are listening and that you are being heard. There is no other permit within the City of Melbourne that I’m spending more time on than this one,” he said.
“You are perfectly entitled to reasonable amenity in your homes … we understand that you are frustrated. We are frustrated, okay?”
Going forward, Cr Reece said the council had plans to provide respite to residents struggling with the noise impacts.
First, he said the council was pushing Development Victoria (DV) to expedite the planned relocation of the ATET barge to the western tip of North Wharf near the Bolte Bridge.
The nightclub was originally intended to operate at North Wharf but remained based at a temporary location near Shed 2 while DV completed restoration works at the wharf’s end.
“We are hopeful this will provide some relief. Not saying it’s a silver bullet, but it will provide some relief, and we’re hoping that will be resolved by mid-year at the latest,” he said.
Second, Cr Reece noted that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had “finally” resolved its noise monitoring strategy, which would implement a “comprehensive” noise measurement exercise from various locations — including from inside buildings.
He said this would “put beyond question” resident concerns about the disputed accuracy of recent noise readings.
Finally, and perhaps most notably, the Deputy Lord Mayor said that while he did not think the council had reached this point, it may entirely rethink local laws surrounding noise.
“We may come to a point where we say, look, the current regs [regulations] just don’t work in the current context,” he said.
“I’m foregrounding that with you this evening … but we still want to pursue a number of other areas, so we’ve absolutely done our due diligence before we proceed down that course.”
Cr Reece committed to establishing a community meeting, which would also be attended by Lord Mayor Sally Capp, to work through issues in greater detail and “eyeball each other, including ATET” to produce a course of action going forward.
It was later revealed that the meeting was now scheduled to take place on Tuesday March 14 (the venue for which was yet to be confirmed) and the council was hopeful relevant agencies would also be in attendance.
“We understand that this is causing division in the Docklands community. I’m following the debate and conversation as well, I’m seeing the debates on Facebook and hearing it in the community,” Cr Reece said.
“We can’t have Docklands divided. We can’t have our community suffering with the friction that’s there at the moment.” •