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Calling The Team Of Five Million To Join The Neighbours Day Aotearoa Movement

The annual initiative Neighbours Day Aotearoa is growing in a new direction in 2021, encouraging all New Zealanders to make our communities as strong as the mighty totara. Running nationwide from March 20-30 as a way to combat loneliness and isolation, this year they have even more ways to connect with your neighbours.

Organisers are encouraging all New Zealanders to visit the Neighbours Day Aotearoa website to sign-up. Interaction can be as simple as sharing information about what is happening in your neighbourhood or getting to know your community better by hosting events, reaching out for a friendly conversation, writing a message in Notes to neighbours or participating in The Great Plant Swap. The first 200 registered individuals will be sent a packet of seeds, kindly donated by Kings Plant Barn, allowing them to start growing plants now to share with their communities.

The Great Plant Swap theme has been developed by the organisers for 2021 as an opportunity to offer neighbours a tangible symbol of togetherness and belonging. The ideas connected to the theme of growth and plants are endless – suggestions include a produce or seed swap, sharing garden tips or recipes for food in season, creating community gardens or berm pollinator pathways together, a working bee in the garden for those with mobility issues, or simply a friendly BBQ with a home-grown salad. The theme allows for people to connect with each other in both high and low contact ways, with safe options at every COVID alert level – such as dropping off flowers or homegrown produce at the doorstep.

Notes to neighbours is a way for people across Aotearoa to celebrate acts of neighbourliness. It encourages people to reflect on the importance of community. Neighbours Day are asking for messages to neighbours in 30 words. These online messages will be shared on social media and the website and then 5 will be chosen to be made into posters and shared across Aotearoa. This also allows people to participate in a low contact way but moves it offline and back into our neighbourhoods.

Now running for 12 years, the kaupapa behind Neighbours Day Aotearoa is even more important than ever, with many more people aware of the struggles that isolation and loneliness has on our mental health. As a result of the lockdowns New Zealanders have all had first-hand experience of being cut off from loved ones. A Loneliness New Zealand charitable trust report found loneliness in youth particularly has increased during the pandemic, rising from 5.8 percent before Covid-19 struck to 20.8 percent during the lockdown. Loneliness also increased with adults, growing from 3.5% to about 10.6% over the lockdown in March and April.

However during this time, Aotearoa’s response saw just how well our communities can band together to help each other, with the team of five million all playing a role in helping us through the pandemic. Now, the lessons learned during lockdown about how valuable our communities are need to be nurtured. Neighbours Day Aotearoa offers a great opportunity to be proactive and connect with our communities, regardless of which alert level we find ourselves in.

While the events of Neighbours Day Aotearoa will happen in March, 10 activators all over the country are now reaching out to their communities to develop a programme designed for their diverse communities and responding to their unique communities needs. From the annual BBQs to participating in the Great Plant Swap, other ideas like community movie nights, street parties, beach clean ups, and even small acts like sharing a cup of tea or running errands for our neighbours all help to create meaningful connections. Interviews with the community activators and nationwide organisers are available, details below.

Registrations are now open on the Neighbours Day Aotearoa website, to either find out about activities in local areas, share a message about your neighbour on Notes to neighbours, register to be part of the Great Plant Swap, or register any event as a host.

Neighbours Day Aotearoa is a collaborative campaign organised and supported by Lifewise, Inspiring Communities, Auckland Council, Christchurch Methodist Mission, New Zealand Red Cross, Neighbourhood Support New Zealand and Kāinga Ora.

March 20 – 30, 2021

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