Plans come out to play at old school

HANNAH FLEMING
Last updated 05:00 06/12/2012
tdbn okato stand
CAMERON BURNELL
Kaitake Community Board member Teresa Goodin and son Seb, 4, celebrate in the piece of land that will be turned into playground and skate park.

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Okato's mothballed primary school is finally showing signs of life, with promises of a new skatepark and playground being developed in the area.

The New Plymouth District Council bought a 0.4-hectare block from the Ministry of Education and took over the land from the Office of Treaty Settlements on Monday.

The council plans to begin work on the site late next year.

Kaitake Community Board member Teresa Goodin said it had first made a submission to the council for a playground in 2008.

"Apparently we're the only community of our size without a playground in Taranaki so it's long overdue really.

"We've been waiting for the land purchase to go through for at least 18 months now, so it's wonderful for the community."

Ms Goodin said the community board would now liaise with different groups to ensure everybody had the opportunity to have their say on the project.

"We're hoping to put together a package of the community's aspirations and visions for the space, and that will then go out for tender. We'll be talking with different groups like playcentre, the community trust and the school, about how the students and everybody else can be involved in the design."

Ms Goodin said the demographic in Okato had changed in the past five years, with many young families now living in the area.

An open space would not only benefit young children, but the elderly, and visitors passing through, she said.

"We want it to be an attractive place where people will want to stop and spend some time," she said.

"It also has the potential for us to hold markets, or performances or art symposiums and there's also plans to perhaps have a community orchard."

NPDC parks manager Mark Bruhn said the council was thrilled to provide Okato with a big community space.

"By purchasing this part of the land, we've been able to secure a public reserve in the centre of town for the enjoyment of future generations," he said.

Okato School closed in 2004 and was land-banked with the Office of Treaty Settlements for use in future Treaty of Waitangi settlements.

In 2010, an Okato community group lobbied to turn the abandoned building into a community centre. However, it was eventually decided it should work with iwi to ensure the school was returned to tangata whenua.

Two buildings will be moved off the school site in the new year to make way for the project.

The rest of the buildings will remain.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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