Pirongia children will soon have a new playground with Waipā District Council confirming the design for a junior play area in Rangimarie Reserve.

The playground is expected to cost $100,000 and will be joint-funded by the council and the Pirongia community.

But it hasn't been an easy journey for the Pirongia residents behind the project, who created the initial concept for the playground in 2009.

The project was initially steered by Pirongia Plunket volunteers in a journey that's taken five years of sausage sizzles, bake sales and collecting money on the street.

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Plans for a junior playground in Pirongia's Rangimarie Reserve. Fencing is dependent on community funding. Picture / Supplied
Plans for a junior playground in Pirongia's Rangimarie Reserve. Fencing is dependent on community funding. Picture / Supplied

But last year the parents got in a tussle with Plunket's national office over money the group had fundraised.

Pirongia Plunket volunteer and local resident Ruth Webb says $26,000 from the fundraising efforts was being held by Plunket's national office.

"Pirongia Plunket was fundraising for a long time for the new playground," Ruth says.

The group of parents had to fight to get their money back.

"We found out that our account didn't belong to us any more, it belonged to Plunket Society."

The bank accounts of Plunket groups from Pirongia, Te Awamutu and Ōhaupō had been centralised, which had formerly been three separate entities.

"They told us they wanted to have one bank account for all three to avoid extra fees.

"We found out that if we wanted to access any of that money we had to apply for the funding, and that the funding would only be granted if we met certain criteria - and it might not be the full amount we wanted."

Ruth appeared on 1 News in March 2018 to speak about the issue, and it was later resolved.

"I had to appear on national TV, but we eventually got our money back and we could purchase a three-bay swing set for the playground."

Pirongia Plunket eventually disbanded and the fundraising group renamed to Pirongia Playground Project, running under the umbrella of the Pirongia Community Association.

Things are starting to look up for the group, which organised a successful children's fair fundraiser on Sunday, raising $3000.

It was a team effort with Pirongia Playcentre, Impressions Childcare Centre, Pirongia School and Pirongia Lions helping out on the day.

The group are now dashing towards the finish line, with a final push to raise another $17,000.

Three-year-old Eddie Wright makes the most of the face painting at the Pirongia Children's Fair, which raised $3000 for the village's new playground. Photo / Tania King
Three-year-old Eddie Wright makes the most of the face painting at the Pirongia Children's Fair, which raised $3000 for the village's new playground. Photo / Tania King

After the junior playground is finished, the group will turn its attention to the second stage of the project - the senior playground.

"We'll be starting again at square one," Ruth says.

"If the community wants to see the second stage of the project happen, I encourage people to speak up and make their opinions known to council."

Construction of the first stage is expected to begin in late-March and will replace the existing playground near the village's public toilets.

It will include swings, slides, balance beams and climbing equipment.

The playground is the first step in a host of positive changes for Pirongia this year including path upgrades and new toilets.

Last year, the council announced new public toilets would be built in Pirongia with half of the $500,000 cost funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Tourism Infrastructure Fund.

The Waipā District Council already has money allocated for further playground upgrades in Centennial Park, Te Awamutu, and Thompson St, Leamington. These are currently in the planning stages.

Community facilities manager Sally Sheedy says the new play area will deliver a great recreational space for Pirongia.

"The current playground in Pirongia needs an upgrade and this gives us the perfect opportunity to create a new space from the ground up.

"We've been working with local community groups to incorporate their needs for the play space and can't wait to get construction under way."

Sally says staff is hoping to partially fence the playground, but this is dependent on community funding.

•You can keep up-to-date with the Rangimarie Reserve playground progress at waipadc.govt.nz/MajorProjects.

For more information about supporting the project, contact Ruth Webb on 021 131 6736.