Combining forces for play project

Forming a plan...Looking at ideas to improve play opportunities at the playground on the corner of Hamilton and Oxford streets in East Gore.. . . Kaitiaki Roopu members (clockwise from left) Gore District Council Parks and Recreation manager Keith McRobie, Grace Church Pastor Sam Duthie, Gore District Youth Council co-ordinator Mark McCann, Active Southland play lead Megan Dawson, East Gore School Principal Wendy Kitto and Active Southlandcommunity school connector Cheyenne Ballantine. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

The Neighbourhood Play System project in East Gore is well under way.

The only community-led project of its kind in the South Island aims to improve play opportunities for all age groups and abilities.

After community consultation last year, a kaitiaki roopu was created to co-ordinate the project. The kaitiaki roopu comprises East Gore School principal Wendy Kitto, Grace Church pastor Sam Duthie, Active Southland staff Shan Jensen-Loach and Cheyenne Ballantine and Gore District Council parks and recreation manager as the core members.

There is an opportunity for others who are interested to join the group.

Ms Ballantine said from the consultation in 2021, four themes became obvious.

These themes of safety, amenities, quality of equipment and accessibility were guiding the planning stages.

Recently the roopu visited the Hamilton St and Oxford St playgrounds, looking at what needs improving and getting community input on the proposed improvements.

Planned improvements include fruit tree planting: heritage apples from the Gore Garden Club and plums and pears from the council.

Other improvements will include the installation of wheelchair and buggy-friendly gravel pathways through the two playgrounds, brightening up the spaces with murals, creating safer crossings between the two parks and the installation of a concrete half-size basketball court.

Ms Kitto said she was impressed with the way the different groups were working together.

“It’s wonderful to be in partnership with the council, community members and Active Southland to enhance these green spaces in East Gore and create an environment that encourages play for all ages and abilities.”

Mr Duthie said it was exciting to see what could be achieved when the community worked together.

“We have some big dreams and ideas to make the green spaces in East Gore more enjoyable for all.

“Even if we can achieve some of the ideas that have come from the community’s input, that will be a win for East Gore.”

Mr McRobie said the community had a “blank canvas” to work with to improve play opportunities.

“The options are quite open.”

Other improvements that could happen later in the year include additional pieces of modern playground equipment for the different age groups, he said.

The next steps for the kaitiaki roopu are to gather funding and resources to start to implement the opportunities that the East Gore community have identified.

Consultation will continue to occur with the community, residents and tamariki of East Gore School to ensure the roopu is creating an environment of which East Gore will be proud.