Noisome neighbours

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 April, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 April, 2005, 12:00am

It is one of Sydney's most recognisable landmarks, along with the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Luna Park is an old-fashioned funfair which sits in the heart of the city, its entrance an enormous, laughing face painted in lurid colours.

Built in 1935, it was modelled on Luna Park in the United States, part of the famous Coney Island funfair.

The fairground sits right on the harbour shore, its thousands of lights reflecting in the water. Rides include the Ranger pirate ship, the Spider and the terrifying Wild Mouse, a rickety roller coaster which hurls you along a creaking track at great speed.

But the people who live close to the funfair say Luna Park's crowds are making their lives a misery. Some rides are so loud, residents say, it is impossible to sit out on their balconies at night. They want the noisier rides shut, and to back up their demands they have filed affidavits in the Supreme Court of New South Wales.

They make for amusing reading. One man complained his wife loved to cook 'Asian' food but he was unable to open his balcony windows to let out the smell, for fear of the din outside. Even worse is when his wife boils up Chinese herbal medicine, which gives off a 'putrid' smell.

Another local said the noise from the Ranger ride was 'torture', while a classical-music buff complained the cacophony beneath his balcony ruined his enjoyment of Bach.

A violin teacher testified the 'constant squealing' meant it was almost impossible to conduct lessons, and a businessman said his daughter no longer visited him - she is not allowed to smoke indoors but hates smoking outside on the balcony because of the noise.

What most of these people have in common is that they bought their apartments in the last couple of years, knowing full well that Luna Park would reopen after a long closure.

Nobody made them pay up to A$2 million ($12 million) for their swish new pads with harbour views, and the rest of Sydney has little sympathy for them. A local paper branded them Numbies (not under my balcony), a variation on the well known Nimby (not in my backyard).

The residents have launched a bid to close five of the bigger rides. A similar protest in 1996 led to the closure of a ride called the Big Dipper and, ultimately, Luna Park. The park's managers say they will not be bullied by their wealthy neighbours, claiming they went through a complicated and lengthy process to get the rides approved.

The fight for the future of Sydney's unique funfair is on. It is likely to be anything but fun.