Motueka's own google has its finger on the pulse

The Motueka Buy and Sell Facebook page has its finger on the pulse.

The Motueka Buy and Sell Facebook page has its finger on the pulse.

Its official name is Motueka Buy and Sell, but I call it Local Google.

From Motueka to Murchison, Takaka to Tapawera, every community seems to have one of these Facebook pages.

They're online garage sale sites and a dreadful time-suck - an hour can disappear with the flick of a thumb – but if you want to take the pulse of a town, start scrolling.

The discussions that take place on these sites are at times heartwarming, infuriating and hilarious, as people blindly connect and collide from the safety of their smartphones.

There are some common themes – who is the area's most affordable electricity provider? Is anyone selling a cheap car? When does whitebaiting season finish? Can anyone recommend a good builder, or chiropractor, or hairdresser?

That dropped phone on Greenwood Street – has anyone seen it?

The family tired of battling the brutal rental market – is anyone selling a housebus?

And where do you stand in the heated debate that raged over the recent burn-off near Pah Street that dusted half of the town in ash?

As well as impulse-buying all manner of things that I possibly (possibly!) don't need, I use the site for my local emergency updates. It's not particularly reliable and certainly not unbiased, but the information (and speculation) comes fast, and I know that the comments are from people in my location and situation. After the Kaikoura earthquake, I was wide awake until dawn, flicking between the Civil Defense and Buy and Sell sites in search of reassurance and information from within my community.

A few months ago I was woken early to the sound of a distant and unfamiliar siren. My household was sleeping, and one of the fundamentals of parenting is that you do not wake a sleeping child, but when I tiptoed out to the deck I could hear a faint automated voice. "This is not a drill," it warned.

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I appeared to be the only person in the whole of Fry St, and possibly the entire town, who was awake. That's because it's the weekend, I tried to reassure myself. Although… had the whole town already fled? Had everyone else evacuated before a mysterious disaster befell them, as cautioned by the stern synthetic voice?

Civil Defence told me nothing, so I turned instead to Local Google, and sure enough, therein lay my peace of mind. "Don't worry," Whakarewa Street residents were already yawning into their cellphones, "Go back to bed. It's just a fault with the high school's fire alarm."

Tranquility was restored. I hit "Like" and then crept inside, switched my phone to flightmode, and went back to sleep.

 - Stuff

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