City: Auckland

Local Board: Upper Harbour

Playground Safari visit: February 2017

We visited this playground with our four year olds after being told that it was a fun place to go, as long as your younger children weren’t the type 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 both for  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 younger children feel like competent ‘big kids’ as they navigate them:

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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 chastised by my son for failing to pack his and his sister’s scooters: as other kids in the playground demonstrated, the paths that lace through the space 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 agreed with the complaints I’d 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 the Waitangi Day that we visited, 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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But once again the biggest issue was a lack of shade. It is so 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 some kind of barrier helped to keep younger children away from the nearby road – 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. And shade would be a great addition!