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The people in your neighbourhood

Making a difference within their own neighbourhood was the motivation and vision behind the start of Good Neighbour, a charitable trust set up by a group of passionate Tauranga locals wanting to see neighbourhoods come together.

A small group began to meet and translate dreams and brainstorm what this could look like. They decided to form Good Neighbour, an undertaking that took over a year to complete.

Good Neighbour is now helping neighbours to transform their communities. Jason Rowling, one of the founding members, says, “It’s a real way that the community can give back. There are a lot of successful businesses in the region and individuals wanting to give back to their communities, and Good Neighbour has opened the way for many to give back. Over time we have seen a breakdown in the neighbourhood, and this is a chance for neighbours to rally together to meet the many needs.”

Good Neighbour is operated with a team of 250 volunteers dedicated to giving back to the community, with initiatives ranging from helping families struggling and often facing battles to more regular monthly projects such as firewood gathering, gardening, property care, fruit picking, community clean-ups, street BBQs and community garden quick-build projects. If there is a need, the group tends to rally around and meet the need. By meeting practical needs they can build better relationships and begin the journey of transforming communities through simple acts of generosity and kindness.

“Everyone hits a bump in life. We like to get alongside people and support them in their moments of need.” Jason talks about a well known local woman who was suddenly widowed. A team of volunteers mowed her lawns and got the grounds up to scratch before the funeral – something she neither asked for nor expected. There was another couple who dreamed of getting married in their back yard, a dream that seemed impossible due to main income loss as a result of sickness. Friends and neighbours came together and worked with volunteers from Good Neighbour to transform their back yard. They also organised a celebrant, cake and photos, with family members catering the food and providing the marquee. The couple had a dream day.

That is the way Good Neighbour seems to operate, and it's a great chance for people to get beside people and be supportive. Good Neighbour projects provide practical support to families that have hit bumps in life's road. They help people who need it - one person, one family at a time. It’s a chance for the group to give people in need a hand up, not a handout.

What started as a very practical organisation focused on meeting needs through projects soon branched out to include distributing food good enough to eat (that otherwise would go to waste in landfill) to charities.

There is food wasted every day that is good enough to eat yet not good enough to sell or is surplus to requirements. This food is needlessly disposed of to the detriment of our environment, while it could be going to good use in our community.

The next development in the evolution of Good Neighbour was doing a feasibility study to assess how much food was available and what would be involved in using this food to provide to other community organisations. The study evolved in 2014 to a trial of picking up food then sorting it ready for organisations to pick up, which led to the establishment of Good Neighbour Food Rescue. Food is rescued from around the Tauranga area and given to organisations already doing great work in the community.

Food Rescue is growing rapidly and has huge potential, and is now the second strand of Good Neighbour. It has since partnered with Foodstuffs and seven cafes in the region, which benefit too as they don’t need to be adding to the landfill.

The charity is now in a position to build larger premises and a commercial kitchen to teach members of the community how to cook good food. With Foodstuffs on board, it reciprocates in reducing its food waste, enabling it to save 200 tonnes of food from going to landfill, and in turn benefiting many grateful recipients. 26 other charities also benefit from Good Neighbour and its Food Rescue arm.

Pacific Toyota has a partnership with the Good Neighbour community trust, whose mission fits well with the Believe statements and Pacific Toyota’s core principles. Mark Mills, General Manager of Pacific Toyota, handed over a brandnew Hilux 3.0-litre Diesel Ute for Good Neighbour to use for a year.

“When Jason first approached me and told me of the trust and its philosophy I couldn’t think of a better way to align our company's core values. Our initial offer of a year’s support has quickly turned into one of three community initiatives we have embarked upon, and will now be a permanent part of our sponsorship programme.”

Another arm to Good Neighbour is the communal gardens. It is a fresh take on Community Gardens or a Kiwi version of allotment gardening. Raised gardens have been built and equipped with fertile soil and good drainage, and can be purchased for $20 per month. Initially there are enough veggie plants to get you started. Al and Ann Gourlie, contestants in the first series of Our First Home, are trustees of this area of Good Neighbour and believe that creating communal gardens brings families and communities together.

“We believe that everybody benefits from growing their own fresh food. Our families get fresher, healthier and cheaper food... and our communities grow too as friendships, skills, community pride and resilience flourish.”

The idea of the communal garden was to firstly learn how to veggie garden and secondly bring communities together. They have a vision of a communal garden area in all suburbs so that people can easily walk there.

Good Neighbour is flourishing and dreams have become reality. It is now a case of keeping a lid on things as it is growing exponentially – in all areas.

Good Neighbour is all about giving those who are in need a hand up – not a handout – and its recipe seems to be successful!