Ms Rain explains Dr Puddle’s play

Damien Puddle has been a key member of the New Zealand parkour scene for many years. He was...
Damien Puddle has been a key member of the New Zealand parkour scene for many years. He was employed by Invercargill City Council to help create an improved play strategy. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
A new Invercargill play strategy continues to receive pushback from pockets of the council not convinced about its required spend.

In January, local play advocate Damien Puddle gave a presentation to elected members on the importance of play and answered questions about what he hoped to achieve in his new role.

Supported by funding from Sport New Zealand, the position hoped to unlock new forms of recreation across the city beyond playgrounds and traditional organised sports.

On Tuesday, council parks and recreation manager Caroline Rain gave a follow-up paper which explained public engagement for the strategy would begin this month.

At January’s meeting, some councillors expressed surprise at the need for a dedicated play advocate.

On Tuesday, Cr Grant Dermody had another go, alleging $300,000 had been invested in the role over two years in what was "a complete waste of taxpayers’ money".

"If we invested that money in a cycling strategy, we’d get a whole lot more benefit for our community," he said.

Cr Ria Bond also voted against receiving Tuesday’s report, saying she shared similar concerns to Cr Dermody.

Not everyone shared the pair’s views, however.

Mana whenua representative Evelyn Cook said witnessing a man doing hopscotch on the footpath reminded her of what play once looked like.

"I thought, ‘that’s what play strategy actually enables to happen’ ... you actually unexpectedly come across an opportunity and revisit something from your childhood.

"You don’t always have to have big structures and things like that to engage in play."

Ms Rain said the council had been working to develop relationships with groups and organisations around Invercargill to uncover aspirations for play.

Public engagement — running from June to July — would help confirm the scope for the strategy, she said.

Crs Dermody and Bond were the only councillors to vote against receiving the paper.

Dr Puddle completed his PhD in parkour at the University of Waikato in 2019.

Before taking the role in Invercargill last September he held a similar position at the Hamilton City Council, where he said he successfully embedded play into strategic plans and policies.

 *An Invercargill City Council spokesperson has clarified Sport New Zealand’s funding for the work and role is $170,000, not $300,000. It is not funded by the council.

 - LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.