Know thy neigh­bour

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By JESS LEE

ALL IT took was a lit­tle in­ge­nu­ity and a few random acts of kind­ness for one Auck­land com­mu­nity to change overnight.

Res­i­dents in the small Auck­land sub­urb of Arch Hill barely knew each other be­fore Vic­to­ria Daw­sonWheeler started the Love Thy Neigh­bour project to cel­e­brate Neigh­bours Day last year.

Now, a year on, a short stroll along the road can take a lit­tle longer as peo­ple stop to chat when they cross paths.

When Ms Daw­sonWheeler moved to the neigh­bour­hood with her part­ner Jesse and young daugh­ter Hazel in 2011 she started dis­tribut­ing a news­let­ter about Arch Hill’s comings and go­ings as a way to con­nect with peo­ple in the area.

‘‘We wanted to live in a neigh­bour­hood where peo­ple knock on doors, not all the time but enough that you feel you’re part of some­thing and con­nected,’’ she says.

‘‘Half of the time it feels like no-one ac­tu­ally wants to talk but as soon as you open the door and just in­tro­duce your­self they ac­tu­ally want to.’’

The news­let­ter was an in­stant hit and so when March rolled around she de­cided to find a quirky way to mark Neigh­bours Day.

The Love Thy Neigh­bours project saw lo­cals de­liv­er­ing treats to nearby res­i­dents who had been as­signed to them in a Se­cret Santa style scheme.

More than 60 peo­ple took part across Arch Hill, Grey Lynn, Eden Ter­race and New­ton. And with plenty of neigh­bours signed up al­ready, this year looks set to be even big­ger.

Part of its success was down to res­i­dents hav­ing free rein to do what they wanted – from bak­ing a cake to mow­ing a neigh­bour’s grass verge.

Res­i­dent Leisa Wall says her part­ner Nick and 18-month-old daugh­ter Maemi are now proud to call Arch Hill home.

‘‘We now col­lect each other’s mail, we share fruit and veg­eta­bles, we stop on the street to chat – it’s that cheesy vibe.’’

Ms Wall has lived in the area for five years but had never quite got round to get­ting to know her neigh­bours be­fore.

‘‘Ev­ery­one rem­i­nisces about our par­ents and the streets that we grew up on and how all the kids knew each other but that doesn’t hap­pen any more, ev­ery­body just keeps to them­selves.

‘‘It’s kind of ironic that with so­cial me­dia ev­ery­one’s kind of out there but in a neigh­bourly sense you’re not.’’

Former Arch Hill res­i­dent Courteney Peters plans to get in­volved again this year from her new digs in Pon­sonby.

‘‘I had never spo­ken to my neigh­bours as much as I did that week­end. Auck­land can feel like quite an un­friendly place un­less you’re really com­mit­ted to meet­ing peo­ple.’’

Her flat was gifted a ‘‘cock­tail tree’’ by the Wall fam­ily.

‘‘Random gifts are the most amaz­ing things in the world I was quite emo­tional when I got my tree.’’

Ms Peters says she would like to see more young peo­ple get in­volved in the project and hopes to see it spread Auck­land-wide.

Home street home: Arch Hill res­i­dents say the Neigh­bours Day Love Thy Neigh­bour project changed the whole vibe of the sub­urb overnight.

Pho­tos: JA­SON OXENHAM

Neigh­bourly vibe:

Arch Hill res­i­dents Nick and Leisa Wall with baby Maemi and Big­gie the dog.

Cock­tail tree: Former Arch Hill res­i­dent Courteney Peters was gifted a ‘‘cock­tail tree’’ by the Wall fam­ily on Neigh­bours Day last year.

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