Multimillion-dollar Margaret Mahy playground open for fun in Christchurch
There were spontaneous screams of delight from children as the multimillion-dollar Margaret Mahy playground was officially opened.
Hundreds of colourful balloons were released into the sky as Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee formally opened the playground at 11.30am. The playground was due to open to the public at 1pm, but the fences were taken down before midday.
The opening ceremony included live music, clowns and performers wearing stilts and lunch was provided for the invited guests, mostly children who had participated in the playground's design and a colouring competition.
Developing the large block – between the Avon River, and Manchester, Madras and Armagh streets – cost $20 million. This included earthworks, landscaping for the entire block - of which the playground takes up about one-third - and the installation of the playground's equipment. The playground itself cost $3m.
The portion of the block which contains the playground cost $19.6m to buy. The site used to be home to Centennial Pool, the ACC building, Charles Luney House, the Bohemian Bar and Community Health Clinic. Another $1.3m was spent on demolition.
A few teary-eyed adults could be seen in the crowd as beaming children descended on the playground.
Some members of the public were turned away at the gates and told to come back an hour later.
Brownlee said the playground would provide a central location for families over the summer months.
The idea to develop the area came out of the Christchurch City Council's Share an Idea campaign after the earthquakes.
"When we took on the task of rebuilding the city we agreed that a place to play and relax in the centre of the city would be of huge value to families.
"Today we can say we have achieved that goal."
Brownlee said Christchurch would be a modern and busy city and said the playground would be a unique aspect of it.
Ellen Tutt, Maeve Montgomery-McCarty and Phoebe Hunt, all aged nine, said the playground was "amazing".
The flying fox, climbing wall and slides were their favourite parts, the friends said.
"I want to come here a lot," Ellen said.
Seven-year-old Ash described the park as "really cool".
"It's so big and has everything."
Christchurch Central Development Unit development director Rob Kerr said construction staff applied the finishing touches to the playground on Monday night.
The park is made up of four distinct zones – the peninsula zone, forest zone, wetlands zone and plains zone.
Kerr's favourite features included the wetlands area, the Story Arc featuring tales from Margaret Mahy, Elsie Locke and Ngai Tahu and an intricately tiled Ngā Whāriki Manaaki (welcome mat).
Staff from the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) had a quick test run of the playground on Tuesday morning and the double flying fox, slides and seesaws proved popular among them.
Construction workers seemed to prefer the wetland area and various spinning objects.
Three 10 metre-high towers with swing bridges and tunnels were yet to arrive from Germany. They would be installed after the summer school holidays, Kerr said.
As for security, Kerr said the park would be brightly-lit at night to deter criminal or antisocial activity and CCTV cameras were in place.
The cost of buying and clearing the land was separate and these figures were not immediately available.