Know thy neighbour
13 July 2010
In an age of short-term rentals, high fences and valued privacy, some people don't know or care who their neighbour is. Piha's Olivia McPherson says this attitude must change.
She gestures to three symmetrical windows behind her, framing houses hiding in dense bush.
"I've been here for six years. But when I look out that window I only know about four families - and there are about 15 houses."
The 33-year-old has teamed with Sara Carbery to encourage younger people to sign up for the Piha Neighbourhood Support group.
The radiant young mother isn't your usual flashlight-brandishing, crimewatch stereotype. But this is her point.
"It doesn't really make sense to have it be all the older people. There's a lot of stay-at-home mums who see a lot of what's going on. It shouldn't just be left up to the older residents."
She says a high number of visitors, targeted crime and a 30-minute drive to the nearest police station make a strong community group essential.
The new neighbourhood support system with three area coordinators, multiple street coordinators and an email tree will keep residents informed and connected.
Mary Mead has been the area's co-ordinator for seven years. She says Piha deals with "drugs and that sort of thing, anything that happens in all streets". She believes younger involvement in the support group will help to cover issues across generations.
The push to include younger blood also coincides with a change from the Piha Neighbourhood Watch system to the Neighbourhood Support system, says city coordinator Samantha Farquhar.
"We're basically about creating safer streets and raising public awareness about what services are available; and encouraging people to get to know their neighbours and take responsibility when something happens - not to turn a blind eye."
She says there is a strong need for active community members to help keep the crime rate down. Last month, 286 members joined the Waitakere network.
Olivia says Piha's attendance can only improve. The last meeting, of 15 people, was the largest turnout for years.
Neighbourhood Support took over from Neighbourhood Watch in 2005. The network is closely linked to police, Civil Defence and councils. Victim support, Safe Waitakere and NZ Fire Service also offer information and resources.