Con­nect with your com­mu­nity

Matamata Chronicle - - Conversations -

If you’ve got more in com­mon with your herd than you do with hu­mans, per­haps it’s time to sign up to Neigh­bourly.co.nz.

A free and pri­vate web­site that en­cour­ages com­mu­nity to­geth­er­ness in neigh­bour­hoods all over New Zealand, Neigh­bourly fos­ters in­ter­ac­tion and con­ver­sa­tion be­tween neigh­bours by cre­at­ing an easy way for them to talk and share on­line. It’s about shar­ing lo­cal news, views and ad­vice and get­ting to know the peo­ple we share a friendly nod with as we pass one an­other on our trac­tors.

Farm­ing cliches aside, Neigh­bourly isn’t just for the ma­jor ci­ties across the coun­try. While a num­ber of Auck­land and Welling­ton neigh­bour­hoods are hov­er­ing around the 2,000 mem­ber mark, Neigh­bourly is cer­tainly not lim­ited to sub­urbs with lots of peo­ple.

So why is Neigh­bourly a good tool for ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties to con­nect? Ni­cole Gar­ner, an arts­based com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment fa­cil­i­ta­tor and Neigh­bourly Lead from Leeston near Christchurch, says the com­mu­nity plat­form’s big­gest ad­van­tage is lo­calised so­cial in­clu­sion.

‘‘It can some­times be dif­fi­cult and take quite a long time for peo­ple new to an area to build re­la­tion­ships with the lo­cals be­cause they may be com­mut­ing into the city each day for work or study,’’ Ni­cole says. ‘‘They may find it dif­fi­cult to find out who lives where and what’s hap­pen­ing when be­cause ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties of­ten com­mu­ni­cate via word of mouth. Neigh­bourly can fast­track their par­tic­i­pa­tion and in­volve­ment in lo­cal events be­cause it makes it eas­ier for them to find out what’s hap­pen­ing in their lo­cal area.

‘‘Neigh­bourly can make it re­ally easy for new peo­ple to con­nect with the lo­cals too. Neigh­bours can look at the Neigh­bourly map and ac­tu­ally see who lives near them – al­most like an in­tro­duc­tion to the neigh­bour­hood. It can break the ice and make it eas­ier to then con­nect in per­son over the back­yard fence.’’

Neigh­bourly also re­duces geo­graphic dis­tance be­tween neigh­bours; many ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties are typ­i­fied by iso­la­tion and even lone­li­ness. Long work­ing hours and stress caused by farm­ing is­sues like drought, fluc­tu­at­ing milk prices or financial pres­sures may mean ru­ral work­ers don’t have the time or en­ergy to con­nect with their neigh­bours so­cially. This is com­pounded if the near­est neigh­bour lives five kilo­me­tres away.

Neigh­bourly en­cour­ages mem­bers to com­mu­ni­cate reg­u­larly on­line about every­thing from the weather and civil defence is­sues to a great sale hap­pen­ing in town, when face-to­face in­ter­ac­tion isn’t an op­tion. Users can also set up groups and events to bring their com­mu­ni­ties closer to­gether and by en­cour­ag­ing each other to then at­tend the events, can re­ally en­hance the morale of a town, es­pe­cially dur­ing times of hard­ship or dis­as­ter.

Ul­ti­mately, Neigh­bourly is about bring­ing com­mu­ni­ties closer to­gether, re­gard­less of where they are in the coun­try. Mem­bers of ru­ral neigh­bour­hoods can both strengthen their es­tab­lished net­works as well as pro­vide a warm wel­come for new­com­ers with this easy-to-use tech­nol­ogy, thereby en­sur­ing their neigh­bour­hood is filled with friends and fam­ily, not just faces.

For more in­for­ma­tion about Neigh­bourly and to sign up to your own neigh­bour­hood, visit www.neigh­bourly.co.nz. HAVE YOUR SAY: Let­ters should not ex­ceed 250 words and must have full name, res­i­den­tial ad­dress and phone num­ber. The editor re­serves the right to abridge or with­hold any cor­re­spon­dence with­out ex­pla­na­tion. Let­ters may be edited for sense, pa­per’s style, brevity or good taste. Let­ters may be re­ferred to oth­ers for right of re­ply be­fore pub­li­ca­tion. Write to PO Box 148, Mata­mata or email teresa.hattan@fair­fax­me­dia.co.nz.

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