The country's first fully accessible playground could soon find its home in Hamilton. It would be a safe place to play for people of all physical capabilities, and incorporate the needs of people with intellectual disabilities, people with autism, and sensory, visual, and hearing impairments.
At a Community Committee meeting last week, Hamilton City Council agreed to partner with Magical Bridge Trust (NZ) to develop a universally accessible playground. It would replace an existing playground due for renewal.
Community Committee chairman councillor Mark Bunting said this was a chance for Hamilton to be bold and innovative in its inclusivity.
"The beauty of these designs is they truly consider all capabilities, including neurodivergent needs, intellectual disabilities, and sensory impairments. We know some families might avoid our traditional playgrounds if their children don't feel comfortable playing there. But everyone should be empowered to play – this could be a rare and magnificent opportunity for the city."
One in four New Zealanders lives with a disability, with more than 120,000 people living in Waikato.
"These are among the most creative and accessible playground designs in the world and soon we could have one in Kirikiriroa Hamilton. This a chance for us to fly above the rest of the country – let's do this."
The 11,000sq m proposed playground will have themed zones, including a slide zone, sensory zone, swing zone and spinning zone.
Hideaway huts, buddy benches, and gathering spots to play and relax will be fun play spaces. It will also have fully accessible amenities such as changing rooms, along with improved parking.
The design would also consider specific colours for pathways and zones, planting for sensory purposes, braille on signage and equipment, and user facilities such as shade and drinking fountains.
The project is budgeted to cost $3.5–$4 million, with the council contributing up to $1.2 million from its renewal budget for the existing playground.
The Hamilton-based trust has committed to raising the rest through grants, sponsorships, and collaborative fundraising.
Once completed, the partnership between the trust and the council will continue with the council establishing a repair and maintenance programme. Meanwhile, the trust will manage and coordinate promotion, marketing, event management, and educational and entertainment activities.
Staff will report back to the Community Committee on location and construction timing, and the council will seek community feedback on its plans before continuing.