Parents furious over plan to demolish prized playground

The Thomson Park fort-playground in North New Brighton has been popular with the area's young residents for decades.

But news of its impending demolition has angered local parents, many taking to social media to voice their concerns.

The playground is almost 50 years old, and recently failed a city council safety assessment. The report highlighted concerns about the deterioration of the largely wooden playground, and the structural integrity of its pieces.

Christchurch City Council officials decided against a "like-for-like" replacement keeping the fort style, instead releasing an image of the proposed new plastic-style play equipment.

Many locals are disappointed at the new design, saying it looks boring and generic, and would only suit little kids.

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Regular Thomson Park playground user Garry Alan brings his children all the way from Linwood just...
Regular Thomson Park playground user Garry Alan brings his children all the way from Linwood just to use the fort-playground. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Said Waitai Coastal-Burwood-Linwood Community Board member Alex Hewison: “This is disappointing news for New Brighton. I don’t think the community will accept this as like for like, due to the smaller size and lack of a tunnel.

"Elected members were made aware Thomson Park playground was unsafe and would be taken down. I advocated that this should be replaced like for like, and was assured in a public briefing on March 28 that the city council will endeavour to do this where possible."

Community board member Jo Zervos said their hands are tied. But she also felt it was disappointing for New Brighton.

"Ideally it would have been good to actually put it out to the public for consultation and see if anyone's interested in doing a 'design and build', instead of just buying a kitset playground,"  Zervos said.

"So that would have been something a bit more unique and a bit more fun for the kids."

A Save our Playground petition has now been started, demanding the council create a "custom playground/module with a larger footprint, reflecting the needs and wishes of the community".

The playground and skatepark was officially opened in 1977 after $22,000 was raised by the local residents association.

The new equipment will be funded by the council's Community Parks Play Item Renewal programme at an estimated cost of $80,000, plus another $26,000 to demolish the existing playground.

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A supplied image of the large play module scheduled to replace the Thomson Park fort-playground.
A supplied image of the large play module scheduled to replace the Thomson Park fort-playground.
Zervos also has concerns the materials used in the new structure won't stand up to the harsh sea-spray environment.

"We get busloads of kids coming down to actually use that, after school programmes and classes full of kids. And this new one wouldn't cater for the amount of children that would use it."

Demolition of the Thomson Park playground is expected to start soon, and the new play equipment is set to be installed in July.

City council community parks manager Al Hardy said the decision not to include a tunnel was due to the unavailability of compatible options within the modular structure.

"However, it’s important to note the playground still features a tunnel in the junior play module, which is not scheduled for renewal at this time.

"The swing and large module were found to be rusting, compromising their structural integrity.

"Additionally, the inspection report raised concerns about the original design of the joists of the large module due to the age of the playground, deeming them insufficient to adequately support the platforms."

 - By Geoff Sloan, made with the support of NZ On Air