Purpose of this guide
The Environment Protection Act 2017 (the Act) and its subordinate legislation details the requirements for individuals and businesses who are planning musical entertainment at an outdoor entertainment venue or event.
Under the Environment Protection Regulations (Regulations), a permit from EPA is required where a duty holder of an outdoor entertainment venue or event wishes to:
- hold an operation outside the standard operating hours, or
- extend an operation or concert beyond eight hours, or
- hold a concert at certain times, or
- conduct more than six concerts in a financial year.
A duty holder includes a business that wants to hold outdoor music events (including multi-day music festivals) and individuals in the community who want to hold outdoor events such as a local community event, where music is played.
This guideline focuses on music noise from outdoor entertainment venues and events that may occur. It is intended for businesses and individuals and other duty holders to assist in understanding EPA’s permit requirements for outdoor entertainment venues and events, and what information is required to be submitted with an application.
Other noise emissions from outdoor entertainment venues and events, such as noise from mechanical plant, refrigeration systems and kitchens, are subject to the requirements that apply to commercial, industrial and trade premises, as defined in Part 5.3 of Division 3 of the Regulations.
Noise from patrons at entertainment venues is only subject to the Regulations when it is associated with the music sources for example, patrons singing along with the music, or DJ announcements. Nevertheless, patron noise also needs to be managed as required, for example in planning permits and liquor licenses, and in relevant guidelines.
This guideline provides an overview of what can trigger a requirement for an EPA permit, application requirements and EPA’s decision-making criteria.
EPA guidance does not impose compliance obligations. Guidance is designed to help duty holders understand their obligations under the Environment Protection Act 2017 and subordinate instruments, including by providing examples of approaches to compliance. In doing so, guidance may refer to, restate, or clarify EPA’s approach to statutory obligations in general terms. It does not constitute legal or other professional advice, and should not be relied on as a statement of the law. Because it has broad application, it may contain generalisations that are not applicable to you or your particular circumstances.
You should obtain professional advice or contact EPA if you have specific concerns. EPA has made every reasonable effort to provide current and accurate information, but does not make any guarantees regarding the accuracy, currency or completeness of the information.
Give feedback about this publication online: epa.vic.gov.au/publication-feedback
1. EPA and music noise regulation
1.1. Unreasonable noise in the Environment Protection Regulations
Under section 166 of the Act a person must not emit unreasonable noise or permit unreasonable noise to be emitted. This does not apply to noise emitted from residential premises, which is covered by section 167 of the Act. The Act sets out factors that may establish when noise will be unreasonable noise (see (a)(i)-(v) in the definition of ‘unreasonable noise’ in section 3 of the Act).
The Regulations also set out what is unreasonable noise from outdoor entertainment venues and events. Under regulation 130 music noise emitted from an outdoor entertainment venue or event is unreasonable if:
- the effective noise level of the music noise exceeds:
- the noise limit that applies to that venue or event at the time the noise is emitted, or
- the alternative assessment criterion that applies at the time the noise is emitted if the assessment of an effective noise level is conducted at an alternative assessment location as specified in the Noise Protocol
- in the case of an outdoor entertainment venue, the music noise is audible within a noise sensitive area outside hours set out in any permit issued by EPA, or if there is no permit outside the ‘standard operating hours’ set out in regulation 128(2), or
- in the case of an outdoor entertainment event, the music noise is audible within a noise sensitive area outside the hours set out in a permit issued by EPA, or if there is no permit outside the standard operating hours set out in regulation 129(2), or
- the music noise from a concert is emitted without a permit issued by EPA that is required for the venue or event.
The environment protection framework includes provision for a range of notices to be issued by EPA in particular situations such as when noise is determined to be unreasonable noise. For example, EPA has the power to issue a notice that can require a person to take action in relation to the noise by stopping or changing the activity causing the noise.
1.2. EPA’s role in regulating music noise
EPA regulates music noise from entertainment venues, and outdoor entertainment events.
An EPA permit is required for:
- an activity under item 76 (L05-Operation outside of hours or extended operations) in Schedule 1 of the Regulations (L05 permit)
- an activity under item 77 (L06-Conducting more than 6 outdoor concerts) in Schedule 1 of the Regulations (L06 permit).
