Much loved New Brighton community project ends following dispute with council

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch
Mar 12, 2024 |

Rawhiti Domain

The Guardians of Rawhiti Domain Charitable Trust has revealed the disbandment of the organisation responsible for the creation and maintenance of the Warner and Connor Woodland Playground, a popular community project.

The decision to “pull the plug” comes after disagreements with the Christchurch City Council’s parks management, leaving the Trust with “no choice” but to cease operations.

It follows multiple thefts of plants and equipment from the park. In the latest incident, youths set fire to the $6,000 disability climbing netting.

Guardians of Rāwhiti Domain Chairwoman Cathy Baker

Trust chairperson Cathy Baker told Chris Lynch Media the trust was furious at Council’s refusal to permit the installation of security measures in the playground, despite community efforts raising $4,000 for their implementation.

This refusal, according to Baker, rendered the Trust’s position “untenable and unsustainable,” especially after the removal of their security signage.

Baker expressed bewilderment at the Council’s stance, noting the presence of video security in other public spaces like the Margaret Mahy playground and the seafront water park.

The decision not to allow security in the Woodland Playground was described as inconsistent and detrimental to the safety and sustainability of the project.

“Once our (security) signs were removed, we became the target of destruction yet again,” Baker said, pointing out the loss of insurance coverage due to the lack of security, which ultimately forced the project’s closure.

The Trust’s work over the past nine years has been a labour of love, transforming “waste and barren spaces of the Domain” into a cherished community asset.

Baker said there’s been significant community investment of nearly $1 million into the project, solely funded by donations and the effort of volunteers, underscoring the playground’s welcoming space for neuro-diverse children who might find other playgrounds overwhelming.

In her correspondence to Council and seen by Chris Lynch Media, Baker appealed for a more collaborative approach towards community groups in the future, lamenting the missed opportunity for dialogue that could have saved the project.

“Your decision killed the goose that laid the golden egg.”

Christchurch City Council Community Parks Development Manager Bridie Gibbings said it was not for the Council to comment on why The Guardians of Rāwhiti Domain Charitable Trust was stopped.

“We did ask them to remove cameras and unauthorised signage from the playground areas as they were installed without permission or through public consultation.

“Privately monitored and operated video surveillance in playgrounds is not considered appropriate, as park users and their children have the right to personal privacy.

“It has been communicated to the Guardians of Rāwhiti Domain that the Council is committed to working closely with them to address safety issues and find suitable solutions to thwart vandalism.”

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch

Chris Lynch is a journalist, videographer and content producer, broadcasting from his independent news and production company in Christchurch, New Zealand. If you have a news tip or are interested in video content, email [email protected]

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