Our play­grounds ‘a win­ner’

Hamilton Press - - FRONT PAGE - KEL­LEY TANTAU AND LAWRENCE GULLERY

Could Hamil­ton city have the best play­grounds in New Zealand?

Af­ter spend­ing mil­lions of dol­lars on seven Des­ti­na­tion Play­grounds with eight more to come, the ex­pec­ta­tion is that our city should have su­pe­rior lo­ca­tions for fam­i­lies to en­joy com­pared to Auck­land, Welling­ton and Christchurch.

De­sign­ing and de­vel­op­ing play­grounds is be­com­ing big busi- ness for coun­cils look­ing out­side the square to cre­ate unique spaces to en­gage the pub­lic.

Former Hamil­ton mayor Julie Har­daker and Hamil­ton West coun­cil­lor An­gela O’Leary be­lieve the mil­lions in­vested has put the city ahead of its larger coun­ter­parts. It’s also added to the city’s tourism pull.

Des­ti­na­tion Play­grounds dif­fer from tra­di­tional play­grounds in that they of­fer cre­ative equip­ment de­signed to be fun and chal­leng­ing.

Hamil­ton City Coun­cil spent about $6.5m on the three most re­cent Des­ti­na­tion Play­grounds, in­clud­ing Do­min­ion Park ($1.1m - $250,000 ex­ter­nally funded), Hamil­ton Gar­dens ($1m, en­tirely ex­ter­nally funded) and Minogue Park play­ground ($380,000, $100,000 ex­ter­nally funded).

The new fa­cil­i­ties fall un­der Hamil­ton’s Play­grounds of the Fu­ture Plan, which won a New Zealand Recre­ation As­so­ci­a­tion Award in 2015.

With a des­ig­nated and com­mit- ted plan, Hamil­ton looks to be lead­ing the way when it comes to in­ven­tive play equip­ment.

O’Leary said it puts the city on a fast track to suc­cess.

‘‘Surely we are lead­ing the coun­try,’’ she said.

‘‘We are a young city with lots of fam­i­lies. It’s just a win­ner and it’s a tan­gi­ble thing; ratepay­ers can see ex­actly what they’re get­ting.’’

For O’Leary, the new­est Des­ti­na­tion Play­ground in the Hamil­ton Gar­dens is her favourite.

The mil­lion-dol­lar play­ground has a giant earth­worm tunnel slide, bird houses and the Jade Dragon The­atre, a colour­ful stage for chil­dren to per­form on.

‘‘It’s re­ally im­por­tant for a city to be suc­cess­ful and of­fer free ac­tiv­i­ties for fam­i­lies,’’ O’Leary said.

‘‘The next step is the adult play­grounds.’’

The play­ground plan was de­vel­oped un­der the ba­ton of former mayor Julie Har­daker.

HAMIL­TON: Ni­cole Webb, 7, was one of the first to test the new Des­ti­na­tion Play­ground at Hamil­ton Gar­dens which opened in De­cem­ber. It fea­tures a gar­den theme and the Jade Dragon The­atre as its cen­tepiece.

PHOTO: TOM LEE/FAIR­FAX NZ AUCK­LAND: The play­ground at Parrs Park, Ora­tia, was opened in 2014. It fea­tures a high tower and a giant birds nest as well as sand and wa­ter play.

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