Residents' outcry saves beloved swing

By John Cousins news@bayofplentytimes.co.nz

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An iconic piece of playground equipment at Omokoroa Domain, the lullaby swing, has been saved thanks to an outcry from residents.

The future of the 44-year-old swing hung in the balance when the Western Bay District Council decided in 2005 to replace it with a modern version that offered the same experience. But alternatives failed to win the backing of the Omokoroa Community Board and the council met this week to decide the fate of the swing.

Council reserves and facilities assets manager Scott Parker told the meeting that the lullaby had become emotional for some in the community, with a 300-signature petition supporting its retention.

"Many hold the view that the social benefits of the thrill and enjoyment it provides outweigh possible harm or incidents that have long been forgotten," Mr Parker said.

Staff had recently been told a child had broken an arm playing on the lullaby, but there were no data or reports of any injuries or near-misses caused by the swing.

Anecdotal comments suggested that while bumps and bruises were fairly common, it was no worse than any other play equipment.

His report said staff viewed the petition as a well-meaning but ill-informed attempt at measuring public opinion: "The petition organiser appears to have deliberately not sought information from staff. Information that could well have produced a more balanced result."

A consultant specialising in playground equipment had strongly recommended removing the lullaby to reduce the risk on council by complying with best practice guidelines.

Operations committee chairman Kevin Marsh told the Bay of Plenty Times that no facts had been presented to the meeting on the report of the broken arm.

The council decided to spend up to $15,000 to retain the swing, including to erect a sign warning users of the lullaby's hazards. A new safety surface will be laid under the swing, surface corrosion removed and the steel restored, and the padding improved at each end of the swing plank to better absorb the impacts. It was also agreed that the domain's playground equipment would be included in the next review of the reserve management plan.

Community Board Chairman Glenn Whittaker welcomed the decision, saying the swing was a much-loved and much-used piece of equipment.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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