Hundreds of people turned out for a teddy bears’ picnic that doubled as the official opening of the first Auckland public park specially designed for children of all abilities.
There to join Manurewa Local Board members and councillors Angela Dalton and Daniel Newman were members of the disabled community, including five-year-old Israel Ataata.
Israel has Angelman syndrome, and his mother Darcel Bell-Ataata, who was among those who provided input into the park’s design, says the family is feeling blessed to have a safe space where Israel can play alongside other children.
“They're inside a closed area with soft ground, which is great because things like bark aren’t friendly for us. He already just loves it here.”
The park cost $690,000 to build and Manurewa Local Board chair Joseph Allan says it was important for those who needed the park to be involved in its design.
“Many disability organisations volunteered their time to the project, including CCS Disability Action, Comet Auckland, Talking Matters, Acorn Autism, The Wilson Home Group, Cerebral Palsy Society, Blind Foundation and Deaf Aotearoa, and we thank them for that.”
The board chair also reflected on a personal connection he had with the project.
“My family was fortunate to have a young wheelchair user staying with us for nine months. Emma Conaglen grew up in Weymouth and was unable to play with her siblings at the old Keith Park playground.
“The board changed its focus and now the next generation of families of various abilities will have the opportunity to play alongside each other and together.”
Weymouth residents Brenda Bishop and Tania May were also part of the stakeholder group.
Their input and ideas, such as wet pour under swings, are now being applied to playground renewals across Manurewa where possible.
TV star Suzy Cato and entertainers Dooverberry Dave, Mr Roberelli and Chris Sanders were all on hand to add to the festive nature of the opening, with hundreds of little – and not so little – people, bringing along their teddy bears for an outing.
Allan says, “Seeing everyone and watching people enjoy the new space underlined what a great idea it was to commit to a park for everyone.”