Welcome to Kiwi Play Safe, the 2018 version! As you can read about in the revised ‘About’ section, Kiwi Play Safe has recently expanded to discuss issues related to both playground fencing and playground shade, and will be jointly run by Jacquelyn Collins and Maria Foy.

When Jacquelyn started Kiwi Play Safe she wanted to focus primarily on the need for more fenced playgrounds. However, Maria’s work to raise awareness of the lack of shade at New Zealand’s playgrounds has shown that this is a hugely important issue.  Recent research by Otago University confirmed that Wellington playgrounds are dangerously short of sun protection – and if this is the situation in Wellington, how much worse is the problem in even sunnier parts of the country?

Maria has written about why this is such an important issue. And it’s not a case of simply expecting parents to put sunscreen and hats on their kids – after all, most of us do this already. The issue is that many playgrounds in our towns and cities are completely unshaded. Councils write about the value of designing playgrounds that take advantage of the natural shade provided by trees, but when they actually install new playgrounds they consistently fail to locate play equipment anywhere close to trees – instead, playgrounds are totally unprotected from the sun. The Hobsonville Point playground is a good example of this, as is the playground at Windy Ridge on Auckland’s North Shore. We appreciate that playgrounds are costly to install and maintain, but what’s the point of spending money on a great playground if the equipment is too hot to use half the time? Failing to budget for shade is such a false economy.

Fenced playgrounds are still really important, and are hugely valuable community assets for all sorts of families, so we will keep pushing for every New Zealand town and city to have at least one good fenced playground (and, ideally, we’d like to see one in every suburb of our larger cities). However, shade is a universal playground issue: many children grow out of the need to play in a fenced space, but no children grow out of the need to avoid skin cancer.

So Kiwi Play Safe now has an expanded remit. Instead of ‘Safer play spaces for little Kiwis’, we will campaign for ‘Better playgrounds for Kiwi kids’.

We need councils to start listening to Kiwi parents, rather than assuming that they know what we want in the playgrounds paid for by our rates and taxes. Parents take advantage of opportunities to provide their feedback when councils call for it through consultation documents, but it’s difficult to make headway when those consultation documents reveal such a strong bias against the features that parents actually value (as we discussed when writing about Auckland’s draft play strategy in 2017). We need to find other ways to get our voices heard. Here’s what we intend to do:

1 Playground survey

In the next few weeks we will launch a short survey that will identify what matters to parents who use playgrounds with their kids, so we can demonstrate that we speak for Kiwi parents. We hope you will complete the survey, share it on Facebook, and encourage your parent friends to take part as well. We know that few councils actually conduct this kind of research to understand their residents’ needs, so we hope our survey findings will better inform playground design choices in the future. Councils claim that parents won’t want playgrounds with less equipment to allow for the cost of providing things like shade and fencing, so we want to investigate whether this really is the case.

2 Research and blog posts

We will keep writing about fencing and shade in playgrounds, to explore how councils address these issues at the moment, and to better understand the current barriers they perceive. The more we understand the problems, the more likely we are to contribute to the solutions. We’ll also research how other countries have addresses these issues. We believe that evidence-based proposals to councils and other organisations have a greater chance of success, particularly if the evidence is underpinned by the data we generate from our playground survey.

3 Playground lists

We will continue to maintain our list of Fenced Playgrounds and Partially Fenced Playgrounds (which will combine into one page). We’ll also build a national list of playgrounds with good shade, whether it’s from shade sails or from trees. We will need your help to build and maintain these lists, so please let us know of any great playgrounds you think we should include.

4 More voices

We want to increase the number of Kiwi parents talking about this issue, so we will be approaching parents in the public eye and encouraging them to speak out as well. All parents know the importance of good playgrounds, and we need to join together.

We also want to encourage relevant organisations, such as Plunket and Cancer Society NZ, to support our work. We know they have our families’ best interests at heart, so we hope they’ll agree that it’s important to provide Kiwi kids with playgrounds that are fit for purpose.

We are happy to talk to the press about playground fencing and shade issues, so if you represent a media organisation and would like to learn more about our work please get in touch via our Facebook page or through the Contact function on this website.

Recent research has shown that the New Zealand Government talks very little about the importance of play. We think this needs to change, so we will look for ways to engage with politicians and encourage them to consider how best to support councils in addressing the quality of play facilities around the country.

Join us! You can do your part by sharing the Kiwi Play Safe Facebook page, encouraging your parent friends to like and follow it, and taking opportunities to campaign at a local level. And if you haven’t already done so, please sign Maria’s petition for adequate shade at our playgrounds.