"Awesome", "so much fun" and great for all ages — that's the verdict of kids trying out Kerikeri's new playground.
The $800,000 facility is part of a $3 million Kerikeri Domain revamp paid for by a 2020 grant from the Government's Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund.
The playground was blessed by local hapu Ngāti Rēhia on Friday, at the tail end of last week's storm, with councillor Rachel Smith honoured with first go on the slide. Smith was instrumental in securing funding for the Far North District Council project.
The new playground was packed all weekend with, it seemed, every child in town desperate to try it out.
Best friends Kiki Shimozono-Reid, 10, and Emma Fulton Kain, 9, were among Sunday's crowd testing the new play equipment.
"I love it," Kiki said.
"There are a lot of activities you can do, like the Whangārei playground. You can make music, there's a sandpit with a sand machine and a digger, but the thing I love most is the big slide. I love it because there are obstacles you have to go through to get to it, so it's a challenge."
Kiki said she especially appreciated it because she had lived in Japan where playgrounds were few and far between.
"I hope that nobody vandalises it. We're so lucky to have it," she said.
Emma said she liked the way the playground had different zones and activities catering for different ages.
"There's things little kids and big kids can do. It doesn't matter how old you are," she said.
"I like it that they've given us things we don't need, just so we'll be happy — like the see-saw and sand machine. That's one of the best bits. I'm also really excited about the flying fox. I think that'll be the most popular thing when it's finished."
Eight-year-old Isla Ahdar gave her votes for best play equipment to the see-saw and the big slide.
"When you turn around on the loops you get all dizzy," she said.
Meanwhile, Te Ao Apiata, 11, was putting the swings through their paces with her brother Taniora.
"The basket swing is the best thing, it's so much fun. I also like the roundabout."
Also trying to attain maximum height on the swings were Macsen Steen, 11, and Troy Pietersma, 12. It was already their second visit to the newly opened playground.
"I think all the new stuff is awesome," Troy said.
"There's a lot of variety, it's colourful, and there's experimental stuff. My favourite's the big slide."
Macsen said his favourite was "the spinny thing you hold on to and feel the G-forces".
"I love this playground," he said.
The old Kerikeri Domain playground will be dismantled, renovated and installed at Totara North from November.
New playgrounds have also opened in recent months at Awanui, Ahipara and Kaitaia — part of the Government-funded Te Hiku Open Spaces Revitalisation project — and work is about to start on a $750,000 council-funded upgrade of Kaikohe's Memorial Park playground.
The Kerikeri Domain upgrade includes an already completed skate park and basketball court with improved sports field lighting, access and pathways to come.
The new flying fox will be opened once the ground dries out and turf can be established.
Toddler fencing will be installed around the sandpit and rubber matting area when delayed products arrive.