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A draft concept picture provided to TCDC for the Porritt Park project. Image: SUPPLIED/TCDC

Free Thames playground could come at a cost

A playground being gifted to the Thames community will come at no cost to construct, but ratepayers might be spending $12.80 each per year to ensure its equipment is replaced at the end of its life.
Thames-Coromandel District Council has thrown its support behind the Porritt Park project in Thames, which will establish a Destination Playground and Changing Places toilet facility – all thanks to a philanthropic donation of up to $1.5 million.
While construction of the playground comes at no charge to ratepayers, managing depreciation of the asset is in council’s hands, and a report to the September 13 council meeting said it could cost $12.80 per Thames ratepayer per year over a 25-year period.
This is in addition to an operational cost, which has not yet been confirmed but could equate to a further $4.50 per ratepayer in the Thames Ward.
It is this detail that has been earmarked for future discussion by the Thames Community Board.
“Our challenge is that the community board hasn’t discussed [the depreciation] because it is locally funded,” Thames ward councillor and board member Sally Christie told the meeting.
“We’re wanting to delay [the approval] until the Thames Community Board has had input and that’ll give us a chance to be more clear about figures.”
Back in 2021, the Thames Business Association and district council were approached by a member of the community who was interested in providing a philanthropic donation to Thames for the Porritt Park project.
The innovative playgrounds, often seen in bigger centres like Hamilton and Auckland, are different to traditional playgrounds in that they provide more creative and challenging equipment, while the Changing Places facility will meet the needs of people who cannot use standard accessible toilets.
According to council, local firms and organisations have also shown an interest in contributing financially to the project, though this would not increase the playground’s price tag.
Initial approval for the project was granted at the February 23 Thames Community Board meeting, and subsequently by council at its March 22 meeting.
Mayor Sandra Goudie called the Changing Places facility coming with the playground “exceptional”.
“It’s hugely technological, but the advantage to those with special needs is enormous, and I think this is an exceptional facility to have in the district,” she told the council meeting.
“I think the Thames Community Board is doing the district proud in having a facility to this extent catering to high-needs individuals who can enjoy spending some time in our district.
“Further added to that, it’s people who care who are contributing. That’s outstanding.”
Council has approved the receiving of donations for the project from the private donor, the Thames Rotary Club, and the Thames Business Association.
It will defer its decision about depreciation until the Thames Community Board has had input.