Autumn Home Maintenance Checklist


Winter is coming.

Game of Thrones fans rejoice – this means the HBO show will soon be back on our screens.

But for everyone else, autumn just signals the beginning of grey, chilly days.

To distract yourself from the impending winter blues, we have compiled a to-do list of all the things to tackle around your home before a cold snap strikes.


1. Check your roof

Look out for any cracks, loose or missing shingles, rust – it’s better to spot these early to avoid any serious damage to your home. Call in an expert to give it the once-over and make any necessary repairs.

2. Clean your chimney

Who else just runs their wood-burner or fireplace mercilessly for a few months, forgets about it for the rest of the year, and then fires it up again next winter without a second thought? Well apparently we should be taking more care. Chimneys should be cleaned at least once a year to check for cracks, holes or faults and to remove soot, creosote, birds nests and other blockages. Book yours in for a check-up with a chimney sweep!

3. Check for draughts

Blocking draughts is a cheap and effective way to keep your home warm during winter. Check all doors and windows and install draught excluders or use draught “snakes”. You can make your own by stuffing rugby socks or tights with newspaper or cushion filling.

4. Clean up outside furniture and BBQs

Before you store them away or cover them up, it’s a good idea to give them a clean! I know it’s tempting just to shove a cover over them and think you’ll deal with it next summer, but you’ll thank me when you’re not trying to scrape off year-old grease during that first warm weekend.

5. Clean out and repair gutters

Clean out your gutters to remove, leaves and other gunk that ends up there and make sure they’re not sagging or trapping water. If they look like they’re in need of repair – get it done early before winter hits!

6. Trim trees and remove dead branches

Do you have any trees on your property with branches that look like they’re on their last legs? Get an expert in to remove them ahead of nasty weather so those branches don’t end up doing any damage. Trim back trees or bushes so that nothing is touching the house.

7. Check your smoke alarms

While you’re at it, test and change the batteries in your smoke alarms.

Confessions of a bad neighbour



I have a confession to make: I am a bad neighbour.

I don’t pop round to welcome new neighbours or chat with old ones over the back fence. I’ve never invited someone on my street over for a cuppa or dropped round with extra fruit and veggies from the garden.

Each year when Neighbours Day, an annual campaign to bring neighbours together, rolls around I vow to change my ways.

People up and down New Zealand will celebrate the day with displays of neighbourliness on March 19 and 20 and Australian neighbours will say g’day as they celebrate Neighbour Day* on March 27. *the ‘s’ lost its way across the ditch.

I don’t think I’m alone in the “bad neighbour” stakes.

When I lived in an apartment block I, like most other people, would avoid eye contact with fellow apartment-dwellers in the lift. In the two years I lived in one building I never actually saw the people who lived next door to me.

To be honest, the most interaction my flatmates and I had with the people we were living within metres of was when the fire alarm would inevitably go off every month or so. Trudging downstairs in our pyjamas out onto the street in the middle of the night could have been a good bonding experience, but we were all far too annoyed and half-asleep for any of that carry-on.

So I feel a bit of a fraud encouraging others to “love thy neighbour” this Neighbours Day.

But here are a few ideas to spark up a bit of old-fashioned neighbourliness:

  • Swap contact details in case you need each other in an emergency
  • Invite your neighbour over for a cuppa
  • Share extra garden produce
  • Bake or make something to gift to neighbours
  • Start or join a neighbourhood support group
  • Host a neighbourhood picnic/barbecue/get-together
  • Share resources like tools, books, toys and sports gear
  • Start a community project to improve your neighbourhood
  • Organise regular neighbourhood catch-ups

Just making the effort to say hello can make a big difference, Neighbours Day Aotearoa project manager Ashlee Gross says.

“The important thing is that you get out and say hi to your neighbours, whether that means meeting them for the first time or getting to know them better,” Gross says.

“Feedback from previous Neighbours Day events has shown us that once people take the initial step, they are likely to continue connecting with their neighbours.”

Ninety percent of people who took part last year reported knowing their neighbours better as a result of participating. While 67 per cent said they now feel safer where they live.

So maybe this year I’ll actually make the effort.