EPA will consider permit applications made in the circumstances described in Part 3 below.
A permit will generally be issued subject to conditions that the duty holder must comply with.
The EPA Noise limit and assessment protocol for the control of noise from commercial, industrial and trade premises and entertainment venues (Noise Protocol, publication 1826) and associated Technical guide: Measuring and analysing industry noise and music noise (Technical Guide, publication 1997) also assist with the measurement and assessment of music noise.
1.3. Roles of councils or other land managersThe Regulations are not the only statutory tool that needs to be considered when conducting an outdoor entertainment venue or event.
Local councils may issue planning permits for the land uses in relation to these venues and events which may include specific conditions about the emission and management of noise. Local council may also issue a Places of Public Entertainment (POPE) permit for sites that may be regularly used for events.
EPA recommends that you contact the relevant local council to seek advice in relation to their bylaws.
Public land managers, such as Parks Victoria may issue permits for any activity such as a festival or concert on their managed land. You can visit Parks and reserves application guidelines for more information.
2. EPA permit requirements
2.1. Overview of permit requirements for outdoor entertainment venues and events
A permit can cover multiple operations or concerts (see Part 3.2 of this guideline).
You can download the flow chart describing the permit requirements for outdoor entertainment venue and events:
- permit requirements for outdoor entertainment venue and events (PDF, 52KB)
- permit requirements for outdoor entertainment venue and events (DOCX, 112KB)
2.2. EPA permits for outdoor entertainment venuesAn EPA permit is required for musical entertainment at an outdoor entertainment venue where:
- an activity is proposed to occur outside standard operating hours
- an activity is proposed to have extended hours of operation
- an activity would lead to more than six concerts at the same location in a financial year.
Operation outside standard hoursRegulation 128 requires an EPA L05 permit for an operation at an outdoor entertainment venue that will occur outside the standard operating hours, which are 12 noon until 11 pm on any single day.
Regulation 128 also requires an EPA L05 permit if an operation will occur for a period of more than 8 hours.
An EPA L06 permit is required where the duty holder intends to conduct more than six concerts at the venue in a financial year (item 77, Schedule 1 of the Regulations), (e.g., for the 7th concert).
2.3. EPA permits for outdoor entertainment eventsAn EPA permit is required for musical entertainment at an outdoor entertainment event where:
- an operation will occur outside the standard operating hours. The standard operating hours are defined as:
- Monday to Saturday (other than a public holiday), from 7 am to 11 pm and
- Sunday or a public holiday, from 9 am to 11 pm
- a concert will be held during the following hours:
- Monday to Saturday, from 7 am to 12 noon
- Sunday or a public holiday, from 9 am to 12 noon
- a concert will be engaged in for a period of more than 8 hours.
Operation outside standard hours
Regulation 129 requires an EPA L05 permit for an operation at an outdoor entertainment event that will occur outside the standard operating hours.
Regulation 129 also requires an EPA L05 permit if an operation occurs for a period of more than 8 hours.
An EPA L06 permit is required where the duty holder intends to conduct a concert at a location where six concerts have already been held in a financial year (item 77, Schedule 1 of the Regulations).
2.4. Case studies
Case study 1:
Alicia is organising a community festival to celebrate the arts. The festival will run for 10 days with musical programming on six days.
The musical programs run on each of the seven days for a period of four hours (6pm-11pm). The festival was previously held indoors; however, Alicia has found an outdoor venue where she will build a single stage and will be designed to accommodate 850 people (4 sqm rule) or 1700 people (2 sqm rule). The outdoor venue is situated in a local park within a predominantly industrial area and has few nearby residences.
Alicia has complied a Noise Management Plan which outlines the dates and times of musical performances, along with a map detailing stage and sound system locations/directions. The map also outlines where the closes Noise Sensitive Areas (residences) are which will be impacted and outlines a strategy for a noise complaints hotline and flyers which will be provided to these residences.
Alicia reviews the EPA website and requirements for a permit. As the festival has music programming for over six concerts, Alicia is required to apply for an L06 permit (Conducting more than six outdoor concerts).
