Opposition to Brethren chapel called ‘Nimbyism by stealth’


Opposition to an Exclusive Brethren chapel being built in a Havelock North residential street is a case of “Nimbyism by stealth”.

Lawyer Matthew Lawson made the comment while acting for the Hastings Gospel Trust in a Hastings District Council Resource Consent Hearing last Friday.

The application involves demolishing a house on a 758sqm Reynolds Road property (pictured) and replacing it with a chapel and carpark.

Besides Lawson, three of the four residents opposing the application appeared at the Hearing.

Residents’ concerns

The residents opposing the consent application were concerned about noise and traffic impacts on Reynolds Road.

They are concerned about losing a residential property during a housing crisis and the impact an “exclusive organisation” would have on the street’s “tight-knit community”.

Brethren plans

The proposed hall would be used twice a week. There would be a 6am communion service on Sundays and a prayer meeting on Monday evenings before 8pm.

A maximum of 45 people are likely to attend.

The plans include surrounding the property with a 1.8m high fence to reduce noise.

Good neighbours

Lawson said the application did not breach the Hastings District Plan. Nor does it “give rise to any matters of groundbreaking Resource Management significance”.

He also said Christian churches are “an integral part of our communities and the ability to practise their religion is an inalienable right” under the New Zealand Bill of Rights.

Six letters from people who lived near other similar Brethren chapels were provided to the Hearing as evidence. All six confirmed the Brethren are excellent neighbours.

Fearing the unknown

Lawson suggested those opposing the Brethren proposal could be classified as having “perception fears and fears of the unknown”.

At worst, their opposition could be described as “Nimbyism and/or religious intolerance”, he said. To this he also added: “I do not wish to ascribe such a description to the matters raised by submissions.”

He also raised concerns about opponents’ use of the term “community”.

Their use of “community” concentrates on a select small group, he said.

In reality, the community is broader than Reynolds Road. Their opposition is an example of “Nimbyism by stealth”.

Not in our street

One resident took exception to the Nimbyism label.

The street is a Kiwi ideal where everyone looks out for one another and the Brethren presence would change this, he said.

The group “defines itself as an exclusive organisation not known to intermingle with others” – the opposite to the way “this neighbourhood community acts today,” .

The Brethren’s want “to use our street and neighbourhood for their purposes, creating noise and traffic while adding no value” to the street community, he opined.

Another resident noted most local Brethren chapels were largely on bigger roads, not disturbing sleeping neighbours at 6am on Sundays.

She presented a NZ Census table showing Brethren members make up just 0.15 per cent the population. She asked why the group needs another chapel and why it couldn’t be located on a larger arterial road.

Submissions about the proposal are ongoing.


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