OPINION: In praise of our NIMBY natures
WE OFTEN hear the term NIMBY applied to residents who speak out against developments that affect them and who organise and actively campaign.
It is used as a derogatory term - as though somehow people should be ashamed to care about what is happening in their backyard.
Notable NIMBYs of late are: the residents along Butler Street who campaigned against the bypass; the residents of Sunrise who live along the railway line, newly impacted by the solar train; the Byron market stall holders who don't want to see the Butler Street reserve turned into a bus interchange; and the rural residents of Saddle Ridge Rd saying no to the residential development of the ridge.
Less noticeable but equally accused of being NIMBYs are the residents impacted by other kinds of developments on their doorsteps such as: those residents who are affected by the illegal holiday let next door and complain; the owner/occupiers constantly frustrated with the Airbnb trade going on in their block of flats; and residents adjacent to festival sites and highway upgrades who complain.
All these are often accused of being NIMBYs who just need to "get with the program”.
The term NIMBY was first coined as a positive concept, directly linked to the genesis of the 'think globally, act locally' movement.
A brilliant sociologist and visionary town planner in the late 1800s, Sir Patrick Geddes, coined both concepts.
He believed in the democratic right of residents to have a say in what happens to their locality, including whether to preserve or change the locality's amenity and character.
That is why he coined the term NIMBY to reflect what he saw as the inherent right of residents who he saw as best placed to decide what developments took place in their own backyards and townships.
Geddes' approach to town planning was one of "active sympathy with the essential and characteristic life of the place concerned” and holding strong to principles of community governance and the rights of communities to participate in decisions that affect
He argued that residents deserved to have the loudest voice in development decisions to balance corporate developers and their investors.
Geddes as a town planner (and the Scotsman who designed Edinburgh) focused on the "happiness, health and comfort of all residents, rather than focusing on roads and
parks available only to the rich.”
His approach sought to undo as little as possible when it came to the character of a place, while planning to increase the well-being of the people at all levels.
It was not divorced from the environment and he talked about energy efficiency and ecology 120 years ago.
We are a community not a commodity and I agree with Geddes that communities are living and breathing things made up of
geology, geography, climate, other species, economic life, social institutions, art, culture, emotions and rituals.
I support every member of our community's right to have their voice heard about what is happening in their community.
Not only do I endorse NIMBY, I support the idea of Not in My Front Yard Either (NIMFYE), Not On Planet Earth (NOPE), Not Over There Either (NOTE), Not Under My Backyard (NUMBY) and Not in Anyone's Backyard (NIABY).