City: Auckland

Local Board: Kaipātiki

Playground Safari visit: January 2017

When we visited this playground with our four year olds in January 2017 I was excited to check it out, because it was a fenced playground I hadn’t known about until a Kiwi Play Safe follower told me that it existed. However, I was little disappointed when we got there and discovered that it was one of those playgrounds where only the area immediately around the play equipment is fenced:

I can appreciate that other members of the community also use the Reserve to walk their dogs (and probably not much else – it’s a small space), but it seems a bit miserly when so little fenced space is given: it forces the kids to just use the equipment, providing them with little opportunity to explore other opportunities to play (as per my kids balancing on the pergola and climbing the rocks at Rewi Valley Reserve). However, the fence is very sturdy, with one gate that swings shut and latches, and a second gate that has to be pushed shut.

Although this playground looked good at first glance, my kids and I rapidly realised that it’s designed for school-aged children. They did their best with the equipment that they could reach:

But there was plenty of equipment that was too high for them, or just not friendly for little hands and feet:

Given that there are a huge number of playgrounds for younger children that remain unfenced, it’s difficult to understand why a decision was made to fence this one, given that it’s obviously aimed at kids who would be far less likely to impulsively bolt into traffic. It’s important to remember that this is an older style playground, so the fencing decision will almost certainly date back to when North Shore City Council was the local authority (in other words, Kaipātiki Local Board will have inherited this playground).

Before too long my kids got bored, and wanted to play on the real MVP of this Reserve: the amazing pohutukawa tree tantalisingly waiting just outside of the fenced area:

And that’s the biggest frustration with this playground: that tree – and other trees nearby – should have been included in the fenced space. They would have provided much-needed shade on the playground, and they would have given children a nature-based play option. I’m no expert at locating playgrounds appropriately, but wouldn’t you think that this spot between two big trees might have been a good place?

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The problem caused by the lack of shade is amplified because of the extensive use of metal platforms, which must get very hot by midday onwards during the warmer months (and which definitely date this playground – you wouldn’t see this extensive use of metal in a more modern playground, thank goodness):

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Other issues with this playground include a lack of rubbish tins anywhere on the Reserve, and the meagre seating provided for caregivers:

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The verdict: Windy Ridge Reserve is a lovely spot for a playground, but the one that has been provided is pitched primarily at older children, without much variety to keep siblings of varied ages occupied. The lack of shade is a shame (and would stop me visiting later in the day), but the missed opportunity to incorporate the natural environment is the biggest regret here.