Nimby stoush over High St undermines self-reliance
Published, July 18 2016, Print edition, The Press
Nimbyism (not in my backyard) is slowly distorting Canterbury’s basic societal values for the worse, eroding our community-centred can-do attitude.
An example of this is the legal fracas in Christchurch’s CBD between the City Centre Christchurch Limited (CCCL) property company and Richard Peebles, the owner of the McKenzie and Willis site in High Street.
When the National government and the previous Christchurch City Council announced the CBD Blueprint in 2012, following CCDU’s 100 day cram session, I do not think the public were aware they were conferring enhanced Nimby property rights to some CBD property owners. The public did not realise it would lead to legal disputes over arbitrary demarcation issues, like property developments being not ‘innovative’ enough or too much ‘retail’.
Johnny Moore, in a recent article, argued this was creating a “closed shop”, benefiting the established old boys’ club. For whatever reason, what is happening in our city centre reflects a changing attitude to property rights.
This shift towards Nimbyism in Canterbury and New Zealand is not reflected internationally. For instance, a friend who works in real estate in Texas told me it is a place of strong private property rights, with an interfer “over my dead body” type attitude.
You would think Texans would be the biggest Nimbys in the world. But it is a completely different cultural take on property rights, which basically says, “If you don’t tell others what to do with their property, then they won’t tell you what to do with yours.” It’s a shared respect.
In contrast, our laws are basically, “since everyone can tell me what to do with my property, I will tell you what to do with yours, and I’ll do it first.”
There is an argument that the systems we have put in place in recent decades in New Zealand have altered our behaviour regarding Nimbyism and property rights, to the point it has become culturally ingrained.
I am not sure when Nimbyism crept into our Kiwi culture -perhaps it has always been there, but subservient to other more permissive values.
What I do know though is if we allow Nimbyism into the heart of our city, then the concept will become stronger. It is the further erosion of our cultural values that is the most concerning aspect of CCCL possibly achieving a legal Nimby precedent within the CBD.
Most of us will not be part of the old boys’ club benefiting from the legal precedent of Antony Gough over in his half finished Terrace development telling Richard Peebles across on High Street how he can and cannot rebuild the McKenzie and Willis site. Nor, for most us, will it cost us anything, as most of us do not have any plans or intentions to be involved in any future CBD development.
However, it will signal to the wider community that if it is OK for property owners in the CBD to tell others what to do with their property, then it is also OK to do the same elsewhere in the city. The right for what you can do to your own property will be reduced and the right to obstruct what others can do on their property will be enhanced.
It encourages an attitude that instead of getting ahead by doing something in a constructive respectful manner, success can be achieved by selfishly obstructing rivals.
I believe there is a social good aspect to property rights, that it is the responsibility of our collective governance structures (Parliament, Councils, Courts….) to ensure they are administered in a way that promotes this constructive approach. In Canterbury speak, a ‘can-do’ attitude.
Allowing people the freedom to act constructively on their own property has social benefits -such as allowing smaller/less capitalised/ less politically connected businesses the possibility of entering the CBD commercial space. These social benefits involve people who are unidentifiable but no less real than the characters — Anthony Gough, Richard Peebles…. who are dominating the public discussion over whether harm is being done or not.
I believe Peebles is making a mistake by focusing his defence on an argument that he is complying with the blueprint. He has come out publicly to state his development does not undermine the blueprint and he has a letter of support from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, which developed the finer detail of the innovation precinct, to support his claim.
Peebles and the whole Cantabrian community would be better off petitioning Parliament, the Courts and Council on the grounds the blueprint was a temporary plan constructed in 100 days to guide the initial reconstruction efforts. It was not long-term in nature and any perceived Nimby property rights should not be enforced.
The concept of Nimbyism at its heart is selfish and I believe does not foster healthy communities. Canterbury should reassert more positive can-do values to balance out the growing dominance of Nimbyism.
* High St master plan fuels dispute between Christchurch developers
* Christchurch development figures start new company, launch High …
* McKenzie and Willis developer Richard Peebles questions timing of …
* Fellow Christchurch developer goes into bat for $50m McKenzie and …
* Johnny Moore: High St stoush is ‘closed-shop behaviour’
Originally published at www.stuff.co.nz.