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Nimby – From Hearsay To Hard Facts

Research under way in Canterbury is finding out what it is like for people to live next door to facilities that many see as upsetting their lifestyle – such as cell-phone transmitters, prisons, sewerage plants and landfills, or a solid waste transfer station.

Researchers led by James Baines, of Christchurch firm Taylor Baines & Associates, have been asking people living near solid waste facilities to tell them what they experience. The aim of the research, funded by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, is to gain an insight for future developers of such facilities on what opposition or support they might get from locals if a landfill or transfer station was built nearby.

Mr Baines says the research has shown the importance of effective liaison between landfill operators and their host communities in maintaining harmonious and constructive relations and acceptable standards of operation.

“Not many days pass without reading something in the newspaper about people getting upset by a proposal to build something nearby such as a cell-phone transmitter or a new mall development,” Mr Baines says. “People are quick to label this a NIMBY response [not in my back yard].

However, these people are often upset because they know nothing about what it would be like to have such a facility nearby, and the article usually reports their reaction after they hear about the proposal for the first time.

“When people notice something like the smells coming from a landfill they have told us what it is like, how often it happens, and how it affects their lives. Sometimes it is a big deal for them, sometimes not.

“We have also interviewed those people most directly responsible for the facilities – the landfill supervisors, council administrators and environmental health officers. And we have worked with representatives of groups that use the neighbourhood, such as recreational groups, if they exist,” Mr Baines says.

The research team has completed its field work on seven case studies of communities living near landfills and transfer stations throughout the country.

“For the first time there is some independently produced empirical information on actual effects of landfills and actual experience in New Zealand,” Mr Baines says. “This improves our ability to predict what might happen in other situations.”


The on-going research programme will now turn its attention to the experience of those living near wastewater treatment plants, prisons, cell-phone transmitters and large shopping malls.

Ends

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