Cost-cutting puts city playgrounds in peril

22:03, Aug 12 2014
Riley Bennett
PLAYTIME: Invercargill boy Riley Bennett, 3, plays with mum Tania at the Newbie St playground, which could be ditched by the Invercargill City Council.

Nearly a third of Invercargill's playgrounds could be ditched by the Invercargill City Council in an effort to cut maintenance costs.

A plan to disestablish 25 playgrounds, build two new ones and upgrade several others in Invercargill and Bluff over the next 20 years was discussed by the Invercargill City Council infrastructure and services committee this week.

While 25 playgrounds were earmarked for removal, the aim was to still provide a playground within 500 metres of every urban house in Invercargill and Bluff, the playground strategy says.

The move, which could save the council $39,800 a year, comes after it spent thousands of dollars in 2010 on plans to market the city as a child-friendly centre.

However, Paul Wilson, of Xyst, the company commissioned by the council to put together the playground strategy, said the council could still retain its family-friendly status but it needed to balance that against the cost of maintaining so many plagrounds.

At 7.9 playgrounds per 1000 children, Invercargill has a higher rate of playgrounds than the national average, Wilson said.


However, the proposal has left a sour taste in the mouths of some.

One of the playgrounds marked for removal is the Sir Joseph Ward Reserve playground in Bluff.

Bluff Community Board chairman Raymond Fife said its removal as it would mean the nearest playground would be Slaney St, more than 1km away.

Access to the Slaney St Reserve from the Sir Joseph Ward Reserve was difficult for people walking with prams as the terrain was rough and hilly, he said.

The board had asked that the Sir Joseph Ward playground be upgraded with more equipment during the last annual plan process, he said.

"We are very concerned on this," he said.

One of the playgrounds to be disestablished in Invercargill is in Newbie St.

Invercargill mother Tania Bennett, who lives in the area with her two children, said it was a shame the council was considering removing playgrounds.

"It's a bit sad really, a lot of people over this side of town don't have cars, and it's hard to keep them [children] entertained at home," she said.

Play equipment from parks to be disestablished could be moved to existing playgrounds, and land kept as green spaces, the strategy says.

New playgrounds included in the plan are in Esk St at the RSA bowling green, in line with the CBD upgrade, and in Dumbarton Place, to be completed by 2020.

Playgrounds that could be disestablished:

Arun Cres
Baxter St
Brown St
Conway Cres
Derwent Cres
Elizabeth Park East
Elizabeth St
Iona Playground
JG Ward (Sir Joseph Ward)
Reserve (Bluff)
John St Reserve (Otatara)
Matua Rd Reserve (Bushy Point)
Newbie St
Newfield Park
O'Byrne St
Ottrey St
Racecourse Rd
Rockdale Rd
Talbot St Reserve
Tanner St
Town belt - Otepuni Gardens
Town belt - Otakaro Park
Tweed St
Waiau CresWaihopai Bridge Reserve
Wicklow St

Proposed new playgrounds:

Dumbarton Pl
RSA Bowling Green (Esk St)

Two new playgrounds cost estimate: $392,000

Reduction of playgrounds will result in savings on maintenance and renewal costs of $39,800 a year

The Southland Times