Funds needed after storms decimate play areas

The school grounds look very bare without the large playground and stand of trees.

A rural school that lost a large playground and a popular outside play area to summer floods and storms is trying to raise tens of thousands of dollars to replace equipment and create new play opportunities for students.

Kaipara Flats School’s 25-metre long playground had to be dismantled after being submerged twice in contaminated stormwater and a stretch of poplar trees and shrubs cleared after Cyclone Gabrielle tore through it.

Both areas were hugely popular with students and they were devastated by the losses, principal Debbie Hamer said.

“Our playground used to flood a little bit, but the Auckland Anniversary floods altered the flood path and it was like the River Nile running through,” she said.

“Then we had Cyclone Gabrielle and that took down all the poplar trees in “the huts”, which is a wooded area where the children play, so that was a double whammy for them – they lost their playground and their trees.”

Because the floods contaminated the playground’s bark surface, it had to be cleared out and replaced – something that would have cost $17,500.

“We realised the flood path was not going to change and so every time it rained, we’d have to replace the bark, so we decided to take the playground out,” Hamer said. “A week and a half later, it flooded again, so it was the right decision.”

However, replacing the damaged or non-compliant play equipment will not come cheap.

“The smallest quote to replace the playground was $190,000 up to $450,000. The Ministry doesn’t fund playgrounds, so we’re in the process of raising money, applying for grants and making ‘pocket playgrounds’ around the school and grounds where it doesn’t flood, so the kids have somewhere to play.

“The kids also want a hut area back – we can’t give them trees straight away, but when we can we’ll buy some pre-made huts to play in and plant natives that are flood resilient.”

Hamer and her team are hoping a sizable dent can be made in the funding shortfall at the school’s annual Country Show Day this Saturday, October 28, which runs from 9am to 2pm.

This traditional rural show has everything to keep visitors of all ages entertained, from students showing young animals they’ve raised to digger rides and woodchopping. There will also be shearing demonstrations, bouncy castles, children’s games, classroom displays, a fire truck, silent auctions, quick-fire raffles, pony rides and even a chiropractor on hand.

Stalls will be selling everything from traditional treats such as cakes, candy floss and Devonshire teas to more contemporary flavours, including pulled pork buns, nachos and bubble tea.

There will also be a flower stall, doughnuts, corn fritters, mystery jars, cheese rolls, popcorn, toffee apples, coffee, face painting, ice cream, bric-a-brac and drinks.

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