Many Kiwis are waving goodbye to their neighbours as they reach for a computer or phone to build communities of the online age.

Facebook groups and other online chat forums top a list of the communities considered most important in a new survey of New Zealanders.

But even these keyboard-tapping Kiwis were outnumbered by the 23 per cent who, when asked about the types of community groups that were most important in their daily lives, said none.

Thirteen per cent named online chat groups as their most important. A religious community was selected by 11 per cent; school or university community, 11 per cent; geographical local community, 9 per cent; hobby group, 8 per cent; and sports team or club, 7 per cent.


A charitable group, gym, retirement village, or LGBTQ communities were each nominated by 2 to 3 per cent as their most important.

A colourful variety of collectives - including skateboarding and performing arts communities, dog-owner groups and Pokemon Go buddies - fell into the "other" group, which accounted for 8 per cent of survey participants.

The survey by telco 2degrees of 2157 adults also found 82 per cent said they didn't know their neighbours as well as their parents knew theirs.

And 25 per cent said home was just where they lived; they had no desire to engage with their neighbours.

However, 22 per cent said they were involved in local groups and felt part of the community, and 43 per cent said they knew their neighbours and talked to people on the street and at the shops.

Rebecca Hunt, a 26-year-old project manager for a communications firm, said she had been a big user of social media communities.

Rebecca Hunt, 26, from Britain, says it can be scary meeting a group of people you don't know. Photo / Greg Bowker
Rebecca Hunt, 26, from Britain, says it can be scary meeting a group of people you don't know. Photo / Greg Bowker

"Since I became more settled here and in this job it's gone down," said Hunt, originally from Britain and who was in Australia before shifting to New Zealand nearly two years ago.

She had regularly used about six online chat groups, particularly those for backpackers and travellers.

She is still quite active on Boss Ladies NZ, a Facebook group for entrepreneurial women.

"Moving to another country, at the beginning that's how I met all my friends.

"Early on, I was really relying on them when I first got here.

"If you know how to find them and use them safely then they can be such a good resource," Hunt said.

She went to meet-ups and made a few friends.

"I started all enthusiastic. I didn't stick with that; it was an older target audience; it wasn't the traveller, young/mid-20s, it was for anybody maybe struggling to meet friends."

Nor had Hunt joined any sporting groups in New Zealand.

"When I first got here, I looked into it, I wanted to join a netball team but didn't stick with it.

"It's just so incredibly convenient [to connect with people online] and it's almost lazy because you can do it with pretty minimal effort, whereas a club, you've got to go.

"That's tragic but it's the truth for a lot of people.

"It takes away that level of being scared and on the other foot because you're behind your computer. When you have to go to a club full of people you don't know, that they are probably going to be a bit older, then that's a bit scary."

Professor Grant Schofield, head of the Human Potential Centre at Auckland University of Technology, said some of the findings appeared similar to an earlier survey he was involved in which had found that 75 per cent of New Zealanders did not feel close to people in their communities, which ranked us poorly compared with Europe.

Research evidence showed that people were better off if they had connections to their neighbours, Schofield said, but it wasn't necessarily a concern that the most important type of community in the new survey was online.

"Online means you can reach all sorts all over the world ... who knows what the baseline was anyway? Did everyone in the 1950s have a great neighbourhood? Don't know."

Former Waitākere mayor Sir Bob Harvey said he was worried by the new survey's finding on the predominance of online communities, but he also noted that they could be "a lifeline for many people".

He warned that the health of our physical communities, which was critically important, needed to be nurtured and he encouraged contact with neighbours.

"We're all part of a physical community which has a lot to offer, and it's our combined effort that keeps those communities healthy, happy, safe and enriching places to live."

"I'm urging people to take the risk and say 'Gidday'."