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Sue Lewis O’Halloran and Paul Green hope Thames gets behind its Destination Playground project. PHOTO: KELLEY TANTAU

Local hands drive Thames’ Destination Playground project

Paul Green’s famous last words before finding himself at the helm of Thames’ Destination Playground project were: ‘Is there anything else you need?’
The owner of Aeroview Garden Centre met with Thames Business Association chief executive Sue Lewis-O’Halloran to discuss planting for the new million-dollar playground – which could be completed by the end of the month.
Upon utterance of his six-word sentence, the door was opened for the business association to “push the envelope,” and get more locals involved and working on the project, Sue said – starting with Paul.
Paul established AGW Landscaping back in 2001 and has not only provided his expertise, but also local landscapers to help push the project along.
He said it’s been great to feel the excitement brewing among the community.
“We get a lot of children hanging onto the fence and wondering when it’s going to be finished,” he said. “They’re itching to get in here.”
The playground has been designed by Auckland-based Philippa Muir and her daughter Renee. They earlier told The Profile they were inspired to construct a space which reflected Thames’ history and the needs of its community.
A lighthouse and boat design, reminiscent of the Wakatere paddle steamer, which linked the Thames goldfields and Auckland from 1896 until 1926, has been erected, as have other items including hamster wheels and an all-accessible carousel.
There’s also hopes to include a Changing Places public bathroom which will meet the needs of people who cannot use standard accessible toilets, but Sue said more support was still needed.
“Not only is this a community project, we also have to remember that this is the first Destination Playground in a small town in New Zealand – ever,” she said. “It’s a huge gift, and the more money we save, the more likely we are to get the Changing Places toilet done sooner rather than later.”
Sue said that having a collaboration between workers from Auckland and local staff helped Thames take ownership of the initiative – which has been majority funded by philanthropists.
Mike Hobson, the playground’s site manager from Decker Landscapes, is one of the workers travelling from the city daily to assist.
He said he couldn’t “speak highly enough” of the crew involved in the construction works.
“I’ve been doing playgrounds for 20 years now and this is one of the best ones.”
It’s hoped the completed playground will be opened to the public by the end of May.
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