The Ngāti Apa story of Tutaeporoporo te Taniwha inspired this community-funded destination playspace.
Te Āhuru Mōwai Playground is situated adjacent to the Memorial Hall at the southern end of Marton in the Rangitikei District. It replaces a small, and seriously outdated, playground built in 1951. The site, although only four blocks from the centre of town, had sufficient area to expand and become the destination play space the town wanted.
Marton Development Group (MDG), the not-for-profit group who initiated the project, and Rangitikei District Council requested that the Boffa Miskell design team come up with a concept that would be unique, special and distinctly ‘Marton’. Boffa Miskell had developed a bespoke tower and activity trail with for award-winning Anderson Park, so relished the opportunity to push the design further and create something ‘wow’ with a trio of timber towers.
Playground auditors came on board early in the concept design phase to help keep cognizance of compliance standards and regulations as we developed the rope ‘Bird Nest walk’ that would ultimately link the two larger towers.
Collaboration between Te Rūnanga o Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa artists and Boffa Miskell to embed the pūrakau / local narrative of Tutaeporoporo Te Taniwha into the playground required innovative design thinking. An initial large-scale design was broken down into a series of repeated motifs that reflected different elements of the narrative in different portions of the site.
More challenging was taking 2D designs and wrapping them around 3D topography in the playground, which was a first to trial with this surfacing. A combination of plywood forms and flexible piping was used to lay out the design and achieve the flowing curves of the original artwork.
An extra-long bank of swings was designed to draw attention away from a long 1.9m timber fence. With six double bays, this is the longest and most diverse set of swings in New Zealand.
While COVID-19 induced freight havoc around the world lots of ‘can we build this here’ solutions were found. An example of this is the rocking animals, so beloved by toddlers. Normally imported from Germany, the sheep and cow rockers at Te Āhuru Mōwai playground have instead been carved and painted by Whanganui locals to represent familiar animals from the local farming area.
The design goals were met through creative and innovative selection and development of a wide range of play experiences, arranged in an imaginative and exciting layout that delighted the community.
A key tenet was ‘Keep it Local’. MDG wanted the economic and social benefits of the project staying in the community. Boffa Miskell worked with local suppliers and contractors; local artists and craftspeople; and used local materials to bring the playground to life.
The support from the wider Marton community is clear on the ‘purchase a plank’ sponsor boards displayed on the boundary wall in the play space.
Design; Detailed design & specification; Implementation
|Client||Marton Development Group (MDG) and Rangitikei District Council|
|Project team||Aynsley Cisaria|
Philippa Bollond, playground auditor
|Project date||2017 - 2021|