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Planning New Zealand's best PLAYGROUND for Takapuna

We love warm and fuzzy community news in Channel, and it doesn't come much better than this. A much-needed children's playground is looking like coming to fruition in Takapuna as the result of the tireless efforts and generosity of local grandparents Jackie Kerridge and Chris Reeve. Aidan Bennett had a chat to this can-do couple...

Jackie and Chris are locals who have lived on Takapuna Beach for nine years. Their place is well-known for having a playground in the back yard and a well-used swing hanging from their big tree and on to the sand of Takapuna Beach. The swing provides hours of pleasure for the community, so much so that a supportive local recently donated a new swing in gratitude for the hours of enjoyment his family has had.

Recently there has also been a notice on the fence gathering support for their desire to see a very special playground be built for the community on Gould Reserve, the main reserve between The Strand and the beach in Takapuna. They have collected dozens and dozens of letters of support over the past few weeks.
"We have seven grandchildren who are desperate for somewhere to play in Takapuna," says Jackie. "They love visiting our place but playing on the beach and our small playground only satisfies them for a short period. We have spent many hours taking them to other playgrounds around Auckland and it got us thinking about creating something special for Takapuna. There just isn't anything for children and families at the moment."
From that time Jackie and Chris have become experts on playgrounds. They have spent hours and hours researching the best spot for it in Takapuna and the best equipment to create what Jackie calls "an everybody playground". In fact, the day I visited their impressive home there were brochures, sketches and letters of support scattered throughout their lounge. They are leaving no stone unturned in getting this much-needed facility for Takapuna. Their goal is to have it built by next summer and they are prepared to put up to $100,000 of their own money into it to make it happen.
"My concept is to make this an all inclusive area for the community – for everybody," says Jackie. "An area that not only the kids will love. An area that caters for those with disabilities and also that the adults will get hours of enjoyment from as well. Fitness-type apparatus will also be included. Chris and I have spent hours at playgrounds all over the place to see what the kids love playing on. We have talked to the kids, we have talked to parents with disabled kids and we have seen first hand which are the most popular and most used features of these playgrounds. our aim is to use this research to create the best playground in the country right here in Takapuna."
Jackie says that she is not really a leader with these types of things and has gone right out of her comfort zone with this project. But she is determined to see it happen. They are setting up a charitable trust to raise the total funds required to complete the project. Jackie has attended community meetings, is engaging with different community and business groups, the police with regards security advice and is working with the Local Board and Council to see it come to fruition. And she has been thrilled with the positive response. It is her and Chris' intention to follow the project through to ensure it is built exactly as it should be and within the budget. This will include dealing with equipment suppliers, contractors and council representatives.
"This playground will be a real asset for Takapuna," adds Chris Reeve. It will be a destination playground that will bring people into the area who will spend money in the hospitality and shopping outlets. The site, on the southern end of Gould Reserve, is ideal. It is close to the shops, close to parking and close to the beach. It will work well with the much-publicised plan of linking the Hurstmere Road shopping area through to the beach. We are also conscious that it needs to fit in with the environment. So a lot of the equipment will be timber frames so it blends in with the surroundings."
It is so neat that Jackie and Chris are focussed on delivering this as a totally community driven project and are prepared to put all this effort and their own money into it to see it happen. Towards the end of May they were presenting the concept to the Local Board to seek their approval and support. We will keep you informed of their progress in future issues of Channel.

by Aidan Bennett