Auckland Council is taking a serious look at play as it considers its investment priorities now, and into the future.
Recently it consulted the public on its Takaro – Investing in Play plan. Part of the plan is to consider how to widen the scope of play facilities – currently Council invests predominantly in playgrounds. The Long-term Plan 2015-2025 allocates $33 million for renewing these assets and a further $25 million to provide new play opportunities in areas of growth.
The consultation document asked for feedback on issues such as whether investment in play should target young children, or cater to all ages, abilities and backgrounds equally and whether investment should be prioritized in areas of high socio-economic deprivation over other areas.
It also asked ‘what is an acceptable level of risk in play?’ and ‘where does the council’s responsibility to manage risk end and personal responsibility begin?’
More than 80 submissions were received and are currently being analysed by Council staff.
Hibiscus & Bays Local Board chair Julia Parfitt said that she is concerned about what she describes as “almost a Robin Hood approach” suggested in the discussion document.
“Children need exposure to play wherever they live, and renewals should be based on the condition of the asset, not where it’s located by priority,” she says.
These concerns are shared by Cr John Watson. “There’s a contradiction there because the document points out how important playgrounds and other facilities are for young kids in particular. Therefore, the notion that you could divert investment or put more into one area than another doesn’t make sense. Investment is obviously needed in areas of deprivation where some of the playgrounds are in a very poor state, but not at the expense of other areas.”
The draft play plan quotes some alarming statistics – including that 46 percent of children aged eight to 12 years are not playing every day, and 50–70 percent of children do not regularly experience ‘real’ play activities such as tree climbing, messy play, the use of hand tools, props or found natural materials.
Council has also identified that there is currently insufficient provision at its play facilities for children over eight years old, adults and seniors and people with disabilities. The plan will look at opportunities to provide play facilities other than standard play equipment with this in mind.
Council’s investment in play is predominantly by way of capital funding for traditional playground assets. New playgrounds are funded from growth funding and development contributions. The renewal of older playgrounds is funded through depreciation, with current policy allowing for renewal every 17 years. Most budgetary responsibility and decision rights for investment in play sit with local boards.
Investments are made on a case-by-case basis, within set budget allocations.