However, no matter how it’s used on a day-to-day basis when it comes to crime prevention, community safety and emergency support, its full potential for all members becomes clear.
Members can arrange a community crime watch meeting to encourage people to get to know each other face to face and when they see suspicious activity or safety issues in their community, they can report it to neighbours through the websites. For more serious or urgent issues, an alert can be sent via text to those who have registered their numbers.
Urgent alerts can also be used during emergencies and while Neighbourly is too young to have seen the Christchurch earthquake in 2011, last year’s Kaikoura earthquake saw its services become a vital part of how some of those affected got through.
Eden says when the quake hit, many took advantage of the urgent alerts to offer up different forms of assistance as well as places to stay for those forced out of their homes.
“It’s just one of those times where the support network is just down your street,” he says.
“The authorities will get to you, but if you’re someone who’s been mildly affected, chances are you’re going to have to rely on those around you.”
In the aftermath of the main event, Neighbourly was also one of the channels used by first responders and councils to distribute information.
Helping to raise Neighbourly's profile is Fairfax, which bought a 22.5 percent stake in the site just months after its launch and since increased that to 70 percent. For Neighbourly, it means advertising in front of Fairfax's New Zealand-wide audience and for Fairfax, it means another distribution channel for its journalists.
Eden says when it comes to online platforms for community news, there aren't many ways for it to get out there and Neighbourly’s online communities provide an audience. There are also areas of Neighbourly that don’t require a membership to visit and those sections are a home to content from Fairfax’s community newspapers, like the death notices, which Eden says are important but don’t otherwise have a home outside of the paper.
But possibly more important for journalists, is the ability to create content by using Neighbourly as a source of news. Eden says journalists are able to see issues being discussed in their region and hear people’s thoughts with a poll, a survey or by asking for feedback.
“The beautiful thing with Neighbourly is you can really isolate those to specific areas of interest,” Eden says.
“You can actually say: ‘People in St Heliers, what do you think about this?’”
And when the story is published, it can be shared on Neighbourly to get further feedback and follow-up stories, creating a cycle.
Looking into the future, Eden would like to see all those conversations between communities and journalists be used to create some change.
“I think sometimes the journalist’s role should actually be to not to just broadcast stories but to facilitate change,” he says, adding that Neighbourly is the perfect platform to bring people together, with already 238 neighbourhoods having over 500 members.