Margaret Mahy Family Playground

This is the story of how a city rises. Then slides down. Then has a bit of a swing and a run around…

A playground is always more than the equipment, the ground it’s on and the activities that take place upon this ground. It is a place to meet, to share, to strive and learn. There’s a good reason why these areas are called ‘community assets’.

The Margaret Mahy Park in Christchurch was undoubtedly the most exciting and challenging project we have worked on in recent years. As a major development post earthquake in the Garden City, it has also been one of the most important ones.

The origins of this work started back in 2013, when the ideas from over 6,000 Canterbury children were evaluated as part of a citywide initiative to design and build a world-leading urban playground in Christchurch. The winning entry was based on the stories of Margaret Mahy, an esteemed local author whose books have enraptured generations of Kiwi kids.

“We want to make this as accessible and fun for as many people as we possibly can.”

John Ombler, acting Chief Executive of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority

Thinking through

From the initial inspiration it was then a matter of ensuring the playground was practical, durable and usable for all ages.

“From a design perspective we were then very much involved, particularly with the product specification, planning and working out how to join the various surfaces in a seamless and durable manner,” says Numat Sales Manager James Rawnsley.

Planning out

Tina Dyer, owner of playground design and certification business Park Central, worked as a consultant on the design along with head designer Catherine Hamilton on the project.

“We first started working with Tina at Laketown Green, a community park that used Pour’n’Play,” says James.

“After the success of that project we worked with her on a number of a projects where the product has been used, and she was happy to see it used in Christchurch.”

From the perspective of customer communication a lot of back and forth occurred, and James and Numat General Manager Jacob Judd were on site every week from October through to December.

Putting down

With multiple colour patches and patterns, along with different angles, elevations and materials, adhering to the design brief through to the final pour meant ongoing site diligence.

“It was a huge team effort,” says Jacob. “Virtually every member of Numat was involved in some way or another, and we had a core crew of 22 working consistently on the playground.”

“From our team guys like Tony and Myles were in there making it happen, up to their elbows in everything,” says James.

Opening up

After all the hard work it was then a matter of stepping back and seeing it all in action. The playground had some capable testers for the surfacing and equipment, with The Press reporting that, “staff from the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) had a quick test run of the playground… the double flying fox, slides and seesaws proved popular among them. Construction workers seemed to prefer the wetland area and various spinning objects.”

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee and Elsie Mahy, Margaret Mahy’s granddaughter, led the grand opening.

“It was a fantastic day,” says James, ”The fanfare and excitement on the day was appropriate given the work that had gone into it (the playground). The clowns and performers really set the scene and reminded everyone as to why we were all there – to celebrate play in the central city.”

“When we took on the task of rebuilding the city we agreed that a place to play and relax in the centre of the city would be of huge value to families.”

Gerry Brownlee, Earthquake Recovery Minister

Looking back

Now everyone has managed to catch their breath the Numat team are proud of the results and excited with how the playground has become such a destination for locals and visitors alike.

“This is one of the most intricate pour’n’play projects in the world,” says James Rawnsley. “Nothing like this has ever been done in New Zealand.”

In regards to the size and scope of the centrepiece mound James says, “there is one in Sydney that I know of, but nothing like this.”

“We’re always confident of the work and product quality,” says Jacob. “But with such a multifaceted job like this you never know how everyone will respond once it’s completed.”

He needn’t have worried. Feedback from CERA executives Bruce Apperly and Peter Matthews was extremely positive on the day, as was the response from CityCare and other companies from within the joint venture.

“They’ve already had a number of enquiries as to the surfacing on the playground – which is great news for us,” says Jacob.

Moving forward

There’s still work to be done! Some questions from the opening concerned the lack of shade and this, along with additional seating and family areas, is being worked on as part of stage two in the development.

In this stage there are also twelve metre towers with tube slides and bridges going in. Matting around these will need to ensure maximum fall height protection.

“We are also in the process of extending the scuff pads to make them wheelchair accessible,” says James.

With this next stage of work underway now spring and summer in Christchurch look set to provide even more joy to young and old.

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