Although this write-up is late, we did manage a Playground Safari on Waitangi Day! The weather in Auckland was absolutely stunning, and so hot that we couldn’t even contemplate a trip to the beach until later in the afternoon, so a quick scoot around a couple of playgrounds was a nice little diversion before the day got too hot. We decided to check out two playgrounds that were new to our kids.

Hobsonville Point Park

Local Board: Upper Harbour

Playground list: Auckland Playgrounds of Concern

Although I’ve strolled past this playground before – I’m a big fan of the Hobsonville Point development from a Urban Planning perspective – I hadn’t taken a close look. The parents’ reports on Auckland Playgrounds of Concern list suggested that it was a fun playground, as long as your children we’re inclined to run or hide. My children certainly loved the look of it: it really seemed to excite them in a way that many of our local playgrounds (with their repeated modular equipment) don’t really do. It has amazing sculptural elements, of which this was the highest and therefore most exciting for my two would-be Spider Children:

There are also some smaller sculptures that small children can climb over and into, also with a ‘seed pod’ kind of theme, as well as more mainstream play equipment for both younger children:

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…and older children:

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There were also a few swings, which is always good news:

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My twins particularly enjoyed this wobbly bridge – the kind of thing that really makes them feel like competent ‘big kids’ at the moment:

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They also liked the boardwalk/play border that ran throughout the playground – perfect for balancing upon and scampering along. And

I was, once again, chastised by my son for failing to pack his and his sister’s scooters: as other kids in the park demonstrated, the paths that lace through the park are deliberately scooter-friendly:

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So, from a children’s perspective, this was a fun place to play. However, from a parent’s perspective, I absolutely agree with the complaints I’ve heard regarding the way in which the lavish planting – while creating a beautiful, naturalistic play environment – makes it incredibly difficult to keep an eye on your kids without shadowing them. And although the surrounding roads were not particularly busy at 10am on Waitangi Day, they were a very short run from the playground, as shown here by the proximity of the parked cars to the right of the following photo – those cars are parked on the road:

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On the positive side, there is no open water anywhere nearby, and dogs are also not an issue, owing to this excellent local rule:

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And although I continue to acknowledge that shade is beyond the remit I’ve set for Kiwi Play Safe, I have to say again how frustrating it is to see a playground sited in a way that totally fails to take advantage of existing tree shade. There is no shade over the playground – not even a shade sail – and it would be intolerably hot on a summer afternoon. But twenty metres away there’s a lovely double row of mature trees:

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It’s such a shame that the playground wasn’t built a bit closer to them! Observe also the picnic table, also in full sun.

Apparently there’s access to public toilets a short walk away, down the path you can see in the photo above, and then behind the community hall (but we made use of the potty in our car boot when one of our kids needed a quick wee).

The verdict: The developers of Hobsonville Point have designed a really lovely playground, but it would be lovelier still if a fence enclosed it – then, parents really would be able to give their children free rein to play in the bushes, hide in the sculpture, and create their own games without parental bodyguards on their tails.

Wainoni Park

Local Board: Upper Harbour

Playground list: Auckland Playgrounds of Concern

We headed straight from Hobsonville Point Park to Wainoni Park in nearby Greenhithe, and the contrast between shiny new Hobsonville Point and this park was fairly obvious…

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However, the kids had a fun 20 minutes running around. The slide was a particular favourite:

While it’s great that the main body of the slide is covered by a shade sail, several parents have identified problems with the shade not extending over the whole thing, and I agree with them – at 11am the bottom of the slide was very hot, causing my kids to scramble off very quickly. And why are so many slides metal? It’s pretty much asking for trouble.

My kids were very happy when the splash pad started (I’m not sure how this works – presumably it’s on a timer?):

Only one of the jets of water was operating – which may have been deliberate, or because of a technical malfunction – and this kept the amount of water modest. Parents have talked about the splash pad creating a hazard when the drains get blocked with leaves and debris and aren’t cleared often enough, causing water to pool. I can see their point, but I think you would have to be constantly, actively supervising any young children around a water feature like this. It’s definitely a time where ‘helicopter parenting’ is required!

The general environment features lots of fruit trees, which is a lovely thing to see in a playground. However, as always, the trees don’t provide any shade on the play equipment:

But there are reasonably shady places to sit, which makes a nice change. And another nice touch is the inclusion of the old tractor, which my kids loved clambering over:

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As far as hazards go, the car park is very close to the playground and within easy toddling distance, and the playing field, where people exercise their dogs, is also right next to the play equipment:

The verdict: A fairly basic, old-school playground that probably won’t warrant a return trip from us – and the unfenced proximity to the car park and playing field, and the splash pad, would certainly make parents of littlies keep a close eye on them.