A massive $5.5 million playground planned for New Plymouth, one of the largest in the southern hemisphere

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

Dubbed Destination Play, the Kāwaroa Playground facility is designed to be a “regional destination,” with construction slated to begin early next year.

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

Additionally, the proposed playground is 35% larger than the 16,343m2 Margaret Mahy Playground in Christchurch, which was considered the largest playground south of the equator when it was built in 2018.

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The playground will feature 12 themed areas and will include steps to the Kawaroa Reef, providing access to hundreds of square meters of rock pools.

The playground will significantly transform Kāwaroa Park's foreshore into a regional destination.

Provided / Stuff

The playground will significantly transform Kāwaroa Park’s foreshore into a regional destination.

The project is run by the Taranaki Charitable Foundation, in partnership with New Plymouth District Council who are managing the construction and Ngāti Te Whiti, who have mana whenua on the land.

Taranaki Foundation chief executive Josh Hickford said Destination Play was not a normal playground.

ANDY MACDONALD/Stuff

Taranaki Foundation chief executive Josh Hickford said Destination Play was not a normal playground.

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

The remaining 35% was raised through “public and philanthropic donations, sponsorships and other channels”.

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

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

Hickford said Destination Play was not a “standard off-the-shelf playground” and that every aspect of it had been thought through.

“When people think of playgrounds, they think of the under 10s (age group), but they’re designed for both adults and children to enjoy. That’s why it’s called Destination Play, because play means different things to different people, regardless of age or ability.’

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

Provided / Stuff

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

And a lot of work and consultation has gone into making sure people with disabilities or with accessibility issues can also enjoy the space, Hickford said.

“There is a Sensory Stimulation Zone, which has a reef that was created to give those who cannot descend to the reef the opportunity to experience what Kāwaroa Reef might be like through feel and touch. ”

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

Stories of the region, hapū and communities as well as New Plymouth’s culture, heritage and ecology will be woven into the layout.

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 honor this connection to the land through stories of Ngāti Te Whiti and Te Atiawa, Ngāti Te Whiti Hapu said President Julie Healey.

The space includes a path to the sea.

Provided / Stuff

The space includes a path to the sea.

“Destination Play will celebrate and bring to the fore elements of our rich Ngāti Te Whiti history. Through the use of inclusive storytelling, Destination Play will facilitate a deeper appreciation of whenua, moana and te taiao (the environment) for all generations within the wider Taranaki community.”

Taranaki Foundation President Bryce Barnett said the development would benefit generations to come.

Taranaki Foundation President Bryce Barnett said the development would benefit generations to come.

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

“The Taranaki Foundation is honored to be working on this visionary play space that will benefit all generations and generations to come, and we look forward to bringing everyone on this journey with us.”

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

Harold B. McConnell