Playground to honour two of Christchurch's most popular literary figures

An artist's impression of the Margaret Mahy Playground.

An artist's impression of the Margaret Mahy Playground.

A multimillion-dollar playground named after New Zealand's most acclaimed children's writer will now also pay homage to her friend and fellow wordsmith.

Work on the Margaret Mahy Family Playground is under way and expected to be completed by the Christmas holidays. 

The section of land earmarked for the playground was already home to a park named in honour of author, feminist and activist Elsie Locke. When plans for the playground were announced, Locke's family was concerned her legacy might be lost.

Author, feminist and activist Elsie Locke, pictured with her son, former Green MP Keith Locke, died in 2001.
David Alexander

Author, feminist and activist Elsie Locke, pictured with her son, former Green MP Keith Locke, died in 2001.

On Sunday, Associate Earthquake Recovery Minister Nicky Wagner said a key feature of the playground would be a "story arc", featuring elements from Mahy's and Locke's stories, and Ngai Tahu narratives and imagery, in the form of a 130 metre-long, 1.2m-wide pathway.

Locke's daughter, Alison Locke, had met the playground designers and Cera several times since plans were first unveiled and had voiced her concerns.

"The playground designer came up with the idea of a story arc," she said.

"We helped them find the wording for it."

The cherry trees that grew in Elsie Locke Park would also be dug out and replanted in the new playground, she said.

The park will be framed by Manchester, Armagh, and Madras streets, and will form part of the Avon River Precinct. 

Alice Mahy was pleased the park would pay tribute to her grandmother's friend.

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"It's fantastic. She's a wonderful writer and it's great that they're acknowledging such a well known part of Christchurch's history."

A group of Selwyn House School pupils won the design competition for the playground after a flood of submissions from the public.

Contracts for construction of the playground and park have been awarded to City Care and JFC Limited.

It will also feature a four-metre wide slide, a double flying fox, water features, and interactive equipment which "highlights the natural qualities of the Canterbury Plains and Port Hills", Wagner said.

The park site is now being prepared, ready for the playground installation in September. Remediation work to remove hazardous materials from the site has been completed.

"This exciting new playground will not only bring children into the central city, it will be a space for the whole family with picnic areas as well as food and beverage outlets," Wagner said.

Landscape architect and Chester St East Residents' Association member Di Lucas said there had been strong public opinion the park should pay tribute to Locke in some way.

She was pleased with progress, and said it seemed as if members of the public had been listened to in the design.

"I'd been pushing for the water features, because its spring-fed land. It's great to see."

 - Stuff

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