Editorial: Grounds for vigilance

Last updated 05:00 14/08/2014

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OPINION: It's no small matter that the Invercargill City Council is wondering whether to strip the equipment from 25 playgrounds.

More important still is the question of whether, in some cases, to sell the reserve land they're on. And that's also something the council is going to be looking into. The two issues, though they intertwine a bit, should not be confused.

A report from consultants Xyst proposes to disestablish nearly one third of the playgrounds in Invercargill and Bluff, potentially saving close to $40,000 a year. Some of the displaced gear could then go to other playgrounds.

Invercargill has more council playgrounds than the national average. Though we should never confuse the average with the ideal, there may be a case for removing some playgrounds to focus resources, and improve the quality of the rest.

And happily, this is not a proposal that needs to be accepted or rejected in its entirety. Some communities will fight - successfully, we expect - to retain the play equipment. Bestirrings in Bluff on behalf of the playground on the Sir Joseph Ward reserve do seem reasonable.

With so many of the targeted playgrounds, the big thing, however, is that the areas remain as grassed, and enjoyable, reserve land. So even if swings, seesaws and other equipment are gone, there's still an area for youthful adventure with bats and balls, kites and frisbees, scrag-and-tag games and even - heaven forfend - a climbable tree or two.

Council types attest we have more reserve land than any local authority in New Zealand. Let's all keep a lookout for a separate report, due before the council within the next month or two, raising the question of disposing of at least some of the reserve land itself, perhaps for residential development.

That would be a big deal. It won't be a decision decided in a spasm because any intentions to close playgrounds would need to pass through the scrutiny of the long-term planning process and it's an even more arduous and lengthy matter to turn designated reserve land into something else. But it has been done, as in the case of the former Waterstone reserve out the eastern end of Layard St.

So let's see what the councillors propose and then be ready to make submissions.

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- The Southland Times

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