Know thy neighbour
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.
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.