Last year's Covid-19 lockdown was the catalyst for an outpouring of kindness that has changed New Zealand, an AUT associate professor says.
Social science and public policy academic Sharyn Graham Davies says people's efforts to wave at a neighbour from afar or check in to see if they need groceries had “helped shift society”.
“With neighbours you kind of need a reason to go beyond a hello, in a way, and Covid provided that.
“It was an ice breaker.”
Graham Davies said while people had got back to their “busy lives” since lockdown, many still had the sense of being kind to one another – and in particular their neighbours.
“It’s not so much that it makes a friendship in an official way. But you can go next door if you run out of milk.”
Graham Davies said she already lived on a street where neighbours had regular catch ups, but heard tales of friends forming such bonds with theirs.
“Covid allowed them to do that, to meet their neighbour for the first time.”
The Government’s be kind message made a real difference – even if deep down people were feeling anxious and angry, she said.
“It really formed the way we should be to other people.”
In Taranaki there were a number of people who made the extra effort for those living around them, and Stuff highlighted some of them as The Good Neighbours in a lockdown series.
New Plymouth man Joe Gray, his wife Michelle and neighbours Rob and Jo Ridland were highlighted as good neighbours after they put about 100 letters into boxes on their street during lockdown.
They offered a helping hand, should anyone need it for groceries or anything similar, with their phone numbers attached.
Looking back on the year, Gray said while not many took up their offer at the time “there’s a better community feel”.
Gray said most neighbours had exchanged contact details and the couple had a lot more neighbours join their annual Christmas barbecue.
He said neighbours were continuing to act as they had during lockdown – waving hello on their morning walks and stopping for a small chat.
The changing of alert levels seemed to keep reminding people to be kind, he added.
“It's made people re-think, re-think those values.”
Charles Le Breton, who was also highlighted as a good neighbour, doesn't think there's been a massive shift in society.
But, Le Breton has been involved with neighbourhood support for 35 years so has seen how kind people can be for decades.
“I think some of us have always been neighbourly inclined,” the 75-year-old said. “You just try help your local community.”
When lockdown hit, he made sure to check in on those around him.
He offered support to neighbours – from a distance – and also posted online on Neighbourly.
But, it didn’t stop there.
Le Breton still wanders around his neighbourhood a couple of times a day, checking in on everyone and making sure everything looked alright.
While he didn’t think many people were as kind as they said they were going to be after lockdown, he encouraged them to be.
“I’m always a great one for people helping themselves,” he said. “Then keep a look out for others.”
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