Thames replica paddle steamer playground, Wakatere, being removed for new skate and scooter park

Replica paddle steamer, Wakatere. Photo/ThamesNZ
Replica paddle steamer, Wakatere. Photo/ThamesNZ

A much-loved children's playground boat is being removed from a Thames park, making way for a new skate and scooter park.

The playground is a replica of the paddle steamer Wakatere and has been a feature of Porritt Park since it was built by the Lion Club of Thames in 1969 to honour the 1896 maiden voyage of the Wakatere between Auckland and Thames.

On its news page, Thames Coromandel District Council wrote this week the playground was "wearing out" and would cost an estimated $50,000 to restore to national playground standards.

"The Thames Community Board made the decision that it was better to provide new, improved playground equipment at Porritt Park."

A post about the playground's removal on the Thames/Coromandel Grapevine Facebook page spurred dozens of comments, split between those in favour and those against.

Jane Rouse wrote that she was "gutted".

"Now we just have another modern playground. all for the sake of 50 000 dollars. it should have been saved. Shame on the TCDC."

But others backed the board's decision.

Billy Maverick wrote that the playground should be moved.

"It's an icon for sure but it's not really any good as a playground piece anymore."

The Wakatere Thames Group have been working with the council on the structure's future and member Ruth McDee wrote on the group's Facebook page today an inspection of the playground's hull had shown it could not be moved to a new site.

"However, all is not lost ... we have formulated a few possible ideas to take forward. We have been working very closely with the council's Thames Area Manager, Greg Hampton, and we will be meeting with him next week to ascertain what our next steps are to be. We requested that they keep what they can from our Grand Old Lady so that we can reuse those components again in the near future as a memorial project to those who built the boat."

The council had already salvaged the wooden stairs, smokestack, railings and original signage.

"In the next few weeks we will post an update of what we propose to do and we are eager to have community input into our new project."

The council also wrote on its news page that site preparations had begun for the skate and scooter park, which included fencing off part of the park.

As a precaution, the Wakatere was being tested for asbestos and results were expected today.

However, the playground was not a risk to the public or workers as any asbestos would be "sealed in" the structure, the council said.

The new skate and scooter park is expected to open next year and will include half pipes, an open street-style based design developed with input from its future users, and green spaces where parents can watch their children.

- NZ Herald

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