Viewpoint – Playground fiasco

Council can be such a killjoy. Take the Point Wells playground, funded and installed by the community some 70 years ago – last of the old-school playgrounds.  My kids loved it so much that even in their late teens they would return. Now it has been removed because it doesn’t meet health and safety requirements, despite no serious recorded accidents.

I’m a mass of scars from top to toe, received in my childhood. A scrape down my forehead and nose from diving into too-shallow water and hitting my head on oyster-covered rocks; a split-lip scar from playing bull-rush at school; a grazed elbow scar from coming off my skateboard; a slashed knee from tripping over a rusting car part my brother left on the lawn when taking a running jump on the slip-n-slide; a near-severed little toe from standing on broken glass at the beach. What did I learn from all those accidents?  To take more care, to look out for hazards, to know my limits of strength, agility and balance. Not who to blame.

Over-zealous adherence to health and safety regulations, over-regulation in the Act itself, and council’s ‘OTT’ attitude to ‘risk’ (and let’s be frank, the risk they are talking about is to themselves, not to your children), all make for an over-controlled environment for children to explore their boundaries, for adults to take responsibility for young ones in their care, and for communities to shape and build their surroundings.

Risk has become quite a commodity. I’m cynical when whole industries appear, created out of regulation: training courses, new insurance products, advisors and consultants, new safety gadgets and equipment. What is being protected? Not people from themselves – they’ve managed that quite successfully for thousands of years. It is insurers selling risk-related products over-hyping the value of that risk by putting the fear of God into government departments, businesses and employers, that court action is an inevitable outcome of anyone having even a minor accident on their property. And then the legal profession plays on the other side of that game by encouraging those same groups to get ‘lawyered-up’. The result is that insurance companies and the legal firms always win bigger than their clients.

Back to the Point Wells playground: let’s hope common sense prevails. It is up to those of us who can influence such matters to resist the creep of further regulations – and their extreme interpretation – under the guise of ‘risk management’ and ‘health and safety’ taking permanent hold.

Viewpoint - Rodney Local Board