But if you’re anything like me and aren’t the most proactive in the organising department, then you don’t have to miss out on taking part in the neighbourly festivities…

Here’s our pick of the public events happening across New Zealand this weekend and next. Check out the full list here.



Auckland CBD Neighbours Day

Saturday, March 19 2016

11am – 4pm

Freyberg Place and Ellen Melville Hall, Auckland CBD

Live music, free sausage sizzle and sweet treats, art classes, movies, youth and kids zones.

Kayes Rd Community Neighbours Day

Friday, March 18 2016

4pm – 7pm

Kayes Rd Community Garden, 80 Kayes Rd, Pukekohe, Auckland

Hangi display, bouncy castle, gardening workshops, sports activities, face painting.

Halal Hangi and Community Potluck

Sunday, April 3 2016

2pm – 6pm

Three Kings Reserve, Auckland

Bring a blanket and a dish to share, your family and enjoy an afternoon at the base of the beautiful Maunga.


Neighbours Day Picnic

Saturday, March 19 2016

11am – 2pm

Raymond St Park, Fairview Downs, Hamilton

BYO food, utensils, something to sit on and a drink (family-friendly so please no alcohol). With games such as Twister available and a few small giveaways. All welcome.


Community Garden Opening

Saturday, March 19 2016

11am – 12pm

Corner Wycliffe St and Morris Spence Ave, Onekawa, Napier

Opening of the garden for the community and planting fruit trees to get it started. Celebrate Neighbours Day with a BBQ and catch up.


Ascot Park Neighbours Day

Saturday, March 19 2016

11am – 2pm

Ascot Park Sports Ground Conclusion St, Porirua

Prizes, food, fun, activity. With local groups, schools and celebs there on the day. Something for all so come down with the family and meet your neighbours.

Neighbours Day Community Concert

Saturday, March 19 2016

2pm – 7pm

Cherry Tree Park/Senior Citizens Hall, Lyon St

Bring a blanket to sit on and your boggie shoes. If it rains the concert will be shifted inside the Senior Citizen’s Hall. Fundraising BBQ to support youth groups. All types of music so there is something for everyone.

International Cultural Gathering

Sunday, March 20 2016

10am – 2.30pm

Kapiti Community Centre, 15 Ngahina St, Paraparaumu

This day is about celebrating cultural diversity in our community and what better way than a massive shared lunch. Free yoga session in the morning, kids arts activities, story-telling, henna tattoos, cooking demonstrations and performances. Entry is a traditional dish to share and traditional dress is encouraged.


Community Breakfast

Sunday, March 20 2016

9am – 11am

Burrell Park, Muritai St, Tahunanui, Nelson

Tahunanui Community Centre invites you to join them for a BBQ breakfast in Burrell Park. Bring the kids, a mug and a neighbour. All welcome.


Inaugural Brighton Buddies Meeting

Sunday, March 20 2016

3pm – 4pm

Boardroom, corner of Beresford and Union Streets, New Brighton, Christchurch

Some local community members shared their concerned about isolated and alone people in the Greater Brighton Community. Suggestions from buddying, working bees and support. All welcome to the first meeting to grow stronger, connected Greater Brighton neighbourhoods.

Hoon Hay Neighbourhood Picnic

Saturday, March 19 2016


90 Hoon Hay Rd, Hoon Hay, Christchurch

Organised by the newly formed Hoon Hay Residents Association. There will be entertainment and your chance to find out about the formation of the association and keep connected with your community. Bring your friends and neighbours.

Pot Luck Garden Dinner – Diamond Harbour School

Saturday, March 19 2016


Diamond Harbour School, 13 Hunters Rd, Diamond Harbour, Christchurch

Bring along a dish to share, and the students of the school will provide a few salads, baking for afters, along with tea and coffee. In the school vegetable garden or te kete if the weather is bad. Please donate a gold coin or a time bank credit to the school for the running of the Garden to Table Programme.


Are you doing anything to celebrate Neighbours Day? What do you think of the initiative?

Share your thoughts in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.

Burglary: Tips to protect your home

It’s a horrible feeling. Getting home and realising something’s amiss. “I’m sure I didn’t leave that stuff out all over the counter…” “Hang on where’s the laptop?!”

And then it dawns on you: you’ve been burgled.

