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September 28, 2023

Tweed Council encourages connection to combat conflict

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Tweed Shire Council is encouraging residents to get to know their neighbours as part of a new campaign aimed at tackling a rising number of neighbourhood disputes across the Tweed.

Co-designed with Tweed residents and Council’s Environmental Health Team, the Know your Neighbour Program was created in response to an increasing number of neighbourhood conflicts, particularly relating to noise complaints.

Geoffrey Colwill and Carmen Myler have been neighbours near Uki for 12 years, purchasing a lawn mower to share not long after moving in next door to each other. Image: Tweed Council

Figures show complaints have been steadily rising in recent years, from approximately 148 noise complaints registered with Council in 2018 to 200 in 2022. This is in contrast to other typical neighbourhood-related complaints such as odour, light, illegal dumping and noisy animals which although still high at around 800 complaints per year, have remained relatively stable during this period.

Formerly known as Let’s Chat, the newly-refreshed program is designed to encourage residents to get to know those who live next door or nearby, as a way of opening up communication before conflict occurs.

Council Environmental Health Officer Elleni Stewart said a key aspect of the program was educating people on the process of making a complaint against a neighbour – but with a focus on what avenues are available before an issue is escalated.

‘Research tells us that people feel safer if they know people in their neighbourhood – and that getting to know your neighbours early on, through just a simple hello, can really reduce the potential for any conflict,’ Ms Stewart said.

‘That is why we wanted this newer version of the program to be more about conflict resolution and open communication.

‘Often, after people have been officially reported to Council, they will say things like: “I honestly had no idea this was a problem, I wish we had known sooner”.

‘So a focus on understanding different people and communication styles is vital, as is knowing what resources are available if you are ever in a situation where you have an issue with a neighbour.

The updated program includes a new Know Your Neighbour information pack, a guide for anyone with an issue in their neighbourhood who is not sure where to start. The booklet has tips on how to communicate with someone before an issue gets out of hand, encouraging them to take steps to resolve a problem before making an official complaint.

The booklet includes a set of Know your Neighbour mailbox cards which can be used to introduce yourself to a neighbour but also to request a neighbour to make contact with you, so you can discuss an issue of concern.

The booklet is now Council’s first port of call for people when they wish to report a complaint.

The program also aims to put the spotlight on neighbours across the Tweed to find out how they have connected and what getting to know your neighbours means for them.

Geoffrey Colwill and Carmen Myler have been neighbours near Uki for 12 years, purchasing a lawn mower to share not long after moving in next door to each other.

‘Knowing your neighbours means having people nearby you can rely on, even if just for a quick chat – and it makes our part of the world an even more special place to live,’ Geoffrey said.

‘I found that a simple way to make community is to ask for support – it’s a way to connect with people.’

Carmen agrees.

‘Ask for help if you need it and let people know it’s okay to say no if they can’t – and that you’ll do the same,’ she said.

Both are members of Resilient Uki, a community-led group whose focus is to ensure community bonds are strong – so that in times of emergency they can all support each other.

The group came about after the 2022 floods as a way of championing resilience, preparedness and community-led recovery.

‘We learned that communities that have good connectiveness recover better in many ways, including mentally. But it’s also important for any community no matter what is happening,’ Carmen said.

For more information about the Know Your Neighbour program, visit tweed.nsw.gov.au/neighbours.

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