The dawn chorus is causing broken sleep and ill-feeling in the small coastal town of Maketu.
But it's not the birds, it's the rumble of heavy diesel engines well before dawn that's the issue.
“We're talking big rigs, logging trucks being parked in residential streets,” says Shane Beech, chairperson of the Maketu Community Board.
“These guys get started early, they fire up their trucks between four and 4.30am,” A diesel engine takes time to get to operating temperature, and that's time enough to waken a neighbourhood. “They let the motors run for 10 to 15 minutes. And that's peeing off all the neighbours in the vicinity.”
“It has come to a head. Neighbours aren't talking to neighbours,” says Shane. But they are talking and they're talking tit-for-tat. “Nasty things like if the truckie starts up at 4am during the week then I am going to start up my Harley at 4am at the weekend.”
The Maketu Community Board says it's getting plenty of advice about what it can't do to resolve the issue. ”But we aren't getting advice on what we can do.” It's a difficult one.
“There's nothing prohibiting the parking of heavy vehicles in urban areas,” says Frank Begley, community relationships manager at Western Bay of Plenty District Council. “So that activity is allowable at the moment.” But he says it's an issue that seems to be gaining prominence again. “One of those ones.”
It's not just the unsolicited 4.30am wake-up that's ‘peeing' off neighbours. “They are parking their rigs on the berms,” says Shane. “And straddling the kerb, partially blocking roadways and footpaths. Footpaths and berms are being damaged.”
The community committee's other big concern is that parked-up trucks aren't adequately lit and visible at night, creating a danger to other road users. It's a concern highlighted by a Levin accident last weekend when a car ploughed into a truck parked in a suburban street, killing three young men.
The cause of that tragedy is unclear. “But it's deeply concerning” says Shane.
He reckons mediation is the best option – coming to some agreement between truckies and neighbours about where the truckies can park – perhaps a bit out of the urban area at a safe place. Or do they legislate – introduce a bylaw which would impose a weight restriction, stop trucks of a certain size parking in certain areas.
But that's been likened to a sledgehammer being used to crack a nut.
A WBOPDC committee considered a call for a bylaw in 2015 – but didn't buy it. That's because the only bylaw enforcement options are a prosecution through the courts and that was considered cumbersome, time-consuming and costly. It was also considered questionable whether a bylaw prohibiting heavy motor vehicles parking in residential areas was appropriate or proportionate to the perceived problem.
“Well, Maketu may not be a big place, but we have a lot of truck drivers,” says Shane. “I know of at least four. And one can be enough to create a problem.”
And now the Te Puke Community Committee has chimed in. It was behind the 2015 bylaw bid after a house bus was parked in a residential Te Puke street. The committee wants the council to “consider afresh” the potential for a bylaw.
“So we are seeking advice and clarification on our next move and what we can do,” says Shane. “It's not an easy one. It's a noise nuisance issue more than anything and having consideration for your neighbours.”
In 2015 it was suggested the first course of action be for warring neighbours to broker a solution amongst themselves. Failing that, the community board could “provide neutrality in understanding the problem and identifying solutions.” And if that failed, a council officer experienced in dispute resolution could engage with the vehicle owner.
“We are listening to what the ratepayers are saying and we are asking the council for advice or a way forward. The last thing we need is another bylaw but quite often neighbours won't talk to other neighbours,” says Shane.
“We don't want to stop motor homes and people parking up outside their driveway, it's really to do with the big stuff being a nuisance, an inconvenience to the neighbourhood.”
The council communications man Frank Begley says “It's a practical issue. Trucks, like other vehicles, need to be parked somewhere.”
The matter might be reconsidered by council. “Whether it now has an appetite for a bylaw depends on whether it's a big enough concern to go through the process. It's really about the practicalities of whether the issue is big enough to warrant the amount of activity to police it,” says Frank.
Meanwhile in Maketu, some locals are still getting their spontaneous 500 horsepower diesel weekday wake-up calls. And Shane Beech's community board would rather be putting in a new footpath or streetlight.