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What to do if you smell an offensive or objectionable odour

What to do if you smell an offensive or objectionable odour

Updated 7 May 2015 12:11pm
  • Who to call? GWRC Environmental Hotline – 0800 496 734
  • What information we need: You'll need to provide your name, address and phone number (your details are confidential and won't be released to other parties unless we have your permission to do so). You’ll also need to provide details of the odour, such as how intense it is and where you think it might be coming from.
  • Who can call? Anyone in the community can report an odour issue. The notification should be made when the odour is occurring so that an officer can assess the odour to determine if it is compliant or not.
  • When: You can call 24/7 to report an odour.
What happens after you call

The Environmental Regulation Duty Officer is notified via text. The officer on-call will get back in touch with you to confirm the details of your call and gather further information.

Follow up

The duty officer will call the notifier back to obtain more specific information about the odour. In most cases the duty officer will respond to you when the notification is paged to them; however, sometimes the duty officer may be attending another incident and unable to contact you immediately. On these occasions, the duty officer will call you back at the first opportunity to confirm the nature of the odour and whether it is still present.


If the odour is present and assessed by you to be offensive or objectionable, the duty officer will:

  • Go to the site where the odour was reported from. If the odour is present they will complete an odour assessment to determine whether the odour is offensive or objectionable in their opinion.
  • A call will be made to the landfill operators and/or PCC to inform them of the odour and to find out if there is anything happening on site that may be creating a strong odour and see if anything can be done to reduce or eliminate the odour at the site.
  • If an offensive or objectionable odour is detected the officer will carry out a site inspection to try and determine the exact source of the odour, such as a specific area of the landfill.
  • Notifiers are called back to inform them of the outcome of the investigation.

What makes an odour ‘offensive and objectionable’ ?

The term ‘objectionable’ is used in consent conditions; it is a subjective term and is open to interpretation. There is guidance from case law (Donnely v Gisborne District Council) in which the normal meaning was applied: that is the odour is considered undesirable, displeasing, annoying or open to objection. GWRC has developed a standard practice and procedure to assess odour to limit the subjectivity of our odour assessments. We record the frequency, intensity and duration of the odour, as well as the level of offensiveness and the location in which the odour is detected. For example, an industrial area or a rural environment might have a higher tolerance for certain odours than a residential area. This procedure ensures that our odour assessment can stand up to challenge. You can see an example of our odour assessment sheets here.

After hours response

For most odour incidents, the duty officer will carry out an investigation into the odour notification only after two notifications have been received.


The logic here is that there are a lot more people at home after hours; therefore it’s reasonable to expect that if one person thinks the smell is a problem, other people probably do too. Our records show that on the occasions when GWRC officers have confirmed the presence of an offensive or objectionable odour from a specific site, there has been more than one call to GWRC to report the odour.