Updated: Jan 29
Hawke's Bay Today
For Napier Neighbourhood Support chairman Jason Wawatai and newly appointed co-ordinator Laura Jaritz the drive to expand is on, as is the drive to embrace technology to see the organisation step further forward.
It has been running for 33 years now and is highly regarded across the country's landscape of Neighbourhood Support groups. Both Wawatai and Jaritz want to see that maintained, and there are changes afoot in the wake of a sustainability review being carried out.
"The new committee which came in last year realised we needed to upgrade various areas to meet the more demanding expectations of the organisation," Wawatai said.
The review, undertaken by Greg Millard from Independent Human Resources, was wrapped up last November and outlined some areas which could be improved upon as well as outlining the many things which were doing well.
And a vital part of that upgrade approach was taking on Jaritz who is passionate about "connecting with people" and bringing communities together.
She is excited at plans to introduce a major new computer programme called GetsReady which evolved in the wake of the Christchurch earthquake.
“This programme can be used from a cellphone or iPad which allows people to enter their own data including resources they have in case or civil or natural disasters," Wawatai said.
"Currently we have to write all the details on paper then go back to the office and spend time entering all the data into the computer — one of the biggest jobs is validating all the contact people which is time consuming as sometimes the email address and phone numbers are invalid."
He said the programme, which they were seeking the $11,000 funding for, would allow them to free up their co-ordinator so they could become more visible in the community and visit more contact people.
Which is what Jaritz is keen to do, coming from a background of community-focused work and having obtained a degree in Peace and Conflict Studies.
"I like working at the grass roots of the community," she said, adding that building community resilience was vitally important, as was simply getting people together.
She said a major ingredient to the Neighbourhood Support approach was "everyone together — look out for each other" and not leaving it until a major emergency or incident to introduce oneself to a neighbour.
As with her previous role with Red Cross, she is passionate about working with "so many great volunteers out there" and said the devotion of so many in volunteer roles across the community was humbling.
The organisation relied heavily on them, and welcomed people who wanted to become involved.
Jaritz is keen to formulate street meetings as well as get the word out to many groups about what Neighbourhood Support involved.
She will also be working in closely with agencies like council, police, fire service and Civil Defence.
Wawatai said a new logo had been introduced by the national office with a shift in focus to "Creating Safe Resilient Communities and Connected Communities" — all part of what he said was the organisation's obligation to work with the agencies so that in times of natural disaster "we know who the people are in affected areas".
Since taking on his chairman's role two years ago, he has been working to bring the organisation into the age of technology.
"We have a website and are about to rejuvenate the Napier Neighbourhood Support Facebook page," Wawatai said.
"We will update this page hopefully on a daily basis to enable people to see what we are doing and also to impart information."
Jaritz said the growth of social media and online sites was hugely important, especially in terms of getting younger people involved.
Since last October they have been running a programme called 2 by 3 where the police provide information regarding areas which are hit by crime.
The co-ordinator has then gone to the area to speak to residents affected by an incident, and nearby neighbours, inviting them to form a Neighbourhood Support group if there wasn't one set up.
If there was a group in the area they would be put in contact with them.
"This has been very successful for us," Wawatai said.
Neighbourhood Support had also been involved in a recent initiative between the Napier City Council, Massey University and Civil Defence called Shake Out, to become fully aware of all potential issues if there was to be a mass evacuation up to Napier Hill in the wake of a seismic-driven tsunami threat.
Wawatai said his one ongoing concern was the organisation's "heavy reliance" on community and contestable funding to pay costs for staffing, resources and general running costs.
"In today's not for profit funding rounds there is no certainty so forward planning always has to take this into account.
"We are going to be looking at other avenues to source revenue including sponsorship so we can continue to provide what I believe is a valuable service to the Napier community."
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To learn more about how we create safer, more caring and connected streets, visit the Neighbourhood Support website here: neighbourhoodsupport.co.nz