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Say no to Bali, say YES to New Plymouth

Massive $5.5m playground planned for New Plymouth one of the biggest in Southern Hemisphere

Helen Harvey18:00, Jul 18 2022

The play area will significantly transform the foreshore at Kāwaroa Park into a regional destination.

A massive $5.5 million playground planned for New Plymouth’s foreshore will be one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere and cater for all ages, from grandparents to toddlers.

Dubbed Destination Play, the facility at the Kāwaroa play area is designed to be a “regional destination”, with construction scheduled to begin early next year.

Announced on Monday afternoon, the project will involve the realignment of the current parking area to enable greater use of the foreshore and when completed it will cover 22,000 m2, making it nine times the size of the playground it will replace.

Not only that, the proposed play area is 35% bigger than the 16,343 m2 Margaret Mahy playground in Christchurch, said to be the largest playground south of the equator when it was built in 2018.

The play area will feature 12 themed zones and include steps to the Kawaroa reef, giving access to hundreds of square metres of rock pools.

The project is being led by the philanthropic Taranaki Foundation, in partnership with New Plymouth District Council which is managing the construction and Ngāti Te Whiti, who have mana whenua over the land.

Taranaki Foundation chief executive Josh Hickford says Destination Play is not a normal playground.

Taranaki Foundation chief executive Josh Hickford said 65% of the cost of the project had already been secured, including $1m from the Toi Foundation, $400,000 from the New Zealand Community Trust, $600,00 from the council, and $700,000 from the Foundation itself, a contribution they planned to increase.

The remaining 35% was being raised through ‘’public and philanthropic donations, sponsorship and other channels.’’

Destination Play will replace an ageing but popular playground at Kāwaroa Park.

Hickford said Destination Play was not an ‘’off the shelf typical playground’’ and every aspect of it had been thought out.

“When people think of playgrounds they think under 10 (age group), but it’s designed so adults and kids alike can enjoy it. That’s why it’s called Destination Play because play means different things to different people regardless of age or capability.’’

The play space will include something for everyone from grandparents to toddlers.

And a lot of work and consultation had taken place to ensure people with disabilities or accessibility issues could also enjoy the space, Hickford said.

‘’There is a sensory stimulation area, which has a reef that was created to give those who can’t get down on the reef the opportunity to experience what the Kāwaroa reef might look like by feel and touch.’’

It will also include shared social spaces, seating, shelter and an outdoor classroom area, a maramataka feature highlighting the Māori lunar calendar, agility and fitness equipment and new changing rooms, toilets, and space for food trucks.

Woven into the layout will be stories of the area, hapū and communities as well as New Plymouth’s culture, heritage, ecology.

Kāwaroa Park is historically significant to the people of Ngāmotu/New Plymouth, being one of the first areas inhabited by Ngāti Te Whiti, and the development would honour that connection to the land through stories from Ngāti Te Whiti and Te Atiawa, Ngāti Te Whiti Hapu chair Julie Healey said.

The space includes a pathway to the sea.

Taranaki Foundation chair Bryce Barnett said the development would benefit people for generations to come.

Taranaki Foundation chair Bryce Barnett said Destination Play at Kāwaroa was an investment in “our story, culture, people and community”.

“The Taranaki Foundation are honoured to be working on this visionary play space that will benefit all generations and for generations to come, and we’re looking forward to bringing everyone on this journey with us.’’

Construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.

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