Many of us want to do our bit for the community and Good Neighbour Aotearoa Trust has devised a phenomenally-successful way for Tauranga locals to give back and help transform other people’s lives.
In five short years the organisation has amassed an army of 400+ volunteers who now rescue food that would otherwise have gone to waste, carry out backyard projects and deliver firewood to those in need, and carefully cultivate community gardens to help people grow their own fruit and vegetables.
“It’s community-led development,” explains Good Neighbour’s Food Impact Director, John Paine. “We do a lot of listening to what the community wants before doing anything. It’s about the community developing itself, not us developing the community.
“We give opportunities to people with busy lifestyles who want to give back. It’s about people doing a little bit – that might be volunteering for an hour or two a week, or getting stuck into a half day project here and there. I think it’s successful because it’s do-able.”
What started out in 2011 as a small group of friends who wanted to make positive changes to local neighbourhoods, has now grown in to a substantial organisation. Good Neighbour has four main arms – Neighbourhood Projects, Food Rescue, Community Kitchen and Community Gardens.
The Food Rescue service now diverts over 8 tonnes of food from landfill every week by collecting unused items from local supermarkets, restaurants and cafes and redistributing them to 55 charities and social support agencies.
Meanwhile, the garden and projects team completed 139 community volunteer events last year, delivered 104 tonnes of firewood to local families, and have established 174 garden plots across the city since 2014 – many of which are in local schools where children are learning about gardening and nutrition as a result.
“It’s crazy how far we’ve grown,” John says. “There’s clearly a need. With Tauranga growing so fast it needed some soul. As a city we’re developing and maturing and developing more of a heart. Good Neighbour is helping to facilitate the heart and soul of Tauranga.”
In recognition of their amazing efforts, Good Neighbour won the Trust Power Community Award 2014, were finalists in the National Sustainable Business Awards in 2015 and runners up in the Community Impact section in 2016. They were also semi-finalists in the Kiwibank Community of the Year Award 2017.
Good Neighbour Kitchen
An exciting new development for 2019 will be the launch of Good Neighbour’s own commercial kitchen which is currently under construction. Donated food and produce will be transformed into soups, stocks and meals to help raise funds for the organisation, while a culinary arts and soft skills training programme will run alongside.
“We want to use social enterprise as a vehicle to address issues of food waste, hunger and issues of employment,” John says. “We want to mentor people into productive work and this kitchen has been a long-held dream of ours.”
Seven staff are now employed either full or part-time to run Good Neighbour and co-ordinate all of the projects and volunteers involved. Other running costs include the lease of their Burrows St premise, rates, insurance, power, health and safety, promotional fees, communications and data collection systems.
“Just running Food Rescue alone is $200,000 a year,” John says. “Our total operating cost is now $400,000 a year and growing.”
BayTrust has always supported Good Neighbour’s initiatives and has just approved a new multi-year operational funding grant worth $35,000 per annum for three years.
“We are incredibly grateful. BayTrust provides cornerstone funding for us and we value our partnership with them. They’re committed to supporting us with operating funds which is wonderful as they’re the hardest thing to get. This funding will enable us to run and keep this operation going.”
John expects Good Neighbour’s swift growth to continue and says a strategic plan to guide their future direction is currently being developed.
“What are we going to look like in future? Watch this space. We’re learning… we don’t have all the answers, we just know we’re tapping into something that’s bigger than ourselves.”