Monkey bars too hot to hold, scalding swing seats, bum-blistering metal slides.

For generations, these have been rites of passage for Kiwi children who venture on to our public playgrounds in summer.

Shaded playgrounds are a bit of a rare find in New Zealand, which has always seemed a bit odd for a country where the sun presents such a clear health risk.

Last year Auckland Council reported that only 29 of the region's 940 playgrounds had any artificial shade, while University of Otago researchers found that 95 per cent of play equipment at 50 Wellington playgrounds had no shade cover at all - a quarter of the percentage in Australia.

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The onus has been firmly on parents and caregivers to ensure the kids are protected from the sun before venturing out to play - an activity that on hot days is really only feasible in the early morning before the equipment becomes too hot to handle.

Leaving it up to parents is a cheap option for councils, to be sure, but the lack of shade means these civic assets are sorely underused.

And yet, many new playgrounds are still built without shade.

Tauranga's well-used waterfront playground has precious little of it over play areas, though it was included in the design of a new sandpit installed last year.

I can think of at least three quite new playgrounds with next-to-no shade in Golden Sands, an under-construction suburb in Pāpāmoa.

Trees have been planted in some spots that will one day do the job, but that day is a long way off - one of the issues with counting on growing natural shade along with the cost, estimated by Auckland Council last year at $5000 per playground for 3-5 large specimen trees.

ROTORUA DAILY POST
12 Jan, 2019 9:00am
3 minutes to read

Artificial shade also presents problems.

Shade sails, which Auckland estimated at $25,000 a pop, are a popular option but present their own challenges.

They are prone to vandalism, for one thing.

When Kawerau District Council put sun sails over part of its excellent BMX park years ago, the poles were almost immediately bent by people trying to hang off them.

In Napier last year St Patrick's School's 34 square metre sail was stolen, pulled right out of its tracks and stolen.

Sails often also have to be removed in winter.

Putting a roof over the site is another option, but with many public playgrounds being in scenic spots or residential areas, the interruption of views by a shed-like structure is bound to attract complaints.

These are the challenges facing Rotorua's council as it makes plans for a new $1 million play space as part of its $20 million project to revitalise the Lakefront.

As they have for decades, parents are crying out for decent shade to be designed in.

It needs to be on the list of must-have features, not the nice-to have list, but doing it well will take some creative thinking.