A most neighbourly lot in Tawa
The Wellington suburb of Tawa is the most "neighbourly" in New Zealand.
More than 1100 Tawa residents have joined Neighbourly, a free and private website connecting New Zealand neighbourhoods and the people living within them.
The service was launched nationally in May 2014, after a successful pilot in five Auckland suburbs, and now has more than 70,000 members across 1500 suburbs.
Members can exchange recommendations on local services, ask questions, plan events, discuss local issues, and get to know one another.
Since reaching 500 members in August 2014, between 25 and 30 new members have joined Neighbourly Tawa each week.
Neighbourly co-founder Casey Eden says passionate local residents make all the difference to the growth of Neighbourly in every community.
"It was exciting to see Tawa reach the 1000-member milestone just before Christmas, only the second suburb to do so, but to have chased St Heliers up the leaderboard in under seven months is really impressive - especially considering the three-month head start St Heliers had as a pilot suburb," Eden says.
No stranger to neighbourliness, Tawa won the national "Enhancing Communities" award in 2013.
The suburb's success is due in part to the efforts of passionate locals, including Wellington City councillor for the Northern Ward, Malcolm Sparrow.
Sparrow has run an online community newsletter for the past 10 years and used it to promote the Neighbourly service.
"I think that communication within any community is important," he says.
"Topping the leader board is testimony to the fact that Tawa was already a close-knit community with a lot of spirit.
"People who feel part of a community feel better about the area in which they live."
Robyn Parkinson, a Tawa Neighbourly Lead, is one of the online moderators for the neighbourhood.
She says Neighbourly is a great tool that just taps into what is already present in Tawa.
"Tawa already had quite strong community groups and leadership, but I think Neighbourly enabled that to ramp up to the next level."
Parkinson first joined Neighbourly so she had a means of giving away items like plants or seeds, and locally relevant items such as school uniforms.
"It's of much more value than I realised it would be."
Through the website, Parkinson has found a flexible, part-time job and has been the driving force behind a community garden group.
"Neighbourly helps take these first steps to a new level. I've certainly met more new people, or deepened more relationships, in the last six months than in a long time."
Sparrow is planning a community get together to celebrate the suburb's success.
- The Dominion Post