Alicia applies for the permit via EPA’s online portal. She provides details of the event (location, duration, and dates) as well as providing the Noise Management Plan for review.
Alicia notes that all events fall within the permitted hours, but acknowledges that as there are over six concerts, a permit will be required.
Case study 2:Rish is holding an event over two days for 1500 people, 150kms outside of Melbourne. The event is proposed to be held in six months time and will have musical performances from 12pm-8pm on each day.
Not just limited to music, there will also be art installations, a variety of food trucks, and a licensed bar.
As the two day event is within the standard operating hours, and do not exceed 8 hours; and because the event does not exceed six concerts at this location in a financial year, Rish is not required to obtain a permit from the EPA.
2.5. Sound checksSound checks are completed prior to a concert by a sound engineer. Sound checks for a concert do not require a permit from EPA. The intention of a sound check is to test the sound system and the level of music noise that will be emitted from the concert. These should be as short as possible, but long enough to test the sound system and allow measurement of music noise at the nearest noise sensitive area to confirm settings are suitable to not exceed noise limits.
Sound checks are not a replacement for ongoing noise monitoring required under the permit for the event. Sound checks can be completed outside the standard operating hours or outside of the 8-hour limit. Ideally, they should be completed at the same time of the day as the proposed concert. Scheduling and conducting sound checks requires due consideration of the risk of impact to noise sensitive areas.
3. Process for applying for a permit
3.1. An outline of the application process
Permit applications should be submitted to EPA as early as possible, but no less than 45 days before the operation or concert. This is to ensure that the information is as up to date as possible and allows adequate time for EPA to assess the details of the permit application.
In most instances, EPA engages with local councils in relation to applications. Therefore, the 45-day timeframe allows ample opportunity to obtain further information from you. If you do not apply early enough, there is a risk that you will not obtain a permit in time for your operation or concert.
Sometimes events are organised at short notice. If you are unable to apply for a permit 45-days in advance, please contact EPA at the earliest opportunity to discuss further.
Section 81(2) of the Act and regulation 27 of the Regulations provide prescribed periods for determining permits. As per the Regulations and the Act, EPA will provide a response to your permit application within 15 business days.
Applications should be made via the EPA Online Portal.
You will need to create an account first before submitting their permit request for consideration by clicking the ‘sign up’ button in the top righthand corner and completing the requested information. Once signed in you are able to ‘Apply for permission’ and submit your permit application.
Where both L05 permit and L06 permit are required, you will need to apply for each of these permits separately.
3.2. One EPA permit for multiple operations or concertsYou can apply for a single EPA permit that covers more than one operation or concert.
For an outdoor entertainment venue, you can apply for:
- an L05 permit that will cover multiple operations that will be held outside the standard operating hours, or for longer than 8 hours
- an L06 permit that will cover multiple concerts where more than 6 concerts will be held at the venue in a financial year (e.g., for the 7th, 8th and 9th concert).
For an outdoor entertainment event at the same location, you can apply for:
- an L05 permit that will cover multiple operations that will be held outside the standard operating hours
- an L05 permit that will cover multiple concerts that will be held during the hours set out in regulation 129(1)(b)(i) and (ii), or for longer than 8 hours
- an L06 permit that will cover multiple concerts at a location where 6 concerts have already been held in a financial year (e.g., for the 7th, 8th and 9th concert).
3.3. What your application will need to include
When submitting your application to us via the Online Portal, EPA needs to know about the proposed event so it can assess it and provide advice.
Your application will need to include the following:
- application fee (see Part 3.3.1)
- applicant details
- details of the person/company responsible for the venue or event, including contact details such as telephone, email, address, ACN
- details of the event or venue
- location of event or address of venue
- date, time, and length of the event where music noise is to be emitted
- landowner consent if the applicant intends to use another landowner’s property
- a Noise Management Plan (see Part 3.3.2)
- a description of the ‘public interest’ associated with the event
- for example, significant cultural value, widespread recognition of the contribution to the character of the location, or significant economic and employment outcomes for the local community
- any letters of support from the local council and/or neighbouring residents
- consultation and engagement details
- details of any engagements with other regulatory authorities (for example, council)
- details of any engagement with the community and other third parties
- previous event details (if applicable)
- how many times the event has been held at the same location in the previous year
- effective noise levels in any previous operations engaged in by the applicant or concerts in that location in the previous year
- detailed history of any complaints received for previous events and how they were resolved
- close- out report for the most recent operation or concert engaged in by the applicant (if not already provided to EPA).
