Editorial: Finding the balance

PETER O'NEILL
Last updated 07:20 28/02/2014

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A sewage treatment plant over the back fence. No thanks. A rubbish dump. Forget it. A quarry down the road. Not In My Back Yard. The Nimby syndrome is alive and well in South Canterbury.

And right now it comes with a somewhat ironic twist.

The flashpoint is the Rosewill area, where there has been an increase in truck movements from three a day up to 30. They are carting clay from a quarry for Timaru's new oxidation ponds, which were themselves the target of the Nimby syndrome.

But that's not the twist.

The twist is this. Rooney Earthmoving is the firm upsetting Rosewill residents with the extra truck movements. O'Neill Earthworks has now applied to extract bluestone from a different but nearby quarry. Rooneys in response has objected that the extra truck movements, on top of its own, will upset residents further.

You could imagine the residents being somewhat flabbergasted.

So what is the best way of dealing with such situations?

For a start, let's recognise that the Nimby syndrome is real and valid. Given certain circumstances, we'd all succumb. The only time it's not valid is where someone moves into an area where the "offending" activity is already operating, and then starts complaining about it.

Yet these activities have to go somewhere. More clay was needed for the oxidation ponds than anticipated, and it doesn't come out of thin air.

Likewise shingle pits for roads, land for rubbish dumping, industrial areas for industry.

Districts can't prosper without this stuff, yet there has to be a balance. And there is a process that attempts to achieve this balance.

For the more significant activities, a notified consent is required, and everyone gets to have their say. Hearings are held, and consent is granted or declined, or granted with conditions.

This process still creates winners and losers, but it's hard to think of a better way.

But a couple of things have gone wrong at Rosewill, and a lack of communication is at the heart of it.

When clay for the oxidation ponds was needed an approach to residents just may have been enough. Instead, residents became upset, considered they had to monitor the situation themselves and then felt railroaded when a temporary consent was granted without them being heard.

It doesn't look good that the council was the client here, even if the temporary consent was granted by an independent commissioner.

Who knows what a bit of talking might have achieved. The residents can't be blind to the fact the clay has to come from somewhere. But it's one thing to lose an argument when you've had a say, far worse when you haven't.

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- The Timaru Herald

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