Vandalism, racial slur show up in newly built south Auckland park

6:19 pm on 14 February 2024

By Torika Tokalau, Local Democracy Reporter

Vandalism at David Lange Park Playground in Māngere.

The newly built toilet block was tagged. Photo: Supplied / Auckland Council

An Auckland councillor says he is disappointed and disgusted after a new playground in south Auckland - which cost ratepayers $4.1 million - was tagged with an offensive drawing and racial slurs soon after it opened.

Most of the graffiti has since been removed and equipment fixed under warranty over summer.

David Lange Park Playground in Māngere reopened last November after stage 1 of the upgrade was completed.

It was Māngere's first "destination park", with innovative design and inclusive features.

Council's Māngere-Otahuhu and Ōtāra-Papatoetoe area manager Bill Teaukura said the total cost of the stage 1 upgrade was $4.1m.

However, shortly after it opened, the playground was vandalised with graffiti and parts of the play equipment were removed.

Teaukura said the damage included a missing playground swing fitting and swing clip, believed to be stolen.

There was also damage to the playground's green cushioning.

"We believe this started to peel and because of this, we believe children peeled part of the green surface off. We have replaced this under warranty."

Vandalism at David Lange Park Playground in Māngere.

More graffiti on the playground turf, next to a climbing wall. Photo: Supplied / Auckland Council

But it was the graffiti that was the most disturbing, he said.

Racial slurs and an offensive drawing were made on the playground turf, and benches and the toilet walls were tagged.

Manukau ward councillor Alf Filipaina was outraged by the vandalism.

"It's disgusting," Filipaina said.

"My suggestion is that they go do that in their own homes, instead of spoiling it for the rest of the community. This is what happens when people don't have respect for themselves.

"I have no doubt that the community is sickened by these people. Please don't spoil it for the rest of us."

Māngere-Ōtāhuhu Local Board chair Tauanu'u Nanai Nick Bakulich said the playground was vandalised a week after it opened.

"We've wanted this for a long, long time and now that we've got it, let's look after it. It's something to be proud of, that playground."

When it reopened last November, Bakulich said much was achieved, with the playground incorporating play for all ages, accessible play, toilet, parking and picnicking features.

"Young people don't stop to consider planning, design, weather problems or funding, let alone how much effort has gone in on their behalf from Waiohua iwi Te Ākitai and Te Ahiwaru, and their own community to make it happen," Bakulich said.

"What counts to them is having an amazing place they can call their own, that reflects what they want, who they are and where they come from."

Vandalism at David Lange Park Playground in Māngere.

The area circled red shows a missing piece of a swing fitting. The bottom photo shows a missing swing clip. Photo: Supplied / Auckland Council

The playground design was built with a cultural narrative, gifted by mana whenua, Te Ākitai Waiohua and Te Āhiwaru Waiohua.

According to Auckland Council, physical work started last February with the creation of Mataaoho - a large play tower - and playground surroundings, new accessible toilets, and refreshed basketball and skatepad areas.

Cultural narrative was also incorporated in the landscape and equipment to highlight features in the area so Māori history was passed on.

The upgrade included towers, slides, and a flying fox. The play equipment included areas for sensory, imaginative and creative, inclusive, and agility play.

Stage two of the David Lange playground is currently underway to develop a youth zone for teenagers, with construction to start in 2026.

Teaukura said it was sad that many public spaces and facilities, including playgrounds around Auckland, were regularly hit by vandalism and theft.

"Auckland Council is asking residents to take pride in these community taonga and play a part in making sure they're kept to a high standard.

People can report any suspicious activity to police, or any vandalism to council.

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