3.3.1 Application fee
Regulation 195 prescribes the fees associated with obtaining a permit for entertainment venues and outdoor entertainment events.
For the purposes of section 50(1)(b) of the Act, the prescribed fee for an application to EPA for an L05 or L06 permit is 48.47 fee units ($741.10 up to 30 June 2023).
In limited circumstances, EPA may reduce or waive a fee. For more information, contact us.
3.3.2. Noise management planA noise management plan (NMP) is a document that describes how you will manage noise emitted from the venue or event. Your plan must show us how you will ensure that any music noise will not be louder than the noise limit of 65dB(A) within a noise sensitive area, which is the prescribed limit for outdoor entertainment venues and events under r 91(a) of the Noise Protocol.
EPA requests this document to assist in its assessment of the risk of harm to human health and the environment. It should contain:
- name of the person/company responsible for the venue or event
- type of entertainment or acts and their schedule
- dimensions of the stage and its orientation
- location of the audience
- how noise levels will be controlled to ensure the relevant noise limits are not exceeded, for example: type, arrangement, location, height above ground and the direction of loud speakers, noise barriers and other containment measures
- sound level at stage, front of house, source or mixing desk, how they will be monitored and assist with achieving noise limits at noise sensitive areas
- location of event or venue layout including where the noise will be emitted from, including location of noise sensitive areas in a 5 km radius and any relevant geographic and topographic features of the area (e.g., hills, water bodies, access roads, premises boundary)
- predicted noise levels at the nearest noise sensitive areas including details of key assumptions and calculation procedures
- how noise at noise sensitive areas will be assessed
- equipment to be used to monitor noise and who will be responsible for monitoring noise
- engagement plan with the surrounding community, including notifications, agreements you may have made with them
- complaint handling procedures, including the name and phone number of the contact person for the event.
Your plan must show us how any music noise will not be louder than the noise limit of 65dB(A) within a noise sensitive area, which is the prescribed limit for outdoor entertainment venues and events under r 91(a) of the Noise Protocol. An acoustic consultant can model how the sound will diminish over the distance between the speakers and the nearest noise sensitive area. Alternatively, you can refer to the Technical Guide.
The Technical Guide discusses noise calculation algorithms for predicting music noise levels. If the configuration of your venue or event is relatively simple, you can use simplified calculations to approximate the expected noise levels. Be aware however that the calculations usually do not account for effects that can affect the propagation of sound, such as the direction the loudspeakers are facing, sound reflections off walls or the influence of wind and other atmospheric conditions such a temperature inversions.
3.3.3 Close out report
As part of the permit conditions, EPA requires that at the completion of your event, a close out report is provided to us which includes:
- the results of noise monitoring that occurred during your event, and
- details of any complaints that were received, such as:
- date and time of all complaints
- the investigations that resulted and any outcomes of the investigations
- how close the complainant’s property was to the event, the noise levels at property
- how the complaints were addressed.
A close out report is important as it provides information that may be relevant to approving permits for your future activities.
As a guide, the contents of a close out report should include the following:
- Title page which identifies the date and time of the of event, author of the report and date the report was produced.
- Summary covering the applicable policy and regulation, whether a permit was required and issued by EPA, how the NMP was implemented including noise controls, noise measurements, compliance with the noise limits, complaints received and their resolution.
- General Information including a summary of the site plan, event set up, technical personnel present, instruments used, calibration of equipment, and whether any changes from the application were required.
- Results including a discussion of noise levels measured at sensitive locations and compliance with the policy and regulatory requirements – noise limits and operating times, and details of implementation of the NMP and complaints received and resolution.
- Appendices including tabulated noise measurements at the nearest sensitive receptors or most affected dwellings or noise sensitive areas.
