By Vanessa Crowe, Sustainable Communities Coordinator
Meeting those who live alongside us, is the first step in creating healthy, resilient communities. People all over the district got into the spirit of Neighbours’ Day Aotearoa this year with thirty-five groups organising Over The Fence Cuppa events. Across the weekend there were gatherings small and large. While each group celebrated their community in their own unique way, old school hospitality was common to all. Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to go with a photographer and visit some of the weekend’s events.
The end of Alexander Road Diane Turner’s property edges onto a walkway and fields at the back of the airport. Along her boundary fence she has grown an abundant flower garden designed to attract bees, this provided an excellent backdrop for the Alexander Road gathering. Diane’s garden features sunflowers and cosmos, she likes to share seeds with her neighbours and has devised an interesting way to collect the, popping small bags over flower heads.
On Gavin Road, the Greener Neighbourhood members gathered at the Evan's property, where neighbour John Dawson pointed out the towering Totara tree, which he planted in the seventies, having lived on Gavin Road for nearly forty years.
Paraparaumu resident Andres Corrigan met a few of her neighbours on Neighbourly and together they organised a gathering at the Paraparaumu Scout hall, where an impressive afternoon tea was laid out. A few blocks away Petrel Close residents gathered on an empty section, with a record number of dogs per person. In stark contrast to Gavin Road, Petrel Close is a new development where all the residents moving there in the last few years. In that time they have used Neighbour's Day as an annual opportunity to get to know each other, gathering on a different empty section each time – however now the sections are filling up so they were unsure where the next one would be held.
At dusk we arrived at Victor Grove in Waikanae where residents combined Neighbours Day with a 50th Birthday celebration. Soon after we arrived a local musicians began to play and sleek outdoor furniture began to light up, flashing an array of colours, it was clear this event would last through to the small hours.
Sunday arrived and provided a perfect day for relaxed gatherings and old school hospitality. In the morning we visited Councillor Diane Ammundsen’s property where new neighbours and old enjoyed tea and cakes in the sunshine. Later in the afternoon, Waterstone residents gathered for a BBQ at the Panter home, with a bouncy castle inflated in their neighbour’s driveway. On Aorangi Road mother and daughter Rhonda and Zelda Edwards, who both live on the road together organised a picturesque garden party. Under the trees bunting, fresh flowers and hibiscus flower bubbles provided an excellent setting for guests to enjoy each other’s company.
In between these visits festive celebrations peaked at the Community Centre where Race Relations and Neighbour's Day celebrations were combined into an international cultural extravaganza. The Community Centre was abuzz with colour and activity, tradition dance, art, cooking and craft and many people proudly wearing traditional costume. At 1pm a pot luck lunch of delicious traditional food was enjoyed by all.
Later we visited Kiwi Road where a marquee was set up at the end of the cul-de-sac, while the adults enjoyed relaxing on the grass, children rode scooters and got creative with the chalk. Resident and Paraparaumu-Raumati Community Board Deputy Chair Jonny Best brought along his drone camera to capture an aerial shot of the event.
Our last visit was the Coastal Villas Retirement Village, where a huge event was being held in the recreation hall, resident Joan Mattingley organised the event to bring together the entire village. Residents were pleased for the opportunity to get together at such a scale. The spontaneous sing-along that erupted around the piano just as we were about to leave was a wonderful way to finish off a weekend of neighbourliness and the enjoyment of fine company.