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Urbanity 2017, The Great Debate – NIMBY Vs YIMBY


YIMBY Qld co-founder and town planner extraordinaire, Natalie Rayment recently took part in the ‘Great Debate’ with Brisbane City Councillor, Jonathan Sri and Adam Di Marco, at Urbanity 17. This is an annual conference brought to life by The Urban Developer in partnership with Queensland Government and Brisbane Development Association. During her presentation, Natalie stresses that YIMBYs should not only ride the wave of momentum following the debate, but to wear the YIMBY tag with pride and promote the movement as the only responsible way forward for our cities. Following are some of the highlights from Natalie’s contribution during the debate.

Natalie has dealt with the NIMBY factor for the more than two decades of her stellar town planning career, working as a front line warrior in development assessment, on both sides of the table. It is this experience that has driven her to become an avid YIMBY campaigner and co-founder of YIMBY Qld with her colleagues at Wolter Consulting Group.

Today, YIMBY Qld is an independent not-for-profit organisation and part of a growing global YIMBY network which says yes in my back yard to good development that makes for better living.

The YIMBY Case - What do YIMBYs stand for?

YIMBY has become a global movement with one unifying theme across all continents – to seize back the town planning debate from the NIMBYs and naysayers and provide some balance to the conversation. Across the globe YIMBY takes on many forms but they are all asking one question, “What is my future in this City?”. It has become the voice of young and old, developers and conservationist, in fact anyone with a genuine concern for their city as a whole and not just their own backyard. This movement aims to achieve housing that is available to everyone through 3 pillars: more housing, different types of housing, and the businesses and services that support housing and make our city’s work.

As Natalie said, “it’s the people who see the big picture and support sustainable development of their city, including their own backyard and neighbourhood. It’s easy to have a social conscious, that is until their skin’s in the game. We believe these NIMBY behaviours increase housing costs, reduce productivity and stifle innovation. And that does not equal good development.”

“From population growth to the decade of disruption, the theme of this year’s conference, we need to embrace development and find new ways to be innovative”.

Natalie pointed out that we all want our cities to be great places to live, sustainable, and innovative, but this can’t happen if we continually put barricades in the way and force planners and developers to jump through more and more hoops. “I agree that not every building is great so my message is, engage everyone in this conversation: let’s have a discussion about it, not a fight. For us it’s about Finding Your Yes!”

What values underpin sustainable development in the community?

The question was asked - what values underpin sustainable development in the community?

 “YIMBYs support good development that makes for better living”, was Natalie’s response.

“To break that down, we talk about the four YIMBY qualities of good development, and at least one of these four have to be met on each project: design excellence, sustainability, innovation or community dividend.”

YIMBY Qld have been showcasing a number of projects that display YIMBY qualities and attributes on their website and on Instagram. To help planners start the conversation about the positive outcomes of new developments within their communities, YIMBY Qld has also published their ‘Reasons for Approval’ poster, giving planning professionals the tools they need to engage with the broader community.

During the Great Debate Cr Sri did his best to convince the audience he was not a NIMBY and, while he was able to find common ground on examples of, or even a definition of, sustainable development outcomes, Natalie was quick to point out they were still miles apart on delivery.

“We don’t think the best way to achieve these outcomes is by putting up barriers to development and advocating for rules based planning” Natalie explained.

“We understand the virtues of, and advocate for, a performance based planning system. The great irony is that all too often the mediocre, tick and flick outcomes are easily achieved and generally fly below the NIMBY radar, yet bring on something slightly out of the box and all hell breaks loose. Why is it that some of our best examples of creative, innovative, world class development are at the same time the most controversial? We need to incentivise innovation, rather than demonise each extra storey.”

Having worked on many great projects that contribute to making Brisbane a better place Natalie Rayment has witnessed first-hand the true cost of NIMBYism. A classic example of this is the iconic Grace on Coronation at Toowong, which is still held up in the Courts almost two and a half years after approval. “Beware the billionaire NIMBY living next door to your project!” Natalie advised.

NIMBYism increases the cost of housing

NIMBY campaigning comes at a cost: a cost we can not afford. That cost is on affordable housing and it affects the most vulnerable in our communities, middle to low income earners of all ages. Recent surveys by major banks has shown more than 50 percent of the population in Australia believe they will never own their own home and NIMBYism is contributing to this horrifying statistic. 


NIMBYism contributes to this through:

  • the holding costs of delayed projects due to local protests and court battles;
  • the lost economies of scale when there is downward pressure on yields resulting in a lack of confidence among developers;
  • the costs of appeal not only to the developer but the public purse in defending development decisions; and
  • the mounting cost of increasingly restrictive nannying rules and regulations written in response to every complaint.

“I don’t think many people would realise that there are now over 100 pages of applicable local planning codes under Brisbane’s City Plan to be addressed in every DA for a new townhouse or apartment. That’s mind boggling, and ultimately unproductive,” Natalie lamented.

Measuring strategic objectives

When it comes to planning, design and delivery of safe and inclusive cities, the development industry, planning authorities and elected officials need to measure strategic objectives, which for Natalie Rayment are:


  1. Balance the conversation. To measure such an abstract Natalie suggested:
    1. Positives of development presented in the media. The mainstream media thrives on conflict and negativity, creating a sense of fear around the topic of density, painting a picture of a city under siege, amid floods of development, ripping the heart out of our communities.“I’d like to see more about the need for good development, the need to partner with the development industry and showcasing the positive attributes of developments,” Natalie said.
    2. The use of the YIMBY Qld positive submission tool kit, by individuals and community groups, to help them make submissions in support of good development outcomes.
    3. Making consultation on development projects a discussion rather than a fight, where everyone works together to get a YES.
  2. Even up the ‘information’ playing field and dispel the many urban myths around the DA process. Here, positive outcomes would be:
    • Planners and politicians stop talking about height limits when we have a performance based planning system that sets heights as acceptable outcomes only. We need to acknowledge there is more than one way to achieve an acceptable outcome for the community without the need for strict adherence to just one aspect of the planning rules. “We all need to watch our language around development and planning rules. It’s little wonder people get confused”.
    • Communities, and politicians, that understand the virtues of YIMBYs performance based planning system.
    • Dispelling the myths around how development gets approved – YIMBYs want to get beyond the rhetoric that development is bad and only gets through with a brown paper bag. “It’s critical that people understand how developments gets approved and the reasons for approval,” Natalie stressed.
  3. Remove barriers to good development and support laws that encourage innovation, which can be measured with the following indicators:
    1. A breaking down of the rules that stand in the way of building new housing;
    2. More as of right development;
    3. Faster approvals; and
    4. Less appeals.
  4. Showcase the projects that display the four YIMBY Qld qualities. Ultimately, some other positive signs of YIMBYs success would be more housing, more types of housing and more services that support housing, and exhibit a least one of the four YIMBY Qld qualities; design excellence, innovation, sustainability or community dividend.

Natalie’s final message; YIMBYs are definitely the hero in the urban development story. Don’t let the car parking space in front of your house become more important than the opportunity to make a new friend. Get on board Team YIMBY and be the positive force in this conversation. As Natalie proved throughout the debate, NIMBYs do all they can to distance themselves from the tag, hiding behind the idea they are providing a community service by taking on the nasty developers while, in reality, all they are doing is protecting their own patch and limiting the opportunity of others to become a part of their community. YIMBYs believe in shared cities where those who live here are able to stay and those who want to live here are welcome.

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If you want to know more about YIMBY Qld, please visit or contact us here.