4. What EPA must consider
Regulation 28 (f) and (g) provides the following matters EPA must consider when deciding whether to issue a permit:
- the history of complaints (if any) received by EPA or a council in relation to the applicant’s previous operations or concerts in that location in the previous year (if any)
- the effective noise levels in any previous operations engaged in by the applicant or concerts in that location in the previous year (if applicable)
- any action the applicant intends to take to control noise emissions and to minimise their impacts
- whether it is in the public interest to grant the permit
- the number of concerts in that location in the previous year.
Contact EPAYou can get in touch with us:
The following terms are reproduced from the Environment Protection Act 2017 (the Act) and the Environment Protection Regulations 2021 (the Regulations) to help you understand when an EPA permit application is required to conduct an operation or concert at an outdoor entertainment venue or outdoor entertainment event.
concert means an operation at an outdoor entertainment venue or an outdoor entertainment event if the effective noise level exceeds 55dB(A) (or 45dB(A) if measured indoors) assessed as an LAeq of 15 cumulative minutes at any measurement point in a noise sensitive area at least once during a 24-hour period.
effective noise level means the level of music noise from an indoor entertainment venue, outdoor entertainment venue or outdoor entertainment event, measured in a noise sensitive area or at an alternative assessment location, as determined in accordance with the Noise Protocol.
music means any combination of sounds produced by the playing of a musical instrument, by singing, recitation or dancing, or the reproduction of these.
music noise means music and associated contemporaneous sounds heard in a noise sensitive area.
noise includes sound and vibration
noise limit means in Part 5.3 (other than Division 5) of the Regulations the maximum effective noise level allowed in a noise sensitive area, as determined in accordance with the Noise Protocol
Noise Protocol means the Noise limit and assessment protocol for the control of noise from commercial, industrial and trade premises and entertainment venues, published by EPA on its website, as in force from time to time.
- that part of the land within the boundary of a parcel of land that is:
- within 10 m of the outside of the external walls of any of the following buildings
- a dwelling (including a residential care facility but not including a caretaker's house)
- a residential building
- a noise sensitive residential use or
- within 10 m of the outside of the external walls of any dormitory, ward, bedroom or living room of one or more of the following buildings
- a caretaker's house
- a hospital
- a hotel
- a residential hotel
- a motel
- a specialist disability accommodation
- a corrective institution
- a tourist establishment
- a retirement village
- a residential village or
- within 10 m of the outside of the external walls of a classroom or any room in which learning occurs in the following buildings (during their operating hours)
- a child care centre
- a kindergarten
- a primary school
- a secondary school or
- within 10 m of the outside of the external walls of any of the following buildings
- subject to paragraph (c), in the case of a rural area only, that part of the land within the boundary of
- a tourist establishment
- a campground
- a caravan park
- despite paragraph (b), in the case of a rural area only, where an outdoor entertainment event or outdoor entertainment venue is being operated, that part of the land within the boundary of the following are not noise sensitive areas for the purposes of that event or venue
- a tourist establishment
- a campground
- a caravan park.
operation means an activity that emits music noise from an outdoor entertainment venue or outdoor entertainment event over a 24-hour period.
outdoor entertainment event means an event where music is played and is held on public land including a road reservation, public open space, park, foreshore reserve or land of a similar nature, including an event held on such land in a temporary building or structure, such as a marquee, tent or temporary soundstage, not being a permanent fixture of the land and erected for the purposes of the event.
outdoor entertainment venue means any premises (other than residential premises) where music is played in the open air and which cannot feasibly be totally enclosed and sound-proofed because of its size.
Examples: Sports and other large outdoor arenas and major sports and recreation facilities having substantial provision for spectators, including privately owned land used as an outdoor entertainment venue.
standard operating hours means:
- for an outdoor entertainment venue, from 12 noon until 11 pm on any day (regulation 128)
- for an outdoor entertainment event (a) Monday to Saturday (other than a public holiday), from 7 am to 11 pm; and (b) Sunday or a public holiday, from 9 am to 11 pm (regulation 129).
Unreasonable noise means:
- noise that is unreasonable having regard to the following:
- its volume, intensity or duration
- its character;
- the time, place and other circumstances in which it is emitted
- how often it is emitted;
- any prescribed factors.
- noise that is prescribed to be unreasonable noise.
It does not include noise prescribed not to be unreasonable noise.