A destination playground could still be on the cards for Nelson’s CBD, such as the Margaret Mahy playground in Christchurch, pictured. Photo: Supplied.

CBD playground plan still swinging

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It was mooted to be a family destination in the heart of Nelson, a significant public space and a major drawcard for our struggling city centre.

So, what ever happened to the proposed playground for Rutherford Park?

Back in 2015, Nelson City Council set aside $600,000 for a destination playground for Rutherford Park in its long-term plan – with the hope of securing extra partnership funding on top of that.

They labelled the project as a “priority” and approved a business plan that stated it would be “an attraction that people are willing to spend time at, therefore increasing their time in the CBD”.

But three years on and there is no sign of a city playground.

What’s happened to it?

According to Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese, the project hasn’t been dropped. But it’s changed. She says the money that had been allocated in earlier long-term plans was “insufficient” to build a destination playground.

Focus also turned to higher priorities like getting the Trafalgar Centre finished. This was mixed in with staff shortages in the parks and reserves area.

Destination playgrounds differ from traditional playgrounds in that they offer creative equipment designed to be fun and challenging. An example is the Margaret Mahy playground in Christchurch’s CBD.

Rachel says, in the latest long-term plan, a higher budget was requested and funding has been increased to about $1.4m.

“The Margaret Mahy playground cost $3m for the playground itself, so we would still be looking for grant or partnership funds to get to that scale,” she says.

Scoping for the playground is included for this financial year, involving identifying partners and looking at whether it could fit in with the riverside precinct plans and library redevelopment.

Former Nelson city councillor Pete Rainey was a firm believer in the project – and still is.

“Revitalising the CBD is of real concern for many people and, given the experience of visiting the Margaret May playground, it is obvious this kind of development would be a huge attraction and reason for kids, parents and grandparents to come into Nelson city.”