20140819 nimby #1

If you have ever tried to make a difference in this world, push a new idea or improve your local neighbourhood then you have probably experienced the NIMBY phenomenon.

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NIMBY stands for Not In My Back Yard and is a theory suggested to have emerged in the 1950s. In the 1980s it became popular in Britain via use by local politicians.

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Locally organised residents resistant to unwanted land use

It has since become prolific around the world including in the USA, Germany, China, Japan, New Zealand and Australia. It has developed to the point where some people see it as a positive characteristic, something to be proud of.

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“I am a Nimby and proud of it,” says Mary Drost, convenor of the anti-development group, Community Backlash

Photo: Rebecca Hallas

The main issues NIMBY groups oppose include:

Increase in traffic; loss to local businesses; loss of property value; pollution (air, noise, light etc.); obtrusive developments / eye-sores; change in the community feel; strain on public resources;  main benefit out of proportion for non-locals; increase in Crime

Generally, many NIMBY objections are only hypothetical, feared but not substantiated, as opposition is more likely to be successful before the construction starts. NIMBY objections can be raised by local councils as well as residents. Glen Eira and Boroondara councils have, for instance, exploited a weakness in the Victorian State Government’s recent Plan Melbourne strategic policy to declare that they want growth to happen somewhere else.


NIMBY objections generally occur prior to construction and can involve both written and physical protests. Such protests can be successful, especially if a famous individual is involved, as happened with the St. Kilda Triangle and Camberwell Train Station developments.

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An incensed crowd of more than 2,000 called for the resignation of Port Phillip Council after it approved a contentious plan to redevelop the St. Kilda Triangle site.
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Geoffrey Rush and Barry Humphries protest Camberwell Train Station development

An extension of the NIMBY phenomenon is the CAVE People group, Citizens Against Virtually Everything, who represent an extreme version of the same impulses.

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It is impossible to please everyone, but it is nevertheless important to take into account people’s concerns and allow them to voice their opinions. Care needs to be taken in engaging local communities throughout the design process. Perhaps in this way, the NIMBY reaction will not be as prevalent, replaced instead with a greater willingness to accept change.

Image sources

  1. NIMBY, copyright City Caucus.
  2. No windpower, copyright The Real Singapore.
  3. Rotating wind generator, copyright Energy Puzzle.
  4. Mary Drost, sourced from The Herald Sun. Copyright Ben Swinnerton. Refer to this article in Domain for further insight into Drost’s involvement with new Plan Melbourne planning zones.
  5. Fury as councillors approve foreshore project, sourced from The Age. Copyright Andrew de la Rue.
  6. Camberwell Train Station development protest, copyright Urban Circus.
  7. No opinion, source unknown.