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Love Thy Neighbour

By Rupert Truscott-Hughes on May 22, 2014 in Other

Picture: Craig McLachlan

Picture: Craig McLachlan

In last month’s edition of The Beast I couldn’t help but notice an advertisement taken out by Woollahra Council promoting a new phenomenon known as Neighbour Day.

It seems our council is looking to follow in the footsteps of some of the more forward-thinking municipalities and encourage everyone to get along and grow verge gardens together and collect one another’s mail when we go away and look after each other like we’re living in some sort of hippy commune.

The advertisement read: “We encourage residents to get to know those who live next door, around the corner, down the street and in the surrounding area.” To find out who lives where in Point Piper all you have to do is take a look in the Title Deeds column in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Domain liftout each week and to get to know them a quick Google search will generally provide all the information you need to form a negative opinion.

So Woollahra Council, I think you may have missed the mark. This is, after all, the Woollahra Municipailty that we live in, where the residents only have so much love to give and it’s clearly best allocated to one’s self. If I wanted to be at one with my neighbours I would’ve moved somewhere like Nimbin or Mullumbimby or Bondi, not Point Piper.

The only reasons to interact with the neighbours in these parts are strategic. You may invite them over for a ‘casual’ barbecue (fully catered, of course) in order to soften them up before unleashing the details of a hideously oversized development application upon them. A similar approach may be taken if you’re looking for investors in a high-risk project you have in the pipeline. To suggest that one might interact with the neighbours for fun is flippant at best.

Chances are that even after extending an olive branch in the manner mentioned above, you’ll still earn your neighbours’ ire. Since I first submitted development plans for my Point Piper pile, I have received nothing but grief from my neighbours. “It’s too big,” they say. “Why does he need a four car garage?” they moan. “He’s poisoned his trees to get a better view,” they gripe, their outrage obviously jealousy masked as some sort of self-righteous environmental concern.

Even if I receive an invite from one of my neighbours on the back of this advertisement, I’ll be very wary of their motivations and assume that it’s because they have something to sell or show-off. It certainly won’t be the start of some sort of blossoming friendship.

Maybe I’m just being a big miser, but I honestly don’t think I’m alone. The reason I live in Point Piper in the first place is to protect my privacy, and “asking your neighbour in for a cuppa” as the Neighbour Day advertisement suggests would be a self-inflicted invasion of that privacy.

I’m well aware that the bible espoused loving thy neighbour, but all my neighbours are Jewish, Muslim or Asian these days, so that particular text is hardly relevant. The fact that we haven’t waged war on one another should be considered a victory in itself.

I applaud Woollahra Council for trying to bring the community together, but it should be known that it is only on the fictional Ramsay Street, not Wolseley Road, that good neighbours become good friends.