Latest update on this story – read the good news here
At the moment, the answer is nothing, however things may now be looking up again. We’ve been advocating for the playground to be upgraded for a while now. In March 2016, two of our members attended a “Have your say” session for the Henderson-Massey Local Board (HMLB) and one of the issues we brought up was the need for this playground to be upgraded. Following the meeting, we were delighted to hear from an Auckland Council staff member (by email) that “at this stage the planning phase for the playground extension has budget for 16/17 financial year with physical works in 17/18 financial year”. We were advised also that our contact details had been recorded for this project and that we would be kept informed as it progressed. The project was also included in the Our Auckland as a project with high priority. Here is the relevant page;
We were delighted to hear this and advised our local residents that the much needed playground upgrade would now be happening. Yippee! Sadly, somehow the project didn’t go ahead and in fact there was a complete U turn. We don’t know what happened as we received no communication on this and were very discouraged to find when we attended this year’s “Have your say” session on 21 March 2017 (held during a HMLB meeting) that there was no knowledge of the project or its status and it had disappeared from the list of supported proposals. Matt Grey, one of the members of the Henderson-Massey Local Board, voiced his support for the project and offered to follow up on it for us. He remembered using the park as a child.
Following the meeting, we contacted Matt who put us in touch with Auckland Council staff. We had a long email conversation with a staff member from Auckland Council about the lack of progress, particularly given that we had been told in writing that “budget” was available. Well, it seemed that there was now no budget and nothing could be done. It would be looked at in around 5 years time….
What to do? Well, our community really needs this playground. Take a look at the Google map below to see the playground. You probably wouldn’t be able to identify it if we hadn’t included the arrowheads.
Two swings and a slide… Nice that it has been maintained on a regular basis (apparently checked for condition rating every 2 years; last check 3 May 2015) but it’s actually shrunk in size over the years. One of our group members remembers taking her children to this park and swears that there were additional play items such as a roundabout. Another member who grew up in Riverpark Crescent remembers 3 swings, a large slide, seesaws, a roundabout, skate ramp and animals on springs! Now, there are only enough items for one family to play here and with some of the larger families we have, there certainly aren’t enough enough for them. Plus there is not even a single seat for a parent or caregiver to sit on. They have to sit on the side of the playground. It’s like the kind of playground some people have in their own backyards…
It is a beautiful park with large trees, plenty of grass and the Huruhuru Creek beside it. Our community deserves better. We successfully advocated for lighting for the park and footbridge over to Sunline Avenue (see the history and the result) and now it’s time to work on getting the playground upgrade project back on track.
So, we asked for advice from HMLB member Vanessa Neeson, who had previously supported us with this project. She arranged a meeting for us with Tracey Hodder, recently returned to Auckland Council from leave. Three of us attended the meeting with Tracey. Present at the meeting also were Linda Smith and Wendy Kjestra from Auckland Council and Vanessa Neeson (HMLB). We didn’t find out what happened to the budget previously assigned to the project but we did come out of the meeting cautiously optimistic. Tracey had researched the history of Riverpark Reserve and the playground and could confirm that it had been identified in the Open Spaces plan as being in need of investment. She was able to source photos and council records back to 1994 showing that the last “upgrade” was in 1997; 20 years ago.
The next step is that Tracey will prepare a Strategic Assessment Report for the playground upgrade and send it to the Henderson-Massey Local Board for consideration at their July/August 2017 meeting. The HMLB will discuss the Strategic Assessment Report and decide whether to endorse/approve it. If endorsed, the proposal will be sent back to the Community Facilities team of Auckland Council for costing/design with works to be scheduled sometime after that.
Since we started looking at the project again, we’ve had a few more ideas in regard to what we would like to see in the reserve. The footpath around the park is used frequently by walkers/runners and with the increased focus on exercise and health, we thought it might be good to have some exercise equipment installed adjacent to the playground. Parr’s Park and Ranui Domain both have equipment installed and we think that something similar would be beneficial. Ideally, it would be installed next to the playground so that parents could exercise while keeping an eye on their children.
We did a bit of a recce before our meeting with the council – see photos below of two of our members trying out the gear at Ranui Domain. The installations have full instructions included so it’s very easy to see what to do. We think these machines would also be used by teenagers and elderly people. We’re hoping that the council budget will stretch to include these but we’re also looking at alternative options for funding.
We’d love to hear your feedback!