Vandals attacked Pukekura Park's new playground only hours before its official opening yesterday.
Council officials were horrified to discover that plastic covering a climbing feature called the New Zealand Wave had been set on fire during the night, damaging ropes and fittings.
About 150 people gathered at the play area yesterday morning to test out the new equipment despite the mindless vandalism.
The event opened with a blessing from Trent Martin, of the Ngati Te Whiti hapu, who urged all of the children present to hug a piece of equipment in the playground for one minute.
He told the children to think a happy thought while doing that to offset the negative act that had occurred.
"Who better than you children to replace that negativity with your innocent minds," he said.
In her first day as deputy mayor, Heather Dodunski revealed the new plaque, which marked the playground's opening.
Ms Dodunski spoke about how angry she felt about the "stupid" vandalism. She said all of the hard work that had gone into the new area should not be overshadowed by the senseless act.
Ms Dombroski said she had fond memories of when she was younger, playing at the park's playground with her grandparents and sister: "This really is a playground for the generations."
Three-year-old Joel Stobbie was ecstatic to test out the new water-feature after months anticipating the opening.
"He's been watching the progress all winter," Joel's mother, Rebecca Stobbie said.
Ms Stobbie, who said the playground would be a popular spot for her family this summer, said her son was aware of the arson attack that had taken place.
"He asked me if the police were going to put them in jail," she said.
"It's really sad. I just can't get my head around who would vandalise a kid's playground."
New Plymouth District Council parks manager Mark Bruhn hoped the equipment would be repaired within five weeks.
Mr Bruhn was unsure of the costs to repair the structure at this stage or where the money would come from.
"Until we work out costs we wouldn't be able to ascertain the funding source," he said.
"It needs to undergo a full assessment and be checked for any structural damage."
He said it was dependent on how many segments of rope would need to be replaced and some parts would be sourced from Europe.
The playground's revamp had been underway since June and has cost a total of $560,000.
Tara Shaskey is a Witt journalism student.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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