News | 20 February 2024
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Two upgraded play areas ready to push play in the city

Wellington City Council is pleased to announce the opening of two upgraded play areas in Pōneke next week – the exciting new playspace at Frank Kitts Park, and the refreshed site at Botanic Garden ki Paekākā.

Refurbished cupola dome with seagull on top placed on iconic slide in Frank Kitts Playground site.
Refurbished cupola dome placed on top of new lighthouse slide in Frank Kitts Park play area.

Mana whenua - Taranaki Whānui ki te Upoko o te Ika has gifted the Frank Kitts Park new playspace the name Te Aro Mahana, translated as warm front. The name acknowledges the site’s enduring connection to Te Aro Pā by remembering the warmth and sense of belonging for Taranaki iwi to ancestral land.


Te Aro Mahana includes an exciting new addition of a playground feature, the Whetuu Maarama waka. The waka and site opening will be celebrated at an official dawn blessing on Thursday 29 February.  


There will also be a karakia and official opening of the Botanic Garden ki Paekākā play area on Friday 1 March, followed by a weekend of whānau-friendly fun and activities. 


The return of these two play spaces will be celebrated all weekend with entertainment and activities, plus a day of play in the city on Te Rā o Ngā Tamariki - Childrens' Day on Sunday 3 March. Whānau are encouraged to try out one of the new play areas in the morning, then take a free cable car ride for tamariki to experience the other one after lunch.


Mayor Tory Whanau says she's delighted that locals and visitors to Pōneke can once again enjoy these important and accessible community spaces.


"We're committed to providing areas in Pōneke where our tamariki can engage in safe, fun and exciting play, and these two amazing new play areas really deliver those. I want to thank the community for their patience during the construction periods, and I can't wait to see these spaces full of kids of all ages enjoying the spaces once again."


After entertaining Wellingtonians and visitors for many years, the playground at Frank Kitts Park was originally scheduled to be redeveloped into a destination playspace in 2016. After delays due to several factors including liquidation of the original contractor, rising inflation and other cost pressures, the project was restarted in 2023 with a more modest design.


The new Te Aro Mahana playspace has been designed as a series of interconnected play areas within a maritime and coastal landscape theme. The area includes a brand-new safer lighthouse with the refurbished original cupola dome, a series of climbing nets and swing sets, and a shaded seating area. The new interactive waka that lies at the heart of the rejuvenated space is named Whetuu Maarama which means Bright Star. Its creator Matthew McIntyre-Wilson (Taranaki, Ngā Māhanga, and Titahi) says it's more than just a playground feature. 


"Whetuu Maarama is a living, breathing entity that holds and imparts knowledge. It represents the continuation of our voyaging heritage, a physical and symbolic link to our tūpuna. It is a reminder of the importance of waka in our history – not just as vessels of transport, but as keepers of stories, technology, and traditions."


After 22 years of service, the play area at Botanic Garden ki Paekākā was due for a well-deserved upgrade, so in 2022 Council engaged with the local community to seek ideas and feedback on potential new designs. Construction on the final design began in October 2023. 


The new play area includes a modern dual flying fox, a large climbable tower, three long slides and an all-ages swing set. Synthetic safety surfacing has been installed on the more accessible equipment, which includes a transferable carousel, talk tubes, musical panels, and a sensory play module.


Councillor Ben McNulty, a member of the Youth Council, says feedback and drawings from local schools and whānau inspired the new look play area in the gardens.


“Children wanted to be challenged and have more space to play, so we introduced a double flying fox and more slides. People also liked the design that incorporated gardens within the play area, and theme of bees and the flora they pollinate. We have added a number of accessible items including sensory play, inclusive swing seat, basket seat, and communication boards.”


Council Play Spaces Specialist Matthew Beres says these two new and improved playspaces are firmly grounded in play theory, and will enhance the development, health and well-being of our tamariki.


"They’ve been expertly designed to reflect their location, community, environment and our mana whenua partnership. It’s fantastic to have them back.”


The day of play in the city on Sunday 3 March is a chance to try out the new playspaces and also take part in a range of fun Childrens’ Day activities on the waterfront. The new playspace and waka at Frank Kitts Park will be joined by a bike obstacle course, soccer and basketball games, kayaking, plus food, music and special performances for kids.


The new playspace at Botanic Garden ki Paekākā will have giant bubbles and chalk art, plus free cable car rides all day for tamariki aged 5-15. Once you've worked up an appetite, take advantage of 2-for-1 kids pizza at the Cable Car Eatery or a free kids menu item with the purchase of a main menu item at Picnic Cafe.


Both play areas will be blessed and officially opened by Mayor Tory Whanau (Frank Kitts Park) and Councillor Ben McNulty (Botanic Garden ki Paekākā) and mana whenua representatives before the big opening weekend.