Tuesday, May 28, 2024

NZ-first for Hamilton playground

New Zealand’s first fully accessible playground could soon find its home in Hamilton.

At a Community Committee meeting yesterday, Hamilton City Council agreed to partner with Magical Bridge Trust (NZ) to develop a universally accessible playground.

The Hamilton-based trust proposes to build “the world’s most accessible” playground.

Not only would it be a safe place to play for people of all physical capabilities, but it would also incorporate the needs of people with intellectual disabilities, people with autism, and sensory, visual, and hearing impairments.

Community Committee Chair Councillor, Mark Bunting said it was a chance for Hamilton to be bold and innovative in its inclusivity.

“The beauty of these designs is they truly consider all capabilities, including neurodivergent needs, intellectual disabilities, and sensory impairments,” he said.

“We know some families might avoid our traditional playgrounds if their children don’t feel comfortable playing there. But everyone should be empowered to play – this could be a rare and magnificent opportunity for the city.”

One in four New Zealanders lives with a disability, with more than 120,000 living in Waikato.

“These are among the most creative and accessible playground designs in the world and soon we could have one in Kirikiriroa Hamilton. This a chance for us to fly above the rest of the country – let’s do this,” Cr Bunting said.

The 11,000sqm proposed playground will have themed zones, including a slide zone, sensory zone, swing zone and spinning zone, along with hideaway huts, buddy benches, and gathering spots to play and relax. It will also have fully accessible amenities such as changing rooms, along with improved parking.

The design would also consider specific colours for pathways and zones, planting for sensory purposes, braille on signage and equipment, and user facilities such as shade and drinking fountains.

Funding for the project is budgeted to cost $3.5 – $4 million, with Council contributing up to $1.2 million from its renewal budget for the existing playground.

The Trust has committed to raising the rest through grants, sponsorships, and collaborative fundraising.

Once completed, the partnership between the Trust and Council will continue with Council establishing a repair and maintenance programme. Meanwhile, the Trust will manage and coordinate promotion, marketing, event management, and educational and entertainment activities.

Mayor Paula Southgate said the playground was an “absolutely fabulous concept”.

“Families with children who have accessibility issues will be counting the days until it’s built and we will be counting along with them,” she said.

Staff will report back to the Community Committee on location and construction timing, and Council would seek community feedback on its plans before continuing.

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