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Neighbours Day Aotearoa Say Thousands Made a Difference

Neighbours Day Aotearoa organisers estimate thousands of Kiwis made a difference in their neighbourhoods

New Zealand’s inaugural celebration of neighbourliness happened last weekend, 26-27 March 2011 (though weather postponed some activities to this weekend). Neighbours Day Aotearoa is all about encouraging Kiwis to make some time to celebrate great neighbourhoods and get to know our neighbours better – wave, smile, talk, socialise – even if it’s for the very first time. The organisers hope it will become a popular annual celebration nationally, and say the encouraging response this year suggests it will continue to grow, with interest already shown for Neighbours Day Aotearoa 2012 (24-25 March) by participants and supporters.

The organising team is a partnership between LIFEWISE, Inspiring Communities and Methodist Missions Aotearoa, all not-for-profit organisations with a focus on supporting strong local communities. They also acknowledge support from many organisations across various sectors.

Dozens of Supporters thanked

“It’s been great this year to see residents, community organisations and groups, local Councils, authorities, and businesses coming together to support this vision”, says Rebecca Harrington (LIFEWISE project team member and founder of the Know Your Neighbours project on Auckland’s North Shore which was the beginning of Neighbours Day in NZ). “We’re really grateful to the dozens of organisations who put a lot of effort into spreading the word, to the Auckland and Wellington City Councils and LIFEWISE and Presbyterian Support Northern who helped with funding, and to Westpac, Burger Wisconsin and communico for their support with promotion. We’ve also formed special links with other organisations that support the vision of building stronger neighbourhoods. It’s been awesome to see how many people share our enthusiasm and understand the potential long-term benefits that begin from knowing our neighbours better and that this could make a real difference to the quality of life in New Zealand.”

“We also hope to have plenty of support for Neighbours Day Aotearoa 2012 (last weekend of March) as we have big visions for what is possible and we need lots of help to bring it all to life,” says Rebecca.

Supporters are listed at www.neighboursday.org.nz.

Neighbours Day Aotearoa in action

Feedback from Philip smith, Preston Crescent, Dunedin:
“Many neighbours met each other for the first time on Neighbours Day. There were lots of people, lots of food, and lots of discussion. We talked about how we can help each other in an emergency and we’ve since circulated a list of contact numbers and emails. Our neighbours are keen to meet again! We might do a mid-Winter feast and ask other neighbours further up and down the street to join us. People are saying it’s good someone has organised this and it’s all about making a difference, ‘being the one’. Thank you Neighbours Day Aotearoa (and our local paper the Dunedin Star) for being the ‘one’. ”

More stories and comments can be read under Kiwi Stories at neighboursday.org.nz.

Crunching the numbers

“Because the idea of Neighbours Day Aotearoa is focused on locally organised gatherings in homes, backyards, or footpaths across the country, gauging exact levels of participation was always going to be a challenge”, says Rebecca.

“We know that some regions had a lot of involvement but people didn’t necessarily go online to sign up, as there was strong local support and promotion. In some areas residents, Councils, local media, businesses and community organisations really got behind the initiative.”

The team is still busy evaluating the 2011 response, and they hope an online survey next week will help build the picture. “So far the indications have been very encouraging,” says Rebecca. “Given we had virtually no advertising budget (a little in Wellington and Auckland thanks to Council grants) and relied largely on organisations and individuals spreading the word, we’re incredibly happy with the amount of support and hundreds of examples of neighbourly connections made”.

“The indicators we have are the visitors to the website, media coverage, participants in social media, and direct contact from individuals (which was hard to keep up with)” she says, “A huge number of websites have helped spread the word, and it we’ve discovered mentions published in all kinds of places we didn’t know about from kindergarten notices to businesses’ staff newsletters. So we think the real level of involvement is a lot higher than we can see or measure.”

Working towards 2012 and beyond

The team is keen to keep the awareness of the benefit of strong neighbourhoods alive throughout the year, and is working towards another Neighbours Day Aotearoa celebration for the last weekend of March (24-25th) in 2012.

Ideas on the drawing board include multi lingual resources, viral videos and creating other opportunities to support involvement. “There are really simple things we ‘d like to be able to do, like provide the Neighbours Pack in hard copy free to people who sign up”, says Rebecca. (Currently this resource is a free PDF on the website but the team is conscious that not everyone has a computer, internet access, or a printer).

”We want to make it really easy for people to hear about this movement of neighbourliness and get involved,” she says. Everyone has neighbours of some kind, and we want everyone in New Zealand to be able to take part, with no barriers of language, technology or resources”.

“We see Neighbours Day Aotearoa as something that belongs to all New Zealanders,” says Rebecca, “We hope it will be a catalyst for building stronger neighbourhoods every day. We hope this will become an annual celebration and ultimately an everyday part of our Kiwi culture, which will have a positive impact on our communities long term.”


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