Recently I have shared a few Auckland-related playground updates on my Facebook page, so I wanted to redress the balance and write a blog post about something happening elsewhere in New Zealand. I’m so happy to write this one, both because it’s great news, and because it’s about my lovely home town, Feilding.
If you don’t know Feilding, it’s in the Manawatu (20 minutes’ drive from Palmerston North), and is home to around 14,000 people. Like most Kiwi towns, it’s got a few decent playgrounds, but nothing that is securely fenced. As this newspaper article describes, a local mother of three (and Kiwi Play Safe follower) Nikki Speedy decided to raise the issue with Manawatu District Council, and ask for a safer place for families with young children.
Nikki has three-year-old twins and a baby, so life is busy! I asked her what prompted her to approach the Council, and she replied:
“One of the main drivers of making the submission was I can’t go to playground in Feilding or the Manawatu on my own with our 3 children to play for longer than about 30 minutes as I am breastfeeding our baby. I want to be able to go to a park for half a day, let my girls play on whatever equipment they want to, instead of all of us moving from piece to piece as I’m so worried about a child taking off across a field or driveway to a pond or river or road. Then when our son needs feeding it’s loading everyone up in the car and home instead of me being able to sit down and feed him properly while watching the girls play – I think it’s a simple request!!”
Nikki organised a petition, and then made a submission in person. It sounds like appearing in front of the Council and arguing her case was quite a daunting experience, but it has been well worth it, as this Stuff article explains.
I asked the Manawatu District Council mayor, Helen Worboys, about the outcome, and she replied:
“Here’s an update of where we are at – rest assured fenced playground are on our agenda.
The Manawatu District Council have put fenced playgrounds into the mix for all of the parks and sportsgrounds projects in the 2018 Asset Management Plan. These are about to be discussed in detail this week at a Council workshop with staff.
The specific provisions that we have made in the AMP’s are:
* Kowhai Park – Provision of a new consolidated playground with a portion fenced for under 5’s.
* Makino Precinct – When the existing playground is upgraded, Council plans to make specific provision for under 5’s
* Sanson Hotel development – assuming this land sale goes thru Council proposes the new playground will be fenced.”
Helen clarified that the review of the Makino playground may also result in a fenced play space for younger children – so Feilding could end up with two fenced playgrounds, which is wonderful news for local parents and caregivers.
And when I commented to Helen that it’s wonderful to hear about a Council that is being proactive, and responding to residents’ requests, she replied:
“We try our best but in this case it is a no brainer in my view”.
I don’t want to cause any ‘mayor vs mayor’ showdowns, but I can’t help but compare Helen’s comments with the response offered by the Whangarei District Council mayor when she was asked about fencing a playground – as discussed in this blog post.
Nikki’s great campaigning efforts were supported by local councillor Hilary Humphrey. When I asked Hilary about it she said:
“As a mother of 4 myself I can totally relate to the supervision challenges highlighted by Nikki and the hundreds who signed the petition. It’s great to be part of a Council team that is committed to responding to the needs of our community and creating safe and exciting spaces for families.”
For Feilding residents who would like to further support the call for fenced playgrounds, keep an eye out for the formal consultation on the Long Term Plan, which will enable people to make submissions on topics of interest to them. I recommend following Manawatu District Council on Facebook, to stay in the loop.