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Neighbourhood Disputes

Trouble with your neighbour?

Living with close neighbours is a fact of life if you live in a town.  We’ve all seen the awful TV shows displaying neighbourhood conflict that has got out of hand. 

Here at Cambridge Neighbourhood Support we encourage people to build neighbourhoods where people enjoy each other’s company and support one another.

However, just as in a family, sometimes there will be things you disagree on.  When this happens, it's worth communicating well to avoid things getting out of hand.  Your neighbour is likely to live near to you for a long time, so putting in some extra effort to have a good relationship is well worthwhile.

Maree Payne from Cambridge CAB says that the most common issues they hear about are:

·       Fence disputes

·       Overhanging trees

·       Trespass

·       Rubbish

·       Abandoned vehicles

·       Barking dogs


What can you do to avoid an issue escalating?

The best advice is to talk with your neighbour immediately, letting them know how the issue is affecting you and asking for action to resolve it.  If you know that this is something you can help with, offering that assistance can take the sting out of the conversation and help you to build a better relationship for the future.

Be careful not to inflame the situation.  Your neighbour may not behave well in response to having an issue raised.  That doesn't mean you have the right to behave badly.  Step back and let tempers cool before taking another reasonable approach.

If you don’t have the confidence to approach your neighbour, think about joining or starting a neighbourhood support group in your area.  A strong group that meets regularly can provide opportunities to discuss issues in a relaxed setting.  You may also be able to find a mediator in your group.

Think about how your own actions might appear to your neighbour.  To be safe, imagine that they are twice as sensitive as you are!  Proactive communication before any sudden change (loud noise, cutting trees, building works, extra visitors) can give you an opportunity to explain why you need to cause the potential nuisance.  People can be far more forgiving of something they don’t like if you have kept them informed along the way.

By far the best preventer of issue escalation is mutual respect, great communication and care for one another in your neighbourhood!

Who can help?

If you have spoken with your neighbour but still need help resolving an issue, there are places you can go for help.

The local Council may be able to assist with many issues including barking dogs, unreasonable noise, tree problems, and unreasonable amounts of rubbish on a neighbouring property.  Speak with your Council to find out what they can do.

If your neighbour is lighting fires and you are concerned Fire and Emergency New Zealand has a website where you can check the rules:

If you can't reach an agreement with your neighbours, an option may be to take your dispute to a Disputes Tribunal.  It is not expensive and there are no lawyers involved.

Make sure you have made notes and keep a record of all your interactions so you can back up your complaints if things escalate. Contact the NZ police non-emergency number 105 or your local council if things are still worrying you. They will keep a record of your complaint too. 

It’s great to resolve a dispute, but if you’ve had to resort to legal action or confrontation, your relationship with your neighbour will probably get worse. For this reason, any Court action should be a last resort.

Of course, if you're being abused or you fear for your safety, call 111, but if it's not an emergency, use the other options.

Some helpful source resources:

Good communication key for good neighbours, experts say |

Neighbourhood disputes - Consumer NZ

NZLS | Disputes between your neighbours (

Relationships are key!

Communities are made from neighbours. How we interact with them directly impacts the quality of our communities.

Joining a neighbourhood support group and old traditions of welcoming newcomers to a street with home baking and having annual street barbecues are some ways that we can form trusting bonds with the people who live around us. 

If there's a civil emergency or a big earthquake, you're going to need your neighbours first and foremost and if you're feuding it's going to make things difficult.

NZ Police's prevention manager for community focus inspector Brent Register says the best way of dealing with a problem neighbour is turn the other cheek.

"That's the best thing you can do, ignore it. If you can't, if it's loud noise or horrible language, first call would be to try and have a discussion with your neighbour. Try to have a chat."

However, if you have already communicated with your neighbour and you cannot agree, then there are steps that you can take and places to go for help. 


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