Your home ransacked. Precious family keepsakes, jewellery passed down from relatives, photos – all snatched by thoughtless thieves.

Burglary by numbers

You can now see the number of burglaries committed in your neighbourhood in a new interactive map, created by the NZ Herald using data released by the New Zealand Police for the first time.

It’s sobering viewing.

Part of Auckland’s Takanini South holds the title of the most burgled residential neighbourhood in New Zealand. Residents there have to make sure they lock up the whole house just to nip to the loo – because burglars will rush in and grab stuff in seconds.

Learning the hard way…

As someone who’s been burgled twice, in two different areas, I know how angry these people must be feeling.

One thing I’ve learned the hard way is not to keep precious mementos, such as cards from loved ones or newborn hospital wristbands, in jewellery boxes or anything that a burglar is likely to make a beeline for. These things are worthless to a thief but they’re not going to waste time removing them.

And print out your photos or save them in a dropbox. It may sound like an obvious one but I’m willing to bet a lot of people have snaps sitting on a laptop or phone that aren’t saved anywhere else. We lost hundreds of photos because we had left them on our laptops and SD cards that burglars proceeded to pinch.

It maddens me that I should even have to consider where I’m keeping things in my own home just in case someone decides to help themselves to my stuff but I’d rather be cautious than go through that all over again.

You can replace possessions but not your family and pets.

Our dog was home the second time we were burgled – we found him in the corner of the living room afterwards and it’s taken him a long time to get over it. I hate to think what happened to him but am so glad he was still there when we got home.

As upset as we were to lose precious family photos and jewellery, the relief that our dog was ok, did put it all in perspective. You can replace most possessions but not your family and pets.

The NZ Police offers this advice for keeping your home safe:

How to protect your home

  • Always lock up. Burglars often enter through unlocked doors and windows or they take advantage of weak locks.
  • Install good quality locks and use them. Check that you will be able to escape easily in a fire or other emergency.
  • Use a reputable locksmith.
  • Lock the front door if you’re in the back garden.
  • Lock your house if you are having a rest or doing something that needs a lot of concentration, such as studying or sewing.
  • Lock away tools and ladders because burglars could use them to break in.
  • Lock garden sheds and your garage if you can.
  • Sensor lights are an excellent security device because they light up automatically if somebody moves nearby.
  • Keep trees and shrubs trimmed so they don’t provide hiding places for burglars.
  • Keep windows secure.
  • Guard your keys. Don’t have personal details on your keys (such as your name, phone number or address). Don’t leave house keys with your car keys when your car is being serviced.
  • Don’t invite burglars in – never leave notes on a door stating that you are out.
  • When you go away, make sure your home looks ‘lived in’.

Home security checklists

Before you go out:

  • all doors locked
  • garage locked
  • all windows shut securely
  • tools and ladders put away securely
  • spare keys with neighbour (not ‘hidden’)
  • doors clear (no notes on them).

Before you go away:

  • tell your neighbour when and where you’re going
  • cancel mail, paper etc
  • give your neighbour a contact phone number
  • put a lamp on a timer
  • curtains open, blinds up
  • turn telephone ringer sound down
  • lock all doors, close all windows.

Ask your neighbour to:

  • clear your letterbox
  • close your curtains at night
  • use your clothesline occasionally
  • watch your home
  • use your driveway occasionally
  • report any suspicious behaviour.

Identify and mark your valuables

When claiming insurance you must be able to prove you owned any stolen items claimed for. Keep receipts, warranties, valuations and a list of serial numbers in a safe place. Take photographs or videos of jewellery, art works and other precious things. Portable items of high value are the most likely things to be stolen.

Burglars are unlikely to steal items that are permanently marked because they’re hard to sell. Engrave valuable items with your driver licence number, car registration number or phone number.

If you have engraved your valuable property or recorded the serial numbers of items, Neighbourhood Support can provide you with a warning sticker to put on a window. The sticker will discourage most criminals from taking your property because they know there is a greater risk of getting caught or traced if they handle and attempt to sell identifiable goods.

Operation SNAP

Anyone is able to record serial numbers and other unique identifying details of their valuable goods in an electronic database. For more information and to register your goods visit the Operation SNAP website.

Choosing an alarm

Alarms are only a back-up for locks, labels and lists. An alarm system can detect a burglar in action, but it can’t always keep the burglar out.

If you are considering an alarm, ask friends or colleagues to recommend a reliable company. When a security person arrives to inspect your property, ask to see their current Security Technician or Security Consultant Licence or Certificate of Approval. If they don’t have a licence, send them away. The law says they must be licensed.

Get detailed quotes and plans from several reputable alarm companies. Make sure your written contract contains a full service agreement. It must also contain normal warranties for equipment and service.

Don’t be pressured into buying something in a rush, or let a company ‘hard sell’ you an alarm system.

Chasing cheap rent: Pains, trains and automobiles

Sick of paying through the nose to rent a dank, cramped house in a prime location? How about bunking down for the night in a makeshift camper van or catching some Zs on a train?

Tried out house-sitting for size? Pondering property guardianship?

These are a few of the solutions some people have found to solve their housing woes and save some cash.

With Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland now among the top five least affordable housing markets in the world, it’s little wonder “Generation Rent” is having to be more creative with its choice of digs.

But are these alternatives really all they’re cracked up to be?

And hey, if all else fails, there’s always the less innovative option of moving back in with your folks or in-laws – like this blogger…

Creative housing options: The pros and cons

Carry on camper-vanning

A software engineer in San Francisco took the equivalent of three months’ rent and bought a 1969 VW camper van with “a hole in the floor and a family of spiders” to live in after seeing how crazily expensive it was to rent in the area. She blogs about her experience doing up the van and living in it.


  1. You can live as close as possible to your work/wherever you want to be.
  2. You can (probably should) change which view you wake up to on a regular basis.


  1. You have to find somewhere to store your valuables in case of a break-in.
  2. Get used to brushing your teeth on the side of the road.
  3. You’ll probably need to either have access to a shower at work or a gym/pool membership.
  4. Maintenance/renovations if your van needs work.


House-sitting is a great option for anyone looking to save on rent – whether you’re saving for a deposit on your first home or planning to travel. Renting and saving can be a tough old slog. House-sitting opportunities come up by word-of-mouth or through an agency and can last anywhere from a few weeks to a year. Bear in mind that house-sitting often includes pet-sitting too. A couple who have been house-sitting around the world for years share some of their tips here.


  1. Live rent free often without having to fork out for power, water and internet bills.
  2. Get the chance to live in some amazing properties you couldn’t afford to rent.
  3. Pet-sitting – great for animal-lovers who haven’t been able to own pets while renting.


  1. Potentially lots of moving about if they are short-term.
  2. Having to store or sell off most of your possessions and travel light.
  3. Added responsibility of taking care of pets and maintaining someone else’s house and garden.
  4. You can’t really head off on spontaneous trips away.

Your carriage awaits

This German student gave up her apartment to live on a train. Leonie Müller has a subscription which allows her to board every train in the country, where she washes her hair in the train bathroom travelling at speeds of up to 300 kmh. [Note: before you throw caution to the wind and make a run for the station – she does also crash at friends’ and family’s places.] You can read more on her bilingual blog.


  1. Apparently this arrangement has worked wonders for her long-distance relationship.
  2. The scenery? (… I’m struggling with pros on this one.)


  1. You have to carry your stuff with you wherever you go.
  2. Anyone who commutes daily knows how annoying fellow passengers can be. Imagine living with them.
  3. Washing your hair in a train bathroom.

Property guardianship

Property Guardian schemes have been a popular option for years for people looking for affordable accommodation in the UK and Europe . I haven’t heard so much of this in New Zealand and Australia though.
It’s a win-win for all involved. A person gets incredibly cheap rent to occupy some form of abandoned building – it could be a hospital, office block, theatre, swimming pool, mansion – you name it. This allows the building owner to avoid having to hire security or install CCTV to prevent damage or squatters.
property guardianship


  1. Ridiculously cheap rent.
  2. You can end up living in some really cool places.


  1. The arrangement is temporary and guardians can be turfed out with only a few weeks’ notice.
  2. Buildings are mostly unfurnished and not always exactly homely.
  3. The Shining anyone?

Are you a seasoned house-sitter? Or have you got your own tips to avoiding extortionate rents? What do you think of these alternative ways of living?

Share your thoughts in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.