Māra Hūpara – ancient innovation in play, learning and exercise

Last Updated : 08 May 2019
Mara Hupara – ancient innovation in play, learning and exercise
Children playing on traditional Maori playground

Do you remember playing as a child?

Running through the woods, alongside a creek?

Hands digging into the earth, mud seeping between toes?

A playground without a trace of steel, rubber or plastic in sight.

Hard to imagine?

Not at the new māra hūpara nestled in the woods of Underwood Reserve in Mt Roskill.

Built along the Te Auaunga Awa (Oakley Creek walkway), the new playground brings together a collection of ancient Māori play artefacts into a single space to create a traditional Māori playground.  

One artefact, more commonly known as kōpapa, is a network of long logs, linked one to the other, to create elevated walkways. Historically, these networks were a buzz of activity, serving multiple uses for communities; a path to traverse marshy areas and flood plains, tree crowns to set bird snares; secret, hidden escape routes high in the tree for forest-dwelling communities.

Now, they’re a creation for children to play, explore and build confidence at height.

Designer Harko Brown says, "this has been a unique community collaboration bringing together a diverse range of natural resources to re-establish important cultural spaces for fun, contemplation and education."

The 10-tonne swamp kauri used to connect the kōpapa was retrieved from another council project while the rocks used in the design were excavated from the site during the widening of the channel.

The māra hūpara project was signed off by an external play specialist to ensure the safety of fall heights, accessibility and cushioned falls were compliant with standard regulations.

Mayor Phil Goff says, “The new hūpara is a win for our tamariki. It gives them a safe and unique place to have fun, make friends and engage with Maori traditions and history.

"For many of us, the new playground will take us back to the way we played as kids, before playgrounds became more formal.

“It’s also a win for the ratepayer. The original proposal to construct a conventional playground at this site was estimated to cost $700,000. Instead, Auckland Council worked with mana whenua and Fulton Hogan to create the māra hūpara, which was realised at a cost of less than $150,000.

“Thanks to the hard work of all involved, we’ve delivered a fantastic new facility for our tamariki while saving ratepayer dollars.”

Auckland Council’s Healthy Waters team, in collaboration with Boffa Miskell and Fulton Hogan led the $20 million project focused on minimising the risk of flooding to neighbourhood properties along the 1.3km stretch of walkway. 

The māra hūpara is one part of the wider Walmsley/Underwood Park restoration and naturalisation of Te Auaunga Awa, and the restoration of the natural stream environment. The park which will be opened to public mid-year.

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