The sound of music reverberating across Whangārei's Hātea River is no more, after numerous complaints from residents - and children and parents are lamenting the loss.
The popular chime musical instruments have been removed from the new Town Basin playground just three months after it opened. The $1 million-plus Whangārei District Council (WDC) six-month redevelopment project was complete at the end of January.
Designed to cater for a range of ages and abilities, the expansive playground incorporates inground trampolines, a climbing circuit, combo swings, tunnel slide, turntable, a two-storey slide tower and several play features involving sound with bongo drums, talking tubes and other music makers - all with new safety matting and under multiple shade sails. The original climbing spiderweb frame remains.
However, two sets of musical chimes, popular with all ages, including babies, have been removed after complaints from nearby residents and workers.
WDC parks technical officer Spencer Jellyman said, while kids and parents who visit the Town Basin playground enjoy the sounds of the chimes, their sound carried a lot further than WDC expected when installed.
"This has been bothering people who have had to listen to them all day. After multiple complaints about the chimes from around the Town Basin and as far away as the hillside properties over on Riverside, we decided the best thing to do would be to remove the chimes until we find an alternative that is still fun for children, but does not annoy people who live and work in the area all day."
Parents at the playground this week were disappointed. Emma Whitburn stops in at the playground several times a week while walking the Hātea Loop with 11-month-old Kupe.
"He's quite young but they were one of his favourite things. He just liked hitting them and making music and I could actually just take his pram up to them but we went there today [Wednesday] and they are gone."
Hamish Higgins goes to the park with one-year-old Zhejiin Te Namu at least every fortnight and had read about the disappearance of the chimes that morning.
"I think it's pretty stink. We liked them. Residents need to suck it up. I'm sure the rich houses over there are sound-proof with double-glazing anyway," he said.
Social media was also abuzz with comments from disappointed parents and caregivers with one citing it the "best, modern playground set-up I've seen. I was attracted to the beautiful sounds of the musical instruments, kids play at day, vandals play at night".
The latter comment was prompted by another discussion about lighting concerns at the park with some parents commenting it was pitch-black after 6pm. However, many responded that kids should be at home by 6pm, a sentiment Jellyman agreed with.
"This is a children's playground intended for use mainly during daylight hours. As noted, the noises [chimes, but also play sounds] from playground echo in the Town Basin, Riverside and surrounds, so we have removed the chimes. If the playground is lit all night, there is the potential for it to be mis-used by adults - probably under the influence - creating unwelcome noise, potential vandalism and light spill at night."
A third issue raised was regarding fencing around the water-side playground which sparked much debate.
Said one: "I feel like it's a harbour and we have lots of natural waterways around New Zealand. We can't fence them all. Next thing, it would be fencing off the beach from the ocean."
Jellyman said, "Feedback from the public was an important part of the redesign of the playground. One of the concerns raised was the closeness of the playground to the carpark, and its openness to the water. People often asked about fencing the area off.
"Our research indicated that the best way to keep children safe is to create a situation where caregivers need to be present and alert, keeping an eye out for and interacting with their children. Fencing can provide a false sense of security, especially given that children can quickly follow other people through gates when it is busy.
"For that reason, there is no fence, but we redesigned the playground with a mound that creates a physical barrier between it and the carpark. The shared path/seating was also realigned to act as a natural barrier for children between the water and the play area."
Tegan Scott and Kolton Scott-Taylor, 2, visit the park every fortnight.
What do you think of the playground? "I love it and he loves it too. It's good for kids of all ages.
What is the biggest hit? The turntable.
Had you noticed the absence of the chimes? I just noticed today. (Kolton) did go up there and there were no chimes. I reckon they were pretty cool so it kind of sucks that they're gone.
Is there anything you would change about the playground? Just the slide gets really hot.
Do you think it should be fenced? I believe it should be fully-fenced.
Do you think it needs lighting? No. Really, after 6pm you don't need your kids coming to the park.
Emma Whitburn and Kupe Watts, 11 months, visit the park several times a week.
What do you think of the playground? It's a great park. It's lovely and really interactive.
What is the biggest hit? We love the parent/child double swings.
Had you noticed the absence of the chimes? Yes, we just did! He's quite young but they were one of his favourite things. He just liked hitting them and making music and I could actually just taken his pram up to them but we went there today and they are gone.
Is there anything you would change about the playground? Maybe a little more shade, particularly over the slides because that slide is too hot to go on it now, especially if kids don't have a lot of clothing on.
Do you think it should be fenced? I think it's quite nice as it is because people can interact as they pass and, to be honest, I think parents should be watching their children.
Do you think it needs lighting? I wouldn't be bringing my kids to the park [after-hours], I'd be feeding etc.
Andrea Hemmins and Rowan Pope, 19 months, of Ruakākā, were visiting the playground for the first time.
What do you think of the playground? This is our first time in the new playground and we were looking forward to [the chimes] because he loves musical stuff.
What is the biggest hit? The slide.
Is there anything you would change about the playground? Being a toddler, I'm constantly chasing him around so it would be good to have some sort of fencing. Even if it was glass so we can still see the water or just a fenced toddler section. I do like the councils investing in parks.
Hamish Higgins and Zhejiin Te Namu, 1, visit the playground at least every fortnight.
What is the biggest hit? The turntable and swings.
Had you noticed the absence of the chimes? I read about it on Facebook this morning. I think it's pretty stink. We liked them. Residents need to suck it up. I'm sure the rich houses over there are sound-proof with double-glazing anyway.
Is there anything you would change about the playground? The wooden stumps probably need modifying as I've seen a couple of kids fall off and hit their heads.
Do you think it should be fenced? Yes. You can't keep an eye on them all the time.
Do you think it needs lighting? Kids should be in bed by then.