Members of the Nelson Host Lions Club give the Tahunanui Beach Playground turtles a sand-back and a new coat of paint. From left are Peter Vining, Les Lindbom, John Pettigrew and Geoff Chilton. Photo: Kate Russell.

Spruce up for Tahuna ‘treasures’

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They may have a new playground in their midst, but the original structures at the Tahunanui Beach Playground are still going strong after more than 50 years.

The concrete train, whale, turtles, mushroom tables and seals are all getting a sand-back and a fresh lick of paint, thanks to the Nelson Host Lions Club.

Although the playground is owned by Nelson City Council, the Lions were the ones who established the playground back in 1963.

Long-time club member Peter Vining says he remembers it well.

His father, Phil Vining, was instrumental in setting up the playground, and it was the first major project the Lions were involved in.

“I was part of if right from the beginning. It was just bare land back then, I used to have a tractor down there, building up the sand dunes,” says Peter.

He says the first playground item to go in was the train.

“There was a club member who had a concrete business – Hec was his name.”

He also says the turtles have had quite the life.

“Oh, they have been knocked about over the years. One year someone broke all the necks on them and we had to put them back together.

“It is surprising the number of little ones who come along and give them all names.”

Over the years they have added many other structures, including the castle and the rocket – which was purchased by Phil himself.

“There are a lot older folk who come down and say that they played here,” adds Peter.

There was even a time when Phil had to install a barbed wire fence that went half way up the whale because some mothers thought it was “too dangerous” for children to climb to the top of it.

Peter says the last time the structures were painted was about 10 years ago.

“Just when it’s looking dilapidated, we’ll step in. The paint had worn off and it was well overdue for a spruce up.”

They have now finished all the work, apart from painting the whale – which Peter says was damaged by contractors during the installation of the new section of the playground.

The $70,000 structure is a Nelson City Council project, and has replaced the old fort that the Lions put in 20 years ago.

Peter says he thinks the new playground is alright, although he “didn’t know what was wrong with the old one.”

“But it seemed to be getting well received,” he says.

A Nelson City Council spokesperson says the whale will be repaired by Christmas.