End of the road for playground vehicles?

11:46 am on 17 November 2020

Safety concerns may result in the removal of two much-loved vehicles from a Masterton playground.

Masterton mother Abby Hollingsworth with her children Lucy, 7, Zane, 5, and Troy, 3 at the town's playground. The local district council is proposing removing the tractor and a bulldozer as they do not meet safety standards.

Abby Hollingsworth with her children Lucy, 7, Zane, 5, and Troy, 3 at Queen Elizabeth Park playground in Masterton. Photo: Wairarapa Times Age / Marcus Anselm

Generations of youngsters have grown up playing on Queen Elizabeth Park's tractor and bulldozer.

But tomorrow, a district council committee will receive a staff report urging their replacement.

The two vehicles were donated by a local farmer and installed by the Masterton Lions Club in 1961, as part of a redevelopment of the playground.

They are estimated to be at least 80 years old.

The report says "both pieces have been well-loved and utilised by our young community, and have provided great opportunities for children to freedom play by letting their imaginations run wild".

"While the equipment continues to be loved and well used, the reality is that these two pieces are very old and beyond repair."

A review in November 2019 found that the two vehicles showed dangerous wear and tear.

This included rusting and sharp edges on wheel tread, sharp points and edges needing to be covered or removed.

No engineers were willing to take on repairs, as "the definition of 'safe' becomes vague when it comes to farm machinery used as play equipment", the report said.

The council did not consider keeping the vehicles due to the risk of injury.

The report said the proposed removal was one part of a bigger piece of work to remove non-compliant play equipment from other playgrounds.

This also included the flying fox from Burling Park, and some of the old equipment at Henley Lake.

The report said it would cost $1895 to remove the two pieces.

It said costs may be recovered from scrap dealers, or if offered to a collector or museum.

Replacements that do meet safety standards range from $4200 for a shockwave rocker, to more than $40,000 for a timber farm-themed climbing frame.

The report acknowledged a negative response from townsfolk.

It described reputational risks over a potential injury, or the "negative publicity due to the much-loved nature of these items".

Local parent Abby Hollingsworth, whose two sons use the playground regularly, said she understood the council's position.

But she hoped the vehicles could be maintained in the park as monuments.

"Obviously there's playground standards that the council has to meet not to be in trouble themselves.

"But where is the point where it stops?

"Kids love them, one of my boys, it was a Batmobile that turned into an airplane. There's a sense of imagination, and that will be taken away."

She said the vehicles were consistent with the district's farming heritage.

Masterton local Joe Potangaroa says he grew up using the tractor and now his children play on it.

Masterton local Joe Potangaroa says he grew up using the tractor and now his children play on it. Photo: Joseph Potangaroa / via LDR

Joe Potangarua, 49, was raised in Masterton and grew up using the tractor and bulldozer.

His children have also played on them since they were moved to the upgraded playground.

"I just think, personally, they're not that dangerous and kids are going to continue having lots of fun if they're able to stay in place, the same that as happened for the last 60 years."

Council staff have recommended removing the vehicles and replacing them with "suitable new equipment", following engagement with the community and key stakeholders.

The committee meets at 2pm tomorrow at the council chambers on Lincoln Rd.

no metadata

Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest news service supported by RNZ, the News Publishers' Association and NZ On